How to Become a Public Relations Agent: Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a public relations agent. Research the education requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in public relations.

Should I Become a Public Relations Agent?

Public relations (PR) agents plan and execute strategic public image campaigns for their clients. They may also work together with corporate marketing, advertising, and human resources departments to execute specific communications and image-enhancement programs. Public relations professionals usually work in an office setting on a full-time basis. Some positions require travel. Long workdays and overtime are typical in the field. PR agents must be comfortable talking in front of groups both large and small.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Public relations, journalism, communications or a related field
Experience Entry-level jobs may be available for PR specialists; public relations managers need several years of industry experience
Certification Voluntary certification available
Key Skills Organizational, listening, problem-solving, time-management, public speaking, communication in written and verbal format
Salary $55,680 per year (2014 median salary for all public relations specialists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Degree Program

A bachelor's degree in public relations, communications or journalism is preferred for careers in public relations. Aspiring PR agents may also want to consider courses in public speaking, advertising, business administration and creative writing, even if they are not required for graduation.

Success Tip:

  • Seek an internship. By securing an internship while in college, aspiring PR agents can build their professional networks and acquire valuable on-the-job training. Some degree programs grant college credit for internships.

Step 2: Complete On-the-job Training

With a degree in hand, aspiring public relations agents can apply for entry-level positions, such as PR specialist or account executive. According to the BLS, most employers require new PR staff to complete on-the-job training, which may be delivered through a formal program or informally by experienced supervisors. Depending on the company, the training period can last anywhere from one month to a full year. At the entry level, training is typically interspersed with basic tasks, such as filing and conducting research. After training is complete, the new employee may graduate to more traditional PR agent duties, such as writing press releases and planning campaigns.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional organization. Organizations like the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) offer their members career development tools like training and networking opportunities. Joining such an organization may help aspiring public relations agents advance their careers.

Step 3: Consider Professional Certification to Stand Out

The BLS noted that graduates seeking employment in this field are likely to face strong competition due to a limited number of jobs. However, jobs for PR professionals are likely to grow with the increased use of social media, according to the BLS. As such, demonstrating proficiency in social media tools can give PR agents a competitive advantage in getting hired or promoted. The National Social Media Institute offers the Social Media Strategist (SMS) credential to candidates who pass an exam. To qualify for the SMS exam, candidates must have an associate's degree or at least 2 years of experience in a related field.

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