What Does a Government Public Information Officer Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills & More

Image shows a woman in an officer's uniform standing at a podium with various press mics in front of her. Text reads: "A day in the life of a government public information officer: communicate critical information effectively to the public; write press releases and prepare information for distribution by media outlets; draft speeches and arrange interviews for government officials; respond to requests for information from media outlets"

Image by Jo Zixuan Zhou Â© The Balance 2019

Government public information officers are responsible for creating and enabling communication between a government organization and both news media outlets and the general public. It's up to them to make sure any statements released to the press and the public follow agency guidelines, are accurate, and adhere to official policy or laws.

Outside of government, in In private organizations and companies, this job is usually known as a public relations specialist or a communications specialist.

Public Information Officer Duties & Responsibilities

This job generally requires the ability to do the following:

  • Communicate critical information effectively to the public
  • Write press releases and prepare information for distribution by media outlets
  • Draft speeches and arrange interviews for government officials
  • Respond to requests for information from media outlets
  • Be the face of a government organization in the absence of an elected leader
  • Help maintain and uphold a certain image and identity for government officials or organizations

Federal, state, and local government agencies have critical information that they need to get to the general public. They disseminate the information through a variety of strategies. 

Even when an elected official is out in front of the cameras, the public information officer is working behind the scenes writing speeches, gathering information, and working with other officials to plan what the organization will do next and how information will be handled.

Public Information Officer Salary

The median wage for a government publication officer is $63,530. Below is the median salary for all public information officers, which includes those working for the government and private companies and organizations.

  • Median Annual Salary: $59,300 
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $112,260
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $32,840

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017

Education, Training & Certification

For positions that supervise a group of public information officers, several years of experience is also required, either in another public relations position or another public information officer role.

  • Education: A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college is required for most public information officer jobs. Public information officers typically have degrees in journalism, communications, public relations, English or business.
  • Internships: Completing internships at public relations firms or government agencies can be helpful in landing a job as a government public information officer.

Public Information Officer Skills & Competencies

To be successful in this role, you’ll generally need the following skills and qualities

  • Interpersonal skills: Public information officers interact with people regularly, from the media and press to the public and government officials.
  • Organizational skills: People in this position must be able to effectively work on several projects at the same time.
  • Problem-solving skills: Public information officers must be able to handle difficult and sensitive situations with discretion and grace.
  • Communication skills: They must be able to write compelling, concise press releases and speeches and also effectively speak in public.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that in general, public information officer jobs will grow at a rate of 9 percent from 2016 through 2026, which is slightly faster than the 7 percent average for all jobs during the same period. There's often strong competition for this type of job, according to the BLS.

Work Environment

Government public information officers usually work in offices, but they also travel and spend time giving speeches, attending press conferences, and attending meetings. These communications officials tend to work in the upper levels of an organization, at all levels of government. Divisions within government organizations such as police and fire departments may have their own public information officers distinct from those that serve the rest of the agency.

Public information officers are often in the thick of the action during a crisis. A career as a public information officer is often stressful, but with the stress can come excitement.

Work Schedule

Government public information officers usually work full time during business hours but often work long hours and are needed on some evenings and weekends, as well.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People who are interested in becoming government public information officers may also consider other careers with these median salaries: 

  • Public relations and fundraising manager: $111,280
  • Advertising, promotions, or marketing manager: $129,380
  • Meeting, convention, or event planners: $48,290

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017