Evaluating Public Relations as a Profession and Licensing as a Proposed Solution to the APR Credential
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The approaching 50th anniversary of the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential highlights the debate over licensing for public relations practitioners. As this thesis will show, the current system of credentialing fails to effectively regulate the practice, and public relations lacks the exclusivity and moral obligation needed to professionalize. While many critics of the current APR credential are proponents of licensing, there is dispute as to whether or not public relations could effectively become a licensed profession. The dispute, more broadly defined, inherently lies in determining whether or not public relations is, in fact, a profession. A Profession is defined in the most classical sense of the term, and it should not be confused with modern-day adaptations that complicate its use in the vernacular. In the most general sense, a profession distinguishes itself from an occupation by offering a technical skill, acquired by an exclusive group of practitioners through extensive training, that provides an indisputable need to society. Examples of professions, in this sense, include law, medicine, and engineering. This thesis evaluates public relations as a profession and works to determine whether or not licensing is a feasible alternative to the APR credential. It defines the prerequisites of a profession, and it evaluates public relations accordingly. It explores public relations’ early prophecies that romanticized an autonomous profession intended to serve the public interest, and it traces the decline of professionalization throughout the 20th century. Ultimately, this thesis argues that the public relations fails to fulfill the requirements of a profession and that licensing, consequently, is not an effective solution.