Public relations work and today’s communications degree – how well do they work together and depend on one another? This is a great question for anyone considering work or educational paths along these lines. For all the answers, follow along.
The Callings of Public Relations Work
Public relations is a field that takes in a lot of area and offers great monetary compensation and job satisfaction, but can you get a job in public relations with only an associate degree? The profession is constantly changing, just as the way business is done is changing. Fifty years ago the department store JC Penney’s had a reputation for quality goods at reasonable prices. In an era before branding, that was the store’s brand, and there was little the company had to do to reinforce that image except to keep on offering the same quality and low prices. Then the discount chains emerged, and the competition sharpened. The company tried to play catch up with public relations, but it was seemingly too late, and many of the stores closed. With the appearance of online shopping, things morphed again, and the competition became fierce. Public relations departments became more than important to retail stores; they became vital. Many people are looking toward careers in this field, but they don’t want to invest the time or the money in an advanced, or even a four-year degree. So, is it possible to work in public relations with an associate degree?
First, let’s take a look at what public relations work is all about. Public relations, or PR for short, is all about managing public perception to the advantage of an organization or individual. A company, for example, may employ PR professionals to handle their public announcements, outreach efforts, representative social media accounts, and more. An individual may even do the same, but in all cases, the way in which the communications and messaging are provided to the public are critical. Marketing campaigns, announcements, news releases, social media posts, and mass emails are all examples of public relations technique at work.
Why is Public Relations Vital
Fake news is everywhere. It is rampant in politics, social media and even on mainline news programming. That is why the main focus of public relations is trust, according to an article in Forbes Magazine. It isn’t necessarily proving trust; it is providing the illusion of trust. That is done through print media, speeches, telecommunications, social media and a myriad of other ways, and although most employers want job applicants with at least bachelor’s degrees, many will hire those with two-year degrees in assistant or entry-level positions. It takes a lot of input to “give people what they need before they ask for it,” as the Forbes article says.
Skills Needed in Public Relations
The primary skill needed in this field is the ability to communicate. Sometimes people write books and depend upon proofreaders to make comprehensible what they have written. Public relations professionals do not have that option. They must be expert at written and oral communication as well as imagery to succeed. That means a degree program should be heavy on written and oral communication. The Public Relations Society of America (PSRA) says public relations specialists also need the ability to anticipate public reaction to campaigns and events as well as the ability to analyze the results of those things. That skill is taught in marketing classes. Understanding how to resolve conflicts and how to reframe points is another important skill that can be learned through psychology. In short, a degree leading to a public relations career should be based in communication, but also cover business and psychology as well as other subjects. While associate degrees may not offer the ability to specialize, students can always pursue certifications to make themselves more marketable.
The Associate’s in Communication: Key Benefits
Having taken a glance at PR work today, what exactly is provided by the associate’s in communication, and how does that subsequently apply to employment in the public relations field? The communications major is actually a sort of essential cornerstone to the field of PR work as well as many others. A student of this degree path will learn valuable skills in crafting precise messages and the use of words to boast advantageous points while avoiding or dispersing of less than ideal areas of coverage. With their successful completion of coursework in conflict resolution, business and personal correspondence, communication technology, trends and cultures in communication, and many other subjects, the communications grad is a very capable communicator.
An Ideal Marriage
As public relations work is very much dependent on effective communications, it is only a natural and successful marriage subsequently shared by communications degree-holders and the public relations job market. Many jobs in public relations and its sister discipline, marketing, rely heavily on communications grads. This includes those with an accredited Associate’s Degree in Communications.
A great example of this marriage can be found in many public relations specialist positions. A PR specialist is a professional who essentially handles the majority of outbound public communications for a company or person. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists many of this position’s responsibilities to include responding to media information requests, drafting press releases, evaluating public opinion on certain matters, and even helping to craft speeches and arrange conferences and interviews.
Yet another great example of the associate’s of communication gaining entry into PR work can be seen in the position of today’s fundraising manager. Fundraising managers act as important representatives of organizations and institute methods for gaining funding aid from the public, individual persons, and even government sources. They also facilitate and represent public image and public relations at every step of the way. A bachelor’s degree works even better here, but the associate’s will gain access to many excellent opportunities in fundraising and fundraising management.
Specializing is another way of making your associate degree in communications more marketable. The website The Muse talks about several ways of finding a specialization. The site suggests taking a self-inventory to discover the things you really enjoy doing or studying. A person who enjoys his job is generally better at it than someone who is only at the position for the salary. An article on the site gives an example of finance, which is one of the highest paying of PR positions. Working for an investment firm, for example, can also be highly stressful and demanding. Health care public relations is another specialization area.
There are two types of public relations. One is reactive and the other is proactive. Both are necessary for businesses and people who want to be noticed. Proactive public relations is sitting “in the driver’s seat” to let the public know about the business or person you represent. In this type, a good imagination and an understanding of people and the way they react are important. Reactive public relations, on the other hand, is reacting in a timely manner to opportunities that may arise or crisis situations that could derail a business or political campaign. A person who specializes in reactive public relations will know how to reframe a situation to put their client’s interest in the best light.
Other specialization areas in public relations include: broadcast technician ( the behind-the-camera people who make everything happen and happen correctly), proofreader (the person who makes certain the speech text reads “I enjoy cooking and dogs” instead of “I enjoy cooking dogs” ), the generalist public relations assistant, the customer relations specialist.
Certifications to Add to an Associate in Communications Degree
People who want to increase their odds of landing a job in public relations can enhance their associate degrees with certificates of proficiency. These certifications usually require 30 credit hours or less of study and confirm proficiency in areas like computer support, digital communication, and public speaking. Other certificate program areas that could enhance a communications associate degree are :
• Information technology
• Web programming
• Interactive media
• Various foreign language certifications
• Media crisis management
• Media relations
• Conflict Resolution
• Graphic design
• And others.
How to Get a PR Job with an Associate Degree
Here is the thing about most associate degree in communications jobs: they will be assistantships or entry-level “grunt work.” Most employers want to see at least a bachelor’s degree listed on a job application. Without one, you may well get a job, but it might entail doing the coffee run. That, however, is okay as long as it gets your foot in the door. Making coffee runs lets you meet people and make connections.
To prepare for that day when your employer notices your beautifully honed sentences as you offer him his cappuccino, you need to polish your communication skills. Hone up on punctuation and practice intonation. Writing skills are the foundation of a public relations job, and even the coffee-guy will probably have to take a writing test when he applies at the firm. Experts also recommend applying at a startup business. Generally, the odds of being hired are better at a business with limited capital.
What is Entry Level
It has already been established that associate degree in communications jobs will be entry-level. What does that mean? Well, as a broadcast technician, you would operate electronics, listen for irregularities and quality issues in broadcasts and report them to a supervisor. As a media specialist, you might be monitoring the social media articles and attitudes toward the company or individual that your firm represents and reporting the results to a supervisor. You could be writing press releases that you would submit to a supervisor for approval. Entry level employees do not oversee staff. You might be the person who takes visitors on company tours. You could also be, as stated earlier, the coffee guy or girl. That is all right. Entry means getting in, putting your foot in the door and starting to learn. An associate degree in communications will probably not get you a top-paying public relations job. It will get you a good one, and it will put you in a position to get a four-year degree if you want one.
Get the Right Associate Degree
Most associate degrees are offered online. That is a sweet fact because you can study for your new job without getting rid of your old one first. That said, all associate degrees are not created equal. This article focuses on a communications associate degree. Even though you aren’t paying an enormous tuition or trying to decide between the six-meal-a -week and the full meal option at the residence hall, you are committing to 18 months-to-two-years of study, rearranging your household obligations and missing out on parties to catch up assignments. This is an investment, and you want to make certain it is a good one.
Make sure the college that houses the associate program is accredited. Accreditation is a process that colleges undergo voluntarily. Organizations affiliated with the profession oversee the programs and ensure that they meet rigorous requirements. This means that your degree program will teach you the skills you need to get a job in public relations, but also that if later you decide to go on to a four-year school, your credits will transfer.
This article has already discussed the skills that you should have. When you are deciding on a college and a program, look for courses that address those skill sets. You might even think about doing an internship during the summer or when you can take some time away from your employment. Internships are paying and non-paying, but even the salaried internships don’t pay a lot. What they give you is experience and recognition. They afford you the chance to make contacts in the profession, and some even turn into full-time jobs. Additionally, they look surprisingly good to prospective employers as they read your job application.
There is so much variety in public relations jobs, and even an entry-level job could make a satisfying career. Getting the right accredited associate degree in communications is an excellent step toward this career. It can give you the skills you need along with your aptitudes to be successful in public relations. It can whet your appetite for more training in the profession. The right associate degree can tell prospective employers that you are serious about making public relations your life’s career. It can also lay a firm foundation for further study in the field should you decide that it would help you to do so. Additionally, shoring up your degree with internships and certifications can give you a competitive edge in the job pool and make you more confident in your abilities. So, the answer to the question posed early in this article is yes. You can get a job in public relations with an associate degree in communications.
Public relations work is as much about effective communication technique as it is about the use of accurate perceptions and information gathering methods. This is perfect for the up and coming communications grad. In conclusion, the public relations world is yet another very viable pursuit option of the many afforded by the incredibly widely applicable, associate’s in communication of today.