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Ready or Not, Here I Come

Posted on February 24, 2016, at 4:30 p.m.
by Kelley Breeding.

With graduation lurking around the corner, the question many students are wondering is whether or not they are ready — ready to be thrown into deep waters to either sink or swim.

Is graduating with a public relations degree going to prepare you for the “real world”?
Jenny Zhang said in her article about college majors,”everything from communications to the fine arts and even archeology has been lambasted as dead-end majors designed to indulge those who plan to rely on their parents well into their adult years. It seems that if you’re not majoring in math, science, or a business-related field, you’re doomed to failure.”

Thankfully, according to recent Austin Peay State University PR graduate Abbi Wilt, there is hope. Wilt currently works for Southern Living and explained how her undergraduate experience allows her to connect more effectively with brands because she can anticipate their needs. She is especially grateful for the writing skills she learned, along with understanding the elements of a campaign. These experiences gave her a solid foundation to create events that achieve organizational goals.

Having proficient writing skills is a big component of being a PR practitioner. Not only that, but also it’s essential to anything you do during and out of college. In USA Today, Andrea Kay wrote that interviewers such as BAE Systems may ask for a writing sample to see if a candidate can organize and share ideas.


So, what does a degree in public relations not prepare you for?
Recent Alabama PR graduate Cameron Green mentioned that it was difficult getting used to the day-to-day workflow operation and management of projects. There is actually corporate world “lingo” that she had to learn in order to prepare for meetings and presentations.

Abbi Wilt added that people do not always realize that many PR-type jobs require a rep to be available 24/7, because crises rarely come up between 9 and 5. She stressed how crucial it is to be prepared for multitasking on a whole different level than ever before.

What are we missing here?
Students want to get their money’s worth out of their time and hard work spent at a university. Wilt and Green discussed some of the topics and classes they wished their university incorporated into the public relations program that would have helped prepare them more. Not surprisingly, their answers were very similar.


Green laughed and said how any help with personal finance, budgets, taxes, 401(k), etc., would have been extremely beneficial to learn even if it’s a simple, brief discussion. She also mentioned learning about accounting and finance on the marketing side would have been helpful because she has had to learn those topics quickly in order to keep up. “These are things that PR and advertising majors are not taught: the ‘numbers’ side of the business,” Green explained.

Wilt’s university did not have a crisis communication class. She expressed how it was a big gap in its PR program because crisis communication is one of the biggest challenges PR professionals face. “It’s so important that students aren’t thrown in blindly,” Wilt said.

Public relations programs have come a long way in the last couple of years and are continuing to grow. Even though each program lacks certain components, there are many ways they excel at preparing students for the “real world.”

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