Do you need to be accredited in PR?

This is a post by guest columnist, Alison Kenney.

It’s back to school time, and that has me thinking about PR courses and accreditation.  Most of the PR professionals I know majored in English, Communications or another liberal arts degree.  A few majored in Public Relations; even fewer have their masters in PR or Communications.  Clearly, you don’t have to major in these subjects to work in the field.  Many successful PR professionals switched gears or leveraged a degree in a different field.

PRSA’s Accreditation Program, the only certification program for our industry, is another story altogether.  It’s a certification geared to those who’ve been working in the industry for some time as it judges your aptitude in various PR knowledge areas, e.g. research, planning, implementing and evaluating programs, ethics and law, etc.  I know several PR professionals who received their APR, but overall fewer than 25 percent of PR practitioners are accredited.

Which leads me to wonder:  is accreditation worth pursuing?

The PRSA stresses the importance of a national standard for legitimizing the profession and building accountability.  Andy Beaupre, CEO of Beaupre & Co., agrees and blogged earlier this year on why PR accreditation makes more sense than ever.  And, while there are no hard numbers that show professionals with the APR mark earn more than their non-accredited colleagues, survey results show that PR professionals find accreditation to be a source of pride (91%), a help in developing professional skills (78%), provide personal benefit (75%) and help resolve ethical dilemmas (58%).  This blog from the PRSA member site underscores those reasons and highlights the satisfaction the writer got from earning her accreditation.

Others argue that an APR mark is not necessary as it only confirms the knowledge that can otherwise be ascertained by reviewing a PR practitioner’s work record.  SHIFT Communications principal Todd Defren blogged several years ago that accreditation is not the solution to the PR industry’s perception problem and not the benchmark for demonstrating competency.

What do you think?  If you have an APR, what made you pursue it?  And has earning accreditation improved your career satisfaction?  Please leave your comments below.

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on You can find her at Learn more about Alison Kenney.

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