In today's media-driven world, image is everything. Public relations specialists work with businesses, universities, political figures, celebrities, government agencies, organizations and the like to build a positive public image for their clients and good relationships with the public at large.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that aspiring public relations specialists should have a bachelor's degree for most entry-level positions. According to Salary.com, 81 percent of public relations specialists hold a bachelor's degree, while 27 percent of public relations managers hold a master's degree.
While specific public relations degrees are available, students can enter the field of public relations from a wide range of educational backgrounds. According to the Princeton Review, many industry experts believe experience in public relations is the best way to learn the specific skills required. Internships in the field are an important way for students to gain public relations experience to complement their education.
Online liberal arts degrees in public relations are available at all levels, from associate to doctorate, though the most popular degrees for public relations specialists are the bachelor's or master's degrees. Degrees in journalism, communications and marketing are also good routes to enter this career, according to the BLS.
Public relations careers
Public relations professionals can expect to have contact with the public on a regular basis. They must be able to plan a media campaign, know how to write press releases and be creative in getting the word out for their clients. Public relations experts might set up public appearances, events, conventions and the like. They might research and write materials, maintain contacts, network and respond to inquiries.
Some public relations experts handle all aspects of the job on their own, which requires a strong knowledge of marketing, advertising, sales and promotion, while others fill a more specialized role in a public relations agency. Overtime and erratic schedules can be common since public relations professionals need to be able to respond to breaking news or events as they occur and monitor 24-hour media cycles.
Public relations training also prepares students for closely related fields such as journalism, speech writing or marketing. Those who choose to work in public relations could opt for a large firm or set up shop on their own.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual income for a public relations specialist was $59,150 in 2010. Salary.com reports that the median annual salary of an entry level public relations specialist at $45,609, while the income of a public relations director was $129,656.
Who is best suited to a career in public relations
According to the Princeton Review, a public relations specialist must have top-notch communication skills and a deep understanding of every form of media. Those who can quickly and easily analyze a situation, understand pop culture trends and enjoy creative problem solving could be good candidates for a public relations career.
The advantages of online public relations degrees
Use of technology to communicate effectively and quickly is a hallmark of public relations work. Communicating with instructors and peers through online course work can be excellent training to prepare students for this aspect of their future careers. Online public relations degrees might also work well for those who already have a degree in another subject and want to brush up on the requirements and courses most helpful for a career in public relations.
Public relations at a glance
- Common careers: Degree holders commonly go into public relations, journalism, marketing or speech writing
- Salaries: Income for those in public relations can range from approximately $45,000 to $130,000
- Education: 87 percent of public relations specialists hold a bachelor's degree