I’m not knocking public relations degrees exclusively here, but news of the cost of a university education makes it a reasonable question to ask. Even excluding the level of debt caused by covering the cost of living away from home (which is undoubtedly a key part of the experience), apparently annual course fees are some £3,000, payable in advance.
So is a degree worth £9,000 (£12,000 for those courses with a year’s placement)?
I believe there is a lot of merit in studying at a higher level, but with a larger proportion of people now going to University, the degree isn’t the differentiator or salary bonus factor it once was. If it has become the baseline expectation for entering careers such as public relations, then do young people have any choice but to accept the cost? What does this do to their motivation? I don’t feel it has led to a greater respect of University education and there is a culture clash between academic beliefs about studying for its own sake and students’ belief that they deserve excellent “customer service” for the fee they are paying.
The professional CIPR qualifications offer a viable alternative. The Advanced Certificate (just uprated by the QCA to level 5), can be studied with two years’ experience in PR, whilst the Diploma requires four years’ experience or the Adv Cert, if you don’t have a degree. Is it possible or advisable to go the experience route first? The costs for the one year courses are around £2,000 – which is still a considerable investment, of course.
I teach on a PR degree course and the CIPR qualifications – and have just begun research for a project to produce A PR Career Handbook, so this is an interesting area for me. If you have any thoughts on the benefit of qualifications – degree or otherwise – I’d love to hear them.