Public Affairs Officer
What They Do
Public Affairs Officers provide sound communications advice at the tactical, operational and strategic levels, and act as key advisors to military commanders during domestic and international operations.
Public Affairs Officers are advisors on all aspects of external and internal communications. They are skilled in developing, executing and evaluating communications approaches designed to inform the public of the Forces roles, activities and work.
The primary responsibilities of a Public Affairs Officer are to:
- Analyze and evaluate attitudes in the national and international media
- Contribute to policy development
- Gather and provide information internally & externally
- Communicate with journalists, special interest groups and individuals regarding Defence
Public Affairs Officers work in a modern office setting. They may work in a wide variety of environments such as major bases and various headquarters across Canada and abroad. They may also be required to deploy anywhere in the world to support Forces operations during times of conflict, peace support operations or humanitarian missions.
The starting salary for a fully-trained Public Affairs Officer is $51,000 per year; however, depending on previous experience and training the starting salary may be higher. Regular promotions through the junior officer ranks take place based on the completion of required training and on the length of service as an officer. Once promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (Navy) or Captain, their salary is approximately $74,000 per year.
Public Affairs Officers are initially placed in positions that expose them to a variety of tasks and situations. With this experience, they may be deployed on international operations and exposed to different types of media. As they gain knowledge and experience, senior Public Affairs Officers have opportunities to develop plans and policies that influence the way public affairs are conducted, including national-level public affairs issues.
Public Affairs Officers who demonstrate the required ability, dedication and potential are selected for opportunities for career progression, promotion and advanced training.
Related Civilian Occupations
- Public Relations Specialist
- Media Relations Manager
- Marketing Strategist
- Special Events Coordinator
After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 15 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the Forces, basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.
Following basic officer training, official second language training will be offered to you if you do not meet the minimum official second language requirements for the occupation. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.
All Forces Public Affairs training is centralized at the Defence Public Affairs Learning Centre in Gatineau, Quebec. The intensive six-month course is designed to provide candidates with the tools and knowledge required to support public affairs activities at a large-scale base, formation and deployed task force. The course focuses on developing the knowledge and skills required to advise a Commander on public affairs, create communications products and tools, conduct media relations, public affairs planning and internal communications, coordinate a media event, foster community relations, support public affairs operations, manage the production of audio-visual products and develop and demonstrate officer-like qualities.
Public Affairs Officers may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:
- Strategic Communications Management and Policy Development
- Contingency and Crisis Communications
- Stakeholder Relations
- New Media Management
- Middle Management and Leadership Development
- Operations Information and Management
- International Operations
As they progress in their career, Public Affairs Officers who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced training. Available courses include:
- Advanced Designated Spokesperson Training
- Intermediate and Advanced Public Affairs
- Advanced Public Affairs Planning
As this occupation’s focus is on communications, applicants must excel in either or both official languages. If you already have a university degree in Communications, International Relations, Public Relations or Journalism, the Forces may place you directly into the required on-the-job training program following basic training. At least one year of previous experience working in Communications, Journalism, Marketing, Public Affairs or Public Relations is required. Basic training and military officer qualification training are required before being assigned.
Serve with the Reserve Force
This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at an Air Force Wing in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.
Public Affairs Officers may serve with the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army or the Royal Canadian Air Force. They are employed to provide communications advice at the tactical, operational and strategic levels, and act as key advisors to military commanders during operations. Those employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis usually serve at Forces bases, wings, home ports and units at locations within Canada.
Reserve Force Training
Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts. They usually begin training with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required basic professional military standards. Following basic officer training, the home unit will arrange for additional training for specialized skills. Training for Public Affairs Officers takes about six months and is centralized at the Defence Public Affairs Learning Centre in Gatineau, Quebec.
Reserve Force members usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends, although they may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending on the type of work that they do. They are paid 85% of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.
Find a unit in your area and start the application process for part-time employment now.