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Steven R. Van Hook
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Mailbag: Should I be a PR intern?
Dear Steven ...
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Dear Steven: I'm working on a bachelor's degree in Letters, Arts and Sciences. I've been told that I'd be good at public relations, but it's the lack of a specific degree and experience that's hampering me. Do you have any advice for someone interested in PR? -- Sincerely, Unsure Future

Steven R. Van Hook

       Steven R. Van Hook

Dear Future: Successful PR pros have a wide variety of higher educational experience -- ranging from none, to PhDs, with undergraduate degrees from fine arts to physics. Most important is that you have the ability to research, analyze, strategize and communicate. 

I would strongly recommend, while you are still in college, do an internship somewhere in PR. You can likely get academic credit for it. A good internship will give you a three-rung boost up the career ladder.

Internships let you see how you like the work, and how the work likes you. Intern may not be the most glamorous title in an office, but if you find the right opening, you can try your hand to write press releases, stage media events, launch a public education campaign, design a brochure, develop web site content. Show your stuff and make your mark. Develop media contacts. Meet the movers and shakers in your community.

Here's my best tip: consider offering your PR services to a non-profit group. They have the greatest need for interns (i.e., free help); the issues can be more interesting; you'll get a chance for more hands-on work than you might find at a larger for-profit firm; and the media may be more responsive to your efforts.

Let me offer a few All About PR resources that might help:
Internships in Public Relations
Find a PR internship with a company, agency, or non-profit organization for your career starter. Links to employment sites and top PR agencies.

Your Future in Public Relations

Who has a future in PR, what gets you started, where to find career support when the going gets rough, and why you should even bother. Lots of details and links in this four-part article.
Top domestic and international public relations firms. Link directly to the company pages -- a great way to search for jobs and internships, and learn about an agency's areas of specialization.
Find a seasoned career guide or mentor, get resume tips, and research job-finding resources.

It looks to me like you've got a good start for an entry into professional public relations. You may ultimately find a master's degree useful, but in the meantime, check out internships, volunteer your services for worthwhile causes, develop some media placement clips, and start applying for entry-level positions.

Good luck and much success!

- Steven R. Van Hook

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