Public Relations Specialists

Summary

public relations specialists image
Public relations specialists design media releases to shape public perception of their organization.
Quick Facts: Public Relations Specialists
2014 Median Pay $55,680 per year
$26.77 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 240,700
Job Outlook, 2014-24 6% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 14,900

What Public Relations Specialists Do

Public relations specialists create and maintain a favorable public image for the organization they represent. They design media releases to shape public perception of their organization and to increase awareness of its work and goals.

Work Environment

Public relations specialists usually work in offices. Some attend community activities. Long workdays are common, as is overtime.

How to Become a Public Relations Specialist

Public relations specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree in public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business.

Pay

The median annual wage for public relations specialists was $55,680 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of public relations specialists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The need for organizations to maintain their public image will continue to drive employment growth. Candidates can expect strong competition for jobs at advertising and public relations firms and organizations with large media exposure.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for public relations specialists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of public relations specialists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about public relations specialists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Public Relations Specialists Do

public relations specialists image
Public relations specialists evaluate advertising and promotion programs.

Public relations specialists create and maintain a favorable public image for the organization they represent. They design media releases to shape public perception of their organization and to increase awareness of its work and goals. 

Duties

Public relations specialists typically do the following:

  • Write press releases and prepare information for the media
  • Respond to information requests from the media
  • Help clients communicate effectively with the public
  • Help maintain their organization's corporate image and identity
  • Draft speeches and arrange interviews for an organization’s top executives
  • Evaluate advertising and promotion programs to determine whether they are compatible with their organization’s public relations efforts
  • Evaluate public opinion of clients through social media

Public relations specialists, also called communications specialists and media specialists, handle an organization’s communication with the public, including consumers, investors, reporters, and other media specialists. In government, public relations specialists may be called press secretaries. In this setting, workers keep the public informed about the activities of government officials and agencies.

Public relations specialists draft press releases and contact people in the media who might print or broadcast their material. Many radio or television special reports, newspaper stories, and magazine articles start at the desks of public relations specialists. For example, a press release might describe a public issue, such as health, energy, or the environment, and what an organization does concerning that issue.

Press releases are increasingly being sent through the Internet and social media, in addition to publication through traditional media outlets. Public relations specialists are often in charge of monitoring and responding to social media questions and concerns.

Public relations specialists are different from advertisers in that they get their stories covered by media instead of purchasing ad space in publications and on television.

Work Environment

public relations specialists image
Public relations specialists work in many different industries.

Public relations specialists held about 240,700 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most public relations specialists were as follows:

Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 22%
Professional, scientific, and technical services 21
Educational services; state, local, and private 12
Healthcare and social assistance 7
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 7

Public relations specialists usually work in offices, but they also deliver speeches, attend meetings and community activities, and occasionally travel.

Work Schedules

Most public relations specialists work full time during regular business hours. Long workdays are common, as is overtime.

How to Become a Public Relations Specialist

public relations specialists image
Public relations specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree.

Public relations specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree. Employers prefer candidates who have studied public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business.

Education

Public relations specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree in public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business. Through such programs, students produce a portfolio of work that demonstrates their ability to prospective employers.

Training

Entry-level workers typically begin by maintaining files of material about an organization’s activities, skimming and retaining relevant media articles, and assembling information for speeches and pamphlets. After gaining experience, public relations specialists begin to write news releases, speeches, articles for publication, or carry out public relations programs.

Other Experience

Internships at public relations firms or in the public relations departments of other businesses can be helpful in getting a job as a public relations specialist.

Some employers prefer candidates that have experience communicating with others through a school newspaper or a leadership position in school or in their community.

Important Qualities

Interpersonal skills. Public relations specialists deal with the public and the media regularly; therefore, they must be open and friendly to maintain a favorable image for their organization.

Organizational skills. Public relations specialists are often in charge of managing several events at the same time, requiring superior organizational skills.

Problem-solving skills. Public relations specialists sometimes must explain how a company or client is handling sensitive issues. They must use good judgment in what they report and how they report it.

Speaking skills. Public relations specialists regularly speak on behalf of their organization. When doing so, they must be able to clearly explain the organization’s position.

Writing skills. Public relations specialists must be able to write well-organized and clear press releases and speeches. They must be able to grasp the key messages they want to get across and write them in a short, succinct way to get the attention of busy readers or listeners.

Pay

Public Relations Specialists

Median annual wages, May 2014

Public relations specialists

$55,680

Media and communication workers

$52,370

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for public relations specialists was $55,680 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,190, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $105,720.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for public relations specialists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services $59,250
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 54,640
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 53,920
Educational services; state, local, and private 51,140
Healthcare and social assistance 49,700

Most public relations specialists work full time during regular business hours. Long workdays are common, as is overtime.

Job Outlook

Public Relations Specialists

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Public relations specialists

6%

Media and communication workers

4%

 

Employment of public relations specialists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Organizations will continue to emphasize community outreach and customer relations as a way to maintain and enhance their reputation and visibility. Public opinion can change quickly, particularly because both good and bad news spreads rapidly through the Internet. Consequently, public relations specialists will be needed to respond to news developments and maintain their organization’s reputation.

The growing use of social media also is expected to increase employment for public relations specialists. These media outlets will create more work for public relations specialists as they try to appeal to consumers and the general public in new ways. Public relations specialists will be needed to help their clients use these new types of social media effectively.

Job Prospects

Because many college graduates apply for the limited amount of public relations positions each year, candidates can expect strong competition for jobs.

Candidates can expect particularly strong competition at advertising firms, organizations with large media exposure, and at prestigious public relations firms.

Employment projections data for public relations specialists, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Public relations specialists

27-3031 240,700 255,600 6 14,900 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of public relations specialists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers plan programs to generate interest in products or services. They work with art directors, sales agents, and financial staff members.

Bachelor's degree $123,450
Advertising sales agents

Advertising Sales Agents

Advertising sales agents sell advertising space to businesses and individuals. They contact potential clients, make sales presentations, and maintain client accounts.

High school diploma or equivalent $47,890
Editors

Editors

Editors plan, review, and revise content for publication.

Bachelor's degree $54,890
Market research analysts

Market Research Analysts

Market research analysts study market conditions to examine potential sales of a product or service. They help companies understand what products people want, who will buy them, and at what price.

Bachelor's degree $61,290
Meeting, convention, and event planners

Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners

Meeting, convention, and event planners coordinate all aspects of events and professional meetings. They arrange meeting locations, transportation, and other details.

Bachelor's degree $46,490
Multimedia artists and animators

Multimedia Artists and Animators

Multimedia artists and animators create animation and visual effects for television, movies, video games, and other forms of media.

Bachelor's degree $63,630
Public relations managers and specialists

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

Public relations managers plan and direct the creation of material that will maintain or enhance the public image of their employer or client. Fundraising managers coordinate campaigns that bring in donations for their organization.

Bachelor's degree $101,510
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. They contact customers, explain product features, answer any questions that their customers may have, and negotiate prices.

See How to Become One $58,380
Writers and authors

Writers and Authors

Writers and authors develop written content for advertisements, books, magazines, movie and television scripts, songs, blogs, or other types of media.

Bachelor's degree $58,850
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Public Relations Specialists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/public-relations-specialists.htm (visited February 14, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015