Rhyme to the Reason of a College Education

   Richard McGowan 

Increasingly I have chatted with students studying PR and communications at universities who want to point out how irrelevant they think their courses are to “the real world” of working in journalism, corporate or agency PR.  But really folks, relax.  A uni or college course cannot prepare you for the specifics of any communications/PR job, but what you are learning are the important broad strokes that you can fine tune and apply when you start work.  It’s important stuff to know.

It’s really important to focus on your ability to capture information and turn that information into the content you are being asked for by your class leaders or lecturers. It’s the same as when you join a news crew or PR team.

You also should recognise the difference in writing styles between a news story on a particular event and a feature you might be asked to write about that same event that analyzes its origin and impact.

Both these two points above are key to managing the challenges and opportunities of being a good all-round journalist or PR operative.

Consider this:  You have accepted a job as a junior reporter on a large newspaper.  At the interview stage the newspaper is looking for a solid person to join the newspaper’s State Politics reporting team.  In the weeks before taking up the new job you study State Politics and follow the newspaper’s coverage closely.  On the day you start work the Chief of Staff says there’s been a change of plan – and now they want you to join the Crime and Emergency Services reporting team.  

How can you prepare for that? Well folks, a good college degree would certainly do the trick.

And I know, because that’s what happened to me.

(Richard McGowan is managing director of  RMG Communications, based in Sydney, Australia.  We first met when he headed PR for giant ad agency Young & Rubicam in New York). 

Advertisement:  You can finish your degree in a timely manner at University of Phoenix, where they offer accelerated degree programs.

5 thoughts on “Rhyme to the Reason of a College Education

  1. I understand the complaints about the irrelevance of course work to the real world however I agree that it is extremely important to have the foundation that a university degree offers. I view papers and projects as practice for my future job. Gaining the skills to grasp information and translate it into public relations materials is one that I feel I have learned during my time at school. It is important to be involved in real organizations and Public Relations projects while in school to put these skills and knowledge to test, rather than waiting for graduation. Thanks for the post!

  2. Often I have wondered about how well prepared I will be for “the real world” when I graduate in only a few short weeks. Recently, I have come to realize that you can never prepare for everything. The time spent gaining a college degree has created a foundation for what will continue to be a lifetime of learning. No amount of lectures or assignments will ever be able to completely prepare me for the rest of my life. It is great to hear that this is actually true as I have not yet entered the so called “real world”. I will anticipate entering the work force with a little less anxiety now. Thank you for the encouraging word.

  3. So the mantra is don’t sweat it. This is great advise and certainly not only applies to PR but in any career.

    Anxiety inhibits creativity and this is especially needed in PR so don’t let the real world scare you. Embrace, take your time and adapt.

  4. I also agree with the previous responses to course work. I personally feel that without the education and practice one may be blind sided when going into a first job. I am still a college student who is almost done with my BS in PR but I personally feel as if it is essential to know the material taught in college to prepare for the real world.

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