A colleague once asked me via LinkedIn, “Which accreditation – the APR or the ABC – was proving more valuable?” It was a great question and I was glad she asked. The result of my thinking this answer through is the following blog. This is entirely my personal experience and opinion. I love and value both of my PRSA and IABC memberships for the sixth year running now.
[**My aim is to summarize my path through both accreditation processes and how I see their merits for those considering pursuing either].
The first response I would give is that with all due respect to both parties – the ABC was harder to complete. The process was longer and required significant patience and second-effort at different stages of the journey. I completed the APR process in four months (from August – December 2010), while the ABC path took just over two years (I applied in January 2010 and received my passing notification in March 2012).
I am glad I worked hard toward attaining both credentials as they provided me with a great “academic experience” outside of my job. The benefit of completing these certifications is the prospect of demonstrating significant transferability into other industries or markets. They are designed to exhibit versatile, broad-minded communications expertise that applies to a variety of disciplines and industries.
I venture to say that the APR accolade may yield a more concrete return for its usefulness and prominence for practitioners elevating themselves in a highly regimented public relations agency, government public information officer or public affairs environment. I think that the APR has a more tactical testing approach with its historical, practical and theoretical applications of traditional industry standards and current-day widely accepted best practices.
I feel the ABC has the potential for broader applications to attain higher roles in corporate, nonprofit and independent consulting sectors, especially for people in multinational firms or looking to work abroad. The ABC testing mechanisms require serious graduate-level writing (my three-part written exam was 14 pages after nearly four hours of writing). The oral exam requires quick thinking, simulating and planning when you are handed a few emails and documents and given 10 minutes to plot out a course of action for a crisis communications response
Some people may see the ABC or APR as a cosmetic addendum on business card. Others may think having either really doesn’t impact a career; rather it is all about your experiences and responsibility progression. Sure, it is nice to display the accomplishments as part of your calling card or signature. They should in theory command respect from colleagues versed in the accompanying efforts and merits. A variety of senior-level positions across the board are frequently calling for either certification as a required or desired qualification for candidates. For practitioners pursuing either or both, the end-game result should bring nothing but personal satisfaction while help propel said recipients to the top of the candidate pool for those coveted leadership roles across the spectrum of industries seeking the big-picture communication planners and thought leaders.
Overall, both certifications are somewhat interchangeable for experienced professionals. It may primarily depend on which association one opts to remain with because you have to renew your annual membership constantly to retain the designation.