Public Relations Specialists
|Recommended Degree Level||Bachelor|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||201,280|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||4.4%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||12,720|
- In order to appear competitive to prospective employers, prospective public relations specialists should obtain a four-year bachelor's degree in fields like communications, public policy, public affairs, political science or even journalism.
- Those who wish to take on managerial responsibilities or work in particularly visible positions may even need to obtain master's degrees in such fields.
- Some colleges and universities now offer specialized bachelor's and master's programs in the field of public relations.
- Once hired, entry-level specialists are generally subjected to an organization-specific program of on-the-job training.
What you study:
There is no set curriculum to which all aspiring public relations specialists must adhere. However, you'll need to study at least some of the following subjects:
- Creative writing
- Public speaking
- Business administration
- Public policy
- Political science
Shows a brief overview of what public relations (PR) specialists do. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
When you first decided to pursue a career in public relations, you imagined that you would end up working as the spokesperson or press liaison for a high-powered public relations firm or major corporation. After all, much of the recent growth in the public relations industry has been concentrated in these sub-fields.
If you had chosen to work for a public relations firm or corporation, you might have been expected to meet with legislators and government council members as well as representatives from corporations and trade associations. You would have had to advocate passionately on behalf of your organization's cause and make clear distinctions between your employer or client and its competitors. You also would have been expected to work late into the evenings and on the weekends. Interstate and even international travel would not have been uncommon.
As it turned out, you chose to take a job as a public relations specialist with your local mayor's office. Since you care deeply about the medium-sized city in which you grew up, this occupation has fit in nicely with your existing interests. With a fairly regular work schedule and little overtime, it has also allowed you to live comfortably and spend adequate amounts of time with your family. The only trade-off has been slightly lower pay than you could expect to receive in the private sector.
Even as you rose through the ranks to become the mayor's personal press secretary, your work schedule hasn't varied by much. On a typical day, you arrive at city hall by 8 a.m., greet your coworkers and get ready to face the day's tasks.
Much of your job involves writing press releases about various milestones or initiatives that concern the mayor's office. Although there is another employee in the office who also writes press releases, you like to tackle the more important jobs on your own. Today, you must craft a succinct brief about a new recycling initiative that the city has launched.
With years of experience behind you, it takes you just 15 or 20 minutes to craft a concise two-page release that can be printed in the local newspaper and on the city website. You immediately email your finished release to the city's IT department and send off a separate copy to a contact at the municipal newspaper.
Next, you gather up your papers and dash off to a breakfast meeting with a private development company that wishes to build several hundred units of housing on your city's riverfront. The project would be a huge boon for the local economy and could significantly improve the city's regional and national image. As such, you're keen on impressing these folks.
At the breakfast, you give a clear, focused presentation that outlines the transportation connections and natural amenities of the site that the company is considering as well as the tax breaks that your city is willing to provide in exchange for a fixed construction timetable. Since the land across the river belongs to a different municipality that often competes with your city for such development projects, this is a particularly high-stakes presentation. Judging by the sustained applause that you receive from the development group, it's clear that you nailed it.
After leaving the meeting, you're bombarded by reporters from local media outlets. Since you've developed amicable relationships with many of these people over the years, you're willing to answer a few questions. You end up holding an impromptu parking-lot press conference that lasts for more than 15 minutes.
Before lunch, you attend a quick meeting with a few key employees in your department. For the past few weeks, they've been working on an ad campaign that's designed to entice tourists from the surrounding area to spend a weekend in the city. After providing some constructive input, you head back to your office for lunch.
You spend most of the afternoon working on another speech that you'll need to give at an upcoming meeting with your state's legislators. Since you'll need to give this speech at a conference in your state's capital, you're a bit nervous about it. If you don't make a good case, the legislature could enact a law that would enable the creation of a larger port facility in a city some 80 miles downriver from yours. This could render your city's port obsolete and hurt the regional economy.
To ensure that the speech is perfect, you remain in the office until after 6 p.m. After all, you don't like to bring work home with you. Although your job is physically and emotionally demanding, you're glad that you can work as a public relations specialist without sacrificing the quality of your personal life.
Certifications and Licensing
The Public Relations Society of America offers an "Accredited in Public Relations" designation that many experienced public relations specialists work to attain. While this credential is not required for entry-level employment in the field, employers may use it as a "tiebreaker" when hiring for more lucrative or visible positions. In order to become accredited, public relations specialists must have several years of experience in their field, attend certain continuing-education classes, and pass a comprehensive and challenging exam. The PRSA also offers a parallel certification for military veterans. Meanwhile, the International Association of Business Communicators offers an "Accredited Business Communicator" designation for private-sector public relations specialists.
Full-time versus part-time:
Virtually all public relations specialists work full-time. In addition to regularly-scheduled work shifts during regular business hours, many of these professionals are expected to put in additional hours to complete pressing projects. This may require late-night, early-morning and weekend work. Also, some public relations specialists are expected to travel on a regular basis to meet with investors, attend conferences, or engage in targeted outreach programs on behalf of their employer or clients.
Although public relations specialists can fulfill some of their duties from a home office, the vast majority of these workers must report to a central office every day.
The following websites may be useful for those who wish to pursue careers as public relations specialists:
- Public Relations Society of America -- The Public Relations Society of America is a well-respected trade organization that focuses on education, accreditation, professional development and networking for public relations specialists. Its website offers educational resources as well as a fully functional jobs board. The PRSA has local chapters in most states and many major cities.
- Commonwealth of Virginia Career Guides -- Although this information is posted on the Commonwealth of Virginia's state website, it is pertinent to aspiring public relations specialists across the United States. The site contains a detailed primer on the field of public relations, including salary information, educational requirements and expected career trajectories. However, this site's job board is limited to open positions within Virginia's borders.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics -- The U.S. Labor Department maintains a detailed primer that outlines a host of valuable pieces of information about the public relations field, including projected job growth over the coming 10-year period as well as educational and credentialing requirements for aspiring workers. Although this document doesn't link directly to a jobs board, it does contain detailed information about salary expectations, work-life balances and other practical information.
- Public Relations Student Society of America -- Geared towards young people who wish to pursue a career in public relations, the Public Relations Student Society of America's provides information about educational resources, professional development and test-prep services. It also maintains a comprehensive job-search function and contains links to local chapters that often have state-specific credentialing and employment resources.