Be a Professional Public Speaker: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a professional public speaker. Learn about the job description and read the step-by-step process to start a career in public speaking.

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Do I Want to Be a Professional Public Speaker?

Public speakers earn their living by engaging others on a particular area of expertise. They can have an expansive professional background, such as a physician that specializes in a rare disease; or professional speakers can inspire others by sharing a life experience, such as overcoming addiction. That person must then be able to communicate that information in a way that is easy to understand as well as engaging.

The employment of public speakers is highly dependent upon the specialization of the speaker and the interest in the field at any given time. As a result, bookings as a speaker may fluctuate. There is a great deal of flexibility in the career, however, as individuals control their appearances. The opportunity to travel is greater for public speakers than in many jobs.

Job Requirements

There is no one direct path to becoming a professional public speaker, but they all require a particular skill set. The following table contains the core requirements listed by professional organizations for professional public speakers:

Common Requirements
Degree Level None required*
Degree Field Optional degree in area of expertise*
Experience Certification organizations require at least 20 presentations**
Licensure and Certification Certification is optional**
Key Skills Verbal communication skills*

Sources: *Pitt University, **National Speakers Association

Step 1 - Become an Expert

A public speaker can be passionate about a life experience such as overcoming an obstacle, or a subject matter that requires study. Passionate speakers learn all that they can about a subject. That may require that speakers go to school to earn a degree or they may interview others in similar situations. Some speakers may even travel to learn more about the subject they are passionate about.

  • Earn a professional certification. Speakers can be certified in many professional subject areas. With a minimum level of education and experience, speakers can be certified in areas including business, science and technology. The proven level of expertise can show audience members that the speaker is credible.
  • Build a reputation. Public speakers can begin to build a reputation as an expert by serving on panels or writing articles related to their subject area. Those aspiring to be public speakers can also write books or research papers on their specialty subject. Professional speakers should also develop marketing materials such as a website or blog.

Step 2 - Take Public Speaking Courses

In addition to being passionate, speakers must become effective at communicating what they are so passionate about and why. Professional speakers can take courses can help students learn technical skills such as presentation and voice modulation. Students also learn how to effectively organize speeches and develop clarity of thought.

Step 3 - Practice Speaking Publicly

Speakers must practice public speaking. With practice, they learn how to best communicate their points and can find out what common questions audience members may have. Professional public speakers may begin by speaking to small groups or joining speaking organizations to develop a style. They can then move on to larger audiences as they begin to hone their craft.

  • Earn accreditation. Organizations such as Toastmasters International and the National Speakers Association offer accreditation for public speakers. To become accredited, speakers must make a minimum number of speeches integrating such skills as humor, persuasion and discussion leadership.
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    • Masters degree applicants must have a Bachelors degree
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  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • Communication Studies
        • Speech Communications and Rhetoric
      • Comparative Language Studies and Services
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
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    • Tennessee (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Vanderbilt University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • Communication Studies
        • Speech Communications and Rhetoric
      • Comparative Language Studies and Services
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
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    Areas of study you may find at Cornell University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
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      • Communication Studies
        • Speech Communications and Rhetoric
      • Comparative Language Studies and Services
      • English Composition
      • English Language and Literature
      • Foreign Language and Literature
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    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Boston University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Communications and Journalism
      • Communication Studies
        • Speech Communications and Rhetoric
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