PR graduate or PR Apprentice which is better?

Today I attended an event which was organised and presented by a number of young PR apprentices from the Leeds area. I went to see how good they were and how the scheme worked in practice and if I am honest I was very impressed.

I sit on the CIPR committee here in the North and this is because I strongly believe in helping to develop young people who want to work in PR, which is why I was so interested in this relatively new concept. At Prohibition we have a dedicated intern-programme that we run to help develop local undergraduates of the PR Degree at Leeds Metropolitan University. You may have seen a few sharing their experiences on our blog. I did the BA (Hons) in Public Relations course myself many years ago and so I know how useful a degree can be to get a real job in PR. As part of the degree in Leeds the students must get a work placement of around one day a week in order to gain some real experience to help their development.

However, as much as I sing the praises of higher education and the local degree I do still have some reservations on the relevance of every single module they do. I believe the best stuff from that course could be removed and delivered in just one year if someone worked really, really hard. I also believe that the best experience anyone can get is genuine work experience in public relations. So for my degree I did a full year placement with British Energy at its Nuclear power station in Heysham.

So I am putting this question out there to you guys – what is better, a graduate or a PR apprentice with a full year’s work experience that has some classroom training? Would it really matter to you if an employee didn’t have a degree if they were still bright and talented?

I am genuinely interested to know what people think from both in-house and agency.

Posted By Chris Norton

Chris is listed in the world's top 30 PR bloggers and a regular conference speaker on crisis management and social media marketing. He is also co-author of Share This Too and lectures on digital communications at Leeds Metropolitan University.


Name *nikky

As someone who’s been involved in PR/marketing all my life I feel I have an idea of your quandry here. I have a business (non PR related) and we’ve taken an Apprentice in July. I was really impressed at the quality of applicants (if you pay slightly more you get much better applicants). The main difference is the Apprentice’s learning is all workplace based which means you are primarily responsible for that they do – for me this means I can ensure they meet the needs of MY business 100% and are IN the business 100%. I’m not investing in training someone off-site on things they don’t need to know. Personally I always found the PR graduates I worked with didnt always have a handle on the real workplace – theory is all well and good but I’m a big believer in investing in people rather than degrees. As the age of Apprentices goes up to 24 it also doesnt mean that you will get someone inexperienced either. Good luck with your choice, I’m more than happy with ours and we couldn’t have gone down a better route quite honestly.

Chris Norton

Hi Nikky, great comment. It is really interesting to hear you thought the overall standard of applicant was higher. I think the theory is all good and well but you can substitute it for work experience and learning on the job. I think that the University degree should be a mandatory sandwich degree over four years rather than three. It would mean that the people finishing that degree would be of a higher standard. I think the lecturers would even agree with that.

Vlad Iuga

PR apprentice all the way. Every time when they are confronted, guess who’s showing up with better solutions in a timely manner? 🙂

Chris Norton

I think I agree with you on this. I am thinking Apprentice more and more. The only problem may be that some clients want someone with a bit more life experience but I figure if they are good enough then they are good enough and they should be given a chance to shine. Thanks for the comment.

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