What is a Public Affairs Officer?

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“Public affairs” is the internationally-recognised term for communications professionals.

In Australia, it relates mainly to federal and state government roles.

Public affairs officers manage some or all of an organisation’s communications – internal or external – and may have skills in a number of communications-specific professions such as:

  • news media – media adviser to a Board or Executive team, media strategy, issues & crisis management, journalism (TV, radio, print, online), organisational spokesperson, corporate affairs management;
  • social media – social media strategy and implementation, content management, multi-media production including video production; web design & content, HTML/CSS development;
  • communications strategy – development, implementation and evaluation of communications campaigns
  • stakeholder engagement – community consultation, market research, lobbying governments & ministers, membership engagement
  • marketing – for government this is the promulgation of information about someone’s rights, entitlements and obligations; for the private sector it is more aligned with the ‘sales & marketing function’, market research, analysis of markets, target audiences.
  • market research
  • public relations
  • advertising
  • publications management – graphic design, photography (stills), 
  • writing & editing – for written and online publications.
  • and more new roles / titles being created each week – especially in the social media space.

Work Level Standards

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General APS Work Level Standards

In Australian federal government, there are general Work Level Standards for each level of APS officer.

For information on the broader APS Classifications (e Work Level Standards for APS Level 1 to Executive Level 2), visit:


Public Affairs Officers – APS Work Level Standards

However, there is also a clear structure of roles and responsibilities for each of the five (5) grades of public affairs officer, which represents a specialist professional stream with the general levels.

The 2013 DEEWR PAO Work Level Standards outline the roles and responsibilities required at each different grade / level.

  • The levels are:
    • * Public affairs officer grade 1 (PAO1) – equivalent to APS Level 4 or 5 (APS4 / APS5)
    • * Public affairs officer grade 2 (PAO2) – equivalent to APS Level 6 (APS6)
    • * Public affairs officer grade 3 (PAO3) – equivalent to APS Executive Level 1 (EL1)
    • * Senior public affairs officer grade 1 (SPAO1) -equivalent to Executive Level 2 (EL2) – Director level
    • * Senior public affairs officer grade 2 (SPAO2) – also equivalent to Executive Level 2 (EL2) – sometimes called Senior Director

    In some organisations there are also roles at a more senior SES (Senior Executive Service) level.

  • These manage the public affairs function for larger organisations.
  • More information on managing specialist classifications in the APS is at: