Becoming an accredited public relations professional is generally understood as a four-step process. Candidates begin with planning and applying. The second step involves studying for the accreditation exam and a panel presentation. The panel presentation often creates anxiety as candidates worry about managing the panel review. However, once the panel presentation is underway, candidates quickly realize this step is an opportunity to highlight personal accomplishments and brag a little about their work. Candidates quickly see those panel participants as a small group of supportive partners and professional friends helping guide colleagues through the process. The third step is taking the APR exam–it’s the foundational element of accreditation. After study and preparation, candidates take a monitored exam and receive immediate feedback regarding pass/fail at the end of the exam.

Here is where most think the process is complete, yet, there is a fourth, crucial step–renewal. Completed every three years, renewal by an accredited professional (APR) shows demonstrated commitment to lifelong learning. No less significant than passing the exam, meeting the renewal requirement demonstrates a continued commitment to professionalism and the ethical standards established for APR professionals. And importantly, the renewal requirement encourages the APR professional to stay current with contemporary PR practices.

If you are currently an accredited professional, you are likely participating in career activities now that are eligible for Continuing Education Units (CEUs). CEUs are scoring measurements used by PRSA to assess APR maintenance. A professional can earn CEUs through experiences such as seminars and continuing education, presentations, speeches, ethics training, leadership in public relations, public service, and more.

Visit PRSA’s APR renewal page to learn more about the renewal process and resources to manage your continued learning, including a sample tracking worksheet. This fillable worksheet helps you track activities eligible for CEUs and removes the pain of recalling those activities when renewal maintenance is due.

Remember, accreditation (APR) certifies professionalism and the principles and standards that distinguish you in the public relations field. The effort needed to achieve accreditation is a substantial commitment of time, talent, and resources. Like other professional certifications, accredited professionals must display their commitment to the sound and ethical practice of public relations and make renewal an ongoing part of their professional story.

by Wes Phillips, APR