Occupation Profile for Public Relations Specialists

Engage in promoting or creating good will for individuals, groups, or organizations by writing or selecting favorable publicity material and releasing it through various communications media. May prepare and arrange displays, and make speeches.


Significant Points

  • Although employment is projected to grow faster than average, keen competition is expected for entry-level jobs.
  • Opportunities should be best for college graduates who combine a degree in public relations, journalism, or another communications-related field with a public relations internship or other related work experience.
  • The ability to communicate effectively is essential.


$47,350.00 Median Annual Wage 6,000 Average Job Openings Per Year
2.5 Average Unemployment Percentage 5.3 Percentage That Completed High School
243,000 Employment Numbers in 2006 13.9 Percentage That Had Some College
286,000 Employment Numbers in 2016 (est.) 80.8 Percentage That Went Beyond College Degree

Sample Job Titles
Account Executive
Account Supervisor
Audience Coordinator
Campaign Manager
Communications Director
Communications Manager
Community Relations Manager
Concert Promoter
Consumer Advocate
Corporate Communications Director
Event Promoter
Image Consultant
Information and Communications Specialist
Information Specialist
Manager, Publications
Marketing Director
Media Outreach Coordinator
Media Planner
Media Relations Specialist
Motivational Speaker
Music Publicist
Political Advisor
Political Aide
Press Agent
Press Secretary
Promotion Specialist
Public Affairs Officer
Public Affairs Specialist
Public Information Officer
Public Relations Account Executive
Public Relations Assistant
Public Relations Consultant
Public Relations Coordinator
Public Relations Counselor
Public Relations Officer
Public Relations Representative
Public Relations Specialist (PR Specialist)
Publicity Agent
Publicity Consultant
Publicity Expert
Publicity Person
Publicity Writer
Relationship Manager
Sales, Service Promoter
Secretary, Press
Shelter Advocate
Speech Writer
Sports Information Director

  • Many of these occupations involve coordinating, supervising, managing, or training others. Examples include accountants, human resource managers, computer programmers, teachers, chemists, and police detectives.
  • Most of these occupations require a four - year bachelor's degree, but some do not.
  • A minimum of two to four years of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is needed for these occupations. For example, an accountant must complete four years of college and work for several years in accounting to be considered qualified.
  • Employees in these occupations usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.

There are no defined standards for entry into a public relations career. A college degree in a communications-related field combined with public relations experience is excellent preparation for public relations work.

Education and training. Many entry-level public relations specialists have a college degree in public relations, journalism, advertising, or communication. Some firms seek college graduates who have worked in electronic or print journalism. Other employers seek applicants with demonstrated communication skills and training or experience in a field related to the firm’s business—information technology, health care, science, engineering, sales, or finance, for example.

Many colleges and universities offer bachelor’s and postsecondary degrees in public relations, usually in a journalism or communications department. In addition, many other colleges offer at least one course in this field. A common public relations sequence includes courses in public relations principles and techniques; public relations management and administration, including organizational development; writing, emphasizing news releases, proposals, annual reports, scripts, speeches, and related items; visual communications, including desktop publishing and computer graphics; and research, emphasizing social science research and survey design and implementation. Courses in advertising, journalism, business administration, finance, political science, psychology, sociology, and creative writing also are helpful. Specialties are offered in public relations for business, government, and nonprofit organizations.

Many colleges help students gain part-time internships in public relations that provide valuable experience and training. Membership in local chapters of the Public Relations Student Society of America (affiliated with the Public Relations Society of America) or in student chapters of the International Association of Business Communicators provides an opportunity for students to exchange views with public relations specialists and to make professional contacts that may help them find a job in the field. A portfolio of published articles, television or radio programs, slide presentations, and other work is an asset in finding a job. Writing for a school publication or television or radio station provides valuable experience and material for one’s portfolio.

Some organizations, particularly those with large public relations staffs, have formal training programs for new employees. In smaller organizations, new employees work under the guidance of experienced staff members. Beginners often maintain files of material about company activities, scan newspapers and magazines for appropriate articles to clip, and assemble information for speeches and pamphlets. They also may answer calls from the press and the public, work on invitation lists and details for press conferences, or escort visitors and clients. After gaining experience, they write news releases, speeches, and articles for publication or plan and carry out public relations programs. Public relations specialists in smaller firms usually get all-around experience, whereas those in larger firms tend to be more specialized.

Other qualifications. Public relations specialists must show creativity, initiative, and good judgment and have the ability to communicate thoughts clearly and simply. Decision-making, problem-solving, and research skills also are important. People who choose public relations as a career need an outgoing personality, self-confidence, an understanding of human psychology, and an enthusiasm for motivating people. They should be competitive, yet able to function as part of a team and be open to new ideas.

Certification and advancement. The Universal Accreditation Board accredits public relations specialists who are members of the Public Relations Society of America and who participate in the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations process. This process includes both a readiness review and an examination, which are designed for candidates who have at least 5 years of full-time work or teaching experience in public relations and who have earned a bachelor’s degree in a communications-related field. The readiness review includes a written submission by each candidate, a portfolio review, and dialogue between the candidate and a three-member panel. Candidates who successfully advance through readiness review and pass the computer-based examination earn the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation.

The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) also has an accreditation program for professionals in the communications field, including public relations specialists. Those who meet all the requirements of the program earn the Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) designation. Candidates must have at least 5 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree in a communications field and must pass written and oral examinations. They also must submit a portfolio of work samples demonstrating involvement in a range of communications projects and a thorough understanding of communications planning.

Employers may consider professional recognition through accreditation as a sign of competence in this field, which could be especially helpful in a competitive job market.

Promotion to supervisory jobs may come to public relations specialists who show that they can handle more demanding assignments. In public relations firms, a beginner might be hired as a research assistant or account coordinator and be promoted to account executive, senior account executive, account manager, and eventually vice president. A similar career path is followed in corporate public relations, although the titles may differ.

Some experienced public relations specialists start their own consulting firms. (For more information on public relations managers, see the Handbook statement on advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers.)

Nature of Work

An organization’s reputation, profitability, and even its continued existence can depend on the degree to which its targeted publics support its goals and policies. Public relations specialists—also referred to as communications specialists and media specialists, among other titles—serve as advocates for businesses, nonprofit associations, universities, hospitals, and other organizations, and build and maintain positive relationships with the public. As managers recognize the importance of good public relations to the success of their organizations, they increasingly rely on public relations specialists for advice on the strategy and policy of such programs.

Public relations specialists handle organizational functions such as media, community, consumer, industry, and governmental relations; political campaigns; interest-group representation; conflict mediation; and employee and investor relations. They do more than tell the organization’s story. They must understand the attitudes and concerns of community, consumer, employee, and public interest groups and establish and maintain cooperative relationships with them and with representatives from print and broadcast journalism.

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. Sometimes the subject is an organization and its policies toward its employees or its role in the community. Often the subject is a public issue, such as health, energy, or the environment, and what an organization does to advance that issue.

Public relations specialists also arrange and conduct programs to keep up contact between organization representatives and the public. For example, they set up speaking engagements and often prepare speeches for company officials. These media specialists represent employers at community projects; make film, slide, or other visual presentations at meetings and school assemblies; and plan conventions. In addition, they are responsible for preparing annual reports and writing proposals for various projects.

In government, public relations specialists—who may be called press secretaries, information officers, public affairs specialists, or communication specialists—keep the public informed about the activities of agencies and officials. For example, public affairs specialists in the U.S. Department of State keep the public informed of travel advisories and of U.S. positions on foreign issues. A press secretary for a member of Congress keeps constituents aware of the representative’s accomplishments.

In large organizations, the key public relations executive, who often is a vice president, may develop overall plans and policies with other executives. In addition, public relations departments employ public relations specialists to write, research, prepare materials, maintain contacts, and respond to inquiries.

People who handle publicity for an individual or who direct public relations for a small organization may deal with all aspects of the job. They contact people, plan and research, and prepare materials for distribution. They also may handle advertising or sales promotion work to support marketing efforts.

Work environment. Public relations specialists work in busy offices. The pressures of deadlines and tight work schedules can be stressful.

Some public relations specialists work a standard 35- to 40-hour week, but unpaid overtime is common and work schedules can be irregular and frequently interrupted. Occasionally, they must be at the job or on call around the clock, especially if there is an emergency or crisis. Schedules often have to be rearranged so that workers can meet deadlines, deliver speeches, attend meetings and community activities, and travel.

Related Occupations

Sources: Career Guide to Industries (CGI), Occupational Information Network (O*Net), Occupation Outlook Handbook (OOH)

Median annual earnings for salaried public relations specialists were $47,350 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $35,600 and $65,310; the lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,080, and the top 10 percent earned more than $89,220. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of public relations specialists in May 2006 were:

Management of companies and enterprises $52,940
Business, professional, labor, political, and similar organizations 51,400
Advertising and related services 49,980
Local government 47,550
Colleges, universities, and professional schools 43,330

For the latest wage information:

The above wage data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey program, unless otherwise noted. For the latest National, State, and local earnings data, visit the following pages:

  • Public relations specialists
  • Job Outlook

    Employment is projected to grow faster than average; however, keen competition is expected for entry-level jobs.

    Employment change. Employment of public relations specialists is expected to grow by 18 percent from 2006 to 2016, faster than average for all occupations. The need for good public relations in an increasingly competitive business environment should spur demand for these workers in organizations of all types and sizes. Those with additional language capabilities also are in great demand.

    Employment in public relations firms should grow as firms hire contractors to provide public relations services rather than support full-time staff.

    Among detailed industries, the largest job growth will continue to be in advertising and related services.

    Job prospects. Keen competition likely will continue for entry-level public relations jobs, as the number of qualified applicants is expected to exceed the number of job openings. Many people are attracted to this profession because of the high profile nature of the work. Opportunities should be best for college graduates who combine a degree in journalism, public relations, advertising, or another communications-related field with a public relations internship or other related work experience. Applicants without the appropriate educational background or work experience will face the toughest obstacles.

    Additional job opportunities should result from the need to replace public relations specialists who retire or leave the occupation for other reasons.


    Public relations specialists held about 243,000 jobs in 2006. They are concentrated in service-providing industries such as advertising and related services; health care and social assistance; educational services; and government. Others work for communications firms, financial institutions, and government agencies.

    Public relations specialists are concentrated in large cities, where press services and other communications facilities are readily available and many businesses and trade associations have their headquarters. Many public relations consulting firms, for example, are in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, DC. There is a trend, however, for public relations jobs to be dispersed throughout the Nation, closer to clients.

    • Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
    • Engineering and Technology — Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
    • Sales and Marketing — Knowledge of principles and methods for showing, promoting, and selling products or services. This includes marketing strategy and tactics, product demonstration, sales techniques, and sales control systems.
    • Medicine and Dentistry — Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
    • Physics — Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.
    • Equipment Maintenance — Performing routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
    • Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
    • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
    • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
    • Troubleshooting — Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
    • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
    • Stamina — The ability to exert yourself physically over long periods of time without getting winded or out of breath.
    • Explosive Strength — The ability to use short bursts of muscle force to propel oneself (as in jumping or sprinting), or to throw an object.
    • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
    • Hearing Sensitivity — The ability to detect or tell the differences between sounds that vary in pitch and loudness.
    • Core — Consult with advertising agencies or staff to arrange promotional campaigns in all types of media for products, organizations, or individuals.
    • Core — Coach client representatives in effective communication with the public and with employees.
    • Core — Prepare and deliver speeches to further public relations objectives.
    • Supplemental — Purchase advertising space and time as required to promote client's product or agenda.
    • Core — Prepare or edit organizational publications for internal and external audiences, including employee newsletters and stockholders' reports.
    • Monitoring and Controlling Resources — Monitoring and controlling resources and overseeing the spending of money.
    • Guiding, Directing, and Motivating Subordinates — Providing guidance and direction to subordinates, including setting performance standards and monitoring performance.
    • Assisting and Caring for Others — Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
    • Repairing and Maintaining Electronic Equipment — Servicing, repairing, calibrating, regulating, fine-tuning, or testing machines, devices, and equipment that operate primarily on the basis of electrical or electronic (not mechanical) principles.
    • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
    Related College Curriculum
    Featured Online Colleges
    For more online colleges, click here.
    Colleges Offering Curriculum

    1164 Public Relations Specialist Jobs Found

    Canon Solutions America is a Canon U.S.A. Company providing integrated systems technology that comprise one of the strongest solutions portfolios i...
    Canon Solutions America - NY - Melville - posted 21 days ago
    Job Classification: Contract One of our best and long-standing clients, a Fortune 100 professional services firm, is seeking a Public Relations Spe...
    Paladin - VA - Arlington - posted 28 days ago
    Canon U.S.A., Inc., is a leading provider of consumer, business-to-business, and industrial digital imaging solutions to the United States and to L...
    Canon U.S.A., Inc. - Melville - posted 26 days ago
    RESPONSIBILITIES: Kforce has a client in Tampa, FL that is seeking a Public Relations Specialist for their internal team. Summary: This position is...
    Kforce Finance and Accounting - FL - Tampa - posted 5 days ago
    Req ID: 157442 Join one of the World’s Most Admired Companies! Founded in 1948, Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing f...
    Robert Half - CA - Menlo Park - posted 23 days ago
    Position: Sr. Public Relations Specialist Location: Minneapolis Status: Full Time Estimated Duration: Full Time Starts: October Rate: Up to $70,000...
    Creative Circle - Minneapolis - posted 21 days ago
    GENERAL SUMMARY Seeking a PR Specialist who loves to interact with celebrities, plan big media events and has top travel media contacts on speed di...
    Caesars Entertainment Corporation - Las Vegas - posted 1 day ago
    Kforce is one of the premier leaders in the staffing industry, where Great People = Great ResultsSM. For over 50 years we’ve thrived on building re...
    Kforce - FL - Tampa - posted 13 days ago
    Position: Public Relations Specialist **Matthews, NC** Location: Charlotte Status: Freelance Estimated Duration: Ongoing Starts: Within 2-3 Weeks R...
    Creative Circle - Matthews - posted 7 days ago
    FFB is the largest nongovernmental supporter ofretinal degeneration research in the world. Our mission is dedicated to finding preventions, treatme...
    Foundation Fighting Blindness - MD - Columbia - posted 11 days ago

    More Public Relations Specialist Job Results...