What I Did With My Degree: Public Relations

I enrolled in college at the age of 36, with the intention of improving my writing skills. It didn't take me long to realize I needed to find a way to support myself, while I was writing.

Thinking I was going to have to forgo my writing dream for a more realistic approach to earning a living, I declared a major in social work. When I learned I would have to earn a master's to get a decent-paying job in that career, I decided to change my major.

After considering several other unsuitable tracks -- including psychology and physical education -- I finally landed on a major I should have chosen in the first place: journalism, with an emphasis in advertising and public relations.

While the journalism aspect of the degree appealed to me more than advertising and pr, I did have a good business background. As the owner and operator of a second-hand store and a home cleaning service, I had some experience with advertising, promotion, and public relations.

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Although employment for public relations professionals is expected to grow much faster than average through 2018, competition for entry-level jobs is expected to be keen, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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$51,280: Average annual salary of public relations professionals according to the May 2008 BLS report.

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Between my junior and senior years, I worked as an intern for an advertising and public relations firm. I was assigned to assist with two accounts that summer.

One was with a dynamic man who had invented a new board game. I assisted him in securing media coverage as he toured the country promoting his game. We designed and assembled a press kit, then sent it to appropriate radio, TV, and print media contacts. In the days before cell phones and the Internet, I acted as the liaison for setting up interviews. It was exciting and rewarding to be a part of his success.

The second account was with a local transit company. I helped them launch a one-millionth passenger campaign by designing fliers and other advertising, securing media interviews and promotions, and getting area merchants to offer shopping sprees and other prizes.

Although unpaid, that job was the best I ever had.

Unfortunately, the college had no placement service for my degree, and I was left to my own devices to find a position after graduation. I wasn't willing to relocate, which also put me at a disadvantage.

Fortunately, I was able to find a few related jobs.

My first job was as a district manager in the circulation department of a local newspaper. My responsibilities included hiring, training, and motivating newspaper carriers. My skills and personality were not a good match for the position, so I moved on to a weekly advertising circular in classified and display ads. I loved helping people write and put together their ads, but I did not enjoy selling advertising space to businesses during the various promotions.

Wanting a position relating more to advertising writing, designing, and layout, I enrolled in a desktop publishing program at the local vocational college and earned an associate's degree.

While I was taking the DTP classes, I was hired by a small radio station, as the office manager, with varied duties. My favorite responsibility was designing the ads the station used in their marketing packages; unfortunately, this comprised a small percentage of my time.

After about a year, I got restless and decided it was time to work full time at the business I had been operating on the side since graduation. I had a handful of steady customers, whom I helped with advertising and promotional needs. To supplement that income I also stepped up my marketing for résumé clients. I enjoyed a fairly brisk business until the late 1990s.

By then, most local people had computer access and didn't want to pay for something they felt they could do on their own.

I bought my first computer system with Internet access in December 1999, took several classes in web design, and discovered a whole new world with countless opportunities.

Today's flexible public relations graduate has unlimited possibilities, not only in the traditional private and public sectors, but also the more nontraditional Internet , as more small businesses seek an Internet presence.

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