Professional development

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The PR Dilemma: Is a Postgraduate Qualification Worth It?

By Kristen Case on July 17, 2023

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Public relations (PR) is an exciting and dynamic industry with multiple entry paths. In Canada, many aspiring PR professionals pursue a postgraduate diploma or certificate in PR before entering the industry, although it is not mandatory. In this blog post, we’ll explore the benefits and considerations of obtaining a postgraduate diploma or certificate in PR to help you determine if it’s the right choice.

Postgraduate Diplomas vs. Certificates

When considering further education in PR, you will come across various options, including postgraduate certificates and diplomas. A postgraduate diploma is an advanced program that offers the same level of qualification as a master’s degree. However, it requires less time to complete and typically entails 120 credits. On the other hand, a postgraduate certificate requires only 60 credits. 

Postgraduate Programs in PR in Canada

Canada has several reputable options for pursuing a postgraduate diploma or certificate in PR, particularly in Toronto. Renowned institutions such as Humber College, Durham College, George Brown College, Seneca College, Centennial College, Georgian College, and The Chang School offer comprehensive PR programs. These institutions have established themselves as leaders in PR education, providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in the industry. 

The Benefits of Postgraduate PR Programs

Postgraduate PR programs offer numerous benefits, including:

Learning from Industry Leaders

Many postgraduate PR programs collaborate with industry leaders to develop their curricula, ensuring that the courses offered are up-to-date and meet the demands of the current industry landscape.

Experiential Learning

Postgraduate PR programs emphasize practical learning through experiential assignments and projects. This hands-on approach allows students to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios, helping them develop essential skills and build a portfolio of work.

Networking Opportunities

Enrolling in a postgraduate program provides the opportunity to connect with like-minded professionals and build a strong network. Progressing through the program alongside peers fosters valuable relationships that can benefit their careers in the long run.

Career Advancement

Some postgraduate programs offer internship or co-op programs, allowing you to begin your career in PR while qualifying. Establishing connections with businesses through these programs can provide valuable work experience and lead to paid employment opportunities.

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When are PR Postgraduate Programs Beneficial?

Deciding whether to pursue a postgraduate qualification in PR requires careful consideration, considering factors such as learning style and existing knowledge, as it entails a significant investment of time and money. 

While there is no single defined path to a successful career in PR, employers often prefer candidates with an educational background in PR or related fields, such as communications, journalism, marketing, or advertising. Degrees in these fields may introduce students to PR, but they often need to understand the industry’s intricacies comprehensively. In such cases, pursuing a postgraduate diploma or certificate in PR can be highly beneficial. Additionally, if you’re transitioning to PR from a completely different industry and need more prior education, a postgraduate qualification in PR can provide a comprehensive foundation.

However, in the digital era, there is a wealth of easily accessible online resources that make it possible to acquire the knowledge and skills needed for PR through self-study. A postgraduate qualification may not be necessary if you are open to furthering your education through self-study. 

Eboni Skeete’s Journey

Public relations professional Eboni Skeete studied journalism at UofT but realized that she wanted to work in PR after learning about the precarious state of the journalism industry. She asked herself, ‘What else is out there related to what I am currently studying, but still within the media industry’ and she landed on PR. While Eboni did not study PR, she believes her journalism degree equipped her with the vital skills needed to succeed in the industry and a unique perspective that sets her apart from other PR professionals. 

“Pitches are always directed to a journalist, and if you can’t speak their language, understand their beats, or align your idea to be newsworthy, nothing will ever be accepted,” said Eboni. “As a journalism graduate, I was trained to be the best storyteller with stellar communication…My education has helped me to have the brain of a journalist already while working in the PR industry, leveraging me always to know how to garner client wins and effectively communicate their stories while recognizing how to make them worthwhile and relevant to their target audiences.” 

These strengths and expertise gave her the upper hand to merge seamlessly into the PR industry. 

When asked if she has faced any challenges or limitations in her career due to not having a graduate qualification in PR, Eboni acknowledged some initial struggles in adapting to unfamiliar tasks upon joining her first agency. However, she firmly believes that another formal educational program in PR is unnecessary. Eboni took a proactive, hands-on approach to learning and mastering the mindset and tasks of a PR professional in her job. To aspiring PR professionals, Eboni suggests, “If you do want to expand your knowledge but possibly don’t have the time to do a formal education program, there are various seminars and skill-building resources that allow anyone to take classes and acquire those insights on the industry; just look at MasterClass, SkillShare or even Linkedin.”

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Tip: Apply for PR Roles Before Deciding to Pursue a Postgraduate Qualification

Before committing to a postgraduate program, it may be beneficial to try applying for PR internships while still studying or after graduation. Securing internships in the industry can provide hands-on experience and insight into the day-to-day workings of PR. This practical experience helps determine one’s aptitude for the field and provides valuable connections and references. After completing her first internship in PR, Eboni knew it was the right industry for her. Her advice to other aspiring professionals is to “Start exploring, volunteering or interning as early as possible in anything they feel a passion towards. It builds your skill set and allows you to stand out and start building industry connections immediately.” Successfully obtaining a job in the industry through internships may indicate that a postgraduate program in PR is optional, as employers highly value real-world experience. Internships can be an effective way to gauge readiness for a PR career before committing to further education. However, if aspiring professionals need help securing entry-level roles in PR, additional education may enhance their skills and qualifications.

As you embark on your journey in PR, remember that there is no singular, right or wrong path to a successful and fulfilling career in public relations. The PR field is diverse and constantly evolving, offering many opportunities for professionals with varied backgrounds and experiences. Regardless of your educational background, you can find your place in PR if you are passionate about the industry. Personal qualities such as ambition, effective communication, adaptability, creativity, problem-solving, and a passion for continuous learning are equally important as your education. Embrace your unique background, skills, and experiences, and stay open to opportunities as you embark on your PR journey.

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