Is there life after a career in PR? I’ve spent the last 6 months talking to people who have enhanced their career, or transitioned from a career, in public relations to teaching. Here’s what I’ve learned.
If you want to teach at the university level, you will probably need a Ph.D., and the flexibility to travel to where the jobs are. For a lot of PR pros, the motivation to go for the doctorate “is not about teaching at all, but research,” according to Dawn Gilpin, Assistant Prof at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School. “We wanted to explore complex ideas and systematic research that is difficult, if not impossible for practitioners to conduct in their tight deadline-driven schedules.”
My PRSA mentor, Dr. Patty Silverman at Lee University in Tennessee, completed her dissertation on the topic of what influences PR practitioners to transition to professors. She found that reasons ranged from job loss to burnout, family time, and the desire to help others.
There is definite culture shock moving from an agency or corporate life to academia, as Dr. Silverman’s research proved and as Dr. Gilpin’s experience has shown. “It’s important to understand the dynamics of the academic job market,” Gilpin advises. “It’s difficult to restrict a job search to a particular geographic area, so potential PhDs should be aware that they may need to be prepared to move for a job, even if they live in an area with several universities. The market is volatilve and unpredictable always, and the current economic instability only exacerbates the problem.”
It’s difficult to find a comprehensive list of institutions that offer PhDs in public relations – neither Silverman nor Gilpin was aware of any, and neither was PRSA’s headquarters when I contacted them. Many times, it is rolled into a larger field of study such as communications. If you think you want to transition, my best advice is to reach out to other members in PRSA who have made the jump, or connect with a mentor through PRSA’s Educator’s Academy, which I did.
If you want eventually to teach at the community college level, here in Arizona there are certain requirements, which you can find here. In addition to a master’s degree, you’ll need to take the overview class EDU250, which I highly recommend, as a precursor to understanding the community college system.
Every professor I information interviewed has told of his or her love for the field. In contrast, I once heard a marketing communications director say, “If you want to get ‘thank yous’ or a dozen roses of appreciation, don’t go into this field.” What the professors love most, however, is helping others and receiving the positive feedback from their students.
I also talked to Terri Thorson, who combines independent PR services with teaching at the University of Phoenix. “I love learning about different people and industries,” she told me, “and helping others. You need a great deal of patience, but your colleagues are all willing to share their info.” She’s willing to help, too, and can be reached at email@example.com.
If you want more info or suggestions, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll help you in any way I can. Fellow blogger Len Gutman is another good resource – he’s actually a blogger, PR practitioner, and professor.
I hope to blog soon that I’m actually teaching an evening class at one of the local institutions – keep your fingers crossed for me.Tweet
the rumors are true (@ Neighbor from the 90′s)...
Sorry to see you go. avic-x920bt
First the Space Shuttle program and now this???? OH NO!...
I think it’s really funny that Jason donates money...
Sad to see you go Mr Len… been a great ride
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