Public Relations Licensing: Agencies & Importance

Instructor: Martin Gibbs

Martin has 15 years experience in Human Resources Information Systems and has a PhD in Information Technology Management

This lesson will discuss the agencies that license public relations professionals; we'll cover the basics of these agencies and highlight their importance in improving society.

Public Relations Licensing: For the Betterment of All

So you want a career in public relations? Like many professions, public relations has its own accreditation and licensing agencies. These include APR and APR+M; there is also a Certificate in Principles of Public Relations available. But why do you need to be licensed?

Public relations practitioners face unique ethical challenges. As PR professionals, we may be pressured to bend, or even distort, the truth. It's up to us to voice our concerns when our company is contemplating a move that could be perceived negatively.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) promotes a code of ethics: Its members (and those who hold the APR certification) are held to these standards. Of course, not every APR-certified public relations professional holds these standards, but holding the certification is an indicator of professional dedication.

Accreditation Boards and Agencies

Currently the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) owns the APR credential. The Board consists of education and public relations professionals; these professionals oversee the accreditation for public relations students and professionals.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is a national organization that actually administers the daily operations of UAB. PRSA offers tools, knowledge, and discussion regarding all things involving public relations. A huge portion of the society's work and its materials is dedicated to the APR and APR-holding PR professionals.

APR: Accredited in Public Relations

The Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential indicates that a public relations professional has a high level of knowledge and experience in public relations; as an APR holder, you agree to an ethical practice. You are competent and honest. It is important to honestly disseminate information; great harm can come from 'spinning' a product recall, or weather emergency, or any number of things that could negatively impact people.

Although the APR certification is a lifelong certification, you need to fulfill the maintenance piece. Maintenance is required every three years. Most certifications and licenses require continuing education or classes. The APR is no different; in order to maintain the certification, the following activities earn you points to continue holding it:

  • Continuing Education
  • Professional Development
  • Public Service

Examples of these activities include mentoring other APR students, public speaking, publishing, or even attaining an advanced degree.

Since the APR comes with a set of ethical guidelines, it carries a lot of responsibility. By holding an APR, you agree to continue your professional development as a constant learner. You also agree to hold to a set of ethical principles. As a public relations professional, you have the ability to improve society by providing accurate information in a way that can be understood by many.


The APR+M is a certification for military personnel. PR professionals who are certified with APR+M are still expected to maintain an ethical practice, continue professional development, and be role models in their field. The APR+M is focused more on PR professionals in the armed services and contracted companies.

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