What types of public affairs careers are there?

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When you first see “Master’s in Political Management,” you may think this degree is solely for those interested in electoral politics or public policy. But at the George Washington University, the Graduate School of Political Management offers an inclusive curriculum. From digital strategists to public relations professionals and senior account executives, the political management program serves as a launching point for you to pursue your passion in a wide number of professions.

One such field is public affairs. As this field is quite broad, here are a few of the career paths you can pursue if public affairs is your passion.

  1. Public relations professional

With so many ways to connect with the outside world ― e.g. text message, face-to-face, mobile apps and social media, etc. ― it’s little wonder this occupation is growing so quickly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are roughly 259,600 public relations specialists in the U.S., and the number is expected to grow as much as 9% between 2016 and 2026.

As the title implies, public relations professionals are charged with developing, maintaining or creating a persona so it reflects the companies they represent positively. This may be through crafting press releases, holding press conferences or providing updates on social media.

Public relations professionals and public affairs professionals typically have many of the same qualifications and responsibilities. Chief among them is their ability to effectively communicate with people in a manner that resonates with whomever they’re speaking. But there’s an important distinction to make between these two job titles. While public affairs personnel interact with legislators to effect changes that affect the public at large, public relations specialists place their focus on image and brand building. In short, they’re more about advertising than policy advancing. This may explain why public relations specialists predominantly work for advertising or PR firms as opposed to governmental organizations, according to government data.

Public affairs professionals in a panel

  1. Professional lobbyist

A lobbyist is like a cross between a public affairs and public relations specialist. Their responsibilities also involve communicating with the legislatures, but this is principally done to pass laws that are favorable to their clients, companies or organizations. Common industries that employ lobbyists include pharmaceuticals, insurance, oil and gas as well as healthcare. In addition to drafting the occasional press release, lobbyists place much of their focus on developing interpersonal relationships with individuals who can create policy – namely, lawmakers in the nation’s capital. This often requires networking and attending conferences or hearings where they can make these connections.

  1. Editor

Editor is another profession that is quite broad in its scope. Publications come in many different forms, including newspaper, television, film, magazine or journals. Their main function is a thorough knowledge of the written word. Editors may have writing responsibilities as well, but they frequently serve in quality control capacities to ensure articles, scripts, reports and memos are on point. They may also examine sources used to establish authenticity and corroboration.

Because much of what editors review is disseminated to the public, they must have excellent interpersonal skills, be detail-oriented and exercise good judgment. It’s also helpful to be involved in the community, particularly for editors of local newspapers. Grassroots Engagement in the Advocacy Politics Cluster of the political management curriculum can provide insight in this regard.

  1. Market research analyst

For those who seek a career in the public eye but also like to work behind the scenes at the same time, market research may be the perfect blend of both worlds. Professionals in this line of work help to monitor, evaluate, gather and prepare data for their organization. This information may be used to identify sales trends, performance of industry competitors or forecast market conditions. Unlike other public affairs-related careers, market research analysts spend a lot of their time poring over numbers, as scientific, finance, insurance and technical consulting services are some of their most common employers. Several of the proficiencies taught in the course Political Data and Analytics are relevant to this line of work.

  1. Social Media Strategists

If there’s anything that has fundamentally altered how people connect with others, it’s social media. According to the Pew Research Center, 75% of women 18 years of age and older and 63% of men regularly use Facebook.

A lobbyist brainstorming ideas

Social media strategists must be internet-savvy and have a fundamental understanding of their target audience. This allows them to publish or promote the material ― such as videos, memes or articles ― that generate interest and attracts clicks. In short, they must be keenly in tune with the public. Maximizing Social Media is a three-credit course that delves into promotional and awareness strategies students can use.

If a career in public affairs is your goal, an online Master’s in Political Management can help you get there. Contact us to find out more about what makes this program so uniquely positioned to equip you for success.

Recommended Reading:
A Catalyst for Change: Make an Impact
What Can I Do with a Master’s Degree

BLS – Market research analysts
BLS – Public relations specialists
PR Daily
Pew Research Center
Work Chron