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How To Become a Public Relations Specialist: 4 Steps

By Noah Redfield
April 10, 2023

The public relations industry is experiencing an incredible boom. In early 2023, the PR global market exceeded 97 billion U.S. dollars in value and is expected to surpass 129 billion dollars by 2025. As the market continues to expand, it’s no wonder that so many are considering a career change to public relations.

Private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and public figures heavily depend on experienced public relations specialists to develop effective marketing strategies, communicate a brand through powerful social media messaging, and maintain positive relationships with journalists, news outlets, and agencies.

If you’re considering becoming a public relations specialist, here’s an overview of what a public relations specialist is, how much they make, where they work, and the steps you can take to become one.

What Is a Public Relations Specialist?

The goal of a public relations specialist is to promote and maintain a favorable public image for their clients. Public relations specialists often share responsibilities with communication roles such as media strategists, press secretaries, marketing managers, and communication directors. They are often expected to write copy in various forms, including story pitches, press releases, presentations, and video scripts.

How Much Does a Public Relations Specialist Make?

A career in public relations can be incredibly financially rewarding. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), public relations specialists make a median annual salary of $62,800, with the average salary ranging from $50,000 to $80,000 per year. Moreover, the BLS projects public relations career opportunities will increase eight percent from 2021 to 2031. Since this is faster than the national average, prospective public relations specialists can expect a financially rewarding career with consistent employment opportunities.

Where Does a Public Relations Specialist Work?

Since so many industries require public relations specialists, work environments can vary. According to Zippia, the most common industries that employ public relations specialists are:

  • Technology
  • Professional services (e.g., PR agencies)
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Government

Many public relations specialists work in offices, but much of their work requires some form of travel for speeches and networking events. If this constant change of pace and environment sounds appealing, a career as a public relations specialist is a perfect outlet for your communication skills.

4 Steps to Becoming a Public Relations Specialist

Now that you understand the role, it’s equally important to identify the steps needed to become a public relations specialist.

1. Enroll in a Digital Communication Bachelor’s Degree Program

The shift to a digital marketplace has increased the need for more candidates with a bachelor’s degree in digital communication. These programs develop industry-specific skills and offer opportunities to gain real-world public relations experience.

Experiential learning opportunities are essential because most companies hiring PR professionals are more interested in candidates with client-relation experience. Earning a digital communication and media degree from a school like Northeastern University ensures students enter the job market with the industry skills required for a successful public relations career. Furthermore, the best digital communication programs should give you a thorough understanding of how to keep up with the growing and unpredictable trends of today’s digital communication landscape.

2. Obtain In-Demand Industry Skills

Although public relations specialists can find employment in many different fields, most skills required for this role are relevant to all possible industries. The most in-demand public relations skills are:

  • Communication
  • Social Media
  • Research
  • Time Management
  • Storytelling

While you can obtain these competencies independently, a strong bachelor’s degree program can tailor these skills specifically toward your future role in public relations. An excellent example of this is the art of storytelling. While there are many great content creators, leveraging this competency in a marketing strategy requires industry expertise. Degree programs led by industry leaders provide the insight and guidance needed to help students develop these skills for real-world application.

”The instructor, who is a current professional in the field, leads students as if they are their employees,” says Ed Powers, professor of the practice for the MS in Corporate and Organizational Communication program at Northeastern University. The program “deals with both the hard skills of identifying communication needs and developing recommendations, but also the soft skills of building a rapport with the client to build a relationship.”

3. Gain Real-World Experience

While a bachelor’s in digital communication is important, this is typically a baseline requirement for a career in public relations. As you enter the job market, years of past work experience is a highly prioritized requirement for nearly every public relations job posting.

For example, a mid-level PR position on job posting sites like Indeed typically requires at least three years of experience. Enrolling in a program that offers real-world PR opportunities will allow you to build, develop, and maintain a portfolio of invaluable work experience in writing press releases, creating budgets and proposals, and using data analytics to determine the strength of marketing campaigns.

”Client engagement experience is essential in this field,” Powers continues. “Ultimately, we want students to walk away with the answer to the employment question of ‘What experience do you have?’” Thus, while a degree is undoubtedly useful, the degree alone won’t develop the communication skills required to build strong client relationships. Consider enrolling in an experiential learning degree program, like the one offered at Northeastern, to help build a valuable work portfolio.

4. Strengthen Your Professional Network

Networking is a vital element of developing a successful career as a public relations specialist. Since much of the work done in public relations involves networking at events and social gatherings, it’s a crucial industry-standard skill to develop. Without robust connections, you might have difficulty promoting clients, influencing public perception, or building a client base.

When choosing a digital communication program, consider the school’s networking opportunities. For example, Northeastern University has the Lifelong Learning Network—aimed at expanding the capabilities of students’ development as professionals such as public relations specialists. This network empowers students to connect with like-minded digital professionals worldwide while also accessing opportunities with over 3,000 employer partners, including General Electric and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Choose the Right Program for Your Professional Goals

When you enroll in Northeastern University’s Digital Communication and Media bachelor’s completion program, you’re getting more than just an education. Students gain access to Northeastern’s global network, aimed at assisting young professionals in their career pursuits. Unlike other degree programs, you won’t just be a student but a member of a communication team seeking to expand and develop skills with real-world experience opportunities. In the end, these are the elements prospective employers are looking for.

Ready to take your public relations career to the next level? Explore Northeastern’s Digital Communication and Media bachelor’s degree completion program or connect with an enrollment advisor to learn more about our online, part-time, and full-time programs.

About Noah Redfield
Noah Redfield is a blog writer and editor based in New York City. Always eager to learn more about the world, Noah prides himself on his ability to lend his writing style to a wide variety of niche topics, using the power of language to tell stories and help people discover the vital information they’ve been looking for.