When I graduated from the University of South Carolina in December of 2019, the last thing I wanted to do was study for an exam. I felt eager to jump into my career and wipe my hands of the academic demands of college life. College is hard, and I was finished.
It wasn’t until I met with UofSC’s PRSSA Faculty Adviser Kelly Davis that I knew about the Certificate in Principles of Public Relations exam. This exam is offered to soon-to-be or recent college graduates as a way to set yourself apart in the job market. The exam must be completed within six months before or six months after graduation. It is sort of a way to dip your toes in the APR Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations, which it is recommended you take after five years of public relations professional experience.
No one at UofSC had taken and passed the Certificate exam, so I was hesitant to pursue it. How hard will it be? What will I need to know? And how important is it, really? With support from my PRSSA Chapter and professors, I signed up to take the exam after graduating in December.
Recently I got the official news that I had passed the Certificate exam. I was proud that I took the leap to do something challenging and have found incredible value in preparing and taking the exam.
It was a great way for me to continue learning about public relations skills after graduating. Of course, you will always be learning at internships and jobs, but there is something beneficial about sitting down and reviewing case studies, thinking, “How would I go about that challenge?” While our college education is important, we must continue to use our skills to grow into the strongest professionals we can.
Additionally, studying for the exam showed me where my weaknesses were. I found out that I needed to work on my financial literacy after struggling to pass the quiz at the end of the online module. This is something I am constantly aware of while working in a professional setting and seek opportunities to improve in everyday situations.
I hope that soon-to-be and recent graduates will consider taking the Certificate exam. Your ability and willingness to pursue the exam is why the Certificate helps you stand out from others.
Here are some tips for preparing for the exam:
- Take the online study course: PRSA offers online modules focusing on the 13 topics covered in the exam. Each module is taught by a different public relations expert from different universities across the nation. It is a great way to dive deeper into all of the concepts that will be tested on the exam, and it breaks them up in a manageable way.
- Reach out to other students who have taken the exam for advice: While few students at UofSC had taken the Certificate exam in the past, there were other students who were studying for the exam that I reached out to. We helped each other to identify our strengths and weaknesses and we were able to help each other along the way.
- Be confident in your study style: You went to college and you did well! Trust your instincts when it comes to studying. For me, it was good old-fashioned pen and paper study guides. For you it may be online study cards and retaking the online module checks. Do what feels most comfortable for you.
- Give yourself enough time to know the material: The Certificate exam is unique in the fact that it is situational and applicable to real public relations profession experiences. While you most likely learned most of the content during your college career, give yourself ample time to study the concepts in terms of execution rather than memorization.
If the Certificate exam is on your radar, I full-heartedly encourage you to reach out to your PRSSA Faculty Adviser and decide if pursuing the Certificate in Principles of Public Relations is right for you. In the meantime, visit this link to learn more. And feel free to reach out to me with any and all questions. Happy studying, public relations pros!
Emily J. Chavez is a 2019 graduate of the University of South Carolina, earning her Bachelor of Arts in public relations. She currently serves as the communications associate at the South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health where she oversees social media strategy and the organizational communications plan. She also helps with publicity and media outreach for Victory Lap Publicity, an entertainment public relations firm based out of Asheville, North Carolina. In her free time she likes to visit record stores, fly to Chicago for the weekend and hang out with her dog Mac.