Public Relations Careers: 2021 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary

Public Relations Careers: 2021 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary
Imed Bouchrika by Imed Bouchrika
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

In the 2018-2019 school year, public relations ranked as the 53rd most popular degree in the United States. Schools reported granting 19,456 degrees in the said year alone. Compared to the previous year, there was a 642 difference or a 3.3% increase. About 375 schools offer a PR degree of some kind (College Factual, n.d.).

A public relations degree is your gateway to a broad range of industries. This discipline was established based on strong communications. It comprises elements of other major forms of media to create an influential image, appeal to the public, and maintain a mutually advantageous relationship between PR professionals and their clients. In the same way, many PR degree programs are mainly focused on a well-selected combination of courses from other communication specialties (Accredited Schools Online, 2021).

Without question, opportunities for PR degree holders are countless. The government, business, education, and health care sectors will open their doors for you should they see you exhibit passion and eloquence (College Choice, 2021). If the PR field interests you, understanding its career paths, options, and industry salaries would be of great help to your decision-making.

Public Relations Careers Table of Contents

  1. Why pursue a career in Public Relations?
  2. Public Relations Career Outlook 
  3. Required Skills for Public Relations
  4. How to Start Your Career in Public Relations
  5. How can I advance my career in Public Relations?
  6. Alternative Career Options for Public Relations

Why pursue a career in public relations?

A public relations career appeals to eager individuals who seek to get challenged, receive unique rewards, and grab exciting opportunities in the industry (The Graduate School of Political Management-The George Washington University, 2020). Successful PR professionals are unprejudiced, good-natured, detail-oriented, and work well even under pressure.

Working in PR always involves delivering a certain message and image to the media and people. Suffice to say, PR professionals must manifest persuasiveness and a deep grasp of rhetoric as it deals with spoken and written language (Best Colleges, 2020).

Public Relations Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects high demand for PR professionals from 2019 to 2029. Specifically, the BLS expects a 7% increase in the demand for PR specialists within the period (BLS, 2021).

With more experience, PR professionals typically have above-industry income. The average public relations salary rates at different career stages are shown in the table below.

Mathematics Degree Tuition

 In-State Public Four-Year UniversityIn-State Public Two-Year CollegePrivate Two-Year CollegePrivate Four-Year University
Undergraduate$9,349$3,377$16,898$35,807
Graduate$12,171$27,776
*Values are estimates.
Source: NCES

Required Skills for Public Relations

Organizations employ public relations professionals to fill gaps in communication and understanding between the internal and external communities. In some cases, effective PR skills handle bad publicity or crises (Doyle, 2019).

Essential Skills for PR Professionals

  1. Public Speaking. Class presentations will help you become confident, compelling, and appealing when talking to the public. On the job, you will soon be designated with public speaking tasks through a camera or pitching in a company meeting to promote an individual, a company, or an organization.
  2. Writing. The PR industry revolves around the creation of press releases, speeches, and advertising materials. Hence, you need to possess outstanding written communication skills to convey your ideas comprehensibly. Papers and written projects aid in advancing this skill.
  3. Social Media. Social media has totally redefined the way people communicate with each other. Knowledge of social media use as tools for public communication is also one of the most desired essential skills for PR professionals.
  4. Software Skills. Having a basic knowledge of photography software and graphic design, database use, and video programs is still much better than learning while on the job.
  5. Media Production. Up-to-date knowledge of media production, what the media wants to see and hear, and providing information to the media is also as important as any other PR skills.

In the 2020 NIH-PMC article “The skills required for entry-level public relations: An analysis of skills required in 1,000 PR job ads,” Shana Meganck et al. revealed the most frequently listed skills in entry-level PR job posts. The authors noted the significance of long-established skills such as writing in tandem with modern skills such as digital and social media. In addition, they also pressed the need for soft skills such as organizational skills. Among the surveyed hiring authorities, “78.2 % mentioned communication skills, with the majority of those (88.9 %), specifying written communication skills. Specific educational requirements were mentioned in 64.5 % of the job listings; organizational skills were mentioned in 61.8 %; 43.9 % requested administrative software skills such as Microsoft Office and Google Drive; 35.3 % mentioned social/digital media skills; and 24.5 % listed graphic design skills (e.g., Adobe Creative Suite).”

General Skills for PR Professionals

  1. People Skills. You will need strong people skills to communicate with the media and the masses consistently and advocate your client’s positive image. Projects, presentations, and on-the-job training aid in developing these skills.
  2. Efficiency. Efficiency is the key to overseeing different client accounts, setting up simultaneous events, and leading a PR team. Individual and group projects will teach you to become efficient.
  3. Communication. Communication lies at the center of PR. Being able to send a message in a clear and concise manner gives you an edge as a PR professional.
  4. Administration and Management. Administration and management skills refer to mastery of business and management principles needed in strategization, resource budgeting, human resources modeling, leadership approaches, and more.

How to Start Your Career in Public Relations

A degree will absolutely become an advantage to your public relations career path as this is what many employers look for first. To get through entry-level PR positions, you are required to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree (Best Colleges, 2020).

What can I do with an Associate’s Degree in Public Relations?

Administrative Assistant

Administrative assistants carry out clerical and organizational tasks across industries. They handle filing systems and databases, arrange documents and reports, and compile reports and invoices. They may also be tasked to book appointments and organize staff meetings.

Median salary: $39,850

size of administrative assistance workforce

Paralegal

Paralegals organize and document legal files, perform legal research, and create documents to assist lawyers. They analyze laws and policies, collect evidence and legal files for attorney examination, and sum up reports to aid lawyers before or during trial. A certificate in paralegal studies is a requirement to qualify for this position.

Median salary: $51,740

What can I do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations?

PR Specialist

PR specialists write press releases, communicate with the media regarding information requests, and help their clients communicate with people. They also study marketing and advertising projects to guarantee that they satisfy the goals and strategy of their clients.

Median salary: $61,150

Market Research Analyst

Market research analysts explore market situations to guide companies in identifying what services and products to offer to consumers. They track and predict trends in marketing, evaluate the efficiency of marketing strategies, and gather relevant data. They also draft reports to help clients and management make the right decisions.

Median salary: $63,790

Can you get a public relations job with just a certificate?

People also ask if it would be possible to get a public relations job with just a certificate. In most circumstances, certifications are enough to land you a job. But not all certifications are created equal. In PR, certification can only improve your chances of employment as related jobs now require certain skills. Furthermore, employers will basically look for credentials indicating formal training in specialized areas. The best that PR certificates can do is to provide you with the necessary training and skills, demonstrate your competency and professionalism, and set you apart from other applicants (Keith, n.d.).

Source: Transparent Career

How can I advance my career in Public Relations?

Additional training or a graduate-level degree program is suggested if you wish to take on public relations leadership roles. A doctoral degree is also a great option if you plan to further advance your career development plan. Earning certifications will exhibit your expertise and commitment to the profession, too. (Best Colleges, 2020).

What can I do with a Master’s in Public Relations?

PR Manager

PR managers devise a media strategy, research trends, and propose ways to improve public image and personal or brand identity. These responsibilities promote their individual and business clients. These PR experts may also manage a team of PR specialists and administer internal communications.

Median salary: $116,180

PR Director

PR directors maintain and protect the reputation of their clients by presenting news releases, media kits, and PR strategies. They can fit in many industries, such as business, education, and health care.

Media salary: $86,606

What kind of job can I get with a Doctorate in Public Relations?

Professor

PR professors teach in colleges and universities. Many of them also carry out research.

Median salary: $79,540

Nonprofit Executive Director

Nonprofit executive directors take on chief executive officer roles for nonprofits. They work on achieving the mission of their organizations by overseeing day-to-day functions and teaming up with the board of directors. They also oversee the overall development and management systems within their organizations, run outreach programs, and give financial advice.

Median salary: $66,920

Which certification is best for public relations?

To date, no public relations careers mandate the need for licenses. However, many leading professional organizations establish certification programs that can provide PR professionals with formal credentials.

The Global Communication Certification Council, for instance, has two sophisticated certification programs: the Communication Management Professional (CMP®) appointment for generalist professionals and the Strategic Communication Management Professional (SCMP®) credential for specialist practitioners (Best Colleges, 2020).

Source: College Factual

Alternative Career Options for Public Relations

The marketing, business management and administration, and communications fields are all potential routes to a public relations career, even without a PR degree. Nevertheless, the chances of PR success are always high with a PR-specific education.

What else can a PR professional do?

Salesperson

With exemplary communication skills, a job in sales is also a right fit for a PR professional. This field is always in need of salespeople. It will not be also taken over by robots and machines when it comes to performing tasks (Bragg, 2016).

Lawyer

You can earn any degree that you want and still be eligible for law school. With impeccable reading, writing, and communication skills, becoming a lawyer should not be that hard.

number of lawyers in the U.S.

Actor/Actress

What about taking the path of show business instead? Did you know that Halle Berry and Brad Pitt have both earned journalism degrees? If you have long dreamed to enter Hollywood, the doors are always open.

The Edge of Public Relations

U.S. News & World Report ranks public relations specialists as the third Best Creative and Media Jobs. It ranks jobs based on their ability to provide an elusive blend of elements.

The pay and demand are both excellent in PR. Compared to other communication fields, PR will always have job openings and be in need of new and fresh talents, especially at the internet age when PR professionals can stand out in the online publicity practice.

Many organizations are striving to establish their online presence and reach as many audiences as they can. Most of your PR skills can also be used in other related fields, which makes it easy for you to transfer from one specialization to another and achieve your career goals.

The possibilities in PR are indeed endless, and you can explore each of them over time (Career Igniter, n.d.).

 

References:

  1. Accredited Schools Online Staff Writers. (2021, April 16). Public Relations Degree Programs. Accredited Schools Online.
  2. Best Colleges Staff Writer. (2020, September 8). Public Relations Careers. Best Colleges.
  3. Bragg, N. (2016, February 16). Alternative Jobs for a PR Professional. Tehama Group.
  4. Career Igniter. (n.d.). Why Should I Go Into Public Relations? Career Igniter.
  5. College Choice Staff Writers. (2021, May 28). Best Public Relations Degrees. College Choice.
  6. Doyle, Alison. (2019, August 20). Important Skills for Public Relations Jobs. The Balance Careers.
  7. Keith, H. (n.d.). Can a Public Relations Certificate Help Me Get a Job? Houston Chronicle.
  8. Meganck, S., Smith, J., & Guidry, J.P. (2020, September 16). The skills required for entry-level public relations: An analysis of skills required in 1,000 PR job ads. NCBI.
  9. The Graduate School of Political Management-The George Washington University. (2020, February 4). 5 Reasons to Pursue a PR CareerThe Graduate School of Political Management-The George Washington University.
  10. Williams, Kate. (2019, October 29). What Does a Public Relations Specialist Do? 9 Facts About the Job. Job Affirmations.

Newsletter & Conference Alerts

Research.com uses the information to contact you about our relevant content. For more information, check out our privacy policy.