Like many other aspects of marketing, public relations has undergone some digitization over the last ten years. In the new age of PR, effectively managing social media and blog outreach has become as important as working mainstream channels. However, at the core, PR is still all about helping companies and organizations build and maintain a positive public profile by working with the press, partners, and customers. That can mean fostering ties with the community, garnering good press when new products are launched or performing damage control when something, such as the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, happens. The best of breed PR professionals are good communicators, relationship builders, empathizers and adept problem solvers simply because no two client situations are the same.
The best PR pros are highly valued, with the median income for a PR Manager averaging at $86,737/year.1 As one might imagine, these positions are coveted and the field of PR is extremely competitive.2 A certification in public relations is a great way to enhance your PR knowledge, shine up your resume, and stand out from the rest of the competition. Fortunately, there are reputable online Public Relations certifications that can help you build this foundation at your own pace.
The APR certification definitely has significant weight as it comes to us from the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the largest community of PR and communications professionals in the United States and provider of best practice and ethical standards for the American PR community. The certification has been available since 1964 and according to PRSA, the APR credential is “the mark of distinction for public relations professionals who demonstrate broad knowledge, strategic perspective, and sound personal judgment.”
Companies from many industries including Cox Communications, Skanska, Abbot Labs, Booze Allen Hamilton, and Allstate Insurance, as well as state and local governments have had PR employees sit for this certification. It is a comprehensive exam that focuses on PR theory, strategy and ethics, and consists of multiple choice, essay questions, and a panel interview.
There is only one online course to prep for the APR, which is administered through Online2Learn. This course has 10 interactive modules that cover the full body of knowledge required by the APR certification. It also comes with exercises and projects that can be carried out by both individuals and teams.
|Cost||$195 (PRSA member price) / $295 (non-members)|
|Course Length||Self-paced but includes suggested schedule and 3 months of planned group cohort activities and projects. Students have access to the course for one year with some extension flexibility.|
|Format||Online Interactive Platform, Videos, Case Studies, Monthly Webinars|
|Special Requirements||While no explicit requirement is stated, applicants should have enough PR and communication planning experience to be able to present a portfolio of their work to a panel of PR experts.|
|Good to Know||While the APR certification is for PR professionals, there is an entry-level certification for students and recent college grads currently under development and there is also an APR+M certification available especially for military PR professionals.|
MarketMotive, master in online marketing courses, brings us a PR course that is tailored for the new age of digital PR. It is offered through a self-paced platform that covers standard press and news wire releases but goes beyond traditional channels and includes alternatives that maximize reach through blogging, social media, and video strategies.
The course is led by Greg Jarboe, president of SEO-PR, a firm that provides PR, social media and SEO services. He is an author and faculty member at Rutgers University, and a frequent speaker at SEO conferences. While the course is a self-study endeavor, students have access to 7 live cross-discipline webinars per month and 24-7 access to an “Ask The Experts” forum. Upon completion of the course, students receive an official certificate from the Online Certified Marketing Professionals organization.
|Format||100% Online Self-Guided|
|Good to Know||MarketMotive regularly produces new videos and webinar-style workshops every month to keep their content and resources up-to-date.|
The PR Certification Program comes to us from Mediabistro, a great resource for traditional and New Media news and analysis, and the largest media job board in the U.S. The course consists of four required courses (PR, New Media & Relations, New Business Development, Social Media) plus two electives you can select from several options (Social Media Bootcamp, Multimedia, Speech Writing, Branding, Event Planning). Courses are instructor-led and have specific start dates. Course content focuses on crafting clear and concise PR messaging, working with clients and media outlets, and the use of online platforms such as social media and blogs.
|Cost||Students can opt for a one-time payment of $1,650 for the full program or take each required class and elective separately before applying for certification.|
|Course Length||Self-paced up to one year|
|Format||Online instructor led with select classes also offered in NYC|
|Special Requirements||Courses have specific start dates and must be completed within 1 calendar year to be eligible for certification.|
|Good to Know||Students are also given 12-month access to MediaBistro’sFreelance Marketplace and AvantGuild as additional resources.|
BTI is part of the Global Certification and Training Institute, and is comprised of a team of experts from various industries who have trained over 3,000 clients globally. The course was designed by PR and online marketing professionals to help people from other professions cross-train in PR. It consists of almost seven hours of video content as well as eight in-depth audio interviews with PR professionals.
The curriculum was designed by Ashley Wirthlin, author of the respected PR blog, PublicRelationsBlogger.com, and covers PR foundations as well as PR strategy, writing, branding, and online PR. Resume help and job search advice are also part of this package. Those with a broader interest in marketing can take the program as part of a Master’s Certificate in Marketing offered by BTI.
|Format||Video, Audio, Examination|
|Good to Know||If students have a broader interest in marketing, they can take 5 courses for $2,750 and receive a Master’s certificate in Marketing. Payment plans and need-based scholarships are also available.|
Brainmeasures is ISO-certified and focuses on providing certification and testing for company employees. They have certified 1 million people to date, many of whom are employees of Fortune 100 companies. Course material is provided in the form a single e-book, and students can take the test within 10 days of signing up. At under $70, this course is inexpensive, but also far less interactive or visual. Based on the makeup of the platform’s corporate clientele, Brainmeasures courses are an ideal option when looking to certify large groups of users.
|Good to Know||Brainmeasures has provided testing to General Motors, Royal Bank of Scotland, Toyota, Citigroup, and Mitsubishi.|
Penn Foster is a collegiate institution with a history that stretches back to 1890. In the past 10 years, they have evolved into one of the nation’s leading online career-focused schools. The Public Relations Certification program is one of 100 different career programs offered. The course is intended for people with some prior PR experience, and takes a very job-focused approach, with special attention on writing, messaging, and communications for various types of organizations such as businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies.
The program cost of $485 includes textbooks, supporting materials, and a discussion forum with other students, study partners, and faculty. The learning medium is a series of PDF’s and corresponding assignments. Completion of the course requires 2 exams and 8 projects. In the event students have questions about course materials, they have direct access to course instructors via email and phone. The program is 100% self paced and can be completed in 1-6 months.
|Cost||$485 ($100 discount with upfront payment)|
|Format||Textbooks, PDF’s, 2 exams, 8 projects|
|Good to Know||Course provides extensive career advisory and preparation including a career library, portfolio development assistance, resume help, and access to job postings.|
Pick The Right Course For You
Public Relations is still about maintaining a positive image, but the tools have changed. Those in PR could benefit by learning a little about community management and social media. Regardless, PR is a competitive field and the online space has created new opportunities for those who are proficient in both traditional and modern PR practices.
A certification in PR is just what you need to grasp both the classical and digital aspects of the field, and can help you stand out among other practitioners who compete for the same jobs or clients. There is an array of certification course options to choose from, so study each option carefully before deciding which course format and budget best suits your needs. Your competition is not waiting around, so enroll soon and start getting skilled up!Footnotes
- Public Relations Manager Salary: US National Averages. Salary.com[↩]
- PR Mean Girls: Catty Is Just Another Label For Competitive. The Grindstone[↩]