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Public Relations Careers, Jobs and Training Information

Public Relations Career and Job Highlights

  • Entry-level jobs will be the most competitive as employment rates grow faster than occupational averages.
  • Graduates a public relations or communications-related degree have the best chances for job placement.
  • Interpersonal skills are essential

Public Relations Career Overview

The success of an organization depends on how the public perceives and supports its objectives. Public relations, or communications, specialists represent organizations, businesses, universities, and other nonprofit associations to the public in order to build positive relations. These workers advise the organization on appropriate policies that will be serve the public well.

Public relations specialists organize public relations programs on behalf of the organization they represent. Community, industry, governmental, consumer, and media relations are some of the many areas in which they work. They may also work in conflict mediation; interest-group representation; investor and employee relations; and political campaigns. Public relations include both informing the public about the organization and understanding the perceptions and concerns of various groups in order to form a mutual adaptation. They form relationships with community, labor, media, and other interest group representatives in order to establish effective communication links.

It is essential that public relations specialist’s be able to effectively communicate organizations policies to public interest groups. They must then inform the organization of both general and specific public concerns.

Media specialists write press releases for the media to use in TV, radio, newspaper, and magazine reports. Subjects of these reports range from an organization’s policies to various public health, environment, or energy issues.

Public affairs specialists organize programs that allow the public and an organization to stay connected. This includes organizing speaking events. These specialists represent organizations at community events; makes media presentations school assemblies and meetings; and organize conventions. They also prepare reports and project proposals.

Government public relations specialists inform the public about the activity of the respective agency they represent. Public affairs specialists for the U.S. Department of State, for example, inform the public on official U.S. foreign policy decisions, while a press secretary for a member of the House of Representatives informs regional constituencies of the doings of their elected representative.

Larger organizations may have a public relations executive to oversee all of the organization’s plan strategies. Public affairs departments have workers research, prepare documents, respond to public inquiries, and maintain positive contacts.

Often publicists who work for a small organization or individual oversee all areas covering public relations. This includes advertising, promotions, marketing, and material research and preparation.

Public Relations Training and Job Qualifications

Anyone with adequate preparation can become a public relations specialist. Employers recommend having experience, perhaps through an internship, and strong interpersonal skills. Many specialists have achieved a degree in communications, advertising, journalism, or public relations before entry into their career, while others have worked in print or electronic journalism. An employer may seek an individual with specialized skills relating to a particular area within a business, such as health, information technology, engineering, finance, sales, or science.

Most colleges have bachelor’s degree programs in public relations or communications. Courses include topics on public relations management, principles and techniques, writing and reporting, visual and media communications, and social science research. Other helpful courses include those in psychology, political science, sociology, finance, writing, and business administration. Also, programs typically offer specialty routes in government or business.

Colleges usually assist students with finding internships that help them gain practical training and experience. The Public Relations Student Society of America, the International Association of Business Communicators, and the U.S. Armed Forces are three places where a student can make positive long-term job contacts. Students are also encouraged to maintain a portfolio of accomplished work for presentation to employers. One can often gain experience and material for portfolios through involvement in school publications and station broadcasts.

Important qualities for a potential public relations specialist to have are creativity, good decision-making and problem solving abilities, research skills, and solid communication abilities. Generally, specialists are outgoing, enthusiastic, and confident with other people. They should be able to work effectively in a team while maintaining an independent drive to be the best.

Some larger organizations have employees pass through official training programs while organizations with smaller staffs usually just entry-workers learn from their superiors. New employees usually perform smaller tasks, such as scanning and filing media reports or gathering material for speeches. They may perform secretary work or act as an escort for guests and clients. After some experience is gained, they will begin writing reports, speeches, or press releases. Employees in larger firms usually specialize in a certain area without having to perform the many tasks associated with employees in small firms.

Accreditation programs exist for public relations specialists who have passed through certain time and examination processes. The International Association of Business Communicator offers accreditation programs in specialized communications fields. One must pass an oral and written test after having 5 years of experience. They must then submit portfolio with a collection of their work in order to gain the Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) title. Such accreditation and recognition helps job candidates to be competitive in finding a job.

After public relations specialists demonstrate competency in their field, they can usually advance to higher supervisory positions. Entry-level workers are usually an account coordinator or research assistant. They can advance to becoming a senior account executive, manager, and upwards to vice-president of the firm. Similar routes exist within corporate firms. Some public relations specialists may even form a consulting firm on their own.

Public Relations Job and Employment Opportunities

Career entry will continue to be highly competitive as many people are attracted to the high-levels of notoriety and public recognition associated with it. The most qualified individuals will have a college degree in communications, public relations, or journalism, in addition to having succeeded in an internship.

Employments rates are projected to rise faster than the overall occupational average. As the business field becomes more competitive there will be a greater need for specialists with the specialized skills necessary to accommodate a wide-range of business ventures and styles. A company’s success depends on its relationship with the public it serves, and greater future emphasis is likely to be placed on building stronger relationships of trust.

Employment is also likely to rise as firms seek to contract out work instead of hiring regular staffs. Also, replacement needs from employee transfers will result in greater opportunities.

Historical Earnings Information

In 2002, approximate annual salaries ranged from $24,000 for the bottom ten percent to $75,000 for the top ten percent. Average middle earnings were between $31,000 and $56,000. These earnings vary according to the industry, with advertising industries experiencing the highest earnings, and education industries the lowest. The Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators estimated that annual middle earnings in 2002 were close to $69,000.