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Media Specialist Certifications and Jobs

The term 'media specialist' may refer either to individuals who work as a liaison with the media in a public relations office or to those working in public or school libraries. Read on to learn more about media specialist careers and education and certification requirements.

What You Need to Know

As a media specialist, you may either work as a public relations professional or librarian. Public relations professionals manage the image of a person or institution by connecting with the media, hosting events and drafting press releases. Librarians work in public, school or private libraries--for example, a library in a law firm's office--to assist others with finding books, videos and other resources.

Education Bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in mass communication, journalism, or library science.
Certification Voluntary certification through the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) and the International Association of Business Communications (IABC); some states or employers may require additional certification, such as a teaching certificate.
Median Salary (2017)* $59,300 (for all public relations specialists)
$58,520 (for all librarians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education and Certification Will I Need?

A Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication prepares you to work as a public relations specialist. If you are interested in earning a graduate degree, master's degrees in mass communication and journalism are available. A graduate degree is not required to work in the field, but may make you eligible for management positions.

Public relations professionals are not certified. However, the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) and the International Association of Business Communications (IABC) issue voluntary certification. Both require you to complete at least five years of public relations experience and an examination. IABC additionally requires potential certificate holders to have a bachelor's degree in mass communication or journalism.

What Else Should I Know?

Most states require you to have a Master of Library and Information Science (MLS) to work as a public librarian; however, others may only require a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication or Master of Science in Mass Communication. To become a school librarian, you are likewise usually required to have at least a bachelor's, but preferably a master's, degree.

Whether you must be certified to work as a librarian depends on your potential employer. Some states require school librarians to be certified as a teacher, which is usually obtained by passing an exam or completing a teaching program. Some states also require public librarians to be certified.

What Is the Career Outlook for Media Specialists?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the availability of public relations jobs is expected to increase from 2016-2026 by 9%--but entry-level jobs will be extremely competitive. The BLS also reported that as of 2017, the median salary for public relations specialists was $59,300 per year (www.bls.gov).

The BLS expects demand for librarians to also increase 9% over the same decade due to the retirement of current librarians. As of 2017, the median salary for librarians was $58,520 per year.

What Subjects Will I Study?

Mass communication bachelor's degree programs teach you information gathering and analysis. You complete several internships and a final, capstone project in your chosen field. This could mean writing a newspaper article or preparing a video newscast. Topics studied often include:

  • Communication laws
  • Copywriting
  • Mass communication
  • Writing for mass media
  • Media ethics
  • Digital and online media

What Is the Coursework Like in a Master's Program?

In a mass communications master's degree program, you concentrate your studies on a topic, such as advertising and electronic media. Depending on your concentration, you might take classes in health and medical communication. You must also complete a thesis. Some additional topics you might be exploring include:

  • Public relations
  • Mass communication theory
  • Political communication
  • Interviewing strategies
  • Public opinion theory

MLS programs teach you information acquisition and organization, among other topics. You also complete internships and a comprehensive examination. Some programs are offered entirely online. These areas may also be covered:

  • Electronic information services
  • Presentation methods
  • Cataloging
  • Classification
  • Collection management