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Communications Officer: Job Duties and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a communications officer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and necessary skills to find out if this is the career for you.

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Communications officers link the public to organizations, businesses, or people. They can influence public perception of their client by preparing press releases and writing speeches for their clients.

Essential Information

Communications officers may also be called communications or public relations specialists, and they serve as liaisons between organizations and the public. Communications directors may supervise a team of communications specialists. A bachelor's degree is the typical qualification for communications officers.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in communications, public relations or similar field
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7% for public relations and fundraising managers; 6% for public relations specialists
Mean Salary (2015)* $119,390 for public relations and fundraising mangers; $65,830 for public relations specialists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Communications Officer Job Duties

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the specific job duties for communications officers depend on the type and size of the organizations that employ them (www.bls.gov). For instance, a small company may employ just one communications officer, who could be responsible for tasks like writing press releases and responding to media inquiries about the company. Other jobs that may be delegated to communications specialists include arranging speaking engagements for the company's leadership and maintaining contacts within the media. In some cases, communications specialists might also be responsible for writing marketing materials or coordinating promotional events.

Public relations specialists for large corporations may focus on maintaining relations with a specific entity like the press, the government, consumers or interest groups representing the company's industry sector. High-level communications officers in large organizations may coordinate with company executives to plan the corporation's public relations strategy. If a public relations crisis occurs, the communications officer may need to coordinate the organization's response.

Reports from the BLS showed that for the 2014-2024 decade, the job outlook for public relations and fundraising managers was projected to see a 7% increase. Public relations specialists were projected to see a 6% increase in jobs during the same time. Public relations specialists had an average income of $65,830 per year, and public relations and fundraising managers made an average salary of $119,390 based on 2015 information from the BLS.

Communications Officer Education Requirements

The BLS reports that employers typically hire communications officers with bachelor's degrees. Many organizations look for graduates with degrees in fields like communications, journalism or public relations. Others prefer graduates with degrees relevant to their industries, such as IT or engineering. The BLS suggests that public relations majors supplement their communications studies with coursework in areas like psychology, political science and business.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) currently accredits more than 20 public relations degree programs in the U.S.. Typical course topics for public relations degree programs include mass media, persuasion theory, visual communications and persuasive writing. The BLS suggests that aspiring communications officers supplement their coursework with internships and membership in societies like the Public Relations Student Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators.

The specific tasks a communications officer performs may vary slightly depending on the client and size of the organization. They need at least a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, and many students gain experience through internships and membership in professional organizations.

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