Public Relations Careers: Job Descriptions & Salary Info

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Learn about careers in public relations. Get job descriptions, salary and education requirement information. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a public relations career.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Public Relations

Professionals who work in the field of public relations use their writing and communications skills to help build a positive image for their employers, whether by creating press releases, promotions or ad campaigns. There are many careers in the field of public relations requiring similar skill sets, three of which include public relations specialist, advertising and promotions manager and editor. Below is a brief outline of these career options:

Public Relations Specialist Advertising and Promotions Manager Editor
Career Overview Public relations specialists establish a positive image for their clients by using strategic communications techniques.Advertising and promotions managers coordinate ad campaigns and incentives designed to boost product sales and generate interest. Editors fact-check and proofread written content. They can also hire writers and select content for publication.
Education Requirements Bachelor's degreeBachelor's degreeBachelor's degree
Program Length 4 years, full time4 years, full time 4 years, full time
Certification Optional credentials include the Public Relations Society of America's (PRSA) Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation and the International Association of Business Communicators' (IABC) Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) credential. A voluntary Trained Advertising Specialist (CAS) credential is available through Promotional Products Association International (PPAI). None available
Experience Requirement 3-5 years of public relations or communications-related work experience Around 5 years of previous work experience in such fields as promotions, marketing, advertising or sales 4-6 years of publishing or editing experience
Job Outlook for 2012-2022Average growth (12%)*Slower-than-average growth (7%)*Little to no change (-2%)*
Average Salary (2014)Roughly $64,000*Roughly $115,000* Roughly $64,000*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Public Relations Specialist

Public relations specialists work to maintain the reputation of their clients by disseminating information to the media and maintaining brand identities. Common job duties include writing press releases, responding to media inquiries and keeping Web and social media outlets up-to-date. They could even be responsible for taking on these tasks simultaneously.

Public relations specialists usually work in the offices of government agencies, nonprofit organizations and private corporations. They might also be required to travel to press events and community meetings. With enough experience, these professionals can advance to positions as public relations managers.

Requirements

Most employers require public relations specialists to hold a bachelor's degree. To prepare for this career, you might choose to study communications, journalism or business. Some schools even offer majors or specializations in public relations that include writing, media relations, research and ethics courses. Special topics in non-profit or government communications could be available as well.

The following are real-world examples of what they were looking for in November 2012:

  • A large international law firm in New York City sought a public relations specialist who could create press releases, stories and social media feeds. Strong written and oral communications skills, the ability to multitask and an attention to detail were among the required attributes. Applicants also needed 4 years of experience; those with a bachelor's degree in communications were preferred.
  • A technology security company in St. Paul, Minnesota, advertised for a public relations specialist with a bachelor's degree and at least 3 years of experience. Other requirements included a familiarity with social media and the ability to work well under deadlines.
  • A North Carolina health care system sought a public relations specialist with the interpersonal and organizational skills needed to implement marketing and public relations strategies. A bachelor's degree and 5 years of related experience were required.

Standing Out

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) explains that earning its Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation can help professionals advance in the field and earn higher pay. To earn this credential, you'll need to pass an exam and pay a fee. You can also earn the Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) designation from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) after submitting a portfolio and passing written and oral examinations.

Advertising and Promotions Manager

Advertising and promotions managers design ad campaigns and incentives to increase product sales and enhance the visibility of their clients. They may manage budgets, create rebate and discount programs or oversee the development of print and multimedia advertising. Professionals in this field can work for advertising agencies and public relations firms or directly for their organization as in-house advertising or promotions managers.

Requirements

Most advertising and promotions managers have a bachelor's degree and some experience in the field. Common areas of study include communications, journalism and advertising. Coursework for these majors could include topics in visual communications, persuasion and ethics.

Here's what employers were seeking in November 2012:

  • An insurance brokerage in Michigan sought an advertising manager with e-marketing and social media experience. Organizational, customer service and leadership skills were required along with a bachelor's degree and 5 years of experience.
  • In Illinois, a weekly publication wanted a promotions manager with written and oral communications skills and the ability to attend events outside of normal business hours. Applicants with a degree and proficiency in such software as Photoshop and InDesign were preferred.
  • A casino in Rhode Island advertised for a promotions manager with the ability to multi-task and meet deadlines. Up to 5 years of experience and a familiarity with promotions management software used in the gaming industry were required.

Standing Out

The BLS reports that advertising managers who're familiar with internet platforms could face the best employment prospects. Similarly, demand for promotions managers was expected to be driven by the increasing use of digital media. While enrolled in your bachelor's degree program, consider taking electives to develop your software and Web publishing skills.

You might also want to think about joining a professional organization. The American Advertising Federation provides members with access to networking opportunities and trade publications. Voluntary certification could also help set you apart from other job applicants. Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) offers an entry-level Trained Advertising Specialist (CAS) designation to candidates who've completed the organization's training courses.

Editor

Editors review and revise written materials. They may check facts, work with writers, produce layouts and determine a publication's direction or content. A variety of editing positions are available, including assistant, executive and copy editor. Most work in offices, but those in freelance positions often work from home. Potential employers range from newspapers and schools to magazines and public relations firms. Meeting deadlines and managing several projects at once can make editing a highly stressful job. Many in these positions work long hours.

Requirements

A bachelor's degree is generally required to become an editor. Majors in communications, journalism or English cover relevant subjects, such as writing, mass communications and reporting.

Because more content is being delivered on the Web, editors also need a knowledge of electronic publishing and design. Experience is another typical requirement; many begin their careers as journalists or writers.

Here's a sampling of editor job ads posted by employers in November 2012:

  • A magazine aimed at readers in Detroit, MI, advertised for an editor to manage writers and editors, plan content and proofread. A degree in journalism or a related field and 4-6 years of experience were required.
  • A communications company working in Tennessee's healthcare industry sought an editor who could help develop marketing content and monitor copywriters. Candidates needed the ability to travel, multitask and meet tight deadlines. A bachelor's degree and 5 or more years of experience in such fields as publishing or public relations were also required.
  • In Chicago, an education services company sought a senior editor to prepare digital content, collaborate with the design and sales departments, manage project deadlines and maintain client relationships. Applicants needed 4 years of editing experience in addition to a bachelor's degree.

Standing out

Get a head start on earning the industry experience you'll need for a career in this field by working for publications associated with your high school or college. Bachelor's degree programs can also offer internship opportunities with local media outlets. If you're interested in working in a niche market, like fashion or technology, you might consider gaining experience in these fields, too.

Knowledge of layout and Web publishing can be helpful as well, since more newspapers and magazines are working to build their online presence. Look for electives that can teach you how to use software like Flash and Dreamweaver to create and manage Web content.

Popular Schools

  • Campus and Online Programs
    1. Full Sail University

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      • M.S. - Public Relations
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
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      • B.S. - Media Communications
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    2. Colorado Technical University

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    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Administration - Marketing
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    3. Seton Hall University

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      • Master of Business Administration - Marketing
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      • Certificate: Post Conflict State Reconstruction and Sustainability
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    4. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
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    5. American University

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    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
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    Certificate
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Featured Schools

Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Public Relations
  • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • B.S. - Media Communications
  • B.S. - Music Business

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Colorado Technical University

  • BS - Business Administration - Marketing
  • BS - Business Administration - Digital Marketing

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Seton Hall University

  • Master of Business Administration - Marketing
  • Certificate: Post Conflict State Reconstruction and Sustainability

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

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American University

  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration

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Grand Canyon University

  • DBA with an Emphasis in Marketing
  • MBA: Marketing
  • BS in Marketing

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