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Do You Need the APR?

Not too long ago in my career, I was pretty convinced I would pursue the APR (Accreditation in Public Relations) someday. At the time, I remember thinking how well-respected APRs were. They always seemed to be the ones giving all the speeches at conferences I was going to. My professors and mentors in college were APRs. The best media relations pro I’ve ever worked with was an APR. And a lot of the great people I’ve met since I started writing this blog have the APR designation. So, I’m basically surrounded by a lot of smart people who decided the APR was an important process to go through. But like a lot of other PR professionals, it’s hard not to question the value of the certification, when so many people outside of the PR world have never heard of the APR.

There is no question the APR certification process is probably the most demanding professional development available for public relations professionals today. It’s the whole professional license angle that rubs me the wrong way. I don’t think you need to be a certified professional to practice PR. I want my lawyer and my doctor to be licensed, but my publicist… well, I just want them to have some relevant experience and know what the heck they’re talking about (which the APR process delivers on).

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a lot of value in the APR. If I was giving advice to somebody just starting out in their career, and provided they wanted to manage an agency or corporate PR team someday, I would encourage them to go through the APR process. Though honestly, I think the letters “MBA” are more valuable for PR professionals to have these days.

I know people get pretty charged up on this issue, and I would have left it alone, but I recently read a debate in PRWeek that raised the issue of whether the APR is necessary for PR or not. There were some okay points in the article, but I really wasn’t convinced one way or the other on whether or not there is value in the APR. I figured this would be a good issue to raise with our audience since many of you have worked hard to get the APR – and others probably think it’s a waste of time (you know who you are).

Beyond the PRWeek article, I tried to do some digging on the issue to see if I could find any meaningful data points to offer in this post. I’ve seen a lot of different articles about the pros of the APR, but very few cons (beyond the whole lack of awareness and recognition issue). Across these articles on the pros, these themes kept rising to the top:

  • You’ll earn more money with an APR.A recent Korn/Ferry study found that APRs earn an average of 20% more. Of course, you could increase your earning power by 35% with an MBA, but it costs a lot more than the APR.
  • People will take you more seriously. As a professional, with certification that says so, you’ll be more respected in the industry. Of course, just as many people say the APR isn’t widely known outside of PR, so not too many people may truly appreciate all the hard work that goes into it.
  • You’ll be more respected by your peers. I saw several examples that referred specifically to APRs (other APRs will respect you), but non-APRs will probably wonder what those letters are all about.

These three reasons (or even just the first reason) might be enough to go down the APR path. Combine the APR with the MBA and your paychecks will be bigger than mine. I personally don’t think you need the APR to rise to the top in PR, or even to be taken more seriously, but it can provide you with some valuable skills and experience that will help you advance in your career and possibly earn more money. In a time when there is more and more competition for PR jobs, and so many people are out of work, it could be a good time to get your APR certification.

As a final look at this issue, I figured it would be interesting to let the Twitter community sound off on the issue of whether or not the APR is worth the time. Overall, out of 249 responses, 67% think the APR is worth it, while 26% don’t. Here are the results across both APR and non-APR respondents:

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