Founder of PR Academy, Ann Pilkington

There was a time when PR was mostly about the ability to write a good press release, knowing how to wine and dine a journalist and being a great networker. These things still matter of course, but PR is now much more about reputation management that is achieved by engaging with a wide range of stakeholders.

The modern PR practitioner should be counselling the organisation on the best course of action rather than just being there to do a repair job when things go wrong – although we still need to be good at that too!

As PR has become more sophisticated, professional qualifications have grown in order to equip practitioners with the knowledge and skills they need.

PR Academy’s annual trend survey sets out to find why people are studying and what skills gaps they are looking to fill. The findings of our most recent Trend Survey included:

  • Almost 90% of respondents are studying to enhance their skills, while almost 80% are studying to improve career prospects.
  • Three quarters (74%) indicated that holding a professional qualification has led to career progression or that they are confident it will.
  • More than half of respondents (52%) see their careers developing down a specialist path.

It is encouraging to see that employers also believe in the value of a qualification, the number of respondents who indicated that they have funding for qualifications available through their employer increased to a five-year high of 76%.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has a well-established suite of qualifications in broad PR and specialist areas: internal communication, public affairs and crisis communication. The availability of these online has helped increase their popularity worldwide. The Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) also has a range of qualifications with a very flexible delivery model and the option to start a course at any time. PR Academy’s survey shows that measurement is a key skills gap for practitioners and the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) offers a qualification in this subject.

Many universities also offer professional qualifications and some will give credit for a professional qualification towards a Master’s programme so practitioners can continue their learning. The University of Chester, Leeds Beckett and Bournemouth in the UK are all worth looking at. Programme offerings change all the time though, so be sure to do plenty of research on what is available. The CIPR has a list of approved courses on its website which is a good starting point.

Good luck with your studies!


The survey was conducted online using Survey Monkey in November and December 2014. The results are based on 123 respondents – all past and present students of PR Academy, who are practising communicators. For everyone who took part we donated £1 to Crisis at Christmas, then rounded the total donation up to £200.

We’ve rounded up some PR training and education opportunities on PRcareers.