Be a Media Specialist: Degree and Training Program Options

Bachelor's degrees in public relations, communication or journalism may lead to entry-level positions as media specialists. Courses include digital media production, PR writing and promotional strategies. Learn about the program requirements and career choices available to graduates.

Essential Information

Media specialists, also called public relations specialists and communications specialists, work with a company to develop and promote a positive public image by drafting press releases and arranging public speaking engagements, conventions, and other organizational functions. Several educational options are available to prepare for a career as a media specialist including bachelor's degrees in public relations, communication, and journalism. These programs take about four years to complete. Some programs offer courses online.


Bachelor's Degree in Public Relations

A Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations program will teach students how to create a positive and effective public image for businesses and organizations. Skills involving written, oral, and visual communications, such as advertising, marketing, and journalism, are developed during the program. Focus is also placed on branding and campaigning practices that are prevalent in the public relations industry.

The curriculum of a 4-year bachelor's degree in public relations consists of 120-124 credit hours. Some programs are interdisciplinary, requiring courses from departments such as business, mass communication, and marketing, as well as general education classes. Courses in a public relations program may include:

  • Principles and practices of public relations
  • Mass communications
  • Public relations research and writing techniques
  • Grant writing for non-profits
  • Legal and ethical issues in public relations and the media
  • Announcing for radio and TV media

Bachelor of Arts in Communication

A Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Communication program will teach you how to be an effective communicator of information and ideas. Many concentrations are offered, such as mass media, rhetoric, conflict management, leadership, media communications, and speech communications. Several different types of communication are studied, including written, nonverbal, and public speaking. Since the occupational possibilities from earning a B.A. in Communication are so broad, extra focus may be given to the application of acquired skills and knowledge specific to various career paths.

As a communication student, you must complete 120-128 credit hours to earn your bachelor's degree. In addition to general education, core communication classes, and electives, you may also be required to participate in a debate team or work for the campus-based media, like the school newspaper or radio station. The curriculum includes:

  • Principles of public speaking
  • Communicating non-verbally
  • Argumentation and debate techniques
  • Cross-cultural communications
  • Digital media production
  • Interviewing types and techniques

Bachelor's Degree in Journalism

Students in a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Journalism program learn how to write, report, and edit a variety of news media. Specializations in fields such as broadcast journalism, print journalism, sports journalism, or public relations are possible. For those interested in becoming a media specialist, a specialization in public relations may be a good idea. Legal and ethical principles that guide the press are also taught.

The curriculum of a bachelor's degree in journalism consists of core journalism courses as well as classes in marketing and organizational management. Field experience on campus or as a real-world media intern may also be required. Core courses in journalism include:

  • Introduction to journalism and mass communication
  • Photojournalism reporting and editing
  • Electronic news presenting and production
  • Journalism history
  • Public affairs and opinion reporting
  • Public relations campaigns

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 218,910 public relations specialists in May 2015 who earned a median annual salary of $56,770. The BLS also predicted that employment for public relations specialists will increase 6% between the years 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov).

Continuing Education Information

Although not required for employment, accreditation through programs like the Public Relations Society of America or the International Association of Business Communications may be extremely attractive to potential employers.

Master's degree programs in public relations, communications, and journalism are available for those looking to expand their education. While a bachelor's degree is considered sufficient for most entry-level positions, earning a master's degree provides opportunities for career advancement to supervisory positions.

Aspiring media specialists may pursue degree programs in public relations, communication or journalism to hone their skills in crafting effective messages that will create positive images for businesses, organizations and public figures. Bachelor's degree holders of these programs will qualify for entry-level positions in the media industry, but they could also pursue graduate programs or earn an accreditation from credible associations for professional development and more advanced career opportunities.


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