Public Relations Tactics

New Certificate Helps Students Launch Careers

April 1, 2014

The Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) has rolled out a new program to help college students land their first jobs in the PR profession.

In 2013, the UAB conducted a beta test of the Certificate in Principles of Public Relations, designed to help entry-level professionals within six months of their graduation from college. They initially tested the program at eight university sites and it is now available to colleges and universities that meet specific participation requirements.

According to Jay Rayburn, APR, Fellow PRSA, the Certificate is the culmination of several years of work by members of the UAB. 

“It took us five years, but the Certificate is now up and running and presents an opportunity for PR majors to distinguish themselves from those who just ‘want to go into public relations,’” said Rayburn, a professor at Florida State University and chair of the UAB committee charged with establishing the Certificate.

The research work group of the Universal Accreditation Board invited the candidates who took the exam to provide feedback to the UAB in anticipation of the program’s launch in 2014. 

“The survey gauged student motivation for learning in conjunction with pursuing the Certificate,” explained Kaye Sweetser, Ph.D., APR+M, UAB research work group chair and associate professor at the University of Georgia. “The future professionals who responded to the survey noted that they expected the process to be difficult — a true test, if you will. While the material covered in the Exam certainly reinforced concepts they had learned in their classes, respondents noted that they gained confidence in their knowledge throughout the Exam preparation process.”

Of the students responding to the survey, more than 90 percent reported that they undertook the Certificate program process in order to be more competitive in the job market. About three-fourths indicated personal satisfaction as motivation for taking the beta exam, followed by almost two-thirds who took the exam to become a better practitioner.

Almost 70 percent of student candidates indicated that they were more likely to sit for the APR exam because of their participation in the beta exam for the Certificate program. These results support the UAB’s intent to offer the Certificate as an on-ramp to the Accreditation process for new practitioners and to strengthen the APR brand among young professionals.

“As the APR credential celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, we are honoring our past while strengthening our future,” said UAB Chair Bey-Ling Sha, APR. “The APR has always been about the enduring principles of public relations, so the Certificate program will set new professionals on the pathway to Accreditation.”

The Certificate in Principles of Public Relations is now available nationwide for eligible campuses. Faculty members or university representatives can visit for additional information and resources concerning the program.


Melissa C. LaBorde, APR
Melissa C. LaBorde, APR, is an assistant professor of communication studies at LSU of Alexandria. She was formerly executive director of Institutional Advancement and executive director of the LSUA Foundation.
Email: mlaborde at


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