Public affairs specialists engage in conversation

Careers in Public Administration: The Public Affairs Specialist Job Description at a Glance

Public Administration

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 positive and relevant and strategize to make its brand image prominent within its industry. It’s a unique career opportunity for those striving to attain an advanced degree such as Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration. Before pursuing this career path, individuals should fully understand the public affairs specialist job description to ensure it aligns with their professional interests.

What Is a Public Affairs Specialist?

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

The ultimate goal of a public affairs specialist depends on the industry. If a public affairs specialist is working for a public organization such as a government agency, he or she 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 can deploy strategies to promote and maintain brand awareness in the minds of current and potential customers.

How to Become a Public Affairs Specialist

A public affairs specialist is a critical position in a business, as the role can greatly influence an organization’s level of success. In turn, several essential skills and competencies are needed to succeed in the position. Because public affairs specialists interact with multiple entities ranging from executives and external organizations such as the media, they must possess strong interpersonal, verbal and written communication skills. As the job often requires multi-tasking, they must be detail-oriented and organized. It also is important that they have a strong knowledge of the organization and the industry in which it serves.

These skills are paramount to success as a public affairs specialist. As a result, the path to achieving the role entails several important steps.

Educational Requirements               

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 Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration, sharpens the skills fundamental to the position. Graduate programs in this field also commonly feature concentrations that allow students to narrow their focus to a particular avenue of public affairs, such as municipal governance, nonprofit management, or public works and sustainability, all offered by Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration.

Gaining Experience   

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

Public Affairs Specialist Salary 

PayScale lists the average entry-level annual salary for a public affairs specialist at around $44,300. It also reports that this average increases to around $63,000 for those with roughly five years of experience. 

Additional factors can influence an individual’s precise salary. For instance, those with an advanced degree, such as Norwich University’s Master of Public Administration, may command a higher salary as this level of education can demonstrate an individual’s extensive skill set. Job location also can factor into a person’s salary, as 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 a public affairs specialist position, but it lists the projected job growth for public relations specialist at 9% between 2016 and 2026. That is slightly faster than the 7% rate the BLS projects for the average profession. 

Prepare for Success in Public Affairs

The BLS job growth metrics suggest the public affairs field is competitive. Those who earn an advanced degree in public affairs not only distinguish themselves from other prospective candidates but refine the skills needed 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 maintains a forefront position in offering innovative educational opportunities since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich provides relevant and applicable curricula that enable students to make a positive impact on both the workplace and the community.

Recommended Readings

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


Master of Public Administration, Norwich University
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