Postgraduate Queries: Consultancy work fees and PR careers

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The Independent Online

Q. I worked for a major UK charity for 10 years, and now do consultancy work from home. Are there any decent post-grad qualifications aimed at voluntary and community sector management in London and would they allow me to raise my daily rate for consultancy?

A. When a charity hires a consultant it is looking for experience, skills and successful projects, rather than postgraduate qualifications. Building your reputation is paramount. Many consultants initially under-price their services and can be apologetic about charging a charity at all. Charging a daily rate is difficult: pitch your fee too low and you won't be taken seriously, too high and many can't afford you. So consider quoting a fixed fee for a completed project, which appeals to a lot of charities wary of being ripped off.

But, if you do want a further qualification, there have been a lot of recent developments within postgraduate business education, such as the new version of the MBA with a voluntary sector bias. The MVA, Masters in voluntary administration, is offered at London South Bank and at City University, while East London University has an MBA in capacity building.

You could also take a professional development qualification - see the website VolResource www.volresource.org.uk/services/train_qua.htm#on. Focus on areas where your expertise is not so strong or where you have had less hands-on experience. You could take a short course covering a specific issue; or a qualification offered by a professional body such as the Certificate in Charity Management from the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators www.icsa.org.uk.

PR hope

Q. Is it worth doing a postgraduate course in PR? I've been working, at a very junior level, for a PR company for the past three years and I feel I could be playing a more strategic role. I don't have a degree, but could I still do a diploma or Masters? Would my employer - or any other employer - be interested or is it just a waste of money?

A. A university offering such a course is going to say yes, it's worth it, while some in the field may say no. Fraser Hardie, senior partner at Blue Rubicon, believes at this point in your career, a PR diploma has little value. His advice is to "focus on getting yourself into position to acquire new skills and be hungry for it".He suggests you ask the following: Does your agency have influence over client strategy? Does it deliver campaigns which are designed to change the nature of markets and consumer or customer behaviour? Are the senior people able to advise at the board table? If the answer is no, then look for another agency.

But the advice from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (www. ipr.org.uk) is to get a professional qualification. Their diploma is for those who want to move into more strategic and managerial roles and be involved in actually developing campaigns. Normally you need a first degree, but those with four years experience can also apply. It's a practical course, 90 percent of students have their fees paid by their employer, and it's billed as a "career boost".

If you are interested in a university course then the number of MAs in PR related areas has increased in the past six years. The London College of Communications (LCC) has a MA/postgraduate diploma for which you normally need a first degree. But your experience would get you to at least the interview stage. The LCC believes PR is undervalued in many organisations, that PR has a strategic role to play and its course is designed to address this. Don't see a course as a quick fix to your current situation - or underestimate the pure slog that's needed. But once you've identified some courses, why not ask your employer what they think?

Advisers: Margaret Holbrough and Gill Sharp, Graduate Prospects, Martin Price, charity consultant, Jessica Molloy from the CIPR, Jeremy Woods, course director at LCC.

Please send your queries to Caitlin Davies at 'The Independent', Education desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or email caitlind1@aol.com

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