How to Become a Public Relations Manager in 5 Steps

Find out what a public relations manager does and what educational programs can provide training for this career. Learn about certification options as well as salary and employment outlook. Schools offering Public Relations degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Public Relations Manager?

Public relations managers are administrators who oversee campaigns that either bolster the public image of their clients or raise funds for clients. In such a position, you might also monitor and use economic, political and social trends to enhance a client's image or help protect them from unfavorable policy developments. In many instances you might specialize in a particular industry or area. Your specific duties include establishing lines of communication between media outlets and government regulators; planning PR campaigns; writing speeches, conducting interviews or arranging interviews for clients; coordinating PR campaigns with a client's advertising and marketing efforts; assigning duties to staffers and managing budgets.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Figures from O*Net OnLine show that about 78% of public relations managers have a bachelor's degree (www.onetonline.org). A bachelor's degree program in public relations examines communication theory and develops your ability to craft and present persuasive messages visually, orally and in writing. Courses address such topics as marketing principles, multicultural communication, media history and media research. Some programs end with a capstone project in which you design and execute a public relations campaign.

Step 2: Participate in an Internship

An internship enables you to observe and participate in a public relations operation and make contacts with industry professionals. Corporate PR departments, TV stations and public relations agencies are some work settings that offer internships. Bachelor's degree programs may also include an internship as a required part of their curriculum. Sometimes you can gain a full time job after you graduate at the same firm where you interned.

Step 3: Find a Job in Public Relations

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), public relations managers are typically promoted from a lower-level position such as public relations specialist (www.bls.gov). PR specialists held about 275,200 jobs in 2008. Advertising agencies, schools, healthcare and social service providers, government agencies and financial institutions are your potential employers. Your duties in the lower-level position include writing press releases, creating visual presentations and maintaining contacts between your client and the public.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

Certification isn't a requirement, but it can demonstrate your competence, professionalism and experience, and can improve your prospects for advancement. You can obtain the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential from the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), an umbrella group for nine public relations associations. The APR certification exam tests your knowledge and skills in ten areas, including communications models, public relations history and media relations. Certification is valid for three years.

You could also earn accreditation from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). IABC accreditation is open to any business professional with sufficient knowledge and experience in communication, including PR specialists and managers. To qualify for the accreditation exam you have to submit a portfolio containing at least two communication projects you've planned and implemented. The exam consists of a written test and an oral test, and evaluates your knowledge in such areas as audience research, project management and communications technology.

Step 5: Obtain a Job as a Public Relations Manager

Your potential employers include the same set of businesses, organizations and institutions that employ public relations specialists. The BLS reports that approximately 56,700 people were employed as public relations managers in 2008. From 2008-2018 employment is projected to rise 13% to 64,100. The growing level of attention educators, political parties, professional groups and business associations are giving to promotion, consumer outreach and community relations is the main trend favoring your job prospects. As of May 2010 you could have earned a median annual salary of $91,810 by working as a public relations manager.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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