If you have a knack for communicating in all media, you might consider pursuing a career as a public information officer. A typical public information officer job description calls for applicants who have exceptional written and verbal communication skills, an understanding of media relations and solid interpersonal skills. But what does a public information officer do? Explore this career guide to find out whether this role could be a good fit for you.
What Does a Public Information Officer Do?
A public information officer is responsible for curating a positive public image for an organization. To accomplish this, these professionals may perform a wide range of public relations management tasks, such as holding press conferences and preparing speeches. The job of a public information officer is virtually indistinguishable from that of a public relations specialist or manager, with one major difference.
Whereas a public relations specialist typically works for a company or a roster of high-profile individuals, a public information officer typically works for a government agency or a major organization. For instance, a public information officer may work for a city or county, transportation department, police department, school district, university, emergency management office, professional organization, hospital or research institution.
Public Information Officer Job Description
Every day can look a little different for a public information officer, depending on the current needs of their employer. In general, however, these professionals typically perform tasks such as the following:
- Developing and maintaining strong relationships with the media and journalists
- Collaborating with management to establish a vision for the organization’s public image
- Working with the marketing team to ensure that all collateral developed for the organization is aligned with its desired public image
- Establishing strategies for members of the organization to follow when interacting with the media and the public
- Planning and conducting press conferences to announce major developments or responses to problems
- Training members of the organization on how to properly hold a press conference or an interview
- Preparing written communications for the organization, specifically speeches to be made by a senior executive
In addition, a public information officer will usually devote some time to monitoring the organization’s image. They may scroll through social media feeds, read relevant news articles and explore comments on social media posts to evaluate how the organization is being perceived by the media and members of the public. An ongoing evaluation of the organization’s image allows public information officers to adapt their media strategies to suit changing needs or to address problems.
Earn an Undergraduate Degree in Communications
After high school, the first step in the process of becoming a public information officer is to earn a bachelor’s degree. Aspiring public information officers typically choose a degree in communications. A communications degree is an incredibly versatile choice that instills many competencies valued by employers in all fields. Although every college establishes its own curriculum, here at GCU you can expect to study topics such as the following:
- The fundamentals of communication studies, including the history of the field
- Communication competencies in small group communication, mass communication and public communication
- Concepts, theories and applications of conflict communication and the negotiation process, with a look toward power dynamics and intervention techniques
- Communication research methods
- Principles and theories of public relations
- Designing, developing and delivering corporate training and development programs
As a communications major, you are strongly encouraged to explore internship opportunities in the field. Look beyond the goal of becoming a public information officer and consider pursuing internships in fields such as marketing, fundraising and sales. An internship in any of these fields can enable you to develop real-world communication skills, as well as workplace etiquette.
Earn a Master’s Degree in Communications
It’s possible to land a job in the public relations field with just a bachelor’s degree. However, job candidates with a master’s degree are often able to compete for higher-level positions at prestigious organizations and government agencies. You may want to earn a master’s degree immediately after graduating with your bachelor’s, or you may want to return to school after gaining a few years of full-time work experience.
A master’s degree in communication is the ideal graduate degree for an aspiring public information officer. During the course of this one or two-year program, you may study topics such as the following:
- Concepts and theories in strategic communication
- Interactions between the structure of an organization
- Theories, methodologies and effects of media consumption
- Interpersonal communication competencies in professional contexts
Are Public Information Officers in High Demand?
There is a strong demand for public information officers/public relations specialists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for public relations specialists to increase by about 11% from 2020 to 2030, faster than average, accounting for an estimated increase of 31,200 jobs in the field.1
If the public information officer job description appeals to you, you can prepare to pursue this meaningful career when you apply for enrollment at Grand Canyon University. In addition to our many communications-focused bachelor’s degree programs, GCU is pleased to offer the Master of Arts in Communication with an Emphasis in Education degree program.
1COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on September 2021, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Public Relations Specialists , retrieved on 07/15/2022.
Approved by Faculty for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Oct. 13, 2022.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.