Public relations professionals create the connection between an organization and the media, consumers, other businesses and governmental agencies. When businesses or non-profit organizations hire public relations specialists, the goal is to present a unified message about the brand and to foster a positive image. A company's reputation may depend on how well its public relations department responds to an issue. These specialists are trained in print, broadcast and Web-based communications techniques and strategies.
About associate degrees in public relations
Colleges and business trade schools offer two-year programs leading to associate degrees in public relations. Courses may include detailed studies in journalism, advertising, political science, psychology, consumer behavior, and tools of the trade such as word processing, multi-media, newsletter production and press releases. Optional courses can help you focus on a specialization for careers in industries such as technology, health care or government. Some colleges require an internship with a public relations firm where you can build a portfolio and make career connections.
Public relations job outlook and salary
Entry level roles for the profession include office administrative assistants, researchers or junior account representatives. In 2010, secretaries and administrative assistants earned a median wage of $34,920, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The BLS reports that entry level creatives -- writers and artists -- may qualify for some jobs without a four-year degree, but competition is expected. New professionals should be adequately armed with an education, knowledge of tools and practices, and an internship or related work experience.
With job experience and a four-year degree you could move up to a role such as public relations specialist. The BLS reports a median 2010 wage of $52,090 for these professionals, and top earners took home $95,200. The five states with the highest employment level of PR specialists in 2010 were California, New York, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania. The BLS forecasts a 24 percent increase in these specialists' jobs from 2008 to 2018, or 66,200 new positions.
Get the jump on the competition. Candidates with degrees in public relations, a strong portfolio of work and professional exposure may seize the advantage when it comes to beginning a career. If you are already working, you can pursue online studies that allow you to continue gaining real-world experience while you expand your knowledge of the field.