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What is a communication specialist?

At a glance

  • A communication specialist is a professional who helps develop an individual’s or brand’s image and reputation.
  • A communication specialist might manage relationships with media professionals, schedule events such as speaking engagements or press conferences, and oversee social media presence.
  • There isn’t a singular path to becoming a communication specialist, but earning a bachelor’s degree in communication can help aspiring professionals learn relevant skills to use in the field.
  • If a career in communication interests you, consider a Bachelor of Science in Communication at University of Phoenix, where you can learn rhetoric, storytelling and business-centric communication skills online.

Understanding the role of a communication specialist

Communication specialists are comparable to public relations specialists who manage an individual’s or organization’s public image and brand reputation. They create, maintain and enhance the public perception of their clients or an employer. It’s one of many career paths available to those pursuing a degree in communication.

Communication professionals use their industry insights and broad knowledge to develop and implement strategic communication plans. Their goal is to create a clear, compelling message that speaks to their intended audience and meets them where they are.

Likewise, communication professionals can work in a range of industries outside of public relations, including advertising, healthcare, government agencies and corporate communication. As a result, their responsibilities and roles may vary, but their ultimate objective remains unchanged.

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What does a communication specialist do?

Some common tasks for communication specialists are:

  • Creating communication and strategic plans to manage the communication between an organization and its public
  • Managing relationships with journalists and other media professionals, arranging interviews and responding to media inquiries
  • Overseeing an organization’s social media presence, creating content, responding to comments and analyzing performance data to improve communication strategies
  • Scheduling events such as press conferences, product launches or community outreach initiatives
  • Managing crisis responses, including drafting statements, coordinating with the media and overseeing internal communication
  • Distributing company news, organizing staff meetings and maintaining internal communication channels
  • Liaising between stakeholders, such as customers, team members, investors and the general public

In real-world terms, communication specialist roles may differ by the type of organization in which they’re employed. For instance, a communication specialist for a large corporation might focus on internal messaging initiatives, such as employee newsletters or training materials, while the same role for a small startup organization might involve developing and overseeing a social media strategy.

Communication specialist vs. public relations specialist

A public relations specialist and a communication specialist have similar roles and overlapping duties, but there are some distinctions between the two.

Both roles require strong writing and communication skills, strategic thinking and the ability to manage multiple projects. However, the main difference lies in their focus. While a communication specialist focuses on the overall communication strategy for an organization and handles a wide range of tasks, a PR specialist focuses more specifically on media relations and public perception.

Skills needed to be a communication specialist

A successful communication specialist balances hard and soft skills. Soft skills are non-technical, interpersonal skills that help you effectively interact with others and navigate workplace challenges.

For a communication specialist, certain soft skills are particularly relevant, including the ability to:

  • Clearly convey information
  • Ensure you understand what others are communicating
  • Adapt to new conditions or changes in the work environment
  • Identify rising or ongoing issues and find effective solutions and strategies

Hard skills are technical abilities or knowledge specific to a job or industry that you learn through hard work and hands-on experience.

Some hard skills for this role include:

  • Understanding how to interact with and manage the media
  • Writing compelling content for various platforms, such as websites, social media or newsletters
  • Knowledge of how to manage and optimize social media platforms
  • The ability to speak confidently and engagingly in public settings
  • The ability to analyze and interpret communication data and metrics

Depending on your role and company, the required skills and responsibilities may vary. 

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What can you do with a communication degree?

How to become a communication specialist

While there’s not a singular path to becoming a communication specialist, there is a general framework to follow.

  1. The first step may be to earn a bachelor’s degree. Most specialists have a degree in communication, public relations, journalism, marketing or a related field. This is typically required to become a public relations specialist.
  2. Gain relevant experience through internships, part-time jobs or even volunteering. This provides valuable insights and builds the necessary hard skills.
  3. As you gain experience, you should compile a portfolio of your press releases, social media campaigns, articles and other relevant communication materials to showcase your skills and abilities to potential employers.
  4. While not always necessary, having a master’s degree in a related field can make you more competitive in the job market, provide deeper knowledge and help build your specialized skills.

You can choose from several degree paths to become a communication specialist. Depending on your career goals and interests, you may pursue a more traditional degree like communication or public relations or go for something more specialized.

What is a communication specialist’s salary?

According to O*NET OnLine, communication specialists and public relations specialist are comparable job titles. That said, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that, as of May 2022, these specialists earned between $38,630 and $128,450 annually.

What is the job outlook for communication specialists?

BLS projects this role is expected to grow by 6% from 2022 to 2032. This roughly translates to 25,800 job openings in this field each year. Communication is vital in many roles but especially in ones such as customer relations and community outreach.

Communication programs at University of Phoenix

If you’re interested in learning important communication skills or becoming a communication specialist, consider earning a Bachelor of Science in Communication at UOPX. This program prepares students to write press releases, develop sales and marketing communication, review journalism ethics, create an organizational structure plan and more.

UOPX also offers the flexibility of online classes and a fixed tuition guarantee, making it convenient for adults to earn their degree while maintaining other commitments at work and at home. Students and graduates also enjoy a range of tools and services to assist them in their careers, including career services.


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