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How to Become a Public Relations Specialist

Public relations specialists help organizations spread their voice, vision, and message throughout the world using a range of communications platforms. To qualify for this role, candidates should have outstanding interpersonal, writing, problem-solving, speaking, and organizational skills. The first step for anyone interested in becoming a public relations specialist, or PR specialist, is to earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as communication, public relations, journalism, or business. All of these majors incorporate the skills it takes to be an effective PR specialist, but the bachelor’s in communication may be the ideal option for some students.

Two public relations professionals sit together at a table by a window looking at a laptop

What Does a Public Relations Specialist Do?

PR specialists work to spread an organization’s message to the public and create and cultivate a positive public image for the organization. They strive to shape public perception of their employer and to keep the public aware of their work and goals. They accomplish this by effectively communicating with the media, which includes preparing reports and responding to information requests from the press.

PR specialists are also tasked with communicating directly with the public to help clients maintain a positive image and a well-crafted public identity. They provide media training, craft speeches and arrange interviews for executives and other representatives to keep the organization in the forefront of the public’s mind. PR specialists also evaluate the organization’s advertising and promotions to ensure that they align with public relations efforts. They regularly monitor their organization’s public reputation on social media and other emerging platforms. Crisis management is another key component of PR specialists’ duties. If there is any sort of external or internal event where the company or its employees become the subject of heavy media attention, PR specialists may implement strategies to address the public while maintaining their organization’s integrity. Additionally, PR specialists may participate in developing and enacting plans regarding larger global and social issues, helping to reflect a company’s values and further maintain positive public perception.

Steps to Become a Public Relations Specialist

There are a number of paths that can lead to employment as a public relations specialist, depending on which types of organizations and responsibilities most interest you. Maintaining a strong understanding of communication strategy is essential at each step of the journey toward a PR career.

Education and Internships

If you’re interested in exploring how to become a public relations specialist, one of the first steps you should take is to consider your potential academic routes. PR specialists typically have completed a bachelor’s degree in a field related to communications, such as an online Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

Many also pursue internships at PR firms during their college years to learn more about the specifics of the industry and to see if it is the right fit. PR interns tend to focus their efforts on a specific industry that interests them, such as fashion, food, or entertainment. Potential PR specialists should also get a feel for whether they would like to work for multiple organizations in an agency setting or narrow their scope and focus on working with a single company.

Professional Experience

There is no substitute for on-the-job experience. As public relations specialists gain more experience, their salaries often increase as well. Employers typically look for applicants with two to five years of job experience when considering entry-level public relations specialists, and candidates with a bachelor’s in communication degree are often desirable to potential employers. In particular, communication majors are often trained to stay up-to-date with media trends, which is especially useful in a public relations career.

Building a Network

Networking with well-connected people is another important consideration, both for aspiring PR specialists and veterans in the field. The larger a person’s network, the easier it may be for them to find a job in a competitive market. Organizations like the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) offer members networking opportunities and skills training.

Public Relations Specialist Salaries

The median salary for public relations specialists is $59,300, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Many factors can affect this number, including experience, location, education, and training. The more job experience public relations specialists have, the better their chances of increasing their earnings over time.

Future Growth of Public Relations Specialist Jobs

As organizations use new types of communication channels to get their messages out to their local and global audiences, they will have a growing need to connect with the public in effective and meaningful ways. In 2016, the BLS projected a 9 percent increase in public relations specialist jobs from that year through 2026, slightly higher than the expected 7 percent gain for all occupations.

Learn More About Careers in Communication

As brands invest more resources to communicate with the public across a range of emerging and established platforms, they need talented public relations specialists to craft influential messaging that resonates with target audiences. The online bachelor’s in communication program at Maryville University helps students develop the skills they may need to become a public relations specialist and thrive in this dynamic career. Visit the program website to learn more about the degree and read about courses that could be a good fit for future PR strategists.

Sources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Public Relations Specialists

Forbes, “Five Things Everyone Should Know About Public Relations”

Forbes, “10 Emerging Public Relations Job Trends”

Maryville University, Careers with a Communication Bachelor’s Degree

Maryville University, Online Bachelor of Arts in Communication