Substantial growth in the demand for public relations practitioners is noted in both public and private secondary school systems, educational organizations, consulting firms, and cultural and non profit associations and agencies.
In many of the more advanced and sophisticated organizations, both public relations and development: or fund raising responsibilities are combined under a major administrative officer.
Composite rating in five academic areas:
- Harvard University
- Stanford University
- Yale University
- Princeton University
- California Institute of Technology
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Duke University
- Dartmouth College
- Cornell University
- Columbia University Source: U.S. News and World Report
Many veteran public relations officers will recommend a major in journalism or mass communications, since those skills are essential in almost all PR assignments.
Others will advise you to major in public relations in a college or university that has followed the guidelines established by the Commission on Public Relations Education.
It is a serious mistake, many professionals believe, to take many courses in public relations at the undergraduate level or in community colleges. It is more important that you have a solid background in the liberal arts, including courses in English, the social sciences, humanities, languages, and the natural sciences. Also valuable, from a career viewpoint, are courses in marketing, business administration, economics, and information systems.
Beyond the bachelor's degree, you may choose to take a master's degree in public relations, journalism, business administration, or public administration.
Remember that once you have started your career, there are many opportunities in every community to take additional specialized and professional courses through continuing education classes, seminars, and workshops.
If you are interested in specializing in PR for the arts, science, finance, healthcare, or other areas, by all means take courses in those fields (and study the chapters in this volume relating to those particular fields).
A warning: Forget that theme you prepared for freshman composition class or the term paper in sociology. Also, PR officers and professors who teach public relations generally ask students, "Why do you want to go into public relations?" The wrong answer is "because I like people." You are likely to be advised to take a job as a bus driver, gas station attendant or used car salesperson!
Be prepared to offer evidence that you have the capacity to write well, meet deadlines, organize, publicize, and dramatize events. The ability to motivate people; to produce press packets, slide shows, multimedia presentations; to write, design, and produce publications; and to plan conferences, tours, and/or promotions is highly desirable.
Large universities, like major metropolitan newspapers, seldom hire staff members without prior experience in a similar organization. It is much easier to get that entry level training at a school, small college, educational institution, or nonprofit organization.
New Technology and Practices
With the advent of the computer, especially the desktop variety, the world of public relations, at all levels, expects that professionals will be knowledgeable about current technology.
Employers expect that even newcomers will be familiar with recording, monitoring, and transmission devices and facilities. Today's PR vocabulary includes standard references to databases, facsimile, and satellite transmission, audio and video cassettes. Be prepared for references to videoconferences, electronic press releases, electronic mail, and satellite media tours.
Training workshops are available at schools and colleges and under the sponsorship of PR and communication agencies.
Entry Level Possibilities
Job opportunities and promising careers in public relations for educational institutions which once were limited to news, publicity, and publication programs now cover a wide variety of responsibilities that may exist under the umbrella of public relations, development or fund raising, or institutional advancement
Entry level opportunities exist in any or all of the activities labeled "advancement" and even those which do not use the term "public relations."
Strong communication skills both oral and written are essential. The publications area, which presents opportunities at all types of educational institutions, is an excellent entry possibility. Anyone with experience in writing, editing, design, photography, or paste up often will qualify.
Persons with talent and experience in writing for newspapers, radio or television, or specialized publications will be welcomed in public relations offices, athletic departments, or many academic and administrative units not directly related to public relations.
With the current emphasis on marketing and student recruitment in colleges and universities, there are many opportunities for persons with skills and experience in market research, audiovisual talent, advertising, interviewing, and personal contact
The president of the National Association of State Universities and Lind Grant Colleges C. Peter Magrath believes that "if any two words go together, it is 'klucation' and 'criticism'.''
"It is not only the state of our public schools that elicits criticism, but the state of higher education as well. If we were ever a sacred cow, that time has long passed. American higher education now attracts criticism on many fronts charges about abuses in intercollegiate athletics; bloated administrative bureaucracies; light faculty workloads; rip offs of the federal government in indirect charges for federal research work; fancy salaries for globetrotting faculty and overpaid administrators; and, of course, spiralling tuition in both the public and private sectors paired with a decrease in the quality of undergraduate education."
He adds: "We can all evaluate these and similar criticisms for ourselves. But it is imperative that we do so in a manner that is neither defensive nor based on the assumption that barbarians at the gate are bombarding us with Scud missiles. We must recognize that indeed there are problems both in perception and in fact that affect our colleges and universities and they need to be faced.
"To all these points there are answers and rational explanations," he emphasizes.