Image is everything to an organization’s public perception. If a company creates a negative impression, potential customers may never come, current customers may turn away, and the bottom line of profitability suffers. Public affairs specialists are critical in business to ensure this never happens. They work to keep a company’s presence both positive and relevant, and strategize to make its brand image prominent and pervasive.

Public affairs is a unique career for those who are striving to attain an advanced degree such as a Master of Public Administration. Before pursuing this career path, however, individuals should fully understand the public affairs specialist job description to ensure it aligns with their professional interests.

How to Become a Public Affairs Specialist

A public affairs specialist is a crucial position in business, as the role can greatly influence an organization’s level of success. The path to achieving this role entails the following important steps.

Step 1: Earn a Degree

Aspiring public affairs specialists must have at least a bachelor’s degree, often in business, public relations, journalism, communications, or English. Earning an advanced degree, such as a Master of Public Administration, sharpens the skills that are fundamental to the position. Graduate programs in the field also commonly feature concentrations that allow students to narrow their focus to a particular area of public affairs, such as municipal governance, nonprofit management, or criminal justice and public safety. Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration offers all of these.

Step 2: Gain Experience

In addition to earning a degree, prospective public affairs specialists must gain real-world experience through internship programs in communications or public relations. They can also gain experience as  entry-level professionals in public relations or public affairs departments.

What Is the Public Affairs Specialist Job Description?

Public affairs specialists typically serve as the public face of an organization, working with various media outlets to help a company foster greater awareness. Stewarding a company’s positive brand image requires several tasks, including writing press releases, managing interview requests with an organization’s key individuals, and responding to media-based information inquiries. Public affairs specialists also may participate in devising various brand image campaigns or marketing strategies to generate positive public opinion about products or policies.

The ultimate goal of the position depends on the industry. If public affairs specialists work for a public organization such as a government agency, they may use the position to advocate for public policy or a potential bill that could influence or impact a community or business. In the private sector, those in the role may deploy strategies to promote and maintain brand awareness in the minds of current and potential customers.

Public Affairs Specialist Skills

To complete the duties that define the public affairs specialist job description, several essential skills and competencies are needed. Because these professionals interact with multiple stakeholders, ranging from executives to external organizations such as the media, they must possess strong interpersonal skills. Demonstrating excellent verbal and written communication skills is another necessary skill.

As the job often requires multitasking, public affairs specialists must be detail-oriented and organized. It also is important they have a strong knowledge of their organization and the industry it serves. Since they are responsible for maintaining the reputation of their companies, public affairs specialists should have skills pertaining to strategic planning.

Public Affairs Specialist Salary

The compensation website PayScale lists the median entry-level annual salary for a public affairs specialist at around $45,500. It also reports this increases to around $64,000 for those with roughly five years of experience. Professionals with 10-19 years of experience can earn an annual median salary of $70,000.

Additional factors, besides experience, can influence an individual’s precise salary. For instance, those with an advanced degree may command a higher salary, as employers often seek candidates whose education points to a more extensive skill set. Job location also can impact salary. Those who work in a metropolitan area with a higher cost of living may earn more than those in a less populated region with a lower cost of living.

Future Job Growth

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have job growth information specifically on public affairs specialists, but it lists the projected job growth for public relations specialists at 7% between 2019 and 2029. The field as a whole is expected to expand by 19,700 jobs during that time. That is faster than the 4% growth rate the BLS projects for all other professions and the expected 3% growth rate for media and communication workers.

Prepare for Success in Public Affairs

Job growth metrics from the BLS suggest the public affairs field is competitive. Those who earn an advanced degree in public affairs can not only distinguish themselves from other prospective candidates, but refine the skills to excel in this crucial role.

 Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration offers a comprehensive curriculum that features a thorough study of fiscal, strategic, and organizational management concepts.

As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has maintained a leadership position in offering innovative educational opportunities since 1819. Through its online programs, the university provides relevant and applicable curricula that enable students to make a positive impact on both the workplace and the community.

Learn more about what a public affairs specialist job description entails, the position’s required skills—and how the Norwich University online Master of Public Administration can bolster success in the role.


Recommended Readings

An Overview of the Importance of Public Administration
Career Outlook: Public Administrator
6 Elements of Public Administration


Average Public Affairs Specialist with Corporate Communications Skills Salary, PayScale
Public Affairs, PR Council
Public Relations Specialists, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Average Entry-Level Public Affairs Specialist Salary, PayScale
Glossary of Terms, Public Relations Society of America

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