Apprenticeship vs Degree: A Student’s View

This is an article by Natalie Dickinson.
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PR Student Natalie Dickinson

With talk of a brand new PR apprenticeship rife within the industry and many people in favour of this PRCA supported programme, I wanted to look at what this means for PR degrees and students both present and future, asking the question; is this really such a good idea?

The new programme developed by Pearson and Practice and the PRCA aims to offer young people an alternative route in to the public relations industry combing on-the-job training with work experience, allowing individuals to work towards a nationally recognised qualification. This all sounds extremely exciting to any young person  weighing up their options at the end of their A levels; pay up to £9,000 to study a degree at university or go straight in to a glamorous profession, AND, get paid to do it.

The term glamorous isn’t exactly the way professional PR practitioners would probably describe their job and through my own experience within the industry it’s almost definitely not a term I’d use; challenging yet rewarding with the opportunity to attend the odd glitzy event, maybe. But, with stereotypes such as Samantha from Sex in the City and celebrity PR guru, Max Clifford, this is exactly the way a young student could perceive this role.

Dr Daniel Jackson, Senior Lecturer at Bournemouth Media School makes a very interesting point, supporting the idea of an apprenticeship scheme saying “by publicising PR education in FE colleges and schools, the apprenticeship scheme can shed some light on and bust some myths about what PR is. In my opinion this could have benefits for all PR educators as at the moment the lack of understanding of PR amongst the general public is an obstacle to recruitment onto PR degrees.” Obviously this is beneficial as it would display the diversity of the profession to potential new entrants to the industry, one of the very first essays I had to write in my degree was entitled, What is PR?, which showed me how diverse this profession is and also drilled in to me the skills I needed to be a successful, rounded PR person.

Many PR students strive to gain experience outside of the academic environment, the term “putting theory in to practice” is one which has been widely used throughout my time at university. However, if agencies and various other companies are using apprentices in future years, who will create space for dedicated undergraduates looking to strengthen their degree and start making a name for themselves within the industry?

Jenni Bamford, PR graduate and Senior Account Executive at Euro RSCG, comments “PR is a career that I feel should involve a great deal of on the job training so the apprentice scheme could further benefit the industry if delivered in the correct way, providing that it doesn’t attempt to directly replace the existing and successfully proven degrees.” This is a view I personally support as PR is not a skill that can be learned from a textbook but both the academic guidance and encouragement to carry out work placements during a degree are a great combination to a successful PR person, setting apart those who go the extra mile to succeed.

Yes degrees are expensive and yes experience within the PR industry is  vital to succeed but this doesn’t mean a degree that is proven to be successful in terms of graduate employment rates should be overlooked.


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