What Is a Communications Specialist? - Job Description & Duties

Nov 22, 2019

A communications specialist handles an organization's public image by working with media outlets and constructing messages for consumers and stakeholders. Read on for specific communications specialists duties, education requirements, and job prospects.

What is a Communications Specialist?

Communications specialists manage an organization's public image. Sometimes known as public relations specialists, these professionals work to raise public awareness of their organization and the goods or services it provides. With the goal of establishing or maintaining favorable public opinions, they work with media outlets to connect with potential customers, investors, and other stakeholders.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Key Skills Oral and written communication skills, organizational skills, interpersonal skills
Median Salary (2018)* $60,000 (for 'public relations specialists')
Job Outlook (2018-2028)* 6% (for 'public relations specialists')

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Communications Specialist Duties

Communications specialists work in a wide range of industries, and their duties may vary depending on their field. For example, those working for political candidates may engage in speechwriting and help publicize political campaigns. Alternatively, practitioners working for large corporations may devote significant attention to analyzing trends and managing image issues their company faces. Those in the non-profit sector often deal with fundraising efforts and volunteer recruitment. Regardless of the industry, a communications specialist is likely to engage in activities like:

  • Writing press releases
  • Maintaining relationships with media outlets
  • Managing their organization's social media presence
  • Handling media requests for information
  • Coordinating public appearances for organizational leaders
  • Evaluating communication campaigns
  • Monitoring public opinion

Some communication specialists develop a career within a particular specialization. For example, those working in the financial industry may work in positions dealing with investor relations. Practitioners with an interest in medicine and health may devote their careers to health care public relations.

Education Requirements for Communications Specialists

Communications specialists typically have bachelor's degrees in communications or a related field like journalism, public relations, or English. Prospective students can investigate the field through online courses in journalism and related subjects. In addition to general education classes, bachelor's programs in this area typically incorporate coursework in mass communication, organizational communication, persuasion, and strategy. Students also receive instruction in practical areas they would use in the field like:

  • Design principles
  • Media writing
  • Software applications
  • Communication campaign construction

Students may also complete capstone classes or projects, and their programs may allow them to specialize in a subfield like communication for non-profits or digital communication.

Salary Information

In May 2018, the median annual wage for public relations specialists was $60,000, according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those earning salaries in the highest 10% made $112,310 or more, and salaries for the lowest 10% of earners were $33,690 or less. Organizations within the federal government and the pharmaceutical industry paid the highest salaries. Public relations specialists in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and New Jersey were paid the most.

Job Outlook

The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that demand for public relations specialists will grow by about six percent between 2018 and 2028. This rate is roughly the average for all career fields. Competition within the field is strong. With the rise of digital technology, information reaches the public faster than ever, and public perceptions can change quickly. Consequently, communications specialists who can respond to fast-paced news cycles and who are skilled in communication via social media may have the best chances for employment. Prospective communications specialists can also consider the value of earning a graduate degree in public relations to advance their career prospects.

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