One of the biggest advantages of earning a degree in public relations is the wide range of realistic career options available to you after graduation. In addition to conventional PR roles such as PR specialist and PR manager, PR expertise can qualify you for positions in events management, fundraising, content marketing, social media, program coordination, copywriting and more.
Your public relations career path might be even more extensive with the benefit of an advanced credential such as the Master’s in Strategic Public Relations (SPR) from the George Washington University (GW). This online PR degree combines a rigorous curriculum taught by world-class faculty with a flexible format that’s perfect for busy professionals.
Major PR and PR-adjacent career fields to consider
As you think about what happens after you finish your PR education, let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of PR and PR-adjacent work and what responsibilities and compensation you can expect for each one.
Public relations (as a specialist or a manager)
As the quintessential PR careers, these two role encompass many of the field’s best known activities, such as drafting press releases, preparing information for media contacts, responding to press inquiries, gauging public opinion via social media, and selecting advertising and promotional programs that complement a PR strategy. PR managers will take on higher-level responsibilities such as directing overall strategy, selecting spokespersons and organizing individual teams.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates 9% growth in PR specialist positions from 2016 to 2026 (which is as fast as average) and calculated median pay of $60,000 in 2018. For PR managers, the BLS foresees 10% growth (faster than average) with median 2018 pay of more than $114,000.
PR has become increasingly intertwined with content marketing in recent years. While definitions vary, content marketing generally refers to the use of a wide range of deliverables ― from blog posts and white papers to infographics and videos ― to establish a brand or position as trustworthy and authoritative. Unlike conventional advertising and marketing, it often does not even mention the company’s name, since audiences will likely already know that due to the asset in question appearing on its official site, in an email or on a social media account.
PR professionals are typically adept writers who hone these communications skills in regular interactions with members of the media and the public. As such, they are well-positioned to produce and edit the large volume of deliverables that are created as part of a content marketing strategy. The BLS estimates that the broad category of writers and authors will see an 8% increase in employment from 2016 to 2026. Median pay for 2018 was $60,000.
Many of the key functions of community relations overlap with those of public relations. As a social and community service manager, you might coordinate with community members and other stakeholders on the implementation of specific programs, evaluate the performance of those initiatives, draft proposals for funding and think about outreach activities. All of these tasks require skills that PR professionals are already familiar with, making this field appealing for some graduates.
The BLS expects much faster than average growth for social and community service managers from 2016 to 2026, to the tune of an 18% increase in total employment. Median 2018 pay was more than $65,000 per year.
Knowing how to navigate a crisis is a core function of public relations. When negative publicity filters through social media or another channel, it’s a race against time to stabilize the public’s perception, relay relevant information and adequately respond to inquiries.
In addition to PR roles, crisis management expertise can help in the pursuit of more specialized roles such as emergency response director. This position involves overseeing and administering the response to disasters and emergencies, in close coordination with public safety officials, private contractors and members of the public.
According to the BLS, emergency response directors are set for 8% growth in total employment from 2016 to 2026. Their median annual pay for 2018 was $74,420. Becoming an emergency response director typically requires significant experience in the field and possibly some specific certifications like the Certified Emergency Manager and Certified Business Continuity Professional credentials.
A brand ambassador is a high-profile representative of an organization who embodies its key values and helps raise the public’s awareness of its mission and activities. Companies like Corner Bakery Cafe have had significant success with their brand ambassador programs. Corner Bakery Cafe once supplemented a store opening in Maryland by hiring brand ambassadors who walked around the local community with jetpacks filled with free coffee, which they offered to the people they greeted along with menus from the restaurant.
The BLS employment category closest to brand ambassador is advertising, promotions and marketing managers. These professionals generally work on increasing awareness of and interest in products, services and causes, much like PR specialists. The employment outlook for them is good, with 10% growth in positions expected from 2016 to 2026. In 2018, their median pay was more than $132,000 annually.
How the SPR program prepares you for these career fields
The GW SPR track is based on a diverse and comprehensive curriculum that covers topics such as sustainability communication, crisis management, political opinion formation, research methodologies, finance and digital media relations. Moreover, all students have the opportunity to collaborate with world-class faculty on a capstone project that explores a subject of particular interest in depth.
The SPR program is 100% online, providing excellent flexibility for students with other personal and professional commitments, and the degree you earn is the same as what you would receive from a traditional on-campus program. To learn more about how to get started, visit the main program overview page, where you can answer a few quick questions to receive our official brochure.
Advertising, Promotions and Marketing Managers
Three Examples of Brand Ambassador Success
Emergency Management Directors
Social and Community Service Managers
Writers and Authors
Public Relations Jobs
Public Relations Specialists
Public Relations Managers