Public relations professionals create and maintain positive public images for their organizations. They design public relations strategies and interact with the media and the public to promote their organizations. Professionals with public relations degrees work in several high-demand fields and usually earn above average salaries.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), public relations specialists earn an average of $60,000 a year. However with professional experience or a master's degree in public relations, individuals can become public relations managers, with an average salary of nearly $115,000 a year.
Students pursuing public relations degrees should begin their career planning and job search preparation before graduation. By taking in-demand concentrations or completing internships, public relations students can strengthen their chances in the job market.
Skills Gained in a Public Relations ProgramStudents in a public relations degree learn to craft a public relations strategy, align public relations goals with advertising and marketing strategies, and build favorable public images for their organizations. The degree strengthens several key skills that benefit public relations professionals in the workforce, such as public speaking, interpersonal skills, and writing. A public relations degree also builds strong communication skills like written communication, strategic communication, and other forms of communication.
- Interpersonal Skills
Public relations professionals interact with the public and the media on a regular basis to promote a favorable image for their organizations. To succeed in public relations, professionals need strong interpersonal skills. Public relations students develop these skills through group projects, presentations, and internships.
- Organizational Skills
In the field of public relations, professionals often manage several client accounts, organize multiple events, or oversee a team of public relations specialists. Students acquire strong organizational skills by completing projects or managing teams working toward a common goal.
- Public Speaking
A public relations program strengthens students' public speaking skills by requiring in-class presentations. These public speaking skills benefit public relations professionals as they are often tasked with speaking on behalf of their organizations.
Public relations students develop their writing skills through papers and projects where they design a public relations strategy, analyze advertisements or marketing strategies, and craft organizational missions. Strong writing skills help public relations professionals write press releases, speeches, and advertising copy. Professionals must be able to clearly communicate an idea through writing.
In many ways, communication sits at the core of public relations. The ability to clearly and concisely deliver a message benefits public relations graduates in any field, including strategic communications, copywriting, advertising, and marketing. Public relations students strengthen communication skills through their coursework, presentations, and internships.
Why Pursue a Career in Public Relations?
A degree in public relations can lead to work in strategic communications for a variety of organizations, while experienced professionals may move into management-level roles. Professionals with a public relations degree work as public relations specialists or public relations managers and directly apply their training in the workforce. According to PayScale, entry-level public relations professionals earn $41,000 a year on average, with the opportunity to increase earning potential with work experience and higher degrees.
Earning a public relations degree also leads to opportunities in advertising and marketing — fields that offer a variety of job titles, like advertising manager, marketing director, copywriter, or media director. Because a public relations degree confers valuable skills in communications, media relations, and writing, graduates are positioned to succeed in nearly any field. By gaining professional experience or earning a master's degree in public relations, professionals can also move into the management level.
How Much Do Public Relations Majors Make?
Public relations professionals often work for advertising agencies, marketing departments, and public relations organizations. The public relations career path offers above-average salaries, with entry-level public relations professionals earning $41,000 a year, according to PayScale.
Several factors influence the salary of a public relations major, including job title and industry. Additional factors — such as degrees earned, experience level, and location — also shape public relations salaries. For example, a public relations professional with a master's degree can qualify for management roles that offer increased salary potential. As public relations professionals gain experience or earn higher degrees, their salaries generally increase, as the following table demonstrates.
Interview with a Professional
Jordan Barrish is the public relations strategist for Peerfit, a market leader in connecting employers and carriers with innovative fitness experiences. Jordan has focused her public relations work in technology start-ups and nonprofits to bring a holistic approach to PR. Jordan creates campaigns and messaging that resonate and inspire others to live healthier and happier lives. Jordan holds a BS in public relations from the University of Florida.
- Why did you choose to pursue a degree in public relations?
When I was trying to decide what I wanted to major in, I originally bounced between advertising and journalism. Marketing wasn’t even on my radar because at the time marketing was still highly sales-focused and there was much less crossover with PR and other communications functions than there is today.
Then I learned about public relations and realized it was something that I could apply in any industry and was the type of communication I was interested in. I was excited by the idea of PR being two-way communication. The other communications degrees at that time felt like they were all one-way communication (especially since social media was only really starting to get its wings) and I really enjoyed the idea of sharing ideas and content — really understanding your audience and helping a brand connect with their customers.
- Was it something you were always interested in?
No, I originally wanted to work in education and also journalism, but the more research I did and the more classes I took, public relations really stood out to me. I loved the idea of the communications industry and the idea of representing an organization in a positive way. I had a lot of passions and thought that if I studied PR, I could apply those skills to any of those industries or hobbies in my working career. And I was right.
- What would you say are the minimum educational and work experience requirements to earn a job in public relations?
You will need at least a bachelor’s degree in PR. Depending on your school, it will either be a BA or a BS. Internships are also extremely vital. Internships, either paid or unpaid, help you learn real-world skills while still in school. They set you up for success after graduation so you not only have some real-world experience working in PR, but you have a better sense of how an office works and how to interact with others in a work setting. And your internship could lead to a full-time job in that organization.
- What about working in public relations do you enjoy?
I really enjoy working with so many people across so many industries. I have always done in-house PR, but have worked with agencies while being in-house. In each of my roles I have been able to work with a number of partners, which keeps things exciting, helps you get insight into how other folks are doing PR, and also helps you stay on top of the constantly changing industry.
More traditionally, I also really enjoy working with the media. Building relationships is tough but worth it. There is a stat that there are now six PR pros for every one journalist, but that just makes the relationships you build that much more important.
I also really love the strategy involved in working in PR and how many different parts of an organization PR has a hand in. It helps you understand the business you are working in as a whole and is a really fulfilling industry to be in.
- What are some of the most difficult aspects of working in public relations?
Cold emailing journalists is probably one of the toughest aspects of the job. You have to not only get the reporter to see your email but to actually open and read it. Once you get over the hurdle of the cold email, it starts to get much easier, but it’s vital that you do your research, know who you are reaching out to, and make your pitch succinct and intriguing.
It’s also sometimes difficult to fully quantify your work beyond “we got this many placement stories.” PR can have an impact across your or your client’s company as you build awareness and also generate leads, but it can be hard to share the true impact.
PR is also one of those job positions that sometimes seems like a mystery to some of your co-workers. Helping others understand how it works and understand that timing always varies when building relationships and getting stories placed can be tough, but it’s worth it to help educate those you work with.
- What advice would you give to students considering earning a degree in public relations?
Working in PR can be challenging but also rewarding. If you are interested in getting your degree in PR but aren’t entirely sure, I suggest going and talking to someone who is already working in the space and picking their brain. This could help you decide what path you might want to take with PR once you have your degree.
They say, “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” and that could not be more true. This doesn’t discredit your education and on-the-job skills training, but the more you can network and meet folks, the bigger your network will be, which can help you land media placements, build your network of PR pros, or even find your next job.
If your school has a Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter, I highly recommend you join. It’s a great first step into the PR industry
- Any final thoughts for us?
Skills learned in a PR degree are beneficial to any career path: strategy, ethics, strong writing skills, storytelling, and learning how to talk to people in a concise and interesting way.
There are a number of ways you can go with a PR degree, so don’t feel like you have to settle with wherever you start out.
The communications field is constantly changing. PR is a great degree if you are excited by the idea of being in an industry that is always evolving and changing.
PR is extremely versatile and can get you working in almost any industry.
If you are a people person who likes helping to make connections, you are on a good path with PR.
How to Succeed in Public Relations
Job candidates must meet the minimum educational requirements to apply for many public relations jobs. For example, a bachelor's degree in public relations can lead to entry-level careers as a public relations specialist or marketing associate. As professionals gain additional degrees, they increase their salary potential and job opportunities.
Completing a master's degree in public relations helps professionals move into management roles. Many marketing managers, advertising managers, and public relations managers hold a master's degree. Public relations professionals can also pursue a doctorate to qualify for tenure-track academic positions as a public relations professor.
Prospective employers often consider professional experience when selecting job candidates. Public relations students can gain valuable work experience by pursuing an internship or supervised training to add proof of practical skills to their resume. For some career paths, such as public relations manager, professionals often earn experience at a lower-ranking position, like public relations specialist or associate, then move into the management level. However, earning a master's degree can also help with career advancement.
Licensure and Certification
In general, public relations professionals do not require a license or certification to hold many common jobs. However, earning a certification helps public relations professionals demonstrate their expertise and stand out in the job market. Typically, a certification requires several years of experience, a degree in public relations, and an examination.
Public Relations Society of America
PRSA offers the certificate in principles of public relations for recent graduates. The accreditation in public relations credential recognizes professional expertise in public relations.
Global Communication Certification Council
GCCC offers the communication management professional credential for established managers in communications, while the strategic communication management professional credential is awarded to skilled business communicators.
Concentrations Available to Public Relations Majors
Students can specialize their public relations degrees by choosing concentrations. A concentration in advertising, for example, provides additional training in broadcast and print advertising, product placement, and copywriting. Similarly, a media relations concentration includes coursework in strategic communications and methods to shape public perception through media.
These concentrations prepare graduates for specialized public relations careers after graduation and demonstrate expertise to prospective employers. Prospective students should note that concentrations will vary by program, but a few examples are below.
- Advertising: Public relations majors who pursue an advertising concentration study the fundamental principles and techniques of advertising. Coursework explores print and broadcast media, effective advertising methods, and communications strategies in advertisement. Students also learn copywriting and persuasive writing. The coursework may link advertising to public relations objectives.
- Strategic Communications: Within a strategic communications concentration, public relations majors study how to align communications with a strategic plan or brand identity. Students learn to promote an organization's brand through communications, maintain a positive brand identity, and deliver effective messages to consumers. The concentration may also emphasize outreach methods and coordinate with marketing and advertising.
- Social Media: A social media concentration prepares public relations professionals to incorporate social media methods into strategic communications, public relations, and marketing. Students examine social media theory, digital communications, and organizational uses of social media for building brand identity. The concentration may also touch on search engine optimization (SEO), digital strategy, and digital analytics.
- Media Relations: Public relations students who concentrate in media relations train graduates to build a strong relationship between an organization, agency, or business and the media for the purpose of public relations. Students learn to shape media coverage, interact with media organizations for interviews, and promote a brand through media relations.
What Can You Do With a Public Relations Degree?
Earning a public relations degree prepares graduates for many careers in public relations, including public relations specialist, marketing research analyst, or advertising specialist. Professionals with a bachelor's in public relations work in strategic communications for advertising organizations, media corporations, and other businesses. Earning a master's degree can help public relations professionals advance to management roles like director or vice president.
Regardless of which program you pursue, a degree in public relations provides graduates with enormous career flexibility. Professionals can work in a diverse set of fields like copywriting, event planning, media relations, or social media management.
Professionals on any public relations career path can advance their careers with work experience or by earning an advanced degree. For example, public relations specialists can move up to public relations managers with a master's in public relations. Students considering the public relations job market can enhance their resumes by pursuing a concentration or certification.
Associate Degree in Public Relations
With an associate degree in public relations, degree-holders can pursue entry-level opportunities in several industries, including advertising or marketing. Graduates with an interest in strategic or legal communications can pursue opportunities as paralegals, while entry-level roles may also be available as an advertising sales agent who works with clients to sell advertising products and services.
Earning an associate degree in public relations also prepares graduates to transfer into a bachelor's in public relations program, which can halve the cost of a bachelor's degree.
- Administrative Assistant
Administrative assistants perform clerical and administrative duties for organizations in the business, education, healthcare, legal, nonprofit, and government sectors. They manage databases and filing systems, prepare reports and documents, and prepare invoices or reports. Administrative assistants schedule appointments, arrange staff meetings, and support staff at their organizations.
Paralegals maintain and organize legal files, conduct legal research, and draft documents to support lawyers. They examine laws and regulations, gather evidence and legal documents for attorney review, and summarize reports to help lawyers prepare for trial. Paralegals may also assist lawyers during trial. The position requires a certificate in paralegal studies.
- Advertising Sales Agent
Advertising sales agents, also known as advertising sales representatives, sell ad space to businesses or individuals. They make sales presentations, interact with clients, and maintain client accounts. Advertising sales agents provide estimates for the cost of advertising products or services, deliver sales presentations to new clients, and deliver proofs to clients for approval.
Bachelor's Degree in Public Relations
Earning a bachelor's degree in public relations can lead to careers in advertising, marketing, and public relations. The degree meets the entry-level requirements for many public relations careers, including as a public relations specialist, market researcher, or copywriter. The skills gained during a public relations degree — like strategic planning and persuasive reasoning — also benefit professionals in event planning and writing.
During a bachelor's program in public relations, students gain foundational skills in strategic communications, media relations, and public relations. Prospective public relations majors can learn more about the top online public relations programs.
- Public Relations Specialist
Public relations specialists shape public perception of their organizations to maintain favorable reputations. They draft press releases, respond to information requests from the media, and help clients communicate with the public. Public relations specialists analyze advertising and marketing programs to ensure they meet the organization's goals and public relations strategy.
- Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts study market conditions to help companies understand what products and services consumers want. They monitor and forecast marketing trends, measure the effectiveness of marketing strategies, and collect data through surveys and opinion polls. Market research analysts create reports for clients and management to help them make marketing decisions.
- Public Relations Coordinator
Public relations coordinators create and maintain a positive public image for an organization. They work in sectors like business, healthcare, or education, where they write news releases, distribute media kits, and organize public events. Public relations coordinators typically hold a bachelor's in public relations or a closely related field.
- Event Planner
Event planners coordinate events or professional meetings. They meet with clients, plan for the event's location and cost, and work with venues and service providers to meet the event's needs. Event planners also coordinate event services like transportation and food service. A background in public relations helps event planners understand an event's goals and promote the event.
Writers create content for advertisements, books, speeches, articles, and blogs. They often conduct research, create drafts, and work with editors and clients to meet their needs. Writers work in several different subfields, including copywriting, content writing, and speech writing — all positions that benefit from public relations training.
Master's Degree in Public Relations
With a master's degree in public relations, professionals can land managerial roles that often prefer candidates with graduate degrees. In PR, professionals with a master's degree work as public relations managers, advertising managers, and marketing managers. They may also hold titles like director or vice president. These professionals play a leading role in shaping an organization's public relations strategy, including media outreach, branding, and advertising.
During a master's program, graduate students further specialize their training by pursuing a concentration. Prospective students can learn more about the top online public relations graduate programs.
- Public Relations Manager
Public relations managers promote their organizations or clients by designing a media strategy, researching social and market trends, and recommending ways to enhance public reputation and brand identity. They supervise a team of public relations specialists and oversee internal communications. A graduate degree in public relations helps public relations managers advance.
- Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Manager
Advertising managers oversee a team of advertising specialists working to promote a product or service to potential buyers. They work for advertising agencies designing campaigns for clients and for media organizations that sell advertising space or time. Advertising managers oversee the creative process for developing advertisements and prepare budgets for campaigns.
- Public Relations Director
Public relations directors maintain the public image of an organization and protect its reputation. They present a positive image of their organizations for the media and the public by creating news releases, media kits, and PR strategies. Public relations directors work in several industries, including education, business, and healthcare.
- Vice President of Public Relations
Vice presidents of public relations oversee an organization's PR strategy. They also manage a media relations team and coordinate with branding and advertising teams. They help set brand strategies and respond to PR crises or negative publicity. The vice president of PR may also take a public role in representing the organization, interacting with the media as a spokesperson for the company.
- Marketing Director
Marketing directors oversee marketing tasks for an organization. They create projects to meet the organization's needs, communicate with clients, and manage marketing staff. Marketing directors also collect data on marketing performance to improve future projects. Marketing certifications and a graduate degree help marketing directors advance.
Doctoral Degree in Public Relations
Earning a Ph.D. in public relations prepares graduates for the highest positions in the field, including academic titles like professor or academic dean. Doctoral students build strong research skills to gain expertise in their specializations. During a Ph.D. program, doctoral students complete coursework that provides a broad base of advanced public relations knowledge and training within a specialization. Doctoral students then pass comprehensive examinations to advance to Ph.D. candidacy.
Most programs reserve 1-2 years for dissertation research and writing, where doctoral students conduct original research in their PR specializations and write dissertations. After passing a dissertation defense conducted by their faculty adviser and doctoral committee, doctoral students earn a Ph.D.
Several public relations career paths either require or strongly prefer candidates with a Ph.D. Many academic positions, particularly on the tenure track, require a doctorate, and administrative roles at colleges and universities often prefer candidates with doctorates.
Professors of public relations work in community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities. They teach introductory PR courses and graduate-level courses, and design syllabi to meet the department's educational goals. PR professors assess student learning, oversee projects, and mentor undergraduate and graduate students. Many professors also conduct research and publish with academic presses.
- Nonprofit Executive Director
A nonprofit executive director acts as the chief executive officer for a nonprofit organization. They oversee daily operations and work with the board of directors to achieve the organization's mission. Executive directors oversee development and management within their organizations, direct community outreach programs, and provide financial oversight.
- Provost or Dean
Provosts and deans, also called postsecondary educational administrators, act as administrators within a college or university, often with academic responsibilities. Provosts assist the president by setting academic policies, overseeing faculty hiring, and managing the budget. Academic deans manage a college or academic division, including faculty members and budget.
Where Can You Work as a Public Relations?
Professionals with a degree in public relations pursue careers in multiple industries, including advertising, marketing, and media. Several factors affect a public relations graduate's career, including the location, setting, and industry. For example, a career in the nonprofit sector may be immensely rewarding but also offer lower salaries than for-profit enterprises. While public relations graduates pursue diverse career paths, understanding the factors that shape a PR career can help students narrow their job searches.
Public relations careers are available in every state and usually feature above-average salaries and significant career advancement opportunities. However, one's location can directly affect their career opportunities, as some areas offer greater job opportunities and higher salaries. For example, public relations managers in California, New York, and Washington, D.C. earn the highest average salaries, while West Virginia, Kentucky, and Montana offer the lowest average salary.
A job's location also influences one's quality of life, cost of living, and networking opportunities. The following map shows the average salary and employment numbers for public relations managers by state.
Public relations professionals can work in several industries, depending on their career goals, education level, and interests. For example, public relations careers are available in the advertising, PR, and marketing sectors, but public relations graduates can also find work at nonprofit organizations, grantmaking organizations, and broadcast media companies. With a terminal degree in public relations, graduates can also pursue academic careers as university instructors or professors.
- Management of Companies and Enterprises
The management of companies and enterprises sector includes organizations that own controlling interests in other companies or enterprises. PR professionals help these organizations administer, oversee, and manage these organizations and establishments.
Average Salary: $73,600
- Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
The advertising, public relations, and marketing sector hires many PR graduates to persuade customers, promote products and services, and strengthen organizational brands.
Average Salary: $78,200
- Social Advocacy Organizations
Social advocacy organizations promote a cause or work toward a specific political goal. PR professionals help advocacy organizations raise public awareness and promote their causes.
Average Salary: $60,320
- Grantmaking and Giving Services
PR graduates in the grantmaking and giving sector focus on fundraising, donations, and grants. They may promote an organization that offers grants, communicate the organization's values, and raise visibility.
Average Salary: $68,800
- Radio and Television Broadcasting
The media sector — including radio and television broadcasting — employs PR professionals to act as media contacts, communicate values and goals, or promote a brand.
Average Salary: $55,400
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How Do You Find a Job as a Public Relations Graduate?
Public relations professionals work in several industries, including advertising, business, educational services, and government. The BLS projects a 9% increase in public relations specialist positions and a 10% increase in public relations manager positions from 2016-2026, giving this field a strong potential for growth.
Students considering a career in public relations should start their job searches while earning their degrees, and then consider pursuing certifications and specializations to stand out on the job market. They may also complete internships to gain professional experience. Building a strong resume and a professional network while earning a degree helps graduates on the job market.
Public relations students can identify job opportunities by visiting the PRSA job center or the PR News job board for openings in public relations. The Journalism Jobs site offers additional opportunities for public relations students considering writing or journalism jobs.
Professional Resources for Public Relations Majors
The nation's largest professional organization for public relations and communications, PRSA represents more than 30,000 members. PRSA offers a content hub with resources and information on different PR topics, hosts events with networking opportunities, and offers job listings in public relations.
A branch of PRSA designed specifically for students, PRSSA supports students pursuing careers in public relations or communications. The society offers internship listings to help members gain professional experience, scholarships, and publication opportunities.
A global organization for public relations professionals, IPRA organizes conferences and events designed to connect PR professionals. IPRA offers member services such as a directory, a public relations code of conduct, and professional development resources like trainings. IPRA also publishes books, grants awards, and publicizes PR news.
A professional organization for communications professionals, scholars, and teachers, NCA publishes multiple academic journals covering research in communications, hosts an annual convention, and offers professional development opportunities. For scholars, NCA offers teaching and learning resources and a career center that focuses on academic positions.
Public relations professionals who work in marketing or a related field can join the AMA for professional development resources, information on the best marketing practices, and research in marketing. The association offers the professional certified marketer credential, hosts a job board with marketing opportunities, and offers marketing career resources.
This organization brings together multiple public relations and communication management associations, representing over 160,000 professionals around the world. GA raises professional standards, shares knowledge across national borders, and promotes a global perspective. GA also runs forums and projects, publishes research and educational resources, and grants awards.
An academic association for scholars in human and mediated communication, ICA dates back over 50 years. ICA hosts an annual conference with networking opportunities, publishes journals and an annual report, and hosts interest groups for specialists in different communications fields. The association also posts academic job openings.
SMA brings together media professionals such as business owners, managers, entrepreneurs, and strategic decision makers who rely on social media. The association holds informative meetings and networking events for members and guests, including workshops, meetups, and discussions. SMA offers a job bank for job seekers.
A professional association for women in communications, AWC hosts events, provides scholarships and awards, and offers professional development resources. Members benefit from an online membership directory, members-only publications, and website resources. The association offers local chapters for professionals and students.
An organization for women working in media, AWM supports members by offering professional development tools, events with networking opportunities, and the AWM job board. The alliance grants awards to distinguished women working in media and publishes academic papers.