How to Become a Public Affairs Specialist

Public affairs are an important part of many organizations and the formal offices of the branches of the United States Department of Defense. Public affairs specialists are highly trained professionals that deal with a variety of media and community issues.

What does a public affairs specialist do?

Public affairs specialists serve as the communications link between organizations and the news media, community, and other organizations. They are responsible for planning, implementing, and evaluating a variety of public affairs programs. They must develop a positive relationship with media representatives to maintain the best possible image of the organization. They prepare reports, publications, and articles regarding the organization, world events, and other important information. They also create new releases, special activities, and radio and television broadcasts.

What kind of training does a public affairs specialist need?

Public affairs specialists typically need at least a bachelor degree in communications, journalism, public relations, or other related field. Some employers prefer candidates with a master degree and sufficient experience. Prospective public affairs specialists often complete courses in English, communications, public speaking, journalism, and public relations. Many aspiring public affairs specialists complete internships while pursuing their education to gain practical experience and establish valuable contacts. Many employers provide formal training to new public affairs specialists. New specialists typically work under the supervision of experienced employees and begin completing simple tasks. They move on to more independent advanced duties as they gain the necessary skills and experience. Public affairs specialists often complete continuing education throughout their careers to keep their skills current and stay up to date with advancements in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as a public affairs specialist?

Employment of public affairs specialists is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 24% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The growing population and increase in public affair activities will drive job growth.

Job prospects should be good with keen competition. Public affairs specialists with extensive experience will have the best job opportunities. Some job openings will stem from the need to replace public affairs specialists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do public affairs specialists make?

As of March 2010, the average annual salary for public affairs specialists is $57,000; average annual public affairs specialists salaries vary greatly by location, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as a public affairs specialist is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in public affairs and maintaining a variety of related programs for an organization. Public affairs specialists must be able to work effectively in many different media situations. Dedication, creativity, enthusiasm, good problem solving skills, and detail orientation are necessary characteristics. Public affairs specialists must have excellent oral and written communication and the ability to interact with a variety of people. They must be quick on their feet and be able to make effective decisions under pressure.

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