Career Options for Public Relations Majors

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Rowan PR chair, student and alumni shed light on ‘what can you do with a public relations degree?’

Rowan Blog contributor and senior public relations major, Natalie DePersia, shares a first-person perspective on potential career opportunities within the public relations industry. After interviewing several individuals, from peers to professors to professionals, she delves into the many career options for an undergrad degree in public relations. To connect with Natalie professionally, send an invite to her LinkedIn

Being an undergraduate student and focusing on your studies while balancing a social life and extracurriculars can be overwhelming. However, as soon as junior year hits, we have been taught that internship experience is extremely beneficial and highly recommended to stand out in the job search process.

Public relations is a highly versatile field that can complement many other industries and provide ample opportunities in various fields. However, with its versatility can come feelings of confusion and hesitance, especially when determining the career path you want to pursue in your post-graduate endeavors. 

Within this article, I interviewed several different sources from current Rowan professors to current public relations students and peers to Rowan public relations graduates and alums to gain an understanding of how flexible the field truly is and emphasize the opportunities available post-graduation. 

By interviewing these very different individuals, I was able to gain a better understanding on the different fields available within public relations especially when seeking out positions available after graduation. These PR professionals have similar input on opportunities available, however, they all provide different directions as they are all interested in different careers or have experience in different realms of the industry. 

Natalie DePersia poses for a portrait in front of blooming purple azaleas on Rowan University's campus.
Graduating senior Natalie DePersia

Dr. Suzanne Sparks FitzGerald is a professor within Rowan’s Public Relations and Advertising Department and specializes in corporate and agency PR but has a lot of nonprofit and consulting experience concurrent with teaching.

What are the possible career paths for graduates with a public relations degree?

All fields need a PR person, so healthcare, education, sports, entertainment, high tech companies, law firms, accounting firms, the arts, nonprofits, and government agencies (e.g., NASA.) PR graduates can work in-house (which is working directly for organizations) or for agencies, which is also a popular choice for many grads. Some of the varied career paths within those industries include media relations, internal communication, digital marketing, crisis communication, special events and publicity, copywriting, public affairs (military and state/federal government PR), social media, media buying, fundraising and development, and so much more. PR is a foundation that continues to grow. We are preparing students on how to think in the world – not just now, but for how it changes. We have successful Rowan PR grads in executive positions for types of jobs that didn’t even exist when they graduated – the field has evolved, and will continue to evolve, that much. 

What skills are most important when seeking a job in public relations?

Writing, current events, presenting, research, and planning.

What is the best way that student(s) can prepare themselves for the public relations field prior to graduating? What is your best piece of advice for students who will be graduating with a degree in public relations?

Get as much experiential knowledge as possible. Take practium [practical application] courses, have multiple internships, and join a pre-professional organization–Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), Ad Club, Prof Agency, and the American Marketing Association where you can get actual experience before graduating.

Why is internship experience important prior to graduation? 

Because your peers will have it–one thing students need to consider is that working in an agency or company gives you general business experience that you might not gain otherwise–you will be immersed in company culture. We do have students that for whatever reason are unable to take an internship – they might already be working a significant number of hours already at another job, or be responsible for family members or whatnot – for those students I say, it’s OK. There are creative ways to gain that professional experience. Volunteer for a project that is meaningful to you for a nonprofit that you are passionate about; work alongside one of your professors to assist with research; join one of our PR clubs and commit to one continuous task over time, such as writing an article for a monthly newsletter. There are creative ways to immerse yourself in the field, grow your craft, and show future employers that you are serious about your education, both inside the classroom and beyond it. 

What career paths did you explore prior to becoming a professor within this field?

I worked for Unisys, a government contractor- we made devices for the Department of Defense–I had to have a secret clearance! I then worked for a small PR agency, a startup company, a CIGNA subsidiary, and The American College. I served as Marketing Communications Director or Director of Corporate Communication. One enjoyable aspect of my job at the CIGNA subsidiary was getting my boss on the Today Show and preparing him for that!

A male PRSSA student poses for a photo with a life-size New Jersey driver's license, with his head in the cardboard cutout, to show he has signed up to be an organ donor.
Every year, public relations students in PRSSA organize Organ Donor Day on campus, partnering with The Gift of Life in Philadelphia to encourage people to sign up to become organ donors. From research, planning and publicizing the event, securing speakers, managing logistics, budgets and timelines, and more, the students gain industry hands-on experiences while still on campus to add to their resumes.

Troi Barnes is a 2017 Rowan public relations graduate who currently works as a supervisor of PR and multicultural business lead at Allen & Gerritsen, an integrated marketing agency that is headquartered in Boston and Philadelphia.

Why did you choose to study public relations? 

I honestly choose to study PR because I am nosy, I enjoy pop culture and I like providing people with sound advice and guidance. I also wanted to be behind the scenes of big new stories and events and not in front of the camera.

As an alumnus with a public relations degree from Rowan, what are potential career options for graduates in a public relations degree?

Your options are endless, pick an industry you enjoy whether it be music, sports, entertainment or healthcare, everyone needs a communication professional on their team.

Troi Barnes stands at a podium in front of a bank of media microphones at a Washington, DC, event, while wearing a red suit and talking to the media.
From Troi’s LinkedIn page: “Younger me couldn’t dream of what I am doing now. It has been the honor of a lifetime to work alongside NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. to amplify the voices of Black and Brown Americans on a daily basis. Today, I witnessed fearless litigators speak on behalf of their clients at the highest court in the nation to defend our voting rights.”

What career paths have you been interested in since graduating with this degree?

I have luckily worked in all of the paths that I currently want to work in including, music, hospitality and tourism and sports and entertainment.

What skills are most important when seeking out a job within the public relations field?

The most important skills to have are strong writing skills, organization and public speaking experience.

Did you participate in any internship(s) during your undergraduate career? Please describe your internship experiences.

I was a PR intern for NBC Sports Philadelphia, while there I handled Eagles swag, worked behind the scenes during the pre-game shows, and help plan the company’s staff events and partnering foundations events. I also interned in Rowan’s pr office under Barbara Baals and Pat Quigley, I drafted press releases that focused on the engineering department. Lastly, I worked with Patty Jackson, the legendary radio host at WDAS, I provided her hot topics for her 411 segment, gather social media content during concerts and welcomed celebrity guests.

Please describe different job positions and leadership roles that you have been involved in since graduating from Rowan University.

While at Rowan I started as an admissions ambassador [giving campus tours] and by the end of my time at Rowan I was an admissions ambassador coordinator [leading the student team.]

Erica Gerold recently graduated with a dual major of senior public relations and theatre arts with concentrations in musical theatre, acting, directing, and theatre education. She was also the president of PRSSA and accepted a position with G4Productions, Broadway NYC, as a marketing coordinator.

Why did you choose to study public relations and theatre? How do these majors complement each other?

I always have had a knack for storytelling in conversation and writing, research, and planning. I initially leaned toward going into English or Business when deciding on a college major. While searching for a career based on these skills, I came across different types of majors within the communications field. I loved to follow the different New York theatre magazines’ on-the-scene stories and interviews, and with a passion for theatre, an idea started to form that I could be the one doing press in the arts. I teetered between applying to schools for public relations or journalism. However, I decided to learn a mix of cut-and-dry and creative writing styles in PR, where I might not learn to write formally in journalism.

The love for performance came at a much younger age. Every year my grade school went to see the fall musical at the high school next door, and in sixth grade, it put out an audition notice for The Wizard of Oz. I had yet to learn that theatre was something I could participate in versus just watching. My friend implored me to audition, and I have not stopped acting since. (Once I got older I gained affection for directing, teaching, and performing.)

These majors perfectly complement each other. A theatre artist could try to get a job in PR, but without the knowledge of AP Style, they could never write a press release. A PR practitioner who wants to work in the arts but has never been involved in theatre cannot think the same way as an actor or audience member. My perspective gained from being a double major gave me a unique lens in my fields that other professionals do not have.

Erica smiles on stage, linked arm in arm with a fellow theatre major during a production.
Dual major in PR and theatre, Erica Gerold performed on campus regularly.

As a recent public relations student at Rowan, what are potential career options for graduates with a public relations degree you’ve learned about?

There are so many potential career options for graduates with a public relations degree. Some of which include corporate communications, crisis management, media relations, digital content creation, and event planning. Depending on the courses you take in your undergrad, you could branch off into advertising or journalism.

What career paths are you interested in pursuing after graduation? 

I am highly interested in pursuing in-house work for the arts. In addition, I had many experiences in junior year with agency life as the vice president of our PR firm on campus and a classroom assistant in the public relations practicum course. Pursuing client work at an agency equally excites me.

Have you completed any internships within this field, or are you currently completing any internships?

Yes! In addition to what I’ve already shared, this past semester I was the social media manager of the Rowan University Department of Art. The previous semester I was the marketing intern at The Wilma Theater and the PR director of the Rowan Dance Festival, celebrating the opening of the state-of-the-art Wilson Hall Dance Studios. I also used to write a blog on the Rowan University Department of Theatre & Dance Social Media Team. In addition, I was the social media manager for the student-run theatre season on campus.

How has PRSSA allowed you to thrive in your academic career? What have you learned by being part of PRSSA?

PRSSA gave me the networking connections to jumpstart my career. From working closely with students and faculty to connecting on LinkedIn with our guest speakers, I know someone or know someone who knows someone in every realm of public relations. The culmination of my time with PRSSA flourished in November when I attended ICON 2022, the Public Relations Society of America’s International Conference. I led a group of our chapter members on a trip to Grapevine, TX where we attended panels and lectures, exhibitions, career fairs, and other networking events encapsulating the power of public relations. I also attended a brunch with all presidents from the PRSSA chapters in the United States. On the conference’s final day, I presented two awards for cystic fibrosis awareness and organ donation based on national competitions Rowan’s chapter runs. I was the only student presenting awards among all the PR professionals speaking and attending the ceremony! Joining PRSSA bettered my public relations practices on all fronts.

Kristen Horneff is a 2020 Rowan public relations graduate who minored in strategic communication and journalism. Kristen now works as the Director of Client Relations for a public relations agency located in Haddonfield, NJ. 

Why did you choose to study public relations?

I chose to study public relations because I had an interest in marketing/advertising, and I have always loved writing, and PR could be a great combination of both. In addition, with a major in PR and minors in strategic communications and journalism, I would have a wide range of experience to provide me with different career paths.

What are potential career options for graduates with a public relations degree? 

A PR degree can carry you such a far way. Graduates can pursue a traditional PR career, including writing releases, crafting media lists, making relationships with the press, or something else under the communications umbrella. A few of my PR classmates now work in marketing, advertising, sales, social media, and other fields.

Kristen's professional headshot photo, looking corporate in a black suit.
“You have to have confidence to be competent,” says agency PR practitioner Kristen Horneff.

What career paths have you been interested in since graduating with this degree?

When I graduated, I knew I wanted to pursue something other than a career in traditional public relations. However, I enjoy planning and organizing events and managing social media feeds. I completed a Disney College Program during undergrad, so my dream has always been to return to Disney in some capacity. I aim to work on one of their marketing teams in the future.

What skills are most important when seeking a job in public relations?

The most essential skill sets in public relations, and any field, would be the ability to remain organized and timely and pay attention to detail. Regardless of your degree or experience, hiring managers want to trust that you are the right person to get the job done and exceed their expectations. Therefore, you have to have confidence and be competent.

Did you participate in any internship(s) during your undergraduate career? Please describe your internship experiences.

I was a marketing and social media intern for the Xplosive Performance Lab, a Cherry Hill, NJ, gym. I started my role by running two separate social media accounts for them – one for the gym and another to market a line of field hockey equipment they sold. Additionally, I helped plan, organize and run their first annual Field Hockey Coaching Seminar, bringing in speakers from around the world and marketing the seminar to high school and college coaches throughout the United States. My time with Xplosive influenced my career significantly. I realized that following graduation, I loved event planning and preferred marketing over public relations.

Amy Taylor is a 2002 Rowan public relations graduate who has worked in communications roles for some of the most well-known companies in the world, including Caesars Entertainment, Kia Motors, Toyota, Samsung, and Amazon.

Why did you choose to study public relations? 

I was a theatre kid, and while I loved being on stage, I knew I did not have the talent for a career as an actor. However, I enjoy storytelling and relationship building and am outgoing (I worked for The Disney Store while at Rowan). PR and communications were great fields to channel those energies, and I was right. 

As an alumnus with a public relations degree from Rowan, what are potential career options for graduates with a public relations degree? 

There are many hats you can wear with a public relations degree: external communications, internal communications, corporate communications, public relations, public affairs, community relations, social impact, media relations, executive communications, crisis communications, public policy communications, sustainability communications, publicist, marketing communications, copywriting, speechwriting, social media, public information officer, and thought leadership communications.

Amy Taylor stands in front of a PRSA professional backdrop at an awards ceremony, presenting a colleague with their award.
From Amy Taylor’s LinkedIn page, she presents a PRSA-Los Angeles award and congratulates an industry colleague for their work with sustainability and environmentalism for Toyota.

What career paths have you been interested in since graduating with this degree? 

Most of my career has been in communications roles. I have worn a lot of those previously listed hats. What is excellent about communications is that your skills can be utilized in any industry. In more recent years, I have focused on internal communications. I do not want anyone to leave the company because of poor communication. We live in a time where every employee can be an ambassador for a company’s brand, and I want to ensure that employee has the information they need to tell that story. 

What are you currently doing as a graduate with a public relations degree? 

I am wrapping up almost four years of internal communications roles with Amazon in Seattle. Unfortunately, I was impacted by the company’s recent layoffs and spent some time seeking my next adventure. Six months ago I accepted an internal communications manager role with Blue Origin, an aerospace manufacturer.

What skills are most important when seeking a job in public relations? 

Understanding people and relationship-building are essential. When you work in any communications role, you are often a bridge between various business units because you work across many teams. Thinking strategically is essential – seeing the big picture and all the elements that make up that picture is essential. Writing and being able to pivot to write for different audiences and via different channels is something you will constantly be expected to do. 

Did you participate in any internship(s) during your undergraduate career? Please describe your internship experiences.

I interned at the Merriam Theater, now the Miller Theater, in Philadelphia. I was the marketing and PR intern and worked on the Broadway Across America series, which was produced by Clear Channel Entertainment, now Live Nation. Having the experience of this internship later helped me secure a role with Clear Channel’s theatrical division in New York. I also interned with a small PR agency in Philadelphia. After that experience, I knew that agency life was not for me. I wanted more control over what I represented and what stories I got to tell.

Natalie poses in her brown graduation gown holding her Rowan University diploma holder.

In closing, I am proud that I chose to major in public relations. It’s hard to decide at 18 or 20 years old what you want to do for the rest of your life, but I feel confident and secure that my undergraduate college education in public relations at Rowan University provided me with the foundation for my career – wherever it may take me!

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Story by:
Natalie DePersia, senior public relations major 

Header image: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

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