Professionalism marches on: how PR is becoming a career that requires qualifications

I nearly chocked on my coffee when I read this year’s State of the Profession survey. The survey of both CIPR members and non-members has some useful stats that didn’t appear in the previous edition – and one topic in particular caught my eye.

Qualifications graphWhile only 21 per cent of very senior PR practitioners have a professional qualification, a sizeable 42 per cent of practitioners at non-manager level – which I think we can broadly take to mean young practitioners – have some form of relevant professional qualification. This marks a massive change in attitude among people entering the PR profession.

There starts to be a point where these younger practitioners, with professional qualifications, reach senior jobs they will instinctively be looking out for qualifications in those they hire in a much more deliberate and vocal way than at present. (And let’s face it, it’s the practitioners with the qualifications who are most likely to stay in the profession.)

This significant swing towards qualifications is important because professional diplomas and the like equip people with the skills to do more senior, strategic roles in PR that sometimes people really struggle with when they simply learn on the job. Indeed, is it any surprise that so many people working in PR quit the industry forever at around the age of 30 when the sector has historically been based on simply learning on the job? I’d love there to be much more research on this, but I suspect that some leave simply because they are not equipped with the skills to progress and find their PR career to be in a rut.

Anyway, given the very clear trend towards industry qualifications, it seems to me that there is a tipping point approaching, where more than half of young practitioners are qualified, and where it suddenly starts appearing on job adverts that professional qualifications are required.

Employers, and especially their HR departments, like industry qualifications from whatever profession they are recruiting. That’s because these qualifications indicate a knowledge-base that’s definite, and means people know the knowledge to do their jobs effectively. From the CIPR survey, we are firmly on road to becoming a career that requires qualifications in order to succeed – and for the reputation of our sector, that’s a development most welcome.