More Valuable: APR or Master’s?

Today, a user on Quora asked the following question:

What holds more weight: An APR or a Master’s Degree?

(*APR = Accredited Public Relations)

Here’s what I answered:

That would be APR, at least in terms of peer perception. A Master’s degree is an academic distinction that doesn’t prove that your knowledge and skills set will transition to real world public relations. To earn your APR, you have to demonstrate considerable professional achievement and competency across a wide range of disciplines.

Now, this doesn’t mean just because you get your APR, you’re going to land a big-time new job or necessarily get a pay raise. (A master’s doesn’t either.) Your proficiency, experience and ability to think creatively will ultimately determine whether or not you succeed in the industry. And, APR is just a better measurement tool for how close you are to meeting that subjective criterion.

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As someone who holds  a master’s degree I think it was invaluable for distinguishing myself from the competition earlier in my career, but at this point? APR is really the next step.

I think cost should also be considered. While retaining your APR is by no means cheap (mandatory professional development education), what, besides sending a man to the moon costs more than higher education?

Am I wrong?

@MikeLesczinski
#HigherEdPR

**Addendum: Gina Luttrell , a professor of public relations at St. Rose, makes a great point. If you want to adjunct, you need a graduate degree. Nevertheless, at that point, an aspiring adjunct could use the accreditation as way to distinguish themselves from the  competition.  As with any type of credential, how well that works depends on how administration perceives the value of APR.

**Addendum 2: Nicole Messier, over at www.101to87.com, chimes in with her thoughts. In short, she thinks APR is “LAME.”

Mike Lesczinski

Mike Lesczinski is a former political communications and campaign operative turned public relations pro. The communications chair for the Capital Region chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Mike is currently in charge of PR for a private, nonprofit college.

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  • http://www.portfolioprgroup.com Nicole Messier

    In more than a decade of PR – San Francisco, NY, Boston and now Albany, I have yet to meet anyone that distinguishes themselves by having an APR.

    More important is the fact I’ve never seen an RFP requesting “APRs only” or “tell us how many APRs there are on your team.”

    The textbook on APR, while updated, is pretty ancient in practices and often makes you learn things about PR you may never even touch – for example if you are 5 years into tech or higher ed PR and probably won’t switch industries.

    My advice to PR professionals questioning this process is to take the hours and score good results for your clients you have now. You’ll learn more, gain more and bring in more value to your resume than any certification will.

    Now, that being said, a good M.A. in writing or MBA could end up being the different between you and another candidate. If you can prove you write well, then you’re golden in this day and age. If you have business and sales chops, you are even more of an asset to yourself and any agency.

    • http://www.mikelesczinski.com Mike Lesczinski

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Nicole!

      (By the way, for all you reading, if you’re looking for a Tech PR firm, she runs the best around. Check it out at http://www.PortfolioPRGroup.com. That’s where I cut my teeth.)

      Few other responses:

      *Since I’m a born and bred New Yorker, can’t speak to anyone on the West Coast, but I’ve met many PRs over the past few years who use the APR distinction at least in New York

      * I agree RFPs don’t ask for “APRs only” and clients rarely ask “How many APRs,” but I know they don’t ask “How many people on your team have master’s degrees.”

      *Not an APR, so can’t attest to any of the material you have to learn.

      *Totally agree, results are what count. My point is, with an APR, it at least provides a signal that the individual in question has had to prove their professional achievement. Those with master’s degrees can’t say the same.

      * Writing is key to all business. Strong writers are at a clear advantage. Of course, you don’t have to get a master’s degree to improve your writing. You can take a class at a local community college, read the classics, and of course, practice. All would be much cheaper and just as effective.

      I should clarify that I don’t believe this is an apples to apples comparison. Going after your master’s in communication is about learning and distinguishing yourself from other entry-level professional. An APR is designed for mid-career people to signal to the community that they’ve had real world success.

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