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THE UK: Subject Guides

Interested in the PR industry? Study Public Relations Abroad

Discover how a degree in Public Relations can lead to exciting career in PR

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In a world where almost everything is scrutinised in the public eye, it's hardly suprising that Public Relations (PR) is a massive industry. Companies, organisations, even political parties and government agencies, all need experts in communicating the right messages, engaging the correct people, and sometimes making sure that things that could be seen as negative can have a positive 'spin'. Public image matters, and building and maintaining a good public image can be hard but exciting work, especially in the new age of digital media.

 

A good first step to getting started in the world of PR is to study a Public Relations degree at university. While degrees in Journalism, Business, and even the humanities are all valued in the PR industry, degree programmes specialising in Public Relations are designed to ensure graduates have all the qualities most attractive in the industry, training students to think creatively and strategically, but also to be business-minded and capable of communicating ideas to a very high level.

 

Another clear benefit to studying Public Relations is that you will begin networking with other people who will go on to work in PR from your very first day in the lecture theatre, and your department will have many connections to people and businesses within the industry. Networking is a crucial to making it in the PR industry, and students who specialise in the subject get a head start.

 

What is studying Public Relations like?

 

 

At a degree level, studying Public Relations will entail developing practical and vocational skills, with a focus on preparing students for a future career in the PR industry. Students gain an understanding of PR and its role and function in society, as well as its relationship to related industries including the media. This requires establishing a critical and analytical approach to thinking about the media industry, marketing, and PR in general.

 

In order to instill the skills needed to make it in the PR industry, many universities structure their Public Relations courses in a particular way:

 

  • Course content is usually a mixture of practical work and theoretical knowledge. Practical studies might include running mock press campaigns or conferences, allowing students to gain experience of the sort of work they will encounter in a future career in PR.
  • Teaching hours during the week are typically relatively low, and there are usually few or no exams involved throughout the degree, though this is dependant on the university and the modules a student decides to take. This means there is an emphasis on work outside the classroom, and assesment is largely based on coursework.
  • Students work either individually or in a groups outside of classes. Therefore, students are expected to demonstrate a good understanding of the core principle in a number of individual and group projects, such as essay-writing and presentations.
  • Coursework is typically split between individual work (for example, the submission of essays) and group work (including presentations), meaning students develop independent learning and working skills as well as a strong sense of teamwork, both vital for a career in PR.
  • There is a strong emphasis work experience during the course, with universities often able to arrange these placements utilising their connections to the industry.

 

Where can you study Public Relations?

 

The University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia

 

If all of this sounds interesting to you and you want to take your first steps towards a career in PR, you've got to find a course that is right for you. Here are three examples of great Public Relations courses in Australia, the UK and the USA.

 

  • The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia offers the Bachelor of Communication with Specialisation in Public Relations. This three year course is designed to equip "students with the skills required in the profession and practice of public relations" through a mixture of theoretical learning (for example, studen learn about "theories of public relations and communication"), and practical work, including how to "research, plan, and implement a strategic public relations campaign."
  • In the UK, the Business School at Canterbury Christ Church University offers a BA (Hons) in Public Relations, Media and Marketing. This degree is accredited by the CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations), a professional body for PR practioners, and is "designed with industry practitioners and underpinned by theory to inform best practice." This approach has been succesful: 90% of graduates from the course are in employment within six months of graduation.
  • Californian university, the University of San Jose has developed a Bachelor of Science Public Relations degree program. One of the best of its kind in the United States, all students who study Public Relations at the University of San Jose are required to take an internship in the industry, meaning professional practice begins long before students graduate.

 

These are only three courses of many, however, over 500 institutions globally offer Public Relations degrees. It's worth taking your time looking for the course which most interests and inspires you, and which has entrance requirements that you can meet.

 

What will you need to study Public Relations?

 

 

Talking of entrance requirements, what can you expect will be required of you to get onto a Public Relations course? There is no simple answer: it will vary from institution to institution, and course to course. Nevertheless, regardless of the formal academic requirements of individual institutions, there are certain characteristics that will make you stand out when applying for a Public Relations degree. Being passionate and knowledgeable about PR, having excellent communication skills (both written and verbal), and a willingness to apply yourself to new challenges will all make you stand out. This is particularly important to consider when writing your personal statement, or if you have to complete an interview as part of the application process.

 

If English is not your first language, an IELTS score of 6.5 or above is typically required, but again this depends on the requirements of each university.

 

Where can a Public Relations degree take you?

 

 

As you would expect, the aim of many Public Relations graduates is to enter the PR industry, and studying such a career-focused degree is almost guaranteed to ensure those pursuing this path make it. Options for the PR industry are varied - you may join an agency, or you might work in-house, for example in the marketing department of a global brand.

 

However, studying Public Relations at university doesn't bind you to the industry for life, or even necessarily at all: if you find you have an interest in other industries or career-paths, the skills developed studying Public Relations are applicable in multiple related areas, from journalism to the legal sector. It's also noteworthy that so many prominent politicians now come from PR backgrounds, among them former Prime Minister David Cameron.

 

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About Author

Ben Conway is a content intern for Hotcourses Abroad and WhatUni. He’ll be writing lots about why students should consider studying everything from Anthropology to Physiotherapy. If he looks distracted he’s probably deep in thought about what words should go where. Outside of work he enjoys weird electronic music and weirder books.

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