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New guidelines for PR education in Canada

November 3, 2011


The Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) has launched the first-ever comprehensive programme to formally recognize public relations and communications management education programs in Canada. The guidelines will help educational institutions to produce highly skilled public relations practitioners equipped to deal with the future demands of the changing workforce.


Pathways to the Profession: An Outcomes Based Approach Towards Excellence in Canadian Public Relations and Communications Management Education was developed by the CPRS National Council on Education over the past three years in co-ordination with the academic and professional public relations communities across Canada. Pathways outlines recommendations for curriculum and program design in five pathways to the profession: technical, career, management, leadership and scholar.


Pathways to the Profession will also include a Public Relations Knowledge (PRK) exam which will allow recent graduates to demonstrate their knowledge of public relations and communications management. Completing the PRK exam will show potential employers that these new graduates are prepared for entry-level positions within the PR and CM industry.


Pathways to the Profession offers an educational standard for public relations programs which Canadian post-secondary institutions can follow,” said Colleen Killingsworth MCM, APR, FCPRS, Presiding Officer, National Council on Education. “For years we’ve heard about the importance of having a standard approach to educating up-and-coming public relations professionals. It’s a great feeling to finally have a document in place to help facilitate this.”


There has been an increase in the number of academic public relations and communications management programs in Canada in recent years due to low unemployment rates in the profession and the fact that many practitioners are close to retirement (Industry unemployment rate as of Sept. 2009: 4.18% compared to national

average of 8.01%; as per 2008 membership data, 29-34% of CPRS members will be eligible for retirement within four to 10 years). This is an ideal time for academic institutions to use this framework to further the development of their public relations programs.


“This is an incredibly important step for public relations education in Canada,” said Amy Thurlow APR, PhD, Chair, Department of Communication Studies, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, N.S. “We recognize that this commitment to academic standards within the profession of public relations and communications management will not only benefit students and employers, but also the profession as a whole.”


This program will also offer academic institutions a way to assess their own programs and to provide context for ongoing and future curriculum development. Post-secondary institutions are encouraged to self-select one or more pathways that best reflect their course offerings. Pathways to the Profession outlines performance measures, course content and a course framework that schools can follow.


“The Board is very grateful for the hard work and support given by the National Council on Education volunteers,” said Pierrette Leonard APR, FCPRS, National President, CPRS. “Public relations practitioners from across the country and academics from some of the best public relations and communications management programs in Canada have all contributed countless hours over the past three years to develop this program. It is CPRS’ hope that Pathways to the Profession will act as the first step towards a more comprehensive method of educating future public relations professionals for many years to come.”


Post-secondary institutions that meet the criteria of the Pathways to the Profession program can apply to be recognized for a term of five years. Details of this new program are available at:


Founded in 1948, the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) is a not-for-profit organization whose members are engaged in the practice, management or teaching of public relations. Members work to maintain the highest standards and to share a uniquely Canadian experience in public relations. CPRS is a federation of over 1,800 members across 16 Member Societies based in major cities or organized province-wide.  For more information, visit our website: (


About the author: 

Bryan Sparks is a public relations practitioner in the not-for-profit sector. He has experience in, but not limited to, event planning, media relations, communications planning, internal communications and social media.

A Nova Scotia native, Bryan received his BA in communications from St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Bryan furthered his studies by completing Humber College’s post-graduate public relations certificate program in Toronto, Ontario.