"The future is indeed bright for the field of public relations. But there is one major qualification--having enough trained people to meet the expanding demand for public relations services and counsel."
That is the consensus of the recent report of the Commission on Public Relations Education, Public Relations Education for the 21st Century--A Port of Entry. The Commission, composed of 50 public relations practitioners and professors from around the country, spent months studying the needs of the public relations field in the 21st century. One goal of the Commission was to determine guidelines for America's colleges and universities to use in preparing public relations students for the professional challenges of the 21st century as practitioners carry out their responsibility of building understanding, credibility and trust between organizations and their publics.
Commission Recommends Broad Base of Knowledge and Skills for Public Relations Education
Students graduating with undergraduate degrees in public relations should have both knowledge and skills necessary to enter the profession and to assume a leadership role over the course of their careers. The Commission also recommends that the undergraduate public relations curriculum be grounded in a strong traditional liberal arts and social science education.
USI's Public Relations Curriculum Meets the Commission Recommendations
At USI, we are dedicated to providing you with the knowledge and skills required in the practice of public relations. Here, you will find a program of study which will help prepare you for a public relations career in the 21st century. Our curriculum begins with a strong liberal arts foundation upon which a concentration of public relations and other appropriate communications courses is added. You will be encouraged to take additional courses in interpersonal and organizational communication, social sciences, management, and marketing to provide depth to your career preparation. Our goal is to provide you with the technical skills necessary to enter the public relations field along with the knowledge necessary to advance in your career.
The Commission stated that the ideal undergraduate major in public relations would include a core of courses. These courses and the equivalent USI courses are as follows:
Introduction to Public Relations (PRL 261)
Case Studies in Public Relations (PRL 463)
Public Relations Research, Measurement and Evaluation (COMM 495 and PRL 367)
Public Relations Writing and Production (PRL 362 and PRL 364)
Public Relations Campaigns (PRL 367 and PRL 461)
Supervised Internship in Public Relations (PRL 498)
Directed Electives (various offerings in ADV, CPT, JRN, RTV and additional PRL courses)
Job market remains favorable for public relations graduates
The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of public relations managers will increase faster than the average for all occupations through 2005, placing public relations in the top ten growth industries. The most recent Annual Survey of Journalism and Mass Communications Graduates from around the country shows that the job market remains strong for graduates in public relations. That study showed the highest entry-level salaries were in web publishing, newsletters and trade publications, consumer magazines, public relations and advertising. All are fields in which public relations graduates may quality to enter. Entry-level salaries for these areas average between $25,000 and $30,000. USI's own study of its most recent public relations graduates found they had an average starting salary of $26,500. A 1999 study by PR Week showed the average public relations practitioner is a person 39 years old with an annual salary of $80,000. The same study found that salaries for top-level executives in corporations and public relations firms is between $134,000 for senior vice presidents and $164,000 for executive vice presidents.
What types of positions do public relations graduates enter?
Public relations graduates typically take positions with large and small corporations, not-for-profit organizations, or public relations firms. Entry-level jobs normally require technical skills such as writing, editing, designing, and speaking. Advancement into higher-level positions await the public relations practitioner with appropriate knowledge and experience. Among those responsibilities are counseling management, conducting public opinion and marketing research, media relations, employee or member relations, community relations, public affairs involvement, governmental affairs, issues management, financial relations, industry relations, development and fund raising, multicultural affairs, special events, and marketing communications.
Most public relations practitioners are involved in one or more of the following functions: programming, cultivating relationships, writing and editing, dissemination of information through the news media or trade publications, production of various publications and multimedia programs, planning and coordinating various special events, writing and making speeches, and fact gathering.
Networking with professionals in the field
USI public relations majors and other interested students have the opportunity to become involved in the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter on campus. PRSSA provides excellent opportunities for professional networking, learning the skills of leadership and teamwork, and working with other university chapters to enhance their career opportunities. Public relations students have the opportunity to attend national conferences and network with other students from around the country as well as with professionals who are members of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). USI public relations students also compete for scholarships and other honors on a state and national basis. PRSSA members are also actively involved in campus and community service activities which provide them opportunities to apply their communication skills.
For more information on how you can prepare for the challenging field of public relations in the 21st century, contact:
Advertising/Public Relations Coordinator
Robert E. West, Ph.D.