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How to Become a Communication Officer: Job Duties and Information

Research the requirements to become a communication officer. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in communications.

Should I Become a Communication Officer?

Communication officers help manage internal and external messaging for an organization. For example, a communication officer may work with a company's CEO to develop a message of family values. Their external communications may include social media and advertising that shows how the organization is devoted to family values. They may also work with the human resources department to promote internal activities that support family values for employees.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree is standard
Degree Fields Public relations, communications, journalism or related field
Experience 2-5 years of related experience
Key Skills Interpersonal, written and verbal communications, problem-solving, organizational skills, spreadsheet and word processing software, multimedia software
Salary (2014) $55,680 per year (Median salary for public relations specialists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014), Job postings by employers (December 2012).

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The minimum requirement for most communication officers is a bachelor's degree, often in public relations (PR). With this degree, students will take courses in writing and speaking, as well as public relations techniques and principles. Students will learn about messaging, ethics and PR strategy. Students may also have the chance to take courses relating to niche areas of PR, such as non-profits. In some cases, students may also be required to complete an internship.

Success Tips:

  • Volunteer to gain experience. Volunteering with organizations is a way for communication officers to get experience in the field. For example, many non-profits will have programs or events that they would like to be publicized. Students can join a committee that focuses on publicity to gain experience.
  • Practice social media. Public relations undergraduate coursework will likely require at least one course in new media or digital media. Many communication campaigns utilize social media to reach a broader audience.

Step 2: Gain Experience

One entry-level position that communication officers may pursue to gain experience is that of a communications assistant. In this role, employees may start out supporting upper level staff, coordinating PR events and activities and monitoring press mentions. Over time, they may become a communications associate, who may coordinate publications, take on website duties and collaborate on social media strategies.

Success Tip:

  • Build a network. As communication officers move up the ladder, they may be expected to be able to contact journalists with story ideas. Communication officers can begin to build their professional network by attending industry events and serving as a resource for reporters.

Step 3: Become Certified

Communication officers can voluntarily earn certification from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) or the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). For both the PRSA's Accredited in Public Relations credential and the IABC's Accredited Business Communicator designation, individuals must have a minimum level of education and experience to qualify to take an exam. The IABC requires submission of a portfolio of work samples as well. Upon earning the certification, communication officers will have to earn continuing education credits to maintain their certification.

Step 4: Earn a Master's Degree

Before moving into upper- level positions, some employers may prefer that candidates have a master's degree. With a master's degree, students will have the chance to take advanced courses in public relations, as well as apply those principles in their thesis. Students may also have the chance to choose a specialty within the area, such as corporate communication, crisis communications or strategic planning.

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