General arts students take a lot of heat. Their work's often undervalued by other faculties, who pass it off as fluff because their lectures include more YouTube clips than the average biochemistry class. Bachelor of arts students get to have all the fun, the cynics say, but where will their degree lead them? What marketable skills do B.A. grads have, anyways?
Here's one: Written communication skills, developed from constant essay writing. But that isn't the only talent they bring to the table. They have critical thinking skills, the ability to sift through large bodies of information and pick out key points, and research skills. Arts graduates are also creative, innovative, and inquisitive, making them an excellent match for a career in PR.
Doesn't PR mean press release?
Nope. PR, which is shorthand for public relations is the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals and serve the public interest, as defined by the Canadian Public Relations Society. A career in public relations requires you to think on your feet, interact with a variety of different people, juggle several projects and represent an organization professionally.
Arts graduates bring a well-rounded, healthy curiosity, which you need, says Kalene Morgan, professor and coordinator of the public relations graduate certificate program at Humber College. She estimates that 75 per cent of Humber's program consists of arts grads with diverse backgrounds.
Even atypical majors, such as human geography and theatre, which appear to have little correlation to public relations, have transferable skills. Kelsey Spohn, who graduated from Queen's with an honours B.A. in geography, pursued a PR certificate at Humber after she graduated from university.
The ability to research, to dig deeper, to look for more, to think critically, to see a situation from different perspectives; I think that was probably the biggest thing I took from Queen's, says Spohn.
One-time theatre and music major Lauren Schneider, now the media relations coordinator at the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University, also found use for her original degree.
When looking for an angle for a story, I often draw on my theatre background to help me find a creative, original angle showing each audience something that will resonate to them as important and interesting.
But are there any jobs?
Job outlook for public relations is good, and according to data from Service Canada, employment in PR and communications has risen significantly and is expected to continue over the next few years; with a projected 1.5 per cent average annual growth rate, which is almost double the average growth rate expected in all other occupations. In addition, unemployment in this sector is significantly below the national average, at 4.18 per cent compared to the national average of nearly 8.01 per cent. There is also a shortage of entry level PR and corporate communications practioners, creating opportunities for new employees and recent graduates, as noted by the Canadian Public Relations Society.
The PR industry as a whole is experiencing explosive growth right now, adds Lisa Kimmel, the general manager at Edelman Toronto, a leading independent public relations firm. Organizations are recognizing the importance of public relations as a strategic driver of business and the role it can play in furthering the business objectives of the organization, so they are investing more in PR. With the explosive growth that we are seeing in digital and social media, public relations firms are very well poised to take on that kind of work, given that we have always been about conversations and managing a world of multiple stakeholders.
By day, Rebecca Feigelsohn is a staff writer and editorial assistant at Jobpostings Magazine, helping students find their perfect career match.
By night, she explores Toronto's diverse culinary offerings and writes about them on her blog, Mad About Food. Follow her @rlfeigelsohn for updates about cupcakes, ramen and everything in between.