Education and Training Requirements
English composition, drama, and speech classes will help you develop good communication skills, while government, history, and civics classes will teach you about the structure of local, state, and federal government. Take math, economics, and accounting courses to prepare for poll-taking and for analyzing statistics and demographics. Computer science classes are also helpful.
While in high school, work with your school newspaper, radio station, or TV station. This will help you recognize how important reporters, editors, and producers are in putting together newspapers and shaping news segments. You should also consider joining your school's speech and debate team to gain experience in research and in persuasive argument.
Most people in media relations have bachelor's degrees, and some also hold master's degrees, doctorates, and law degrees. As an undergraduate, you should enroll in a four-year college and pursue a well-rounded education. Press secretaries need a good understanding of the history and culture of the United States and foreign countries. Some of the majors you should consider as an undergraduate are journalism, political science, English, marketing, and economics. You should take courses in government, psychology, statistics, history of western civilization, and a foreign language. You might then choose to pursue a graduate degree in journalism, political science, public administration, or international relations.
Seek a college with a good internship program. You might also pursue internships with local and state officials and your congressional members in the Senate and House of Representatives. Journalism internships will involve you with local and national publications, or the news departments of radio and TV stations.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
There is no specialized certification or licensing available for press secretaries. The Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators accredit public relations workers in the private sector who meet specific criteria and requirements. Such accreditation is a sign of competence in this field, although it is not a requirement for employment.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Press secretaries need experience working in politics. Some may have prior experience in journalism as well. They should be skilled communicators, adept at presenting written and oral messages, frequently under intense pressure with tight time deadlines. They must know how to work as part of a political team and feel comfortable interacting with voters and members of the press, some of whom may be hostile toward them.
In this career, you need to be extremely organized and capable of juggling many different tasks, from quickly writing ads and press releases to developing budgets and expense accounts. You need good problem-solving skills and some imagination when putting a positive spin on negative issues. Strong people skills are important so that you can develop contacts within government and the media. You should feel comfortable with public speaking, leading press conferences, and speaking on behalf of your employers and clients. You should also enjoy competition. You can't be intimidated by people in power or by journalists questioning the issues addressed in your campaigns.