How Do I Become a Public Relations Specialist?

K. Testa

To become a public relations specialist, one usually needs a combination of academic credentials and practical expertise in the area of public relations (PR). This person is generally hired by an organization to be responsible for its public image. Examples of helpful PR experience can include a background in communications, journalism, marketing, or a related field. Regardless of the educational level attained — whether it's an associate's, bachelor’s or master’s degree — an ideal job candidate will also usually have completed a relevant internship or obtained other practical work experience. In addition to specific academic and professional qualifications, someone hoping to become a public relations specialist also typically requires certain traits such as a creative, outgoing personality, and the ability to handle detail-oriented work under pressure.

A degree in communications or journalism can help an individual become a public relations specialist.
A degree in communications or journalism can help an individual become a public relations specialist.

Often a link between a business and the community, a public relations specialist is typically responsible for creating or promoting an organization’s image. He or she might work for one agency or for several types of organizations. Some potential employers include for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. The employee’s duties may vary in accordance with the primary goals of the organization, which could include, for instance, administering programs, raising money, or performing some other public service. Depending on the organization’s focus, a PR specialist may have special training or knowledge of a particular business niche.

The ability to perform detail-oriented work under pressure is crucial for becoming a public relations specialist.
The ability to perform detail-oriented work under pressure is crucial for becoming a public relations specialist.

Since public relations specialists often work with the media, the position requires good communication skills and the ability to keep up on current events. Some common examples of PR assignments include writing press releases and speeches, creating visual presentations, and developing brochures or other promotional literature. This type of professional might create the work for others or present it themselves. The ability to meet deadlines, good research skills, creativity, and an outgoing personality are all beneficial traits to have when one wants to become a public relations specialist.

When studying to become a public relations specialist, a student has several academic options. Most businesses seek college graduates with a background that normally includes communications or journalism, and those who pursue advanced degrees usually take more varied courses, allowing them to specialize in a particular area. For example, courses in advertising, finance, and even psychology are considered relevant to the field. Internships can also help someone hoping to become a public relations specialist by supplementing his or her classroom learning with practical experience.

An experienced public relations specialist has a number of opportunities for certification, which may provide him or her with a higher level of credibility in the field. One example is the designation of Accredited in Public Relations (APR), and many PR specialists earn an Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) certification through the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). Furthermore, in the U.S., membership in certain professional organizations can also result in networking opportunities and potential jobs.

Public relations specialists must have good communication skills.
Public relations specialists must have good communication skills.

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