When I talk to potential Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) candidates, the most common question I get asked is, “How long does it take to become accredited in public relations?” My typical answer: there is not a single timeline for earning your APR, but I have observed several plans that have worked well for candidates I have mentored.
Pursuing accreditation is an in-depth professional development experience that you drive; you decide how fast or slow to proceed, and you need to think about what will work within the context of your professional and personal life. Most seasoned APRs will tell you not to rush through the experience — setting the right pace will allow you to soak in knowledge and understanding that will benefit you for the rest of your career! Over the course of your preparation and studying, you will deepen your understanding of the public relations profession and strengthen your practice in these key areas, also referred to as knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs):
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- Research, planning, implementing and evaluating public relations programs
- Applying ethics and law
- Managing issues and crisis communications
- Communication models, theories and history of the public relations profession
- Leadership in public relations
- Managing relationships
In the following chart, the NSPRA Accreditation Committee offers several possible scenarios for the timeline of the accreditation process based on the seasonal rhythms of a typical school PR professional.
- Scenario 1 is a six-month process beginning in May 2020 with registering for NSPRA’s pre-Seminar workshop on APR and ending with earning your APR in November 2020.
- Scenario 2 is a 12-month process beginning in May 2020 with registering for NSPRA’s pre-Seminar workshop on APR and ending with earning your APR in May 2021.
- Scenario 3 is a 22-month process beginning in May 2020 with registering for NSPRA’s pre-Seminar workshop on APR and ending with earning your APR in March 2022.
You can start the APR process in any month*, and each candidate’s circumstances or unique. Feel free to adapt the general timelines to fit your own situation.
|Steps on the Pathway to Earning Accreditation||Scenario 1:|
Visit the UAB Website to understand the steps involved in earning your APR: talk to an APR to ask about the process and utilize these resources on the UAB website:
|Before starting the process||Before starting the process||Before starting the process|
Register for NSPRA's Pre-Seminar Workshop “APR Prep: Get Ready for Universal Accreditation.”
(Optional, but recommended. Most participants find the workshop motivates them to keep going and connects them with a peer group to study and work together with. If you don’t participate, you can begin the APR process at any time and continue following the approximate timing in the scenario.)
|May 2020||May 2020||May 2020|
|Participate in NSPRA’s Pre-Seminar Workshop on APR.||July 2020||July 2020||July 2020|
Sign up for the APR Prep Online Study Course
(Optional, but recommended. Some candidates study on their own, but the APR earn rate is very high for those who participate in the Online Study Course!)
|May 2020||August 2020||January 2021|
|Participate in the Online Study Course or self study using the APR Study Guide and recommended texts.||June – August 2020||September –|
|February – April 2021|
Identify** or create*** a program or campaign that you can use for your Portfolio at your Panel Presentation.
(This should be a project that will allow you to use research to set measurable objectives that can be evaluated at the end of the project. For project inspiration, review the campaigns that have won an NSPRA Gold Medallion.)
|July 2020**||September 2020 –|
Submit your application to pursue the APR to the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB). You have up to 12 months to complete the APR process after receiving approval from UAB.
|August 2020*||October 2020*||May 2021*|
|Contact your state SPRA chapter APR chair or NSPRA Accreditation Committee chair to discuss your readiness to participate in an APR Panel Presentation.||August 2020||January 2021||October 2021|
Complete your Panel Presentation Questionnaire.
(This is a very important step; how you answer the questions will affect the conversation you have with the panelists during your presentation.)
|September 2020||February 2021||November – December 2021|
|Contact your state SPRA chapter APR chair or NSPRA Accreditation Committee chair to request a Panel Presentation.||September 2020||March 2021||January 2022|
|Complete your Panel Presentation.||Late October 2020||April 2021||February 2022|
|Take the Computer-Based Exam (CBE) Exam.||Late November 2020*||April – May 2021*||February – March 2022* |
|Earn your APR!||November 2020||May 2021||March 2022|
Participate in the Accreditation pin ceremony during the Annual Meeting and Celebration of Achievement held at the NSPRA National Seminar.
(Pins are now mailed to newly accredited members by UAB/PRSA. Bring your pin to the ceremony.)
|July 2021||July 2021||July 2022|
|Renew your APR.||Every 3 years after receiving your APR||Every 3 years after receiving your APR||Every 3 years after receiving your APR|
*You have 12 months to complete the APR process after receiving approval from the UAB to pursue accreditation.
**Only feasible if you are using an existing campaign that has already been implemented.
***If you are creating a campaign, you will need enough time to conduct research, planning, implementation and evaluation, which will probably require at least six months.
These timelines may seem confusing, and there are many variables and many ways to complete the process. If you need clarification or if you are considering your APR and would like to speak with a member who has earned an APR, please feel free to reach out to any of the NSPRA Accreditation Committee members listed below. We will do our best to answer your questions and connect you with other members in your area who are also working on earning an APR.
NSPRA Accreditation Committee Members Chair: