I did it. After taking the prep class, filling out the national application, paying the money, preparing my portfolio, surviving my Readiness Review, spending a weekend studying and finally taking the exam--I am now Accredited in Public Relations through the Public Relations Society of America.
There is a lot of debate in the PR world about the value of this credential. According to PRSA, there were only 195 new APRs in all of 2008. But after going through this rigorous and valuable process, I feel that this credential will become more and more sought after by hiring managers. Unless you work at a PR agency, once you get beyond entry-level PR work, your boss is usually not in PR, they are from marketing or product management if you're lucky, HR if you're not. I could be wrong but I predict that these people (and their recruiters) will start using APR, you have it or you don't, as a simple binary way to separate candidates.
I'm not saying that people without APR aren't top-notch PR professionals or that they won't get jobs, I'm just predicting that APR will be a simple way for people with low familiarity with the profession to be confident they are getting someone who knows their stuff.
Everyone has their opinion about taking the time and effort necessary to earn their APR, but this entire experience has come at the perfect time for me. It was, after all, at the APR introductory meeting that I networked with the person who would help me find my great new job.
And now that I am working in health care, I couldn't find a more appreciative audience for me to showcase the new letters behind my name than people who already have an entire alphabet of credentials after theirs.
I did ask to make sure that "APR" wasn't going to be misconstrued as technical expertise in some horrible medical procedure that I would not want to be pulled in to assist with. I was assured with much certainty that no one was going to mistake me for a health care professional.
So I can relax and add APR to my email signature and my LinkedIn profile and my business cards and my ID badge (maybe I'll have better luck with the photo this time).