Qualifications, training and CPD: the keys to PR’s recognition as a profession

Written by Adrian Wheeler FPRCA


We do our best to behave professionally but we are not yet regarded as a profession. Why not?

It’s nothing to do with the Privy Council, medieval costumes or barriers to entry.

The Cambridge English Dictionary explains: ‘any type of work that needs special training or a particular skill… often respected because it involves a high level of education’.

From nothing to £9.63bn in 50 years

We are the new kids on the block. The PRCA was established in 1969 with less than 20 members. Today it has 350; the UK PR sector is worth £9.63bn a year and employs 63,000 people. By contrast, 130,000 solicitors generate economic value of £26bn a year; the Law Society was founded in 1826.

There has never been a professional business service which has grown as rapidly as ours. There is a tide of change in international PR and it’s about qualifications, training and CPD. The PRCA and ICCO are leading this evolution: their sights are fixed on PR’s recognition as a profession.

Look and learn is not enough

Qualifications matter. Some people say that PR education is ‘look and learn’. So it is, and so is surgery. Alongside practical experience practitioners of both also need to master a body of knowledge.

There are 50 first degree courses in PR in the UK and 80 master’s programmes. In Germany there are 45 master’s degree courses. In the USA there are 480 institutions offering PR degree courses and in China 300. There are PR degree courses in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Training delivers ROI

Training goes hand-in-hand with working in a PR team. Beginners, executives and managers should receive three or four one-day training courses every year and should watch six or seven webinars. The PRCA and ICCO provide both and also recommend further reading and research which people can explore in their own time.

Continuing Professional Development

CPD is what distinguishes professions from other forms of commercial career. Doctors, lawyers and architects are all required to keep up to date via CPD programmes administered by their professional bodies.

It’s the same for PR. The PRCA and ICCO are encouraging members to install formal CPD systems and have a certificate/diploma-based CPD framework to support them.

If not, so what?

Does becoming a profession matter? Some eminent practitioners shrug and others snort. But they tend to be old-school. Younger people take the practice of PR very seriously indeed and want to be taken seriously by their clients and counterparts.

Professional standing is one of the factors which will help public relations become a fully-fledged boardroom priority. Beyond that, and perhaps more importantly, it is a matter of personal pride.

Qualifications, training and CPD. These will make the difference. The PRCA and ICCO have a vision: in twenty years public relations will be perceived as a profession standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the law and accountancy. No-one will remember that it was ever not so.


For more information about ICCO Training packages visit: http://www.iccopr.com/services/online-training/