How to Make the Most of Your Degree’s Electives

Photo from Tulane Public Relations

Before every semester, students fret about what courses they need to take to fulfill their degree requirements. Next time you find yourself in this situation, use those extra electives and degree requirements to your advantage by choosing one of these out of the box courses.

While this course is typically taken by theater and other art-related majors, it has some real benefits for public relations professionals. Regardless of whether you work for a company or a nonprofit, you need to be able to tell your client or company’s story. Screenwriting gives you practice writing from someone else’s perspective, making it a great course for public relations majors.

These days, marketing and communication are becoming more integrated. Even if you don’t plan to go into marketing, you’ll likely work alongside marketing professionals for the rest of your career. Having at least a basic understanding of what marketing is and how it works will make you a better employee and allow for better collaboration. You may even want to consider minoring in marketing if you find that you enjoy the subject.

Sociology or Cultural Studies
There are a variety of courses offered at most colleges that teach about differences in culture. Learning the difference between genders, races, socioeconomic statuses, nationalities and other cultural aspects will make you a more effective communicator. By better understanding different audiences and what they need, you can better tailor your message to reach them.

Journalism and Broadcasting
Though many PRSSA members are taking public relations courses, it’s also important to take a few courses in the other fields of communication. Public relations professionals often have to work closely with the media to get their message across, so understanding how journalists work and what their goals are will improve your relationship with them. Plus, journalism has a huge emphasis on writing, which is the number one skill employers look for when hiring for public relations positions.

Research Methods
If your school offers a course on how to conduct research, it can be a really effective tool for your career. Being able to analyze information and data is an important skill for many of the responsibilities of a public relations professional. Whether it’s researching the competition, your own company or client, the next new media platform, or just analyzing campaigns you’ve done to gauge effectiveness, it’s never a bad thing to know how and where to look for information.

Of course, these are only a few of the many courses that could benefit a public relations professional. Classes on computer science, graphic design, photography, psychology and others can be incredibly useful as well. The biggest thing to keep in mind when scheduling classes is to select them based on their benefit to you, not just because they fill a requirement.

Have you taken any unique classes throughout your public relations education?

Samantha Watson is a graduate student at the University of Toledo and vice president of public relations at UToledo PRSSA. Follow her on Twitter @smwatson92 or connect on LinkedIn.

2 thoughts on “How to Make the Most of Your Degree’s Electives

    • Author gravatar

      These are really great suggestions! I was lucky to have research and marketing as required classes in school, but they were definitely helpful. And I would compare my world geography classes to what you say about sociology/cultural studies. It wasn’t directly related to PR, but what I learned definitely transfers over everyday. It’s important for us to be aware of the diverse cultures around us.

      To answer your question, I would add a graphic design class to this list. I had the opportunity to take a visual communication (design) class and held a copy editing job at the student newspaper that required a lot of graphic design experience. The skills I learned in both help me SO MUCH in any branding and/or social media projects.

    • Author gravatar

      Best classes I took at a liberal arts school (not all in the PR dept.)

      – Authentic Leadership
      – Innovation Dynamics
      – Business Communications
      – Creative Writing

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