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Public Speaking Career Information

People who work in public speaking professions make speeches and presentations to live audiences in a variety of settings. Read on to learn more about education, training and career prospects for public speakers.

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Career Definition for a Public Speaking Professional

Public speaking professionals may address students on behalf of educational institutions, recruit employees for corporations, introduce company leaders at shareholder events or lead training seminars. They may also deliver keynote speeches, emcee events, and discuss topics that are of interest to a particular organization or build awareness about issues and current events. Audiences may range from civic groups to corporate executives.

Public speaking professionals often specialize in a particular field, such as technology, finance or motivational speaking, or transition from high-profile careers in sports or politics. Some professionals function as independent contractors, but many are represented by companies that provide speakers for special events. They may also teach public speaking skills at private companies and academic institutions.

Education Bachelor's or master's degree in speech communication; a Certified Speaking Professional certification from the National Speakers Association
Job Duties Addresses students on behalf of educational institutions; recruits employees for corporations; introduces company leaders at shareholder events; leads training seminars
Mean Salary (2015)* $40,440 (public address systems and other announcers)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 3% (public address systems and other announcers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Public speaking professionals often have a bachelor's or master's degree in speech communication, as well as a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) certification from the National Speakers Association (www.nsaspeaker.org). Coursework in theater or student debating and government activities can also be helpful. Many speakers gain experience by volunteering at community events or participating in groups like Toastmasters International, a nonprofit public speaking organization (www.toastmasters.org). Public speaking courses are also offered by private companies and community colleges throughout the United States.

Skills Required

Public speaking professionals should have excellent communication and interpersonal skills, confidence, a clear speaking voice and the ability to address large groups of people. A public speaking professional must be able to engage an audience and hold its interest, so organizational, presentation and speechwriting skills are essential. Sales ability is a plus. Familiarity with audio-visual equipment, computers and software, such as PowerPoint, may also be required for some events.

Career and Salary Outlook

Speaker fees may vary by event and level of experience. The top tier of public speakers may earn considerably more, depending on their reputation and the demand for their subject matter. Professional public speakers can enhance their marketability through personal websites and memberships in public speaking organizations, such as the National Speakers Association or the International Federation for Professional Speakers, which list members by region and area of expertise (www.iffps.org).

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide employment outlook and salary statistics specific to public speakers, information for professionals in related fields is available. For example, in May 2015, radio and television announcers earned a mean annual wage of $46,410, while public address systems and other announcers averaged $40,440 in the same year (www.bls.gov). Based on BLS data, the employment of public address systems and other announcers is expected to increase by 3%, which is slower than the rate for all occupations (www.onetonline.org).

Alternate Career Options

Similar career choices within this field include:

Actors and Actresses

Actors and actresses use their dramatic arts and speech skills to bring characters and scripts to life in movies, plays, television shows and other performing arts productions. Aspiring professionals without a degree in the theater arts can find classes at community colleges or film institutes. Between 2014 and 2024, employment prospects for actors and actresses are projected to increase by 10%, which is faster than the average employment rates for all occupations, according to the BLS. As of May 2015, thespians were paid an average hourly wage of $37.47 (www.bls.gov).

Writers and Authors

Writers and authors produce a variety of commercial, fiction and nonfiction works for advertising agencies, news outlets, performing arts productions or publishers. A degree in a relevant field of study and the ability to work with computer technology is usually required to obtain a salaried position; blogging, internships and on-the-job training can also help writers develop their skills. Writers and authors can expect a slower-than-average increase in employment of 2% from 2014 to 2024, as reported by the BLS. As of May 2015, writers and authors who were actively working in the field earned an average hourly wage of $33.24 or $69,130 a year (www.bls.gov).

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