The public relations field involves the strategic development and maintenance of an organization, brand, or person’s public image and reputation. Public relations professionals shape an organization’s message and design a strategic communication process to uphold and spread that message. They also manage the flow of information between a company or an individual and the public.
Successful public relations campaigns use the power of storytelling in digital media to build and maintain credibility. As the internet and digital communications evolve, public relations increasingly incorporates elements of digital content marketing and social media management.
Successful public relations practitioners boast excellent oral and written communication skills and management skills. They also enjoy solving problems related to public image. Public relations specialists typically hold a bachelor’s degree in communications, and a master’s in public relations online qualifies these professionals for more advanced positions.
Accredited Online College Programs
Most Affordable Online Master’s in Public Relations in 2021
University of Florida - Online
The University of Florida offers an online master of arts in mass communication with a specialization in public relations. The university developed its mass communication program in partnership with APCO Worldwide, a woman-owned communications consultancy organization. Students have the opportunity to learn APCO strategies, work on real-world projects, and network with APCO executives.
The master's program in public relations requires 33 credits, which most students complete in two years. Core courses explore topics including strategic writing for public relations, public relations theory, measurement and evaluation, and strategy and messaging. The curriculum culminates in a capstone course, during which students investigate practical communications issues. Graduates often secure positions as communications coordinators, global communications managers, and public relations directors.
Learners complete coursework asynchronously and can attend synchronous office hours. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit all previous college transcripts. The University of Florida holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Montana State University Billings
MSU Billings offers an online master of science in public relations program, which prepares students for careers in public relations and public communications. The program comprises evening and online classes, and master's students can pursue graduate teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and externships. Graduates work in fields such as corporate communication, advertising and marketing, human resource management, public opinions research, and media analysis.
The degree requires 30 credits, which students typically earn in 3-4 semesters. Core courses examine communication law and ethics, issues in organizational communication, media criticism, media for social change, and communication theory, among other topics. Students must pass comprehensive exams as well.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in communications or related field, demonstrate a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, and achieve competitive GRE scores. Candidates must also submit transcripts, a CV or resume, three reference letters, and a letter of application. MSU Billings is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Ball State offers an online master of arts in public relations, ideal for professionals who want to deepen their communication and public relations expertise. Learners develop skills in strategic communication development, market research, social media and digital analytics, digital marketing communication, and project planning and development. Students can earn the degree on campus, online, or in a hybrid format.
This degree requires 30-33 credits, which students can complete in five semesters or less. Required courses cover journalism and communication theory, social media analytics and engagement, journalism and mass communication research methods, PR campaigns, and PR evaluation techniques. Students must also complete a capstone, which may be a creative project, applied research project, research paper, or thesis.
Applicants must hold bachelor's degrees from accredited institutions and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Candidates must submit a resume or CV, a statement of purpose, and professional writing samples. Ball State is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
University of Maryland-University College
UMGC offers an online master's degree in strategic communications, which equips students for leadership positions in public relations and related communications fields. Coursework also prepares learners for two certification exams: accreditation in public relations and strategic communication management professional. This degree requires 36 credits, and full-time students typically graduate in two years.
Core courses explore topics including communications techniques and tactics, communication leadership and management, and crisis communications management. The program culminates in a capstone course, during which each student assumes the role of a communications director. Students in the capstone course create communications plans to support companies' organizational strategies.
Master's students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA throughout the program. They must also fulfill all degree requirements within five consecutive years.
UMGC does not require applicants to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, and students may transfer up to six credits into the program. UMGC holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Students enrolled in Webster's online master of arts in public relations program learn how entrepreneurship, ethical questions, and globalization shape the public relations field. Learners prepare to conduct public relations research to solve organizations' communication problems, carry out strategic analysis, and anticipate future trends in communication needs.
This online MA in public relations requires 36 credits. Core courses explore media communications, media and culture, public relations, writing for public relations, international communications, and strategic communication applications. Students advance to candidacy after completing 12 credit hours of coursework with minimum B- grades.
Applicants must hold bachelor's degrees from accredited institutions and demonstrate a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. Webster may grant provisional admission to applicants who do not meet the GPA requirement if they demonstrate other strengths. Webster is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
California Baptist University
CBU delivers an online master of arts in public relations program, which helps students hone critical thinking and professional skills. The public relations program integrates biblical thought with contemporary concepts.
Students complete 33 credits, including required courses in history and theory of public relations, public relations research and evaluation, specialized writing for public relations, critical thinking and crisis management, and new media strategies. During a capstone course, students write a paper identifying a contemporary public relations problem. Students should apply concepts from 6-8 courses in this final paper.
Applicants should demonstrate a minimum 2.75 GPA for unconditional admission and a minimum 2.5 GPA for conditional admission. They must submit two letters of recommendation, a resume, and an essay detailing their professional goals and reasons for choosing CBU. The university holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Learners pursuing the online MBA in communications and public relations from CUW prepare to strategically articulate thoughts and ideas that promote the organizational goals of a client or company. Graduates often work as public relations managers, PR specialists, and fundraising managers.
This public relations master's degree requires 36 credits, and the curriculum includes core business courses and public relations classes. Students explore topics including managerial economics, applied statistical methods, management science and analytics, management communication practice and principles, publicity and public relations, and effective business writing. Learners also complete a 120-hour, semester-long internship at an approved business site.
Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must submit undergraduate transcripts, an essay, a resume, and two letters of recommendation. CUW does not require applicants to submit GRE scores. The university is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The online master's in public relations and corporate communications program from Georgetown incorporates the most up-to-date practices in the evolving communications industry. Students develop a strong foundation in communication practices, strategic planning, research, and writing. Learners can also engage in real-world client work. Georgetown offers the master's degree on campus and in an asynchronous online format.
The master's in public relations requires 30 credits and takes 2-5 years to complete, depending on the learner's enrollment status. Required courses cover topics including elements of communications planning, public relations writing, communications research, and conversations in ethics. Students also complete a capstone course and five electives.
Applicants must submit a resume or CV, a statement of purpose, two letters of recommendation, transcripts, and writing or work samples. Georgetown is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
DU offers an online master of arts in communications management with a specialization in public relations. Students can take evening or online courses, and each term lasts 10 weeks. Graduates often work as communications directors, public relations specialists, and community relations directors.
Students earning the master's in public relations online complete 48 credits, including four core courses, six concentration courses, and two electives. Learners can graduate in as few as 18 months. Concentration courses explore persuasion and influence, public relations strategies and process, public relations writing and tactics, and reputation management and crisis communication.
Applicants must submit a personal statement, a resume, and official transcripts. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. DU does not require GRE or GMAT scores, and individuals with professional experience receive preference. DU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Syracuse offers an online master's in public relations. This degree readies students for advanced public relations positions and careers in teaching and research. The program features a professional track, which trains students to enter the public relations job market, and a thesis track, which prepares learners for doctoral studies.
Students earning the master's in public relations online complete about 40 credits and generally graduate in 1-2 years. Learners study topics such as multimedia storytelling, public relations theory, public relations research, and advertising and public relations law.
Students in the professional track take a culminating experience course. Learners in the thesis track conduct research and complete their master's thesis under advisor supervision. Graduate students enjoy opportunities to work with professionals in the field and develop their portfolios.
Applicants must submit a resume, a personal statement, college transcripts, and three letters of recommendation. At least one letter of recommendation should be an academic reference. Applicants also undergo an online interview, and they may submit GRE scores. Syracuse holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
|What is the difference between public relations and marketing?
||The field of public relations focuses on the maintenance of an individual’s (or a company’s) public image, and marketing focuses on creating campaigns to sell services or products. Both fields use branding to cultivate public reputation.
|How long does it take to earn a master’s in public relations?
||A master’s in public relations typically takes 1-2 years to complete. Program length varies depending on several factors, including program requirements and student enrollment status.
|Can I earn a master’s degree in public relations online?
||Yes, many universities and colleges now offer master’s degrees in public relations online. These degrees accommodate busy schedules and working professionals.
|What is the difference between public relations and communications?
||Public relations involves communications but focuses on designing strategic messages and delivering them to target audiences.
Which Careers Benefit From a Master’s in Public Relations?
Graduates with a master’s in public relations can choose from a variety of career options. A master’s degree qualifies graduates for management and executive positions in the public relations field. Nearly every industry employs public relations professionals to represent individuals, companies, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies.
Public Relations Specialists
Public relations specialists craft and maintain a positive public reputation for the clients they represent. Their responsibilities include writing press releases, responding to information requests from the media, and drafting speeches and interviews for top executives.
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers
Public relations and fundraising managers coordinate the development of materials related to the maintenance of a client’s public image. They also organize capital campaigns. Public relations and fundraising managers typically need a bachelor’s degree, though some positions require a master’s.
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers
Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers work to generate interest in products or services and increase sales. Their responsibilities include planning promotional campaigns, negotiating advertising contracts, and working with executive staff to discuss marketing plans and budgets. These positions typically require a bachelor’s degree and some work experience.
Account executives sell services and products to customers and meet sales quotas provided by the company. They identify prospective clients, make targeted pitches, and close sales. These positions typically require a bachelor’s degree and some experience in the field.
A corporate spokesperson speaks to the public on behalf of a company. They typically work in a marketing department or at a public relations firm. Sometimes the CEO acts as the spokesperson.
Chief Public Relations Officer
The chief public relations officer heads the organization’s public relations department and reports directly to the CEO. They coordinate responses to public image crises, develop strategies for building and maintaining client reputation, and represent the company at events or to the media.
Accreditation for Master’s Degrees in Public Relations
Accreditation ensures that schools provide excellent education for their students. In the United States, schools obtain either regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation carries more prestige than national accreditation. Additionally, students transfer easily between regionally accredited institutions. National accrediting agencies tend to focus on professional or vocational programs and specialize in a specific field.
When selecting a program, look for a school’s regional accreditation and any relevant national accreditations. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs.
Courses in a Master’s in Public Relations
A master’s in public relations prepares students to pursue communications-related careers. This degree provides training in the best practices, trends, and strategies needed to help an organization or individual maintain a relationship with the public.
Through coursework, students develop a strong foundation in research, writing, strategic development, and corporate ethics. Master’s programs often culminate in a capstone experience like a research project, internship, or comprehensive exam.
The following list details a few courses in a typical public relations master’s degree, but courses vary by program.
Writing in Public Relations
This course provides a survey of various forms of professional public relations writing. Students become familiar with news releases, pitch letters, biographies, position papers, feature writing, speeches, media advisories, and crisis management communications. Students learn how to put together a cohesive and strategic public relations campaign kit.
Public Relations Theory and Practice
This course provides students with a foundation in research studies regarding the relationship between company communication and the public. It also explores the process of executing a public relations program to address image concerns. Topics covered include audience differentiation, message formation and strategy, media selection, and the impact of different types of media on public relations.
Public Relations Strategies
This course introduces students to the principles and strategies used by public relations professionals to plan and execute targeted messaging campaigns. Students learn how to identify and reach audiences across the media landscape. Topics include major organizational communications theories, components of an effective public relations plan, and audience research.
Public Relations Ethics
In this course, students learn about the way ethics, moral analysis, and leadership impact a public relations strategy. The course explores ethical conundrums and best practices in relation to ethical concerns.
Public Relations Research
This course trains students in qualitative and quantitative research, the maintenance of public relations programs, and the evaluation of campaign effectiveness. Students learn to conduct public relations research and evaluate public relations programs.
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Like higher education in general, completing a public relations program often comes at a high cost. Graduate students typically utilize financial aid to help fund their education. The financial aid application begins with the FAFSA form. Graduate students typically qualify for direct unsubsidized loans, which means that they pay more in interest than in a subsidized loan.
Graduate students often qualify for teaching or research assistantships at their university. Programs typically reserve these opportunities for doctoral students, but sometimes master’s students qualify. Inquire about the opportunities available at your prospective institution.
Scholarships for Public Relations
Students enrolled in online public relations master’s programs often qualify for scholarships. Some scholarships support underrepresented minorities, while others select recipients based on merit or need.
ACES Bill Walsh Scholarship
Who Can Apply: College juniors, seniors, or graduate students in any major who demonstrate a commitment to a career in the editing of written materials can apply.
Jack G. Shaheen Mass Communications Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship accepts applications from Arab-American undergraduate juniors, seniors, and graduate students in media studies.
The Floyd Mayweather Jr. Foundation: Advancement of Women in Sports and Entertainment
Who Can Apply: This scholarship accepts applications from college undergraduate and graduate school women in one of the following majors: communication studies, marketing, public relations, media studies, or journalism.
Chester Burger Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship accepts applications from graduate public relations students who want to pursue a career in corporate public relations. Eligible candidates hold a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Gary Yoshimura Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The scholarship accepts applications from students pursuing higher education in public relations who demonstrate financial need. Eligible candidates hold a minimum 3.0 GPA.