A public relations specialist, sometimes called a communications or media specialist, works to promote good will and a positive image for individuals, corporations or associations. They are also responsible for keeping the public informed about their clients' goals, initiatives, policies and business endeavors. Many companies have public relations departments, but there are also public relations firms with specialists for hire by industry, governmental bodies, nonprofit organizations, small businesses or individuals.
A public relations specialist works both inside and outside the office promoting their clients' needs. The specialist may arrange speaking engagements, and plan and present news conferences, meetings and conventions and fundraising initiatives. They may write news releases, fact sheets and magazine articles, or develop and produce video or film projects promoting their client's image. A specialist is also likely to conduct interviews on the phone or in person with members of the media.
Successful public relations specialists have earned a college degree in communications, journalism or public relations. A strong background in the liberal arts is desired, but college courses in business, public speaking, psychology and advertising are also beneficial. Some companies hiring for public relations positions look for candidates with some educational experience in the industry in which they'll be working, i.e. finance or government. It is not considered a requirement for work in public relations, but a public relations specialist can be accredited if they are members of the Public Relations Society of America and participate in the accreditation process.
Some companies and public relations companies hire candidates with backgrounds in print or broadcast journalism. A background as a speechwriter, project coordinator or writer, or experience in public speaking, are pluses.
Any job experience that shows the candidate as having strong people skills, enthusiasm, self-confidence and creativity will be beneficial.
According to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor (2008), public relations specialists hold more than 275,000 jobs. Many of the positions are in service-oriented industries such as health care, education and government. Most public relations workers are in larger cities, with many of the public relations firms headquartered in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Employment for PR specialists is expected to grow by 24 percent through 2018, with a particular need for specialists with experience in global industries and foreign languages.
The average salary for public relations specialists is $51,280 annually, according to the latest available statistics (2008) from the U.S. Department of Labor. But top earners in the field can make yearly incomes of close to $100,000. The salaries for specialists who work in private industry are generally higher than PR workers in government or education.
2016 Salary Information for Public Relations Specialists
Public relations specialists earned a median annual salary of $58,020 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, public relations specialists earned a 25th percentile salary of $42,450, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $79,650, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 259,600 people were employed in the U.S. as public relations specialists.