Accreditation: Be a PR Leader and Earn Your APR

Internationally recognized, Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) integrates timeless communication principles with contemporary strategies and tactics. The process of earning your APR takes your skills to the next level by exposing you to today's cutting-edge strategies and practices, assessing your skills to identify strengths and opportunities for growth, and demonstrating your personal and professional commitment to excellence. Pursuing the APR gives you direct access to top public relations leaders - APR holders who will guide you through the process of achieving Accreditation - and provides the tools you need to distinguish yourself as a luminary in the public relations field.

The Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) administers the process for becoming Accredited in Public Relations (APR) for its Participating Organizations, which include NSPRA. Detailed information about the Examination for Accreditation and application form to become a candidate for accreditation may be obtained from the UAB website at www.praccreditation.org/apply/.

History From 1976 until 1998, NSPRA conducted a professional development program that awarded Accredited in School Public Relations (ASPR) status to 139 members who passed rigorous written and oral tests on public relations theory and the practice of school public relations. On January 1, 1999, at the urging of its members and with approval from the NSPRA Executive Board, NSPRA closed its ASPR program and became one of the eight public relations organizations participating in the Universal Accreditation Program. The other participating organizations are the Agricultural Relations Council, Florida Public Relations Association, Maine Public Relations Council, Public Relations Society of America, Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development, Southern Public Relations Federation, and Texas Public Relations Association. Here are answers to some of the most-asked questions about the Universal Accreditation program:

What is Universal Accreditation? A voluntary certification program for public relations professionals, recognized and supported by the above Participating Organizations, that seeks to improve the practice of public relations.

What is the purpose of Universal Accreditation? The purpose is to unify and advance the profession by certifying those who demonstrate mastery of today's strategic communication practices and a commitment to lifelong learning and ethical standards. The designation Accredited in Public Relations (APR) signifies a high professional level of experience and competence.

Who governs the process? The Universal Accreditation Board - comprised of one chairman and representatives from each participating organization dedicated to two-year terms - oversees the program. Providing a balanced blend of backgrounds in a number of public relations specialties, this group of senior-level Accredited members meets four times a year. Responsibilities of the Universal Accreditation Board include the following:

  • Develops and implements policy for the program
  • Develops and maintains the Accreditation examination
  • Oversees the development of test questions, answer keys, and ensures content is based on the Body of Knowledge
  • Reviews appeal cases
  • Grants Accreditation

Who is eligible to apply as a candidate for Accreditation? Members who hold professional-level memberships of Participating Organizations who are involved in the professional practice of public relations, or in the teaching or administration of public relations courses in an accredited college or university. It is recommended that members of participating organizations have at least five years of paid, full-time experience in the professional practice of public relations in some capacity as the examination is targeted at this level.

What does the Examination for Accreditation process entail? Interested individuals must first apply to the UAB to become accepted as candidates for Accreditation. Once approved, candidates have one year to complete the process, otherwise they must reapply. The process requires candidates to complete a Panel Presentation Questionnaire and then present a portfolio to a Panel comprised of three Accredited professionals. The Panel will ask questions, review the portfolio and evaluate the candidate's knowledge, skills and abilities in 12 specific areas that cannot be effectively judged in the computer-based examination. The Panel Presentation component is designed to help candidates strengthen areas of weakness for further study before taking the written exam. Candidates who are not advanced can request mentoring from their Panel before scheduling another Panel Presentation. Once candidates have been advanced through the Panel Presentation, they may take the written portion of the exam at any Prometric testing facility around the country. Candidates schedule their own written exams with a Prometric facility.

What's in the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations? The Examination tests Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) in six Objective Areas that include:

  1. Researching, Planning, Implementing and Evaluating Programs;
  2. Leading the PR Function;
  3. Applying Ethics and Law;
  4. Managing Relationships;
  5. Managing Issues and Crisis Communications; and
  6. Understanding Communication Models, Theories and History of the Profession.

Is Accreditation good for life? Yes, with fulfillment of Maintenance of Accreditation requirements and continued professional membership in a Participating Organization. Every three years, Accredited professionals must accumulate the required number of points in continuing education, professionalism or service categories as part of the Maintenance of Accreditation Program. This further strengthens the value of the APR credential and keeps professionals actively involved in the currents of the public relations profession. (Note: members of Participating Organizations who became accredited prior to January 1, 1998 through previous individual accreditation processes, such as NSPRA's ASPR program, are exempt from the Maintenance requirement.)

What is the fee to take the examination? The fee for NSPRA Members is $385. NSPRA members who take the APR exam under NSPRA (not as members of their local PRSA chapter) will receive a reimbursement of $110 if they successfully pass the exam (limited to the first 20 candidates each year due to budget considerations). Successful candidates are also presented with their APR pin at the annual Seminar in July.

Who do I contact for more information? For more information, contact NSPRA Associate Director Karen H. Kleinz, APR, at 301-519-0496; kkleinz@nspra.org