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Public Affairs Specialist Career

Career Description

A Public Affairs Specialist serves as an advocate for businesses, nonprofit associations, universities, hospitals, and other organizations, and builds and maintains positive relationships with the public.  As managers recognize the importance of good public relations to the success of their organizations, they increasingly rely on public relations specialists for advice on the strategy and policy of such programs.

Common Work Tasks

  • Handle organizational functions such as media,  community, consumer, industry, and governmental relations; political campaigns;  interest-group representation; conflict mediation; and employee and investor relations
  • Maintain cooperative relationships with the public and with representatives from print and broadcast journalism
  • Draft press releases and contact people in the media who might print or broadcast the material
  • Arrange and conduct programs to keep up contact between organization representatives and the public
  • Set up speaking engagements and prepare speeches for company officials
  • Represent employers at community projects; make film, slide, or other visual presentations at meetings and school assemblies;  and plan conventions
  • Prepare annual reports and write proposals for various projects
  • Keep the public informed about the activities of agencies and officials
  • Write, research, prepare materials, maintain contacts, and respond to inquiries
  • Handle advertising or sales promotion work to support marketing efforts

Other Job Titles

Public Affairs Specialists are also known by other titles,  including:

  • Communications Specialist
  • Press Officer
  • Press Secretary
  • Media Specialist
  • Information Officer
  • Public Affairs Specialist

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Many entry-level public affairs specialists have a college degree in public relations, journalism, advertising, or communication. Some firms seek college graduates who have worked in electronic or print journalism. Other employers seek applicants with demonstrated communication skills and training or experience in a field related to the firm’s business—information technology,  health care, science, engineering, sales, or finance, for example. Courses in advertising, journalism, business administration, finance, political science,  psychology, sociology, and creative writing also are helpful. Specialties are offered in public relations for business, government, and nonprofit organizations.

Certification and Licensure
The Universal Accreditation Board accredits public affairs specialists who are members of the Public Relations Society of America and who participate in the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations process. This process includes both a readiness review and an examination, which are designed for candidates who have at least 5 years of full-time work or teaching experience in public relations and who have earned a bachelor’s degree in a communications-related field. The readiness review includes a written submission by each candidate, a portfolio review, and dialogue between the candidate and a three-member panel. Candidates who successfully advance through readiness review and pass the computer-based examination earn the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation.

Part-time internships in public affairs provide valuable experience and training.  Membership in local chapters of the Public Relations Student Society of America (affiliated with the Public Relations Society of America) or in student chapters of the International Association of Business Communicators provides an opportunity for students to exchange views with public affairs specialists and to make professional contacts that may help them find a job in the field. A portfolio of published articles, television or radio programs, slide presentations, and other work is an asset in finding a job. Writing for a school publication or television or radio station provides valuable experience and material for one’s portfolio.


The median annual salary of a Public Affairs Specialist is $50,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $94,000 annually, and the bottom 10 percent earn less than $30,000 annually. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of public affairs specialists are:

  • Advertising and Related Services - $65,030
  • Business, Professional, Labor, Political, and Similar Organizations - $62,080
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools - $48,640
  • Local Government - $51,340
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises - $61,780

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  18%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 43,000
  • Employment 2006 : 243,000
  • Employment 2016:  286,000

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