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Leading Off: Planning your APR Timeline: A Pathway to Earning Accreditation

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 Accred­itationScenario 1:
Faster Track
6 months
Scenario 2:
Typical Track
12 months
Scenario 3:
Slower Track
22 months

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 processBefore starting the processBefore 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 2020May 2020May 2020
Participate in NSPRA’s Pre-Seminar Workshop on APR.July 2020July 2020July 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 2020August 2020January 2021
Participate in the Online Study Course or self study using the APR Study Guide and recommended texts.June – August 2020Sep­tember –
No­vem­ber 2020
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 –
February 2021***
April –
No­vem­ber 2021***

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 2020January 2021October 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 2020February 2021No­vem­ber – De­cem­ber 2021
Contact your state SPRA chapter APR chair or NSPRA Accred­itation Committee chair to request a Panel Presentation.Sep­tember 2020March 2021January 2022
Complete your Panel Presentation.Late October 2020April 2021February 2022
Take the Computer-Based Exam (CBE) Exam.Late  No­vem­ber 2020*April – May 2021*February – March 2022* 
Earn your APR!No­vem­ber 2020May 2021March 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 2021July 2021July 2022
Renew your APR.Every 3 years after receiving your APREvery 3 years after receiving your APREvery 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:

Regional Representative:


Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) is a test and a testament of professional expertise, ethics and dedication.  The following INSPRA members have taken their careers to the next level and earned the APR designation:
        Jill Browning, APR  [email protected]
        Brett Clark, APR  [email protected]
        Earl Dotson, APR  [email protected]
        Karen Geddeis, APR   [email protected]
        Tom Jackson, APR  [email protected] 
        Cathy Kedjidjian, APR  [email protected]
        Kristine Liptrot, APR  [email protected]
         Peg Mannion, APR  [email protected]
        Terri McHugh, APR  [email protected]
        Terry Ryan, APR  [email protected]
        Melea Smith, APR 
To learn more about the process, visit https://www.praccreditation.org/, contact INSPRA APR Chair Terri McHugh, APR at Terri[email protected], or contact any APR above. 
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