4 minute read

Public Relations Specialist Job Description, Career as a Public Relations Specialist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: College

Salary: Median—$43,830 per year

Employment Outlook: Excellent

Definition and Nature of the Work

Public relations (PR) specialists, sometimes called communications specialists or media specialists, perform a variety of functions depending on where and for whom they work. Above all, they create and promote a positive image for their employers. They also keep the public informed of their employers' current goals and policies. All public relations specialists must be sensitive to the needs, attitudes, and opinions of their audience.

Most companies have a department of public relations or a person in charge of public relations. Some companies hire professional PR firms to do the work for them. Business and industry use PR people to keep the public informed of their products and services. Individuals in this position are called corporate public relations specialists. Government, schools, hospitals, churches, and national health and social welfare groups use PR people to keep the public aware of activities, services, and accomplishments. Individuals in this position are called public information or nonprofit public relations specialists. U.S. government agencies employ many PR workers. Businesses usually combine public relations with their advertising campaigns. Since nonprofit or service groups typically do not advertise, PR efforts are their only way to tell the public about their work.

Public relations specialists may arrange and direct speaking engagements, press conferences, meetings and conventions, films or videos, and fundraising campaigns. These workers usually have to prepare a number of materials for these events, such as speeches and press releases, magazine articles, scripts, fact sheets, pamphlets, and newsletters. They may also need to conduct interviews and speak on the telephone frequently. The PR specialist works closely with graphic artists, designers, printers, and other media experts. On a large PR staff, a worker's duties may be directed in only one area. In smaller companies or organizations, a worker may be involved in all aspects of the job.

Education and Training Requirements

Most public relations workers have a college degree in journalism, communications, or public relations. A good liberal arts background with some experience in journalism is desirable. College courses in business administration, psychology, public speaking, and public relations are all helpful.

Interested individuals who plan to work in a specialized field such as electronics or finance may need experience or a degree in that field. Some companies seek college graduates who have had some news experience. Many large companies organize formal training courses for their employees. Accreditation by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is valued by employers as a sign of competence. Candidates must have five years' experience and pass a written and an oral test to get accreditation.

All public relations specialists must be enthusiastic, self-confident, and creative. They must have persuasive personalities and an understanding of how people think. Superior writing skills and the ability to express thoughts clearly are essential in this line of work. Computer training and a familiarity with graphics are also desirable.

Getting the Job

College placement offices can help prospective public relations specialists find job leads with businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. PR positions are often posted in the classified section of newspapers, on the Internet, and in professional magazines and journals geared toward the communications field. Employment agencies also place people in public relations jobs. The local chapter of the PRSA provides job listings and professional contacts to qualified individuals.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Promotion comes with experience. Additional education also helps. Beginners learn on the job and gradually work up to more challenging assignments. With experience and skill a public relations specialist can be promoted to a public relations manager. An organization with a large PR staff often offers more opportunities for advancement because of the variety and number of its positions.

The employment outlook for public relations specialists is excellent through the year 2014. New communications technology and the increase in organizations that turn to media for greater exposure have created more opportunities for PR workers. Competition will be very stiff for entry-level jobs because the field attracts many applicants. An individual with a solid educational background and some communications experience will have the best chance of being hired.

Working Conditions

Public relations offices are generally attractive and comfortable. PR specialists' hours vary according to the flow of work and the nature of the industry. Most salaried public relations specialists work thirty-five to forty hours per week. During busy periods, however, unpaid overtime is the norm. In some cases public relations specialists have to travel, give speeches, attend night meetings, or even be on call for an important client.

Where to Go for More Information

International Association of Business Communicators
One Hallidie Plaza, Ste. 600
San Francisco, CA 94102-2818
(415) 544-4700

National School Public Relations Association
15948 Derwood Rd.
Rockville, MD 20855
(301) 519-0496

Public Relations Society of America
33 Maiden Ln., 11th Fl.
New York, NY 10038-5150
(212) 460-1400

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary according to location, experience, and prior achievements as well as the particular job market. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a public relations specialist with a college degree is $43,830 per year. Pay is higher in the advertising field, where the median annual salary is $50,450. Experienced and successful PR workers can earn more than $81,000 per year. Benefits usually include paid vacations, health insurance, and retirement plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts