Published on September 24, 2018, at 4:35 p.m.
by Savanna Guitard.
When college students hear “continuing your education,” many think of getting a master’s degree. However, public relations professionals have another option: getting the Accreditation in Public Relations certification, known as the APR.
Administered by the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), which consists of partnering organizations such as the Public Relations Society of America, the APR accreditation program allows PR professionals to further their PR knowledge beyond their undergraduate studies. The APR builds on a professional’s foundation from their educational degree. It allows them to assert their professional competence, communicate professional expertise and reflect progressive industry practices. To complete the program, participants study to prepare for a panel presentation and a computer-based examination, which are based on PR best practices.
“I believe the APR reinforces our profession as a managerial, strategic and ethical career. It truly distinguishes those in the PR field who understand what our field actually entails,” said Sara Franklin, University of Alabama graduate and now director of public relations at The Lollar Group, who received her APR in 2017.
The accreditation is suggested for professionals who have been in the field for five years and want to show their “drive” and unique skills in PR.
“The value of being accredited is that you go through curriculum that clarifies and validates what you do as a business practice,” said Robby Johnson, public engagement officer for Five Horizons Health Services who received his APR in 2002 and now sits on panels for applicants.
Once accepted into the program, an individual has 12 months to complete the test and panel presentation, although it is recommended to finish in six months. PRSA chapters and other partnering organizations offer study groups to help people prepare and finish on time.
“Give yourself six months and be very invested with the process,” said Johnson. “Take it seriously. It’s something you can’t do while you’re distracted; you have to really be focused on it.”
The APR certification is more than just a piece of paper. It proves to others in the PR field that whoever completes the program has dedication and high standards when it comes to their profession. It is helpful to have when trying to get a new job or move up within one’s current company.
“I would automatically look at them [APR candidates] before another candidate, because I know that they have invested more in their career and credibility and their practice. It’s a way to distinguish yourself,” said Johnson.
Completing the program is a great goal for students to set after graduation. Recent graduates can get a head start by completing the Certificate in Principles of Public Relations, which is also offered through the UAB. Professionals who are looking to complete the program can get more information at http://www.praccreditation.org/.
“I encourage anyone wanting to become APR certified to find themselves a mentor who has this accreditation. Ask them for tips and if they would mind holding you accountable through the time it takes to study and prepare,” said Franklin. “Also, I would encourage those looking to become APR certified to make sure to join their local PRSA chapter. This is crucial to staying connected and interacting with those in the same field.”