Opinion: PR students at FAMU feel unprepared for the workforce

The School of Journalism and Graphic Communication at FAMU. Photo courtesy famu.edu

As students prepare for graduation, they generally feel a sense of excitement and preparedness to enter the workforce as young adults. With the semester coming to an end in less than a month, many of Florida A&M’s School of Journalism and Graphic Communication public relations majors are feeling unprepared to work full-time jobs.

Students believe the curriculum for the PR program is outdated and lacks real-world outcomes in comparison to top PR programs at other institutions. As I went through my matriculation at FAMU, there were definitely moments I felt like I was in a journalism program rather than a PR program. So much so, that I didn’t feel developed enough to progress.

Shaanacee Wilson, a senior, agrees. She doesn’t feel well equipped to go into a PR role right after undergrad.

“I feel like this program didn’t prepare me enough for a real job and now I feel like I need grad school to get the necessities to succeed,” she said.

In the PR curriculum, there are only 12 credits that account for core public relations classes. Other schools, like USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, have 32 credits for core public relations students, in addition to 12 plus upper division PR and /or journalism electives.

Times are changing in regard to technology and the way information is exchanged. However, the PR program has not caught up. The instruction is very textbook based when there needs to be more emphasis on real-life work that will provide you with the experience to gain internships.

Ideally, SJGC’s public relations program should have more credit hours tied to the actual major. There should be electives focused on specifics like sports communication, entertainment, public interest communications and social media, considering the number of students interested in these areas.

It’s great that SJGC has so many wonderful guest speakers throughout the year, yet they are almost always geared to journalism students. There are speakers from CNN, Politico, NBC, and the like, but they are all coming as journalists and speaking to the journalism students.

While writing is very important in the field, there should be PR writing core classes separate from journalism. Students are being taught to write as journalists instead of PR professionals.

Taylor Beard, a senior public relations student, said: “If it wasn’t for PRSSA I wouldn’t have known how to write a press release. I never learned in any class.”

To me, this is an issue. As each level of classes progress, professors believe students should know certain aspects of the profession. However, some aren’t even being taught with the basics in classroom environments.

I understand a lot of where the program lacks are a direct correlation with funding. However, I also believe that  SJGC has the means to make small adjustments to make this program more relevant for today’s world of public relations.