How Can I Become a Public Affairs Officer?

Explore the career requirements for public affairs officers. Get the facts about job duties, training requirements, career outlook and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Public Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Public Affairs Officer?

Public affairs officers are military officers who serve as advocates for the military. The public affairs office is responsible for informing and educating the public about military activities while creating a positive public perception. They do this through managing the production and presentation of multimedia that is used to represent the military affairs, from training programs to enlisting information. Find out about educational requirements for these positions along with typical job duties these officers perform.

Training Required Officer training program and public affairs course
Key Responsibilities Take photographs, act as the liaison between the military and the media, conduct interviews
Job Growth (2014-2024)* Good employment opportunities (for all military personnel)
Median Salary (2016)** $70,677 (for all public affairs officers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Education Do I Need to Be a Public Affairs Officer?

A high school diploma or its equivalent is necessary to enter the military. While officers usually have a bachelor's degree, you may be able to enter officer training without a degree if you completed tours of enlisted service. In the military, you would be required to attend Officer Training School or Officer Candidate Training. After becoming an officer, you would take the Public Affairs Officer Course (PAOC) through the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Maryland.

The Public Affairs Officer Course covers policies and specific concerns of the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as the basics of public information and community relations. If you wish to further your education at the graduate level, you could pursue a master's degree program in communications or management with a specialization in public relations.

What Would My Responsibilities Be?

As a public affairs officer, you will be asked to establish positive work relationships with print, Web and broadcast journalists. You will prepare visual, audio or written communications for the media. In handling serious matters, interaction with reporters will demand diplomacy, as you may be required to keep certain details confidential for security reasons.

You could be required to participate in or create special events as part of a community relations campaign. You may escort members of the media to various events. In addition, you will often act as the liaison between your military branch and civilian organizations and civic groups. You may also need to advise other military officers before they speak to the media.

What Skills Should I Have?

Solid interpersonal and negotiation skills would be important components of your ability to communicate clearly in your position. Strategic thinking and organizational skills would also contribute to your success. Writing skills are essential for creating press releases, articles and other materials generated by the public affairs office. Decisiveness and being cool-headed during a crisis are necessary when responding to unexpected occurrences.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Since public affairs officers deal mainly with multimedia to spread awareness of the military enlistments, you may be interested in doing the same with a civilian job. One such job would be being an advertising and promotions manager, where you would be responsible for creating the promotional tools using data studying your intended consumer base. You could also consider being a marketing manager, making you responsible for developing a marketing plan for a company, determining what the supply and demand of the product are, and to oversee the production and sales trends. Alternatively, you may be interested in becoming a sales manager, which is responsible for planning and organizing sales distributions and production, ensuring that the financial goals and quotas are met.

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