2021 Best Online Masters in Public Relations Programs

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Online Masters in Public Relations Programs

Public relations specialist use strategic communications to build, improve, and maintain relationships between an organization and the people they serve. It’s a lucrative job that requires quick thinking, adaptability, and thick skin.

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A masters degree can enable you to advance your expertise and qualifications in this growing field.

Online Master’s in Public Relations Programs

Masters in Public Relations Programs

Public relations is the professional maintenance of a positive public image of an organization, company, or person. Media relations, public affairs, and communications are also terms used for public relations.

A public relations specialist manages the information an organization releases or the information that is released about the organization. They also try to maintain the trust of their organization’s audience, such as consumers, clients, or the general public.

They can create branding or marketing strategies and develop crisis management plans to protect the organization’s image if damaging information has been released. Social media and other digital technology has every organization under constant scrutiny, so it’s beneficial for PR specialists to be quick on their feet and one step ahead of the public.

Public relations professionals can work in a variety of industries, such as in government, education, nonprofits, and businesses. Almost every organization needs workers with PR expertise.

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You generally only need a bachelor’s degree to gain entry-level employment in the field, but a master’s degree may open the door to better pay and more senior positions. Senior and leadership PR positions include:

  • Senior account executive: They help businesses gain new clients.
  • Social media director: They build and maintain brand loyalty through social media.
  • Director of public relations: They oversee the public image of an organization.

PR professionals often work in an office, but they may have to deliver speeches, attend meetings and community activities, and travel once in a while. A public relations specialist needs to be able to communicate well, both verbally and in writing. They also tend to have social media skills, which requires understanding technology.

The ability to research, manage your time properly, and quickly adapt to changing situations is also beneficial to this field, as is creativity and flexibility. A public relations masters program can help you build on these skills. You can also expect to take courses that cover research, ethics, strategy, and crisis management.

Public Relations Careers and Salaries

Public Relations Careers and Salaries

Even though the field is growing faster than the national average, there are still limited positions for PR specialists because of the amount of candidates applying. Competition is especially strong among advertisement and prestigious public relations firms.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a masters program in public relations can help you enhance your qualifications in this lucrative field.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Marketing Managers $142,170
Advertising and Promotions Managers $133,460
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers, Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services $133,270
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers, Civic, Professional, and Similar Organizations $121,630
Top Executives $107,680
Writers and Authors $67,120
Market Research Analysts $65,810
Public Relations Specialists $62,810
Fundraisers $59,610
Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners $51,560

The majority of PR specialists are employed in educational services as well as advertising, public relations, and related services.

PR Masters Curriculum

PR Masters Curriculum

A master’s degree isn’t usually required to work as a PR specialist, but it can help you qualify for career advancement and open the doors for a higher salary. Plus, going to grad school for public relations can help you to stay competitive.

Courses vary by program, but here are some common classes you may find in a PR graduate program:

  • Applied Critical Thinking in Communication: This course is an examination of critical thinking processes and models of decision making and problem solving.
  • Communication Inquiry, Analysis, and Trends: You’ll develop the necessary networking, writing, inquiry, and analysis skills for effective communication.
  • Consumer Insights: You’ll examine how psychological, sociological, and cultural factors impact consumer behavior.
  • Crisis Communication in a 24/7 World: This course teaches how to quickly respond to crises.
  • Law and Ethics in Public Relations: This course is an overview of industry standards.
  • Media Relations Management: You’ll gain exposure and access to the public while developing relationships with press members.
  • Public Relations Strategies: This course introduces you to the strategies used to plan and implement messaging campaigns.
  • Public Relations Theory: You’ll study how popular public relations and communications theories shape professional practice.
  • Public Relations Writing: You can develop strong professional writing skills.
  • Storytelling Through Research and Measurement: You’ll explore the fundamentals of telling data-driven stories.

Some programs offer concentrations, such as media relations, advertising, or strategic communications. A concentration allows you to specialize your study, which can tailor your program more closely to your career goals.

How to Choose an Online Public Relations Graduate Program

Public Relations Graduate Program

With so many programs and schools out there, it can be hard to know which school is right for you. You might be able to narrow down your search by considering the following factors:

  • Online or on campus? Online programs can offer greater flexibility, allowing you to attend college and assume your regular responsibilities with ease. On-campus programs may give you a more hands-on experience.
  • Where is the school located? Are you willing to relocate? Some online programs charge you out-of-state tuition if you are not located in the same state as them, but others charge a flat rate no matter where you live.
  • How long will it take to complete? This can depend on whether you attend full-time or part-time, on-campus or online. Programs can also offer varying course lengths, often operating on the semester or quarter system.
  • How flexible is the program? If you need greater flexibility for your lifestyle, you might want to consider an online program.
  • Is it accredited? Accreditation signifies that you’re getting a high-quality education.
  • How much will it cost? Some schools cost more than others, such as prestigious, ivy-league universities or out-of-state colleges.

Creating a spreadsheet of these factors can help you compare each school you are interested in.

Admissions Requirements

Masters in Public Relations Programs admissions

Admissions requirements vary between schools, but most programs ask for the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree. Some schools accept a bachelor’s degree in any subject, but others prefer a bachelors in public relations or a related field.
  • Work experience. A number of programs require 3 to 5 years of work experience.
  • GRE scores (if required). Not all programs request GRE scores, so you may want to check before applying.
  • Undergraduate GPA. Many online public relations master’s programs require a minimum GPA between a 2.5 and a 3.0.
  • Letters of recommendations. You can ask undergraduate professors, academic advisors, and even employers to write a glowing recommendation for you.

You can check for your school’s specific admissions requirements on their website before applying.

Accreditation

Masters in Public Relations Programs accreditation

Regional accreditation ensures that you are receiving a quality education. Accredited schools go through a stringent volunteer process in which their teachers and programs are both evaluated. Those who earn accreditation are recognized as a credible school.

Employers often recognize degrees from accredited programs because accreditation assures that the degree is irrefutable. Plus, government financial aid is usually only given for accredited universities. Transferring between programs is also easier if both schools are regionally accredited.

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To see if your program is accredited, you can visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Masters in Public Relations Programs financial aid

Not all graduate students are eligible for federal and state financial aid. To see if you qualify, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even if you don’t qualify for government financial aid, there are other options for assistance, such as scholarships, teaching assistantships, and fellowships.

Many private organizations, professional associations, and corporations offer scholarships. You can also check with nonprofits, businesses, and your place of employment. Your school’s public relations department might offer scholarships as well.

You can also see if you qualify for a tuition discount. Some military families, low-income students, or students who will be working in an underserved area can qualify for a tuition discount. Fellowships are often paid positions that can also provide experience in the field of public relations.

Public Relations Professional Organizations

Public Relations Professional Organizations

Many online master’s students find it beneficial to belong to a professional organization. Attending school online can sometimes feel a bit isolating, and belonging to a professional organization can help you network with other people in your field.

Some popular public relations professional organizations include:

These organizations can also be helpful when it comes to professional development and keeping up with industry news.

What Can I Do with a Masters in Public Relations?

Masters in Public Relations careers

PR specialists can represent companies, politicians, or organizations to the public. Their goal is to improve and protect a client’s image and reputation. Their job responsibilities may include monitoring and managing digital media, generating publicity, and organizing press conferences.

Common careers related to public relations include:

  • Communications coordinator
  • Media relations manager
  • Event coordinator
  • Digital strategist
  • Social media manager
  • Public affairs coordinator
  • Crisis management agent
  • Corporate spokesperson

A masters degree in public relations can help you advance your expertise and qualifications in the field. Some employers prefer or even require their managers to hold a master’s. A graduate degree can often increase your earning potential as well.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Public Relations?

Online Master’s Degree in Public Relations

Students who pursue a masters in public relations online generally finish in 1 to 2 years. Most programs that require 30 to 36 credits can be completed in 1 year if you attend full-time, including summer classes.

If your program requires the completion of a thesis, though, it could take longer to finish your masters degree. Attending part-time could add to your time to completion as well.

How Much Can You Make with a Masters in Public Relations?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for public relations specialists is $62,810.

Earnings can vary, though, depending on the industry, where you live, what services you provide, and whether you have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. The highest 10% of all public relations specialists earn more than $118,210 a year. On the other hand, the lowest 10% earn around $35,350.

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A master’s degree can also open doors for advancement in the field. PR leadership positions can include director of public affairs and advertising, promotions, and marketing managers.

The median annual salary for public relations and fundraising managers is $118,430, and advertising, promotions, and marketing managers make a median of $141,490 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

MBA vs. Masters in Public Relations, Which Is Better?

An Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Public Relations and a masters in public relations have a lot in common, but here are some differences between the two degree paths:

Masters in Public Relations MBA in Public Relations
  • Covers courses related to public relations
  • May focus only on statistics necessary to conduct basic analysis
  • Includes courses on business foundations, such as finance, operations, and microeconomics
  • May cover more advanced statistical concepts

In both programs, you can expect to take courses in messaging, communications strategy, risk management, traditional marketing, and social media marketing.

What’s the Difference Between an Online Master’s in Public Relations vs. Marketing Degree?

Similarities between marketing and public relations have become stronger with the onset of social media. Here are some differences between the two fields:

Masters in Public Relations Masters in Marketing
  • Is about establishing relationships and trust
  • Focuses on research, development, and the application of public relations skills
  • Studies how to influence public opinion
  • Is about trying to sell something to someone
  • Courses are more quantitative, containing classes in statistics, pricing, and consumer analysis
  • Involves courses on business administration

Despite the differences in study, either degree may be applicable to a job in public relations.

What’s the Difference Between Public Affairs vs. Public Relations?

Both public affairs and public relations are about interacting with the public, but the two fields can be quite different.

Public Relations Public Affairs
  • Is about establishing relationships and trust
  • Leans toward commercial objectives
  • Typically aligns with roles in the business sector
  • Is about matters that directly affect the public, such as legislation and public administration
  • Focuses on public policy
  • Typically aligns with roles in government and nonprofits

Both degrees teach you how to create, develop, and execute campaigns that try to produce a specific public response. They can do this with a mix of traditional and digital marketing strategies.

Is a Masters Degree in Public Relations Worth It?

Masters Degree in Public Relations

Yes, a masters degree in public relations is worth it for many professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 7% job growth for PR specialists and 9% growth for PR and fundraising managers, which is faster than the national average.

You can generally enter the field of public relations with a bachelor’s degree, but the field is highly competitive. Positions are highly sought after by recent college graduates, and social media has added some challenges to the role. A masters may give you a competitive edge.

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A master’s degree may also open the door to advancement and higher earning potential. It can help you develop the skills necessary to effectively manage a client’s reputation in today’s fast-moving society.

Universities Offering Online Masters in Public Relations Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University

Arizona State University offers an online Master of Arts in Communication program. To graduate, students must complete 10 classes that are 7.5 weeks long. Those interested in the program must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 from an undergraduate degree. A personal statement and resume must be submitted when applying.

ASU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Ball State University

Ball State University

Ball State University offers a Master of Arts in Public Relations. The program can be completed online and requires students to obtain 33 credit hours. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Official transcripts, an academic writing sample, a personal statement, and resume must be submitted when applying.

Ball State is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Biola University

Biola University

Biola University offers a Master of Arts in Public Relations and Reputation Management. Students may add a concentration in Digital Management, Leadership, Media Ethics, or Strategic Communication. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher and need to submit official transcripts and a Christian testimony essay.

Biola University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Florida International University

Florida International University

Florida International University offers an online program for a Master of Science in Global Strategic Communications. To graduate, students must complete 30 credit hours. Each course is 8 weeks long. When applying, applicants must submit official transcripts, GRE test scores, 2 letters of recommendation, and a personal essay.

Florida International University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

George Washington University

George Washington University

George Washington University offers an online Master’s in Strategic Public Relations program. The program can typically be completed in 15 months. Those interested in the program must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 from an undergraduate degree and submit a statement of purpose, 2 letters of recommendation, and official transcripts.

George Washington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Georgetown University

Georgetown University

Georgetown University offers a Master’s in Public Relations and Corporate Communications. The program can be completed online, often in as little as 2 years. To be eligible for the program, applicants must submit a statement of purpose, a resume, 2 letters of recommendation, and undergraduate transcripts.

Georgetown University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Hofstra University

Hofstra University

Hofstra University offers a Master of Arts in Public Relations. The online program allows students to add a concentration in Reputation and Crisis Management.

To graduate, students must complete 36 semester hours. Applicants must submit official transcripts, 2 letters of recommendation, an interview with the program director, and a writing sample.

Hofstra University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University

John Hopkins University offers an online Master of Arts in Communication program. To graduate, students must complete 10 courses.

Students have several different concentrations they may be add to their degree program. Those interested in the program must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 from an undergraduate degree program with relevant coursework.

Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Kansas State University

Kansas State University

Kansas State University offers a Master’s in Mass Communications. To graduate, students must complete 30 credit hours, including 6 credit hours from electives. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher from the final 2 years of their undergraduate degree.

Kansas State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Lasell University

Lasell University

Lasell University offers a Master of Science in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations.

The program requires students to complete 36 credit hours and a master’s thesis. Applicants must submit official transcripts, a personal statement, and a resume when applying. Those without professional experience should have a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Lasell University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Liberty University

Liberty University

Liberty University offers a Master of Business Administration in Public Relations. The program requires 45 credit hours to graduate and can typically be completed in 2 years. Each online class is 8 weeks long. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher from an undergraduate degree.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Mississippi College

Mississippi College

Mississippi College offers a Master of Science in Communication. Students may choose to add a focus in Public Relations and Corporate Communications. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a relevant undergraduate degree with a GPA of 2.5 and submit standardized test scores.

Mississippi College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Purdue University

Purdue University

Purdue University offers an online program for a Master of Science in Communication with a concentration in Strategic Communication and Public Relations. To graduate, students must complete 30 credit hours. Applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0, a resume, a statement of purpose, and 3 professional letters of recommendation.

Purdue University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Quinnipiac University

Quinnipiac University

Quinnipiac University offers a Master of Science in Public Relations. The online program requires students to complete 36 credit hours. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0, official transcripts, 2 letters of recommendation, a resume, and a personal statement.

Quinnipiac University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Rutgers University

Rutgers University

Rutgers University offers a Master of Communication and Media. To graduate, students must complete 36 credit hours. Students have the option to participate in either an internship or study abroad program. Applicants must submit GRE scores, official transcripts, 2 letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a resume.

Rutgers is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Sacred Heart University

Sacred Heart University

Sacred Heart University offers a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Public Relations.

The program can typically be completed in 2 years and requires students to complete 36 credit hours to graduate. Those interested in the program must have a Bachelor of Arts or Science, a copy of their official transcripts, 2 letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

Sacred Heart University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University offers a Master of Arts in Communications. The online program allows students to add a concentration in New Media and Marketing or Public Relations to their degree. Applicants may apply year round. Those who have an undergraduate GPA that is less than 2.75 may be able to receive provisional acceptance.

Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Syracuse University

Syracuse University

Syracuse University offers an online program for a Master of Science in Communications with a specialization in Public Relations.

Students are typically able to complete the program in 15 months. Each online class is taught live. Those interested in the program must submit an online application with a resume, personal statement, 3 letters of recommendation, and official transcripts.

Syracuse University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University offers an online Master’s in Strategic Communication and Innovation program.

To graduate, students must complete 30 credit hours, including a final project. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0. When applying for the program, a personal statement, resume, writing samples, and references need to be submitted to the school.

Texas Tech University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Alabama

University of Alabama

The University of Alabama offers a Master of Arts in Advertising and Public Relations with a concentration in Marketing Communication Management. Students must complete 30 credit hours to graduate. Applicants must have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and need to submit 3 examples of academic or professional work experience.

The University of Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Denver

University of Denver

The University of Denver offers a Master of Arts in Communication Management with a concentration in Public Relations. Each of the 12 online classes in the program is 10 weeks long. Applicants must submit a personal statement, a resume, and official transcripts from any post-secondary schools attended when applying.

The University of Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Florida

University of Florida

The University of Florida offers an online program for a Master of Arts in Mass Communication with a specialization in Public Relations.

To graduate, students must complete 33 credit hours, including 3 credits dedicated to a final capstone project. Applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher and 3 letters of recommendation.

The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign

University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign

The University of Illinois—Urbana Champaign offers an online program for a Master of Science in Strategic Brand Communication.

The program requires 32 credit hours that are divided into advertising and business administration. A GPA of 2.75 must be maintained to stay in the program. Applicants must submit a statement of purpose and letters of recommendation when applying.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Webster University

Webster University

Webster University offers an online Master of Arts in Public Relations program. To graduate, students must complete 36 credit hours, with 9 credit hours dedicated to electives. Those interested in the program may apply online through the school’s website with copies of their official transcripts from any post-secondary schools they’ve attended.

Webster University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Western New England University

Western New England University

Western New England University offers a program for a Master of Arts in Communication with a concentration in Public Relations that is designed for part-time students.

Each of the 10 required courses is 11 weeks long. Applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher, though some applicants who do not meet this requirement may still be considered.

Western New England University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Getting Your Master of Public Relations Degree Online

Master of Public Relations Degree Online

If you want to enter the field of public relations or want to take your PR career to the next level, a master’s in public relations might be the solution for you.

Public relations is a good major for many creative yet analytical thinkers. This highly competitive, fast-paced field requires PR professionals to understand what will not only sway public opinion but also enhance the relationship between the public and their client.

If you want to build stronger PR skills while still maintaining your work and life responsibilities, then you may want to explore online public relations degree programs from accredited universities. The sooner you find the program that best fits your needs, the sooner you can start enhancing your PR expertise.

Ready to start your journey?
Shannon Lambert
WRITTEN BY
Shannon Lambert
Shannon has a Bachelor of Science in Social Work, from Bemidji State University, along with a minor in both Psychology and Sociology. Shannon loves motivating and empowering people to dream big and go after what they want in life.