That is a question I get asked all the time. I attained my APR in April 2011 and I absolutely think it was worth it.
According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential is valuable to those practitioners who earn it; to the agencies, clients and organizations they represent; and, perhaps most importantly, to the public relations profession itself.
Established in 1964, the Accreditation Program is the profession’s only national post-graduate certification program. It measures a public relations practitioner’s fundamental knowledge of communications theory and its application; establishes advanced capabilities in research, strategic planning, implementation and evaluation; and demonstrates a commitment to professional excellence and ethical conduct.
I’m not gonna lie – the process is a bit daunting. In a nutshell, here’s how the process went for me.
- I APPLIED – In May 2010, I completed the APR application and sent it (along with the testing fee) to the Universal Accreditation Board. In about two weeks, I was notified by mail that I was eligible to pursue the APR. *Please note: I was lucky to get my employer to pay for my testing fee. It was considered professional development. Plus, if you pass the computer-based exam, you (or your employer) receives a rebate of some of the fee.
- I PREPARED– My local PRSA chapter offered study sessions to prepare for the Readiness Review and exam so I immediately signed up. They also paired me with a local APR as a mentor through the process. That was invaluable.
- READINESS REVIEW – The Readiness Review is essentially a process to find out if the APR candidate is ready to take the computer-based exam. I presented a portfolio of my work to a panel of APR professionals and responded to their interview questions – live and in person. I allotted one-to-two hours for the readiness review session. The panelists scored my knowledge, skills and abilities in 16 areas and considered my readiness to proceed. They felt I was ready…so I moved on 🙂
- COMPUTER-BASED EXAMINATION – It took three hours of my life. As soon as I was done, I got my unofficial pass/did not pass feedback, in addition to my strengths and weaknesses in tested knowledge, skills and abilities.
- I PASSED! – After a year-long process, I got my official letter of notification in April 2011 and had the honor of being pinned by the CEO and Chair of the National PRSA at our monthly chapter luncheon.
The process was exhausting, but I learned a lot about myself both professionally and personally. Professionally, I was able to use the body of knowledge and preparation resources to fill gaps in my PR knowledge, skills and abilities, specifically in areas where my experience was limited. I was also armed with a strategic process on how to practice PR that would be ethical, credible and able to be measured. I have found that to be very important, especially when having to explain WHY we make the decisions we do in the communications field.
Personally, after going through the APR process, I realized I could actually handle pursuing my IMC degree. I know it seems backwards. “You already have your APR and now you want a master’s degree?” Well, yeah. I do. I see the value in having both. Outside of the PR industry, the APR isn’t very well-known, but I can tell you that what I learned in the process made me a better practitioner. Even if the outside world doesn’t see the value yet – I do, and I don’t mind being an ambassador to help spread the word. At the same time, I know the reality is that having a master’s degree opens career doors wide open that were just cracked with my bachelor’s degree.
So here I am continuing the journey. Have you thought about pursuing the APR?