FAQ: Am I Qualified to Go for My Accreditation (APR)?

By Ben Butler, APR

[ This is the third post in the APR Journey Series exploring the Accreditation in Public Relations credential and the journey to getting it. Check out the introductory post here. ]

Beyond the process itself, the most frequently asked question in the Accreditation in Public Relations Process is: “Am I qualified to go for my Accreditation in Public Relations (APR)?”

PRSA and the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) — the governing bodies managing APR — recommend a minimum of five years of professional communications experience. The process itself also tests historical knowledge of public relations, of the various niches of public relations, business acumen and vettes your hallmark career case study.

Curious if your credentials have prepared you for the Accreditation journey? Here are a couple of baseline questions to begin asking:

Question 1: Do You Have a Track Record Being a Strategist?

In my mind, the five-year mark can be a helpful baseline, but doesn’t necessarily qualify or disqualify you. It really comes down to your experience being a strategist, rather than a tactician.

That being said, you could have 20 years of experience, but no strategic experience. Or you could have four years of experience (one year shy of the recommendation), but a lively career of strategic experience.

Your strategic experience will be put to the test through the entire process, but is really focused upon in Step 2 of the process, the Panel Review. Here, you present your best case study to a panel of APRs. This case study should exemplify the Four-Step Process, showcasing Research, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation.

If you weren’t integral in a strategic communications plan, I’d recommend pursuing one before going through the process.

Question 2: Do You Wield Well-Rounded Knowledge About the Core Areas of Our Profession?

In all honesty, it’s unlikely you’ll have rounded out experience covering every niche of the profession.

What’s important, however, is that you have a full understanding of the 12 core functions of public relations: trusted counsel, internal communication, media relations, community relations, external communication, research, planning, implementing, evaluating, publicity/special events, issues management and crisis communication.

If you can’t speak knowledgeably about those 12 core functions, and apply the concepts to critical thinking, you’ll need to gain this to be successful.

These concepts will be tested in the Panel Review and extensively in the online examination.

So Far So Good? There’s More to Consider

On a baseline level, answering the above questions can help determine if you’re ready or not. If you’ve checked off those boxes, I’d say you can feel fairly confident.

There are still some considerations to explore before committing fully though. I’d recommend checking out the following resources:

Need help evaluating your credentials? Get in touch with me — I’m happy to be your sherpa.


Ben Butler, APR, is the client services director for Top Hat, an award-winning marketing communications firm in Pittsburgh, and the Accreditation Director for PRSA Pittsburgh. In his past life he served as a public relations guy for a motorsports complex, director of inbound partnerships for an inbound marketing agency and head of communications for a software startup. He’s been named a Top Under 40 Communicator and is Accredited in Public Relations (APR)—a distinction held by less than 20-percent of all practitioners.

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