“People who are able to do something well can do that thing for a living, while people who are not able to do anything that well make a living by teaching.” —  Literary critic George Bernard Shaw


Sorry George.

The vast majority of decorated public relations pros are accomplished when it comes to bloviating and pontificating. They thrive on using PowerPoint and their clickers. Most of all, they love the stage and the spot light. These are all talents.

They counsel executives, choreograph communications campaigns, train presenters to face the media and others, and once in awhile they even get into a fight with a reporter…if that is what the job requires. They have oodles of experience spanning a decade or two, maybe even three.

They know the intricacies of public relations and communications. Their instincts are refined and proven. Their careers span the globe and may even include tenures in politics, government, corporate and/or agency work.

More importantly for many PR practitioners, they believe their days of marketing a client’s product that they really don’t care much about to a journalist who cares even less will eventually come to a merciful end. There just has to be something else in life.

Isn’t there the prospect of having the summer off as well as winter and spring breaks? They can just imagine having all that time to walk through the cobble-stone streets of Europe, stopping at sidewalk cafés and solving the problems of the world over glasses of wine with their newly found infinite academic wisdom.

Why not impart your repository of knowledge to the next generation of communicators? Why not fire up the PowerPoint, making sure there are batteries in the pointer/clicker, and start teaching? Sad to say, it is not that easy. There is a reality behind the perception of academic glory. (Those with Glossophobia or believe the words of George Bernard Shaw need not apply).

So what is the reality of college teaching for those who think the grass is greener on the academic side of the fence?

● Your days of six-figure salaries with stock options and participation in an Employee Stock Purchase Program (ESPP) will most likely be in your rear-view mirror. Instead, you are taking a vow of relative poverty (VORP). There are exceptions to every rule, but they are just that, exceptions. If you want to make millions, you should stay away from academia.

● When was the last time you took the Graduate Records Exam (GRE)? My first time was 1980. My second time was 2010. After those twitchin’ experiences, one must contend with the 19-month-plus forced march that will hopefully lead to a Master of Arts, Master of Science, MBA etc.  Are you sure you want to do this?

● If you think SEC regs are restrictive, please allow me to introduce you to academia. There are a few ways, very few, to write academic papers. Instead of The Associated Press Stylebook, there is the APA style, which has as much flexibility as a crocodile after it grabbed hold of your arm. APA stands for the American Psychological Association. How come the irony does not escape me?

“…South America is located directly south of Central and North America (Fouts, 1971; Musgrave, 1990; O’Neill, 1994; Graziani, 1995; Smith, 1998; Harrington, 2001 ). And Europe is situated on the other side of the Atlantic (Clemens, 2004; Dixon, 2007; Masoli, 2009; Thomas, 2011)…” There are literally hundreds of thousands of APA-style pages written this way, waiting for you to read and somehow understand them.

● You don’t just waltz into the classroom and start imparting your wisdom to an appreciative student audience clinging to every word. There is this thing, called a syllabus. Just like Bernard Montgomery planned his military thrusts against the Desert Fox, your syllabus illustrates step-by-step, day-by-day how you will teach your class. Weeks will be spent before the first class devising your syllabus. Say goodbye to spring break and good portions of your summer and winter break (It may actually provide you with a tantalizing excuse to avoid relatives during the holidays…see Almost DailyBrett, “If They Weren’t Your Relatives Would They Be Your Friends?”).


● Each lecture needs to be planned. How much time do I have? What points do I want to make? What questions should I expect? How will I divide up lecture to refresh student’s minds? Think of how you start mentally tuning out after about 20 minutes. Students will do the same, but maybe even in quicker time. After answering these questions and more, it is time to devise your PowerPoint presentation.

● You will have office hours. You will hear about the lives of students, some with serious issues…and others with not so serious issues…but all sound as if personal Armageddon is right around the corner. You want to be fair, but firm as well. This is easier said than done.

● No discussion about teaching can be complete without a discussion about grading, more grading and still even more grading. This reality seems universal among academics. Never underestimate the literally hours and hours of time spent grading. There is a certain amount of bandwidth it will take to devise a grading rubric to hopefully impart some consistency into your grading. Personally I am a serial editor. I mark up all papers, and the more work I have to do, the lower the grade.

Once you have completed your grading, then it is time to return the documents to your students. The results of multiple guess exams should be easier for them to accept as one either answers the question correctly or not. Grading one-page memos, shareholder letters, portfolios, research papers is a subjective exercise. Always take cover and fix bayonets when you assign a B+ or even worse, an A- to a student’s work. She or he is so close, yet so far from the Promised Land. Expect a challenge here and there. Be prepared to defend your decision with a smile on your face, but don’t anticipate a smile in return.

And always be prepared for the “Rule of One.” At least one student will literally hate your guts and will make that point unequivocally clear in your quarter-end course evaluation.

Certainly, I did not exhaust all of the issues (e.g., cheating, plagiarism, dominating students) that will come before you if you decide to traverse the yellow brick road of academia. Should you do it? I humbly opine that teaching is a great way to give back to the public relations profession by preparing the communications choreographers of tomorrow. At the same time, you need to be prepared for the largely inflexible new world of academia in which change comes at glacial pace.

There are many logical reasons to bypass this opportunity. There is an equal amount of illogical reasons why you should take the plunge as well.