I have had more than one request from young professionals or soon-to-be graduates who do not have or will not get a PR degree and are interested in working in PR in some capacity. So do you have to have a degree in PR to do this work? Nope. In fact, I’d venture a guess that the clear majority of folks working in PR don’t have PR degrees. A career in PR is often the result of a circuitous path.
Disclaimer: I have a PR degree. My students in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon will all have PR degrees. Having a PR degree gives you the language of the industry and a unique approach to the work and our program at the UofO is very focused on real world activities and training strategic, creative thinkers. With that said…
What can you do to move into public relations or start your career there, when your degree says something like English Literature or Sociology or International Studies? Basically, get experience.
- Volunteer: Can you volunteer a few hours a week at a local nonprofit? Participate as a PR volunteer writing newsletter articles, or pitching the media human interest stories about your organization. Chances are, that organization would love to have some free help and you can get some great experience. If you don’t know much about PR, find an organization that has someone who can mentor you.
- Read, read, read: Many many smart PR people are blogging, tweeting and putting out info every day that you can learn from. Find a few you like and soak up all you can. If you’re not sure where to start, on the right navigation of this blog are some of my favorites.
Beyond blogs, and PR focused material, it’s also important to be an avid consumer of media, generally, and to know what’s going on in the world.
- Network: Participate in PRSA or IABC events in your local community. Get to know the PR folks. PR is a pretty small world and you’ll find your contacts will carry you far.
- Update your skills: If you feel like you’re lacking the technical skills necessary for that first internship or job, find a way to get some practice. Take a skills course at your university or community college that focuses on PR, for example. Or ask a local PR prof what book they typically use in their courses or books they’d recommend. Generally, we’re pretty nice and are happy to help someone who is enthusiastic about what we do.
- Intern: Seek out more formal internships, either in-house or with an agency. Depending on your market, you may be competing with PR grads (in Portland, Ore. for example), but if you’ve prepared yourself, you will be able to hold your own and show you deserve a chance.
If you’ve “fallen into” PR and have more tips… or if you’re working in PR and see the path that those around you have taken, please share!