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Public Affairs Professional: Employment Info & Career Requirements

Mar 09, 2019

Public affairs professionals use grassroots initiatives to facilitate communication between community members and legislative or organizational bodies, usually in regard to a local issue. Read on to learn more about the educational requirements and employment prospects for a career in public affairs.

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Career Definition for a Public Affairs Professional

Public affairs professionals try to bridge the gap between governments and the populations they serve. Sometimes, public affairs officers may serve as the liaison between a corporation and the jurisdiction where it is located. Successful public affairs professionals usually have a background in communications and journalism and are knowledgeable about the politics associated with the jurisdiction.

Education Bachelor's degree
Job Skills Written and verbal communication, interpersonal skills, organization, problem solving
Median Salary (2017) $59,300 (all public relations specialists)
Job Growth (2016-2026) 9% (all public relations specialists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A bachelor's degree in public affairs or relations, journalism, communication, or other relevant field of study is usually required to enter the field. At the graduate level, some students choose to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a master's or doctoral degree in public policy administration. In general, master's degree programs can require an additional 36 to 48 credit hours of coursework and may include an internship or off-campus training project.

Skills Required

A public affairs professional should have the ability to analyze conditions and trends, including those associated with culture, economics, history, and politics. They should also be able to explain or promote decisions based on their analyses.

Career and Salary Outlook

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide job outlook and salary statistics for public affairs professionals, figures for public relations specialists are available. For example, the BLS has projected a 9%, or fast-as-average, increase in jobs for public relations specialists nationwide between 2016 and 2026. Those who were employed in May 2017 earned median annual wages of $59,300 (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

Those pursuing an education in public affairs may be interested in similar occupation fields, including political science and survey research.

Political Scientists

Political scientists research and analyze how government and political systems develop and function, which can include the study of current events, foreign relations, and the effect of official policies on commerce and people. Students who have completed a 4-year degree program in political science may enter the field as campaign workers or research assistants; however, a master's or doctoral degree in a relevant field of study is the de facto requirement for the majority of political scientists. According to the BLS, political scientists across the country will see a 3% increase in employment between 2016 and 2026. In May 2017, professionals employed as political scientists were paid median yearly salaries of $115,110.

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers collect and evaluate the information obtained from polls and surveys, such as those related to employment or politics. Entry-level positions may be obtained with a bachelor's degree; technical researchers usually need a master's or doctoral degree in marketing, social science, or statistics, as well as experience in the field. As reported by the BLS, survey researchers nationwide can expect a 2%, or slower-than-average, increase in employment between 2016 and 2026. The BLS also reports that survey researchers who were employed in May 2017 earned median annual wages of $54,270.

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