Do You Need a Degree To Be a PR Specialist?

You can be among the rich and powerful without being a millionaire. You can have magazines, TV stations, and other media at your beck and call without being a celebrity. And you can influence the decisions of millions without being a politician.  All you have to be is a public relations specialist.

PR specialists keep their clients, companies, or employers in the favorable public eye. They write press releases and send information packets to the media, teach their clients how to communicate, and develop promotional campaigns. They must understand the needs of the target audience to craft an effective message. They must be able to work with traditional media, such as newspapers and magazines, as well as handle social media and the Internet.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), public relations specialists generally need a bachelor’s degree to enter the profession. Common majors include public relations, journalism, and communications. About a quarter of employers prefer a master’s degree for those wanting to become public relations managers, who may be in charge of subordinate specialists. Subjects typically cover public affairs, public speaking, political science, advertising, business, copywriting, creative writing, and technical writing.
PR specialists also receive training on the job to learn the specifics of their company. They may work under more experienced employees or undergo a formal training program that may take from one month to one year. New workers may start by maintaining files about clients, and organizing information for campaigns.
Accreditation is available from the Public Relations Society of America, which requires several years of experience and passing an exam. The process grants the Accredited in Public Relations designation. Those who work with the military or defense contractors can also get the Accredited in Public Relations + Military accreditation.



The BLS says that the country’s 201,280, PR specialists averaged $61,980 per year, or $29.80 per hour, as of May 2012. The lowest-earning 10 percent made less than $30,760 annually, or $14.79 hourly, while the best-paid 10 percent received over $101,030 yearly, or $48.57 hourly.

  • The biggest employers were advertising and public relations firms, business and professional organizations, and colleges and universities.
  • The highest salaries were in the federal government at a mean $87,990 per year, or $42.30 per hour; the Postal Service, averaging $87,810 per year, or $42.22 per hour; and water and sewage systems at a mean annual $86,870, or $41.77 per hour.
  • Most specialists found jobs in high-population locations, such as California, New York, and New York City. The top paying state was the District of Columbia, which the BLS considered a state, at $92,150 per year, or $44.30 per hour. The highest-paying city was Washington, DC, at a mean $88,820 yearly, or $42.70 hourly.


The BLS sees jobs for PR specialists growing by 23 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than the 14 percent growth expected for all jobs in all industries. This is because many organizations are using customer service and outreach to increase their visibility and competitiveness. With the growing use of social media and cell phones, public opinion about a client can change instantly. PR specialists must be able to respond to these changes instantly. Competition is expected to be strong due to the glamor associated with the position.