Professional qualification or short course – which is best for building communication abilities?

by Jo Ann Sweeney - 14:12 on 24 July 2012

There are so many communication courses on offer - whether we want to get better at writing, managing websites, running events, or creating short videos. Here are some guidelines to help you work out which are best for your current role and future career.

There are three particular questions I’m regularly asked when running training courses and mentoring. They go something like this:

  • I want to work in communications, what degree do I need?
  • I have a degree in communications, why do I need to do more training?
  • Communications is part of my performance assessment, what skills do I need to score highly?

Choosing a degree course

My answer to the first question is great that you recognise a degree is essential for a communications role, however it doesn’t matter what degree you do. Employers look for lateral thinking, creativity and independent thought in their comms professionals all of which a degree gives you.

So choose a degree that interests you and then you’ll have deep background knowledge in that area. Over the course of your career you’ll likely find yourself writing on a wide range of topics.

For instance, I did an English and Psychology degree and still use what I learnt 25 years on. Though my specialist area has turned out to be telecommunications and technology because I worked in the telecoms industry and most of my clients are now in these sectors.

Professional qualifications

My answer to the second question is that any degree is a starting point, a foundation, for a career in communications. We also need professional qualifications that impart practical knowledge.

I personally believe that all professional communicators should have a professional qualification, just as lawyers and accountants do. In the UK these are certificate and diploma qualifications provided by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) and PMA Media Training.

Short courses

In answering the third question I also explain communication skills develop over time. The easiest way to develop them is with an intensive short course and then lots of practice and coaching back in our work places.

There are a raft of courses available around the world. CIM, CIPR, IoIC, PMA and Melcrum all run skill-based short courses. Here are two I recommend.

Melcrum Black Belt – a global programme for internal communicators that builds skills and core competencies, including trust and respect with senior leadership.

Communicating Projects – practical communication in-house workshops for programme and project teams covering developing strategies and activities, engaging stakeholders so they are supportive, and demonstrating value from comms investment.

Unsure about what comms skills you need in your role. Then read last week’s blog for an overview of the key competencies that will help you connect with your stakeholders, both external and internal.

Do you have other qualifications and courses you would add to this list? Please share them with us below.

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