Here's how CPRS describes its accreditation on its website:
CPRS Accreditation (APR) is a respected measure of professional experience in the field of public relations. This program recognizes the dedication, energy, perseverance and competence of successful public relations professionals. To pursue the accreditation process you must satisfy the following eligibility requirements:
Candidates must complete an Accreditation application (due December 1st) which is available through the National Office. The examinations, offered in French and English, consist of three parts: a review of a work sample (due April 1st), a written examination and an oral examination (October).
The exams are designed to test the breadth and depth of a candidate's public relations experience and ability. The goals of CPRS National Council on Accreditation are to assure professional competence; establish standards for professional practice; increase recognition for the profession within business organizations and the community, and influence the future direction of the profession.
But while it may not have directly led to a job, my APR has been valuable from a professional development perspective -- and that has without a doubt made me a more attractive job candidate.
First of all, the knowledge required to pass the written and oral exams forced me to study the foundations (history and theory) of PR, which I'd never had the need/motivation to study before. Until my accreditation process, I had learned about PR by watching, listening and doing, and working with bosses/mentors who literally paid me to be educated by them (thanks again for my entire career, if you're reading!).
Studying the material required to pass the APR helped me understand why we do things the way we do, and gave me a far greater appreciation for how public opinion and persuasion work.
But the professional development I gained in earning my APR in 2002 was just the beginning of the benefit my accreditation has given me.
In the years since, I have volunteered as an APR grader, helping evaluate candidates' work samples and exams. While this might just sound like "work" (and, especially for a teacher, "marking"), it's actually an excellent opportunity to see what other communicators are doing in their roles, to deal with issues their organizations face and the opportunities they leverage, across the country.
APR work samples and exams are evaluated outside the province in which they're created -- which both helps remove the potential for favouritism among friends and colleagues, and gives graders the opportunity to be exposed to great work they wouldn't normally hear about at their local chapter networking events.
And not only do I get the chance to read in-depth case studies presented by the communicators who led them, I also get to discuss their relative merits with other seasoned practitioners (i.e. APRs) on the grading panel. Each member of the panel grades the submissions individually, and then we have a conference call to come to agreement on the scores each candidate will receive. The discussions involved in this consensus-building are fantastic PD opportunities, twice a year.
Interested? Application deadline is December 1.
For me, the APR has been a great way to keep current, to learn from my peers, and to have the opportunity to debate PR issues with colleagues I wouldn't normally have the occasion to meet with. It's not just a sign of where I was, professionally, in 2002 -- it's been a big part of how I've developed my skills since then.
If you're in Manitoba and would like to discuss undertaking your APR in 2012, please email me at lockstep [at] mts.net; if you're elsewhere in Canada, contact CPRS. In the U.S., you can contact the Public Relations Society of America.