Public relations specialists build and maintain a company’s public and media relations programs, with the goal of enhancing its public image. Knowledge of consumer behavior, business operations and the importance of branding are essential skills for success in this field. Enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in business administration program with a specialization in marketing is a great first step to a public relations specialist career.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that public relations specialist employment is expected to grow rapidly in coming years. An increasingly competitive and global business environment, as well as the growth of social media in public relations, will drive demand for these specialists. Competition for entry-level jobs is likely to be strong. The best opportunities should go to candidates with specialized knowledge and advanced education. Fluency in multiple languages and international experience may also provide an edge.

Public Relations Specialist Job Duties

Public relations specialists use a variety of methods to improve the image of their company or client. They may write press releases to announce new products and services, participate in community events and oversee charitable giving programs. Often, public relations specialists sponsor corporate events to enhance a firm’s visibility. They may study social, economic and political trends and make recommendations based on their findings.

Other duties include handling relations with various audiences, such as the media, local community, consumers, political organizations and government. Public relations specialists often manage communication with investors or regulatory agencies to establish and maintain positive relationships. Promoting an organization through community programs, speaking engagements, presentations and corporate sponsorships are also part of this occupation’s diverse job description.

In larger organizations, public relations specialists often report to a marketing manager, public relations manager or vice president. Smaller organizations’ public relations departments may consist of just one person – the public relations specialist, who is responsible for all aspects of the job, including planning and executing strategy, research and preparing materials for distribution. In some companies, these professionals may also be involved in advertising and marketing.

Typically, public relations specialists work in a fast-paced office environment. A 40-hour week is normal, but occasional overtime may be required. Travel to attend meetings and trade shows may also be necessary.

Potential Salary

According to the BLS, the average annual salary for public relations specialists was $59,370 in May 2009. The middle 50% earned between $38,740 and $72,180. Salaries for the lowest 10% were around $30,520, while the highest 10% brought in upwards of $96,630. Recent bachelor’s graduates will generally start out toward the lower end of the range. The top salaries usually go to public relations specialists with extensive experience and advanced education.

Education and Training

Many public relations specialists hold a bachelor’s degree in marketing, communications or business administration. Employers often expect new hires to have demonstrated skills and experience, which can be acquired through summer jobs or internship programs while pursuing a degree.

The path to a public relations specialist career can begin with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a specialization in marketing. Coursework typically includes essential business skills, principles of marketing, organizational behavior and development, and advertising management.

Employers can be confident that graduates of a business administration program with a specialization in marketing are able to:

  • Lead all aspects of a public relations campaign.
  • Understand marketing strategies for diverse international environments.
  • Implement knowledge of market segment identification and growth management.
  • Influence public perception of a company through the application of contemporary behavior and classic organizational theories.
  • Leverage advanced skills and knowledge to succeed as a public relations specialist.

Many employers offer opportunities for continuing education. It’s possible to gain an entry-level position with a bachelor’s degree and use tuition assistance to pay for a master’s degree.

Essential Attributes for Public Relations Specialist Career Success

Public relations specialists need broad knowledge and sharp skills in order to obtain the best job opportunities. They must have excellent verbal and written communication talents, strong organizational skills and the ability to remain calm under pressure. Public relations specialists also need strong analytical and decision-making skills, and the fortitude to work in a challenging, fast-paced environment. If you possess these qualities and are confident and articulate, a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a specialization in marketing could put you on the path to a successful public relations specialist career.

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