Why is a College Degree Advantageous to a PR Professional in 2022?
A few months ago, I met with a mentor who shared valuable tips with me regarding my job. At the end of the conversation, he asked me why I was in college when I already had the skills needed to “start my career.” Despite my best efforts to explain my reasoning, he told me I was wasting my time. His remark took me by surprise. It caused me to wonder whether or not my degree would be worth it in the long run.
In 2022, it is common to find employers who are primarily seeking “skill” and “talent” over academic credentials. Many will actually suggest dropping out of college to hire you on the spot! Professors are beginning to feel “out-dated” as trends in the world of public relations and marketing are shifting — and quickly. With these factors in mind, it can be perplexing to determine if the college route will provide you with the knowledge you need to reach the career of your dreams.
I interviewed Karen Freberg, a current professor of Strategic Communications at the University of Louisville, who has at times felt “out-dated” as an educator herself. Karen graduated with a Ph.D. in communications from the University of Kentucky and has invested much of her time in her own education, as well as enhancing that of her students.
Seizing a “Robust” College Experience
Especially in the realm of social media marketing, many of the skills that qualify an individual for the job can be acquired without the aid of college professors. “As professors, we are very aware of this,” said Karen. One can take a quick course online and be “certified” in a week. As long as said individual knows their stuff, that is enough to get hired. This route can save a lot of time and money that would be spent on a degree, but the question to consider is whether or not skipping the degree will be worth it in the long run.
Karen shares why she believes a college degree is more than just a piece of paper and well-worth the investment; “There are opportunities that you can make if you take advantage of these programs, professors and resources [in college]. You can really make a robust college experience.” She further goes on to say, “I feel the worst thing you can do is just think, ‘Oh, if I have a college degree then the doors open.’ Right now, you have to be strategic and think about, what do you want to do? Where do you want to go? And how can you make the most of your time?”
Setting Up For Long Term Success
With this farsighted vision, Karen believes that the college experience can provide students with both hard and soft skills that can’t be learned “in-house.” If you are strategically thinking ahead, the investment you place in your college education will shape you into a well-rounded individual more equipped to problem solve and realize a successful career.
Speaking of success she sees in her communications students, Karen says, “I look for drive. Sometimes in class, I try to embrace myself as the Miranda Priestly [from the film The Devil Wears Prada] in a good way. I test my students and see who is willing to step up to the challenge… By pushing yourself to think outside of the traditional box that sometimes PR professionals find themselves in, you’ll come away with more of a comprehensive view to navigate international waters.”
Branching Out and Building Your Network
Besides amping up your skill set by taking classes outside the box of communications, you can also amp up your network in college. You never know what the colleagues, professors, and guest speakers you cross paths with during your school years can do for you in the long run.
Karen reminds, “PR is about relationships, and we need to build those relationships; not just within PR, but really branch outside of our field. Talk to people, learn their stories, and get an idea of what they’re dealing with…My background is in PR, but I would have to say it’s been a while since I’ve really utilized those resources. Personally, I’ve always looked outside, so that would be my recommendation for students.”
The Big Picture
So if you’re on the college grind and wondering whether or not it is worth it, it might be beneficial to focus on the big picture. What is your long term career plan? Do you want to do the same job forever? Or do you want flexibility? What do you value most when it comes to work? What does networking look like to you? Asking these kinds of questions can help you decide whether or not pursuing a college degree will ultimately grant you the greatest form of success.
Katelyn Moody is a junior studying Public Relations at Brigham Young University. She also plans to earn a minor in Business. Katelyn is currently working as a Social Media Manager at Dreamland Baby Co.. Her work experience includes content creation and management, technical design, and teaching. In her free time, you can find Katelyn playing piano, designing, dreaming up her future business, or exploring the beautiful scenes of Utah.