To become a public relations officer, which in very simple terms is a person responsible for managing an organization's reputation, get at least a four-year college degree in public relations, communications or a related field. The types of courses you might find in these programs include mass communications, social media, business writing and others. Also, hone your writing, editing and communication skills. These skills might be called on daily when working in the profession of public relations — or PR, as it is commonly called. Being able to think on your feet, handle pressure and make decisions are other qualities that will help you become a public relations officer.
Public relations officers might also be called public relations specialists, public affairs officers or communications specialists. They have a variety of responsibilities, which typically include developing public relations campaigns, handling crisis communications and preparing media kits to provide information to news media. Public relations professionals might also develop marketing communications plans and produce print and television advertisements. Being able to multitask and change direction at a moment’s notice are important in your effort to become a public relations officer.
The scope of a public relations officer's job is often driven by the size of the organization for which he or she works. In a larger organization, the main job of a public relations officer might be to work with news media. In a smaller organization, the PR officer might do everything from writing press releases to overseeing employee communications.
Public relations officers also work in different industries. When deciding on a college to study public relations, consider whether you are interested in working in a specific area or industry, such as with a nonprofit group, in government or for a corporation. Research whether college programs you are looking at offer more specialized courses in line with your interests. Also, find out what kind of internship opportunities are provided by the schools you are looking at and whether they provide assistance with job placement.
While you are completing your college degree program, seek out internship opportunities that will help you gain experience and contacts. Join student chapters and attend the events of professional public relations organizations. The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) is one example of such an organization, as is the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
Once you are close to completing a degree program to become a public relations officer, look for entry-level positions at companies, in government, at nonprofits and with other organizations. Consider attending networking events for public relations professionals. Professional organizations often maintain job listings that can be accessed by members. Contact agencies that specialize in placing public relations professionals. Review publications targeted to PR professionals for job advertisements, and check newspaper and online advertisements.
After you have worked in the public relations field, you potentially can progress by becoming accredited. Both PRSA and IABC offer accreditation programs to public relations and communications professionals. Other organizations might offer similar accreditation.