A career as a public relations officer
A career in public relations (PR) offers a fast paced, creative work environment that relies on effective communication skills to promote the message of clients and companies and manage their reputation.
For PR officers, employment opportunities can be found in a wide range of industries, both in-house and in larger PR consultancies.
Those looking to find more specialist job opportunities would need to combine PR training with knowledge of the company or sector they want to work for.
Consultancies, however, work independently to provide PR services to a range of clients across different industries.
The main aim of a PR officer is to gain understanding and support for their clients, and influence opinion and behaviour – a PR officer for clothing line, for example, would work to influence consumers to buy their client's products.
In addition to communicating key messages, PR officers also monitor publicity, liaising with media bodies to measure coverage and conducting research into how marketing is received.
There are no specific qualifications to secure a job as a PR officer; however most applicants have a degree or higher national diploma (HND). Some universities do offer tailored PR courses, which could be advantageous, but job opportunities are largely open to all graduates.
The industry is highly competitive and so relevant academic study and work experience is important to stand out from other candidates when trying to find jobs.
Degrees in subjects such as communication, media studies, English, business, management and marketing offer relevant academic knowledge, and post-graduate qualifications in PR are also available.
With the large population of graduates in the UK, a post-graduate qualification builds on undergraduate learning and skills and could be particularly attractive to employers.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), the professional body for PR in the UK, is currently piloting a new qualification which could help top secure employment opportunities – the Introductory Award in Public Relations.
As with most industries, work experience is important for job seekers, relevant work placements in PR, communications, marketing or the media can help candidates to get a feel for the industry and pick up useful practical knowledge.
Students can join the CIPR at a reduced rate to access work placement opportunities and contact potential employers to build a network of useful contacts.
In addition to academic qualifications and hands-on experience, candidates will need to demonstrate excellent communication and interpersonal skills, a high standard of writing, organisational and time management skills.
Creativity is an important quality for PR officers, as is the ability to cope under pressure and work in a team to ensure a project is successful.
Graduate training schemes are offered by large firms, providing secure employment opportunities for new entrants to the field, however competition for places on such schemes is tough.
A job as a PR assistant in a smaller firm or an in-house PR department can be a useful starting point for newly qualified PR officers.
Details of PR and other relevant courses in the UK, are offered by Ucas.
The CIPR provides more information about the PR industry and training courses.
Helpful advice about preparing for a career in PR can be found on the Prospects website.