California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Public Relations Specialists in San Diego County

May also be called: Account Executives; Communications Specialists; Media Specialists; Press Secretaries; and Public Relations Coordinators

Specialties within this occupation include: Lobbyists; and Public Information Officers

What Would I Do?

A company's reputation, profitability, and even its existence often hinge on the work of Public Relations (PR) Specialists. These workers serve as advocates for businesses, nonprofit associations, universities, hospitals, government agencies, and other organizations. Their job is to build and maintain positive and mutually beneficial relationships between their firm and its "publics." These include communities, consumers, industries, and governments.

Public Relations Specialists work on political campaigns, hold interest group meetings, conduct conflict mediation, and present materials related to employee or investor relations. They do more than “tell the organization’s story.” They must understand the attitudes and concerns of community, consumer, employee, and public interest groups. They establish and maintain cooperative relationships with them, all while communicating with representatives from print and broadcast journalism.

Public Relations Specialists are writers and speakers. They conceive and compose press releases, press kits, product fact sheets, solicitation letters, invitations, newsletters, and white papers. They also contact and persuade people in the media to print or broadcast their material. Many radio or television special reports, newspaper stories, and magazine articles start at the desks of PR Specialists. Sometimes the subject is an organization and its policies toward its employees or its role in the community. Often the subject is a public issue, such as health, energy, or the environment, and what an organization does to advance that issue.

Increasingly, Public Relations Specialists communicate through social media platforms including Internet blogs and online videos to share information, promote their organization, and gain valuable feedback from the public.

Lobbyists speak to members of government on behalf of industries, special interest groups, organizations, or other governments. Their mission is to influence votes and lawmaking to meet the goals and mission of their organization. In addition to persuading legislators, Lobbyists conduct legislative analysis, read regulatory proposals, attend hearings, and educate government and corporate officials on issues.

Public Information Officers work in government agencies. In addition to general tasks performed by Public Relations Specialists, they must also understand the principles of public administration and government. They routinely prepare replies to difficult questions and requests from the press and other organizations, as well as provide writing and editing services to others within the agency.

Tools and Technology

Public Relations Specialists use a variety of electronic tools in their daily work. They routinely use desktop publishing software, as well as photo and video editing, browser, and presentation software. Frequently used hardware includes smartphones, laptops, tablets, and printers.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Respond to requests for information from the media or designate an appropriate spokesperson or information source.Communications and Media
Consult with advertising agencies or staff to arrange promotional campaigns in all types of media for products, organizations, or individuals.English Language
Prepare or edit organizational publications for internal and external audiences, including employee newsletters and stockholders' reports.Writing
Confer with other managers to identify trends or key group interests or concerns, or to provide advice on business decisions.Active Listening
Plan or conduct market or public opinion research to test products or determine potential for product success, communicating results to client or management.Sales and Marketing
Study the objectives, promotional policies, or needs of organizations to develop public relations strategies that will influence public opinion or promote ideas, products, or services.Critical Thinking
Prepare or deliver speeches to further public relations objectives.Speaking
Establish or maintain cooperative relationships with representatives of community, consumer, employee, or public interest groups.Customer and Personal Service
Plan or direct development or communication of informational programs to maintain favorable public or stockholder perceptions of an organization's accomplishments or agenda.Fluency of Ideas
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Public Relations Specialists work in busy offices, with some travel required to make presentations or attend events. The pressures of deadlines, tight work schedules, and frequent interruptions can be stressful. Some work a standard 40-hour week, but many work overtime or irregular hours. Unpaid overtime is common.

Occasionally, Public Relations Specialists must be at the job or on call around the clock, especially if there is an emergency or crisis. Schedules often have to be rearranged so Specialists can meet deadlines, deliver speeches, attend meetings and community activities, and travel.

Typically, PR Specialists do not belong to unions.

Will This Job Fit Me?

This job may appeal to those who enjoy writing and speaking, as well as those who like to communicate with and teach others. Those who desire independence on the job, as well as creativity and responsibility, might like this type of work.

People who are diplomatic and tactful, who like influencing people and making decisions, and who don't mind taking risks now and then, might like this type of work.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages vary depending on the industry where Public Relations Specialists work, the size of the agency, and the geographic location of the firm. Large corporate firms in metropolitan areas tend to pay more than community organizations, local government, and colleges and universities.

Recent college graduates with degrees in communications or public relations are sometimes hired as interns and paid a much lower-than-average salary for a limited term.


The median wage in 2020 for Public Relations Specialists in California is $67,314 annually, or $32.36 hourly. The median wage for Public Relations Specialists in San Diego County is $70,123 annually, or $33.72 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2020Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
San Diego County$49,101$70,123$86,088
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2020 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Public Relations Specialists typically earn full benefits including medical and dental insurance, as well as vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans. Specialists who own their own businesses or who work on temporary contracts need to pay for their own insurance and retirement.

What is the Job Outlook?

Although employment is projected to grow faster than average, keen competition is expected for entry-level jobs. Opportunities should be best for college graduates who combine a degree in public relations, journalism, or another communications-related field with an internship or other related work experience.

The need for good public relations in an increasingly competitive business environment should spur demand for these workers in organizations of all types and sizes. Those with knowledge in writing for social media platforms, as well as those with bilingual capabilities, are in greater demand.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Public Relations Specialists is expected to grow at an average rate compared with the total for all occupations. Jobs for Public Relations Specialists are expected to increase by 11.3 percent, or 3,000 jobs between 2016 and 2026.

In San Diego County, the number of Public Relations Specialists is expected to grow at an average rate compared with the total for all occupations. Jobs for Public Relations Specialists are expected to increase by 11.0 percent, or 230 jobs between 2016 and 2026.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Public Relations Specialists
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

A bachelor's degree is required for almost every Public Relations Specialist position. Employers look for candidates with degrees in public relations, communications, journalism, English, or business. Training programs are rapidly changing to keep pace with the ever-growing number of ways PR Specialists must engage the public's attention. For example, PR Specialists must learn how to write for social media platforms, each which requires a writing style and focus different from online or print publications. In the same vein, speeches, public service announcements, and even e-mails all have a particular communication style and format. Lobbyist positions typically require a bachelor's degree or higher, as well as knowledge of government, policy, and the industry or agency they represent.


Employers often require experience in the form of an internship, which is sometimes arranged through partnerships between the training program and employers. Some firms seek candidates who have work experience in electronic or print journalism. Others seek applicants with experience in a field related to the firm’s business. Lobbyists sometimes get early experience working as congressional or legislative aides.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in working as Public Relations Specialists should take advantage of extracurricular activities that involve writing, such as the school newspaper and yearbook. Local theaters, non-profit organizations, and fundraisers also offer opportunities for students to assist with public relations activities. Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) exist for prospective PR Specialists in related areas such as journalism. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Continuing education is generally not a requirement for Public Relations Specialists. However, those who hold certificates and wish to be recertified will likely need to meet continuing education requirements. It is essential PR Specialists stay current with technologies, legislation, policies, and issues related to their job and industry. Associations and university extension programs offer seminars and workshops, as well as certificates to demonstrate current knowledge.


Certifications exist for this career, such as the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) certificate. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Public Relations, Image Management, and Communications.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

As expected, Public Relations Specialists work in public relations agencies and consulting firms. However, most industries also employ PR Specialists. These include manufacturing; insurance; health care; social assistance; finance; government; and civic, religious, or professional organizations.

Public Relations Specialists are typically concentrated in large cities, where press services and other communications facilities are readily available, and where many businesses and trade associations have their headquarters. The largest industries employing Public Relations Specialists are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Advertising and Related Services16.0%
Colleges and Universities11.1%
Local Government4.1%
Elementary and Secondary Schools3.3%
Management of Companies and Enterprises3.1%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Public Relations Specialists often find jobs through online job boards. Some get leads through association membership, through their department office at school, at career centers, and by attending job fairs. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Public Relations Specialists.

  • Associations
  • Government Offices
  • Lobbyists
  • Public Relations Counselors
  • Publicity Services

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Promotion to executive and managerial jobs may come to Public Relations Specialists who continually add to their knowledge and show they can handle more demanding assignments. In public relations firms, a beginner might be hired as a research assistant, social media expert, or account coordinator. Some experienced Public Relations Specialists start their own consulting firms.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Public Relations Specialists with links to more information.

Advertising and Promotions ManagersProfile
Communications Teachers, PostsecondaryProfile
Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists*Guide
Public Relations and Fundraising ManagersProfile
Technical WritersGuide
Writers and AuthorsProfile

Other Sources

  • California Association of Public Information Officials
  • California State Information Officers Council
  • Internationa Association of Business Communicators
  • Public Relations Student Society of America

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification27-3031
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Public Relations Specialists27-3031.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)EAS
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Speech Communication and Rhetoric.090101
   Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Comm090900
   Public Relations/Image Management 090902
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Public Relations060600
   Speech Communication150600