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How Can I Become a Communications Specialist?

Communication specialists may work in the fields of public relations, advertising or marketing. Read on to review the required education for working as a communication specialist, and check the job description, potential places of employment and salary.

What Is a Communications Specialist?

Communications specialists, also called public relations specialists, build and maintain an organization's public image and reputation using traditional media including television and newspaper and new media including various social media channels. As a communications specialist, you will ensure that the public has accurate and timely information about an organization's goals, activities and recent developments. You also need to build and maintain a positive relationship between an organization and its surrounding public and investors. To manage an organization's reputation, you will interact with the media, issue press releases, hold press conferences, avoid conflicts and handle any negative issues. Below, you can learn some additional details about this field:

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Communications, Public Relations, Mass Media, Journalism
Key Responsibilities Help clients communicate in an effective way, coordinate efforts to deliver updates to the media, help create and maintain an organization's reputation through PR campaigns
Job Growth (2020-2030)* 11%
Median Salary (2020)* $62,810

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Will I Need?

Several undergraduate degree programs can prepare you for a position in communications and public relations. You might choose to enroll in a 4-year degree program in communications, public relations, mass media or journalism. Such a degree can prepare you for an entry-level position in the communications field - you can then work up to the position of communications specialist.

If you are interested in a role that is higher up in the field, you might consider completing a master's degree program in public relations. Such 2-year degree programs often allow you to focus on one particular aspect of the field, such as corporate communications or public relations for non-profit organizations. You will also study advanced methods in public relations writing, researching and strategizing.

Where Can I Work?

As a communications specialist, you might work for any number of private or public organizations. Some businesses that might hire you include large manufacturers, public companies or technology companies. You might also work for non-profit associations, hospitals or universities. If you work for the government, your title might change from communications specialist to press secretary, but your essential responsibilities will be the same.

What Salary Will I Make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that public relations specialists earned a median annual salary of about $62,810 in 2020. More than 272,300 individuals held the job title at the time, working for public relations firms, advertising services, private businesses, political organizations and universities. The top-paying industry in the field was the federal executive branch (OES designation).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

As an alternative, you may pursue a career as an advertising, promotions or marketing manager. With this role, you will help develop strategies in promoting a company's products and/or services. Another option is to be a meeting, convention and event planner who organizes a budget, selects a site, coordinates transportation and all the other aspects of professional meetings and events. Just like in being a public relations specialist, these career options require at least a bachelor's degree as well as good communication and organizational skills.