How Do You Become a Public Relations Specialist?

For individuals who are interested in working closely with a wide audience as an ambassador for a company or other organization, understanding the requirements to become a public relations specialist can lead to a fulfilling career. Public relations professionals communicate through various mediums to inform, educate, and collaborate with everyone from local communities to international parties. The ability to reach each person in these audiences is developed through the fulfillment of several requirements to enter into the profession.

Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees

To begin the path to becoming a specialist in the public relations field, future professionals will start with completion of a bachelor’s degree. A common undergraduate program to pursue is a communications degree with a specialization in public relations. Other institutions offer degrees such as public relations and marketing, marketing communications, and journalism, which also will typically qualify graduates for public relations positions. Courses that are commonly completed include public speaking, organizational communications, writing for public relations, speech writing, and visual communications fundamentals.

In some positions, particularly for those in management and at the executive level, a master’s degree in public relations will be required. Courses that might be completed in a graduate degree program include planning and execution of communication strategies, advanced concepts in social media, crisis communication, and writing for diverse audiences.

Professional Development and Certifications

Continuing to gain knowledge in public relations through professional development and certifications is another step in qualifying for positions in the field. Further training through professional associations can include earning designations in public affairs management, accreditation in public affairs, military communications, and grassroots public affairs.

Training courses without certification can also help professionals and future public relations specialists to build specific skillsets for working in niche industries. Additional details on professional development and training can be reviewed on the learning page of the Public Relations Society of America.

Skills and Other Qualifications

To work in the public relations field, there is a standard set of skills that a candidate must possess. In order to be effective, specialists in public relations must be comfortable communicating through written and verbal formats. This includes being adept at public speaking. Written messages that a public relations professional should be able to create include press releases, speeches, content articles, social media posts, website material, brochure and other print materials, and television or radio promotions and releases. Specialists in this field must also have a solid understanding of interpersonal and intercultural communication.

Beyond communication, professionals in public relations roles must also have critical and creative thinking ability, organizational skills, advanced and quick decision making ability, and abilities to work with and learn emerging technologies. As a public relations specialist, communicating with audiences is sometimes required immediately through a number of different modes, such as radio and social media. Time management, flexibility, and confidence will also be essential to be successful.

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Taking the steps to become a public relations specialist opens many possibilities for professionals interested in representing and sharing communications internally and externally in all types of industries. Government offices, nonprofit agencies, educational institutions, health care organizations, and private corporations rely on public relations professionals with a unique set of skills, training, and education to create, develop, and manage the public’s perceptions of a brand, image, and mission.