Public Relations Manager: How to Start a Career in Public Relations

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a public relations manager. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and accreditation to find out if this is the career for you.

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Earning a position as a public relations manager may sound daunting, but the process can be broken down into four steps, one of which is optional but may give you an extra boost. First, get a bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline - not necessarily public relations! Second, get some real-world work experience; third, earn a voluntary certification; and finally, ask to be trained for a management position.

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Essential Information

Public relations managers are the major link between companies or organizations and the public. These professionals oversee the communications efforts and establish a positive public image for their employers. Read on to discover the path to becoming a public relations manager.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Voluntary certification available
Projected Growth (2014-2024)* 7% for all public relations and fundraising managers
Median Salary (2015)* $104,140 for all public relations and fundraising managers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The first step in becoming a public relations manager is to earn a bachelor's degree in an appropriate field. While a degree in public relations might be the obvious choice, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that communications, journalism and marketing degrees are also competitive choices (www.bls.gov). For some industries, degrees specific to the field may also be appropriate. Public relations coursework may include:

  • Media writing
  • Communications
  • Public relations theory
  • Research methods
  • Public relations internship

Step 2: Develop Work Experience

Due to high competition for entry-level positions in public relations, students might seek internships either during or upon completion of a bachelor's degree program in order to gain training and experience. Journalism is another industry that provides growth opportunities leading to public relations positions; familiarity with media practices can be extremely helpful to those guiding and safeguarding their companies' public images.

According to the BLS, larger firms may have extensive on-the-job training for entry-level employees. Whether a new public relations specialist works for one of these firms or not, the first years in the industry are generally ones of mentoring and training. Because of the nature of the work, important traits for a career in public relations are those that might be best shown in crisis, such as good judgment, initiative and creative problem-solving skills.

Step 3: Earn Certification

One step in developing a professional reputation as a public relations specialist can be voluntary accreditation. Two different professional organizations offer such accreditation.

The Universal Accreditation Board offers the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation. This certification is specifically targeted at public relations specialists who have five years of experience and bachelor's degrees in communications or related majors. The APR is awarded to applicants who pass a computer-based test (www.praccreditation.org).

The International Association of Business Communicators offers the Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) certification to qualified applicants. This certification program is geared toward business communicators in general. In addition to nine years of combined education and work experience, ABC certification entails both written and oral tests (www.iabc.com).

Step 4: Train for Management

There are many training opportunities available to public relations specialists who wish to make the jump to public relations management positions. The BLS notes that employees in specialist positions are commonly selected for management training and promotion. Some large companies offer in-house management training, while many other companies support employees through continuing education coursework or programs. Aspiring public relations managers may also find training seminars through professional associations.

Job opportunities in this field were expected to grow at an average rate of 7% over the 2014-2024 decade, according to the BLS. As of 2015, these managers earned a median salary of $104,140.

The process of working your way up to a public relations management position begins once you earn your degree and find a job where you can build some experience. With that experience, earn a voluntary certification, which adds to your reputation in the business, and then seek out management training programs to help you move up the ladder.

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