Public Relations Specialist: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for public relations specialists. Get the facts about degree requirements, salary and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Public Relations degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Public Relations Specialist?

Public relations specialists are responsible for creating and maintaining positive perceptions of the people or products they represent. This typically involves communicating with the media via press releases and answering questions, as well as teaching and helping their clients effectively communicate with the media and/or public. Public relations specialists may organize interviews or press conferences and prepare speeches for executives or spokespeople. These professionals also gage public opinion through social media, and can use this information to improve advertising and promotion programs. Today much of their work is done online through social media and other online media outlets. Read on to learn more about the job skills, training and salary of a public relations specialist.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Journalism, public relations, marketing
Key Skills Problem-solving, writing, speaking, interpersonal
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%*
Median Salary (2015) $56,770*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do With a Public Relations Degree?

As their job title indicates, public relations specialists manage the public's image and perception of the clients they represent. As a public relations specialist, you may be responsible for promoting a person or organization, a product or an event. You will choose the most effective strategies to meet your client's promotional goals and convey pre-selected target messages to specific audiences, such as consumers or the media.

Promotional tools used in public relations include press releases, media kits, product launches, press conferences, public information sessions, speaking engagements, parties and other special events. You'll likely communicate regularly with the media in seeking their attendance at certain events and favorable press coverage of your clients. In some cases, you'll conduct market research to investigate the behavior and preferences of target audiences, which can help create effective promotional messages. You may also be responsible for crisis management, which can entail scheduling emergency press conferences or other quick, decisive actions to protect your client's image.

Where Might I Work?

Because so many organizations need some sort of management or promotion for their images and products, public relations specialists may work in many different areas. You may find work at a private firm or business, where you'll generally be responsible for promoting your company's products, services or general public image. You can also work on a freelance basis or as an account executive for a public relations firm where you'll promote individual clients via media coverage and publicity events. Public relations specialists are also employed by governmental, charitable or public organizations.

What Training Do I Need?

Public relations specialists generally need a bachelor's degree in journalism, public relations, mass communications, marketing or a related area. Public relations degrees may not be as widely available as fields like marketing or communications; however, many schools allow you to declare it as a minor or concentration area. Some schools offer multidisciplinary bachelor's degree programs in areas like corporate communications or marketing communication.

Your exact course of study in a public relations bachelor's degree program will depend on your exact major. If you're majoring or minoring in public relations, you'll take one or more courses involving public relations, which will educate you in public relations theory, practice and professional development. Relevant programs in all areas will teach you about common public relations professional practices, such as business and promotional writing, media communications, publicity campaign management and market research.

You'll also need to complete a public relations internship during or after college. The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) strongly recommends that you complete an internship (www.prssa.org). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), public relations internships are valuable in getting an edge in the entry-level employment market, which is highly competitive (www.bls.gov).

How Much Can I Earn?

Median salaries for public relations specialists can differ greatly based on exact job title and employer type. As of May 2015, the BLS reported a median yearly salary of $56,770 for public relations specialists. The public relations specialist field was expected to grow 6% from 2014-2024 because of an increasingly competitive job market.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Market research analysts, editors and multimedia artists and animators are all related positions that require a bachelor's degree. Market research analysts try to predict the market potential for a particular product by studying market patterns and determining things like who would buy a product and at what price. Editors review and correct any mistakes in written work submitted by writers. They often give the final approval before publication. Multimedia artists and animators provide the visual effects for different types of media, such as video games or movies.

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