**This is the second in a small series of posts drawn from a conversation I had with Francis Ingham, the Director General of the PRCA.**
During my meeting with Francis, I asked him what he thought of university PR degrees and how they compared with actually working in the public relations field. He flat out said your degree has nothing to do with your job. Disappointing to hear, but unsurprising.
This is a common theme amongst many undergraduate degrees, especially those in the liberal arts: they don’t actually have any bearing on what career you want to go into. What matters when job-seeking is experience, but I won’t go into that now because that is whole separate blog post. But to hear that even masters degrees don’t really matter to anyone looking to hire for PR jobs? Annoying.
I chose my MA program at Goldsmiths because I knew it was one of the few ways to get my foot in the door in the London communications industry. As an American, I would have had far less of a chance of finding work, paid or unpaid, in the PR industry. I am lucky to be financially stable enough to have been able to move to London, pay my own living expenses (thankfully, I worked enough during my gap year to save money), and take out a loan for grad school. I thought an MA degree would open doors via the resources that Goldsmiths offered, such as the career center and the events hosted by the media and communications department. But it was frustrating to hear that a graduate degree doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things when it comes to being more attractive to HR departments.
Higher education is supposed to be about gaining transferable skills. I studied English Literature for my undergraduate degree, which of course wasn’t going to get me any relevant job but instead taught me critical thinking, reading, writing, and problem-solving skills. I am well aware that uni will not really prepare you for most employment, where you have to learning on the job.
What if you don’t go to uni at all? The PRCA is doing wonderful things for students who don’t go to uni, such as an Apprenticeship Programme. Addressing the fact that not everyone has the privilege of going to uni is and helping school leavers is important when you’re trying to find the best talent from all corners of society.
If you are in university, don’t lose hope. A university degree will help you out in the long run, as it teaches you many (soft or hard) transferable skills and matures you as a human being. What you really need to do is seek out opportunities to engage with the PR industry. Use the PRCA as a resource: they offer workshops, training days, and networking events for you to get experience in the field.
I have been incredibly lucky to have gotten the work experience that’s on my resume right now. My parents were able to support me while I simultaneously worked part-time unpaid internships and minimum wage jobs throughout my undergraduate degree, which has helped get me the job I have now with Higginson PR
. That’s not the case for everyone, though, so I am glad that the PRCA is taking an active role in addressing how difficult it is to find a job in the PR industry.