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Saturday, May 7, 2011

US News Best Careers 2011: Public Relations Specialist

Best Careers 2011: Public Relations Specialist

As one of the 50 Best Careers of 2011, this should have strong growth over the next decade

The rundown:
Every day, President Barack Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, stands in front of a firing squad—a roomful of the nation's top journalists, armed with questions that are, by their nature, adversarial. For these daily press briefings, Gibbs spends hours reading, studying, and querying other White House officials and administration advisers so he can answer questions accurately, both in the facts relayed and in message. As a PR specialist, much of your job will be a similar juggle of facts and message. You might spend your day drafting a press release, responding to a reporter's question, helping craft a PR strategy for an upcoming round of company layoffs, or running interference at a conference. This is one job that demands confidence for success, and an extroverted personality doesn't hurt.

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The outlook:
Employment of public-relations specialists is expected to increase by more than 66,000 jobs, or 24 percent, between 2008 and 2018, according to the Labor Department.

There's a lot of upside to this job, given that it requires only a bachelor's degree. Median annual earnings for PR specialists last year were about $51,960, while the lowest-paid 10 percent made less than $30,520 and the highest-paid 10 percent made upwards of $96,000.

Upward mobility:
It's a fairly traditional path: You can climb the ranks of a company, move to a larger company, or start your own company. Public relations specialists who excel may work their way up to vice president spots. "The interesting thing about public relations is that every public relations professional is almost a brand unto themselves," says Gary McCormick, 2010 chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America. "You really determine your own career and your own path because you become a subject matter expert in an area, you become a consultant, and the better you are, you individually can move, even if you go into an agency."

Activity level:
Variable. Some days are all desk job, while others can have you on your feet from early morning until late at night. Much depends on your job and your employer. Controversy and crisis make for particularly busy days.

Stress level:
Often high. It's tough to spot the next curveball, if you're, say, a company spokesperson. Even if you're writing press releases, you can face tight deadlines. Your schedule can be up in the air quite a bit, which is stressful for many people.

Education and preparation:
Most PR specialists have bachelor's degrees in communications, journalism, public relations, or relevant fields. It's not uncommon for journalists who have become frustrated by the sour state of their industry to seek refuge in this generally more lucrative career path. Many companies look for candidates who have some experience in their particular field.

Real advice from real people about landing a job as a public relations specialist:
Make yourself your own client. Start building a network of people in the industry through informational interviews and other career-related events. "First and foremost, it comes down to networking," says McCormick. "It's really the cornerstone for what we do for clients and companies all the time." Understanding a company's business drivers and the strategic element of public relations can earn you brownie points with potential employers, McCormick says. "The public-relations person that not only writes well, communicates well, and understands [the dynamics] of human communication, but also understands the business and what's driving the manager that they're going to work for—if you have a person who combines that with the ability to communicate with the audience, they're going to be a step up," McCormick says.

The rise of social media has made an impact on the public relations field and McCormick says that these days, companies expect PR professionals to be intimately acquainted with digital marketing and social networking. "[Social media] is a tactic, but it's a strategy as well," he says. "The person that understands social media from that standpoint—not just the technology—is really going to make a difference."

SOURCE: U.S. News & World Report -

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