Public relations specialists work for various types of organizations, such as businesses, nonprofit associations, universities, and hospitals. They are responsible for coordinating many different kinds of projects concerning media and consumer relations; interest-group representation; political campaigns; conflict mediation; or employee and investor relations. They operate as advocates for organizations and are increasingly relied upon by management to supply sound strategic advice regarding how to best maintain positive relationships with the organization’s targeted section of the public. Public relations specialists also work to understand the attitudes and concerns of consumers, employees, and other groups, as well as how best to facilitate communication and cooperation between these various groups.
Public relations specialists create working relationships with key individuals in broadcast and print media. They write press releases and use their media contacts to help them place the information in the most effective media sources. They often act as spokespersons for organizations, and may arrange meetings or other functions in which members of an organization meet with the public. They may assist an organization’s representatives in preparing presentations and speaking engagements. Public relations specialists in government are sometimes referred to as press secretaries, public affairs specialists, or communication specialists, and are responsible for informing the public regarding government activities.
Aspiring public relation specialists should have a personality that is outgoing and confident. They should have a passion for motivating people. They need to be able to work well in a team setting, yet also have a high degree of competitiveness. Decision-making, problem-solving, and research skills are vital. They also need to have creativity, initiative, sound judgment, and the ability to express themselves clearly and concisely.
In 2002, public relations specialists earned a median annual salary of $41,710. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $24,240, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $75,100. The following shows the median annual salaries in the industries employing the highest number of public relations specialists:
- Advertising and related services — $48,070
- Local government — $42,000
- Business, professional, labor, and political organizations — $39,330
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools — $36,820
Training and Education
No specific entry requirements exist for public relation specialists. The most common educational background is a college degree, plus experience in the field through an internship. Programs in public relations are offered at many colleges and universities across the U.S. Many of these schools will help students secure internships, an increasingly vital component of getting hired. Quite a few public relations specialists get started by doing public relations work in the Armed Forces. Some large organizations offer formal training programs for newly hired employees. Public relations specialists can become accredited through the Public Relations Society of America by demonstrating 5 years of experience and passing an extensive 6-hour test. The International Association of Business Communicators also offers accreditation.
In 2002, public relations specialists held about 158,000 jobs. Most worked in service industries, such as advertising and related services; health care and social assistance; educational services; and government.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of public relations specialists is expected to increase faster than the average, due to the increased competitiveness in the world of business and the high value now placed on public relations maintenance by organizations. Competition will be high for entry-level jobs. Opportunities will be best for those with a bachelor’s degree in some combination of journalism, public relations, or advertising, and who have completed an internship in the field.
For more information on a career as a public relations specialist, please see our directory of schools offering Media Training