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
2012 Median Pay $54,170 per year
$26.04 per hour
Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 229,100
Job Outlook, 2012-22 12% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 27,400

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 $54,170 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of public relations specialists is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be driven by the need for organizations to maintain their public image. Candidates can expect strong competition for jobs at advertising and public relations firms and organizations with large media exposure.

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 About this section

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

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 with regard to that issue.

In addition to publication through traditional media outlets, press releases are increasingly being sent through the Internet and social media.

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 About this section

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

Public relations specialists held about 229,100 jobs in 2012.

The industries that employed the most public relations specialists in 2012 were as follows: 

Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations20%
Advertising, public relations, and related services14
Educational services; state, local, and private12
Government9
Health care and social assistance8

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 About this section

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 About this section

Public Relations Specialists

Median annual wages, May 2012

Public relations specialists

$54,170

Media and communication workers

$50,930

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for public relations specialists was $54,170 in May 2012. 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 $30,760, and the top 10 percent earned more than $101,030.

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

Job Outlook About this section

Public Relations Specialists

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Public relations specialists

12%

Total, all occupations

11%

Media and communication workers

8%

 

Employment of public relations specialists is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, 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.

Increased 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, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Public relations specialists

27-3031 229,100 256,500 12 27,400 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

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 Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Editors

Editors

Editors plan, review, and revise content for publication.

Bachelor’s degree $53,880
Writers and authors

Writers and Authors

Writers and authors develop written content for advertisements, books, magazines, movie and television scripts, songs, and online publications.

Bachelor’s degree $55,940
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 $60,300
Meeting, convention, and event planners

Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners

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

Bachelor’s degree $45,810
Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

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

Bachelor’s degree $115,750
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 $46,290
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 $61,370
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 $57,870
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 $95,450
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Public Relations Specialists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/public-relations-specialists.htm (visited July 23, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014