Learn how staying on top of the latest trends can help practitioners in one of the most dynamic professions continue to advance their careers.
By Malissa Carroll 

As someone who works in a health professions school, I have become familiar with the value that continuing education holds for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care professionals. In addition to the mandated continuing education requirements to which they must adhere to remain in practice, these practitioners are always searching for new opportunities to expand their knowledge and skillsets, allowing them to better serve their patients and practice at the top of their licensure. While health care and public relations are two vastly different fields, my experience has shown me that, in the area of continuing education, there might be some lessons that we can share.

To Learn is to Lead

Similar to health care, which has witnessed an incredible evolution in recent years, advances in technology have helped public relations become one of the most dynamic professions in which individuals can pursue a career. The constant advent of new mediums and platforms through which brands can share their messages – from smart phones to social media – challenges public relations professionals to keep up with ever-changing trends, contributing to the need for continuing education to help us acquire the skills necessary to incorporate these advancements into existing plans, strategies, and tactics.

Fortunately, we as public relations professionals do not need to look too far for opportunities to build on our existing knowledge and skills to ensure that our work makes the greatest impact for our clients. Whether you are an early career professional who is interested in obtaining an advanced degree or an experienced practitioner who wants hone his or her skills on a new platform, there are numerous options available to help you meet your personal and professional education goals.

Attend a Conference

One way for working professionals to gain new knowledge or acquire new skills is to attend conferences focused on their field or area of interest. These events often feature distinguished speakers who are leaders in the profession and from whose experiences everyone in attendance can learn. In addition to the national conferences and workshops offered through the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), you can find a number of local and regional events through PRSA-MD, which can offer insight into how peer organizations are staying on top of the changing industry.

Complete an Advanced Degree

Colleges and universities are becoming increasingly sensitive to the needs of working professionals who are looking to advance their careers with a master’s or other professional degree. Many institutions now offer students the option to complete their degrees entirely online, while others provide evening and weekend courses that seamlessly fit into working professionals’ busy schedules. The University of Maryland University College, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Georgetown University, and New York University are just a few of the institutions that offer advanced degree programs for public relations professionals. A quick Internet search will lead you to many more results – at least one of which is sure to meet your unique needs.

Pursue a Certification

Obtaining a professional certification is another way to demonstrate your proficiency as a public relations practitioner. As the nation’s largest professional organization serving the communications community, PRSA offers a range of certifications for new and experienced professionals to demonstrate drive, dedication, and values in the field of public relations, including the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential. The APR credential certifies a public relations practitioner’s drive, professionalism, and principals, setting that individual apart from peers and positioning him or her as a leader and mentor in the public relations field.

Register for a Webinar

For public relations practitioners who do not have much time to spare, webinars provide an excellent opportunity to pursue continuing education. These one- to two-hour events are designed for professionals who want to keep abreast of current trends in the field, but who might not have the time available to earn a formal certification or degree. PRSA offers a wide range of webinars – many available at no cost to members – that aim to help practitioners understand new concepts or tools, as well as refine their existing skills.

Abigail Adams once said, “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” Whether on the frontlines of patient care or behind-the-scenes bringing awareness to a brand, the value that continuing education can have on an individual’s career cannot be understated. If you have one hour, one week, or one year or more to spare, there are continuing education options available that will help you stay on top of current trends to ensure that you can continue providing the best service for your clients.

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