With school back in session, university and college students are once again faced with the big life decision: what do I want to do when I graduate?

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It’s a tough question, and one each of us faces at some point (some, several times). While your major doesn’t necessarily dictate your future career path, having a major that trains you in your area of interest can make you better prepared to be hired in an industry once you graduate.

If you’re reading Cision’s blog regularly, I assume that you’re leaning toward the communications field for your studies, and are wondering about which specialty to choose.

So, what about public relations? Is it worth considering as a major?

What Your Future in PR Could Look Like

Public relations is a field that’s in demand right now. In fact, the need for PR specialists is expected to grow 23 per cent through 2020, which means there is ample opportunity for you to find a job in the field.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

When you graduate, you can pursue a career in any number of specialties including, but not limited to:

  • General PR professional
  • Media relations specialist
  • Crisis communications expert
  • Corporate communications professional
  • Internal communications assistant
  • Publicist
  • Social media manager
  • Other roles in marketing, sales, etc. 

You might be hired to handle public relations tasks for one company, or you might work for an agency that handles multiple clients in different industries. You might help authors spread the word about their books, brands introduce their products to consumers, or public speakers make a name for themselves. Whatever path you choose, your day-to-day will be ever-changing and exciting.

What Would I Study to Earn a PR Degree?

Lest you think that PR is a “cush” major that requires little brainpower, realize that you won’t just learn to send press releases and media pitches as part of your education in public relations.

Though writing and communications skills are critical, to be successful you must embrace data and technology, and believe it or not, you’ll probably need some math or statistics classes to help you understand analytics. Today’s PR pros target media using data and research, and they know how to work with multiple teams across the marketing department to execute, monitor and measure campaigns. And they understand how to report metrics that prove ROI of PR campaigns.

Additionally, your PR degree program will teach you about the ethics and laws of public relations, as well as public speaking, multimedia journalism, marketing and social media. Likely, you will take several communications classes so that you can not only write a press release and pitch journalists but also so you can learn to craft professional corporate communication documents that will be disseminated throughout a company or to the media or public.

What’s So Great About PR?

As I said, no two days will be the same if you’re working in public relations. One day you might be pitching bloggers to review your brand’s products, while the next, you’re issuing a press release about corporate earnings. If something comes up that creates a PR snafu for your employer, you’ll have to pull out your crisis management skills.

The really cool thing about PR is that you can see the fruits of your hard work. Let’s say you work hard to get media coverage of a company announcement, and as a result, you see in your analytics that you were mentioned in 15 major news articles and blogs, reaching 4 million people. You did that! It’s tangible evidence that your efforts have helped your company.

But is a PR Degree Really Necessary?

When I graduated in 2000, there was no PR degree at my university. There wasn’t a writing degree either, which would have maybe been the closest thing to prepare me. The journalism program was more geared toward broadcast and radio, so that wasn’t a good fit either. I got my Bachelor’s degrees in English and French, and then went back to earn my MBA.

After that, I was hired in one marketing role, then another. It was on the job that I learned to write a press release, pitch the media and write product onesheets. I was fortunate in that I had a very patient boss who saw potential in me and took the time to teach me all of this. But I wish I’d learned it in school.

Today’s PR industry is markedly different than it was years ago in that it relies heavily on technology. Employers want you to have at least a little experience with an analytics or earned media tracking platform, and some universities may provide at least rudimentary training on them. So yes, having a degree in PR ultimately makes you better-positioned to get hired out of university or college in a public relations role rather than cobbling together your experience the way I had to.

What Should I Minor In?

There are a few minors I see as being beneficial if you plan to work in PR or marketing. Marketing, obviously, is the first. Because PR and marketing often bleed into one another, having knowledge in content marketing, social media, email marketing and advertising can be advantageous for your career, because you’ll likely have some responsibilities that are more marketing-related. 

A writing minor will certainly help you with your communications skills, and a journalism minor can help you understand things from the other side, since you likely will be working with reporters and journalists in your career. A business minor can also help you better understand the corporate world.

I recommend you find an internship in PR before you graduate so you can get some real-world experience. This will not only give you a taste of what it’s like to work in the industry, but you’ll also have something on your resume to impress potential employers once you graduate.

Be a Part of the Future of PR

Public relations is an interesting juxtaposition between the art of storytelling and the science of data. Being creative, as well as having an analytical mind, will help you succeed in PR if that’s your chosen field. Tomorrow’s PR pros will use technology in ways we can’t even imagine, and if you get a degree in PR, you’ll be on the cutting edge of that experience.

About Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory is the president of Egg Marketing & Communications, a marketing firm specializing in content writing and social media management. She frequently blogs about small business and marketing on sites including Cision, Forbes, AllBusiness, Small Business Trends, The Marketing Eggspert Blog and Tweak Your Biz. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.

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