Become a Public Relations Officer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Aug 10, 2018

Learn how to become a public relations officer. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in the public relations field.

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Become a Public Relations Officer

Public relations officers, also called public relations or communications specialists, facilitate relations between organizations and the public. They may work for corporations, nonprofit groups, or government agencies. Typical tasks for public relations officers include providing journalists with information about their organizations' activities, coordinating public appearances for business representatives, and participating in marketing activities.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree is required, but a master's degree may be preferred by some employers
Degree Field Public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business
Certification Optional certification is available from the Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators
Experience Public relations officers in management positions must have several years of experience; directors usually have 5-10 years of experience
Key Skills Strong interpersonal, organizational, problem-solving, research, and communication skills; knowledge of Apple iPhoto or Adobe Photoshop, web design software, and social media applications
Salary (2015) $56,770 (Median annual salary for all public relations specialists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The BLS website states that a bachelor's degree is the typical educational qualification held by public relations officers when they begin their careers. Students may choose degree programs in public relations, communications, journalism, or another related field. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) accredits undergraduate public relations degree programs in the U.S. and abroad. There are over 20 accredited public relations degree programs in the U.S. These programs typically include coursework in persuasive speech and writing, as well as visual communication techniques. Public relations degree programs may also incorporate courses on digital, print, and broadcast media.

A few tips for success when considering a career in public relations would be to:

  1. Develop practical skills. Aspiring public relations officers typically need the ability to use computer software and the Internet for research, communication, and desktop publishing, according to the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which is affiliated with the PRSA.
  2. Find an internship. Participating in an internship may help aspiring public relations officers develop job-related skills. According to the PRSSA, public relations firms and corporations aren't the only organizations that offer internship opportunities. Internship experiences may also be available through local schools, museums, hospitals, and sports teams.
  3. Join a public relations student society. Joining pre-professional organizations like the PRSSA can be an effective way to develop public relations knowledge and skills. Members of university PRSSA chapters have access to industry and educational information, as well as internships and scholarships. The International Association of Business Communicators also has student chapters, and membership offers benefits similar to those of PRSSA membership.

Step 2: Gain Experience

The BLS indicates that aspiring public relations officers may be required to gain several years of experience in the field before advancing to management positions. Entry-level public relations workers assume a number of responsibilities, including searching for print articles about their organizations and maintaining files of these articles. They may also gather and prepare information for speeches and media releases.

Step 3: Career Advancement Options

In addition to gaining professional experience in the field, public relations officers may wish to pursue additional educational opportunities in order to advance their careers. A master's degree in communication, public relations, or business may help public relations specialists move on to management positions. Additionally, maintaining memberships in professional organizations like the PRSA and IABC can provide access to networking opportunities within the field.

A career as a public relations officer will involve researching, tracking, and gathering information about an organization in order to get material out to the public and responding to issues within the organization. These professionals will need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in journalism, business, or a related field; several years of experience that can be gained through internships or entry-level positions; and possibly certification from a professional group.

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