Best Online Master’s in Public Relations Programs

In a world powered by digital interaction and social media, the styles and strategies we use to communicate are constantly changing. Public relations professionals work at the forefront of this shifting landscape, following the latest trends and platforms in order to best promote and represent the interest of their clients.

In the age of social media, the PR field is growing quickly, especially in the healthcare, technology, and finance industries.

Earning an online master’s degree in public relations online is an effective, convenient way to develop the skills needed for a successful career in the modern, fast-paced field of PR. Students learn to craft effective and persuasive write-ups about their clients, which may include a mix of individuals, organizations and special interest groups. They also learn to use various social media platforms, build brands, engage consumers and market products.

Below, you’ll find our list of the country’s best online public relations degree programs at the graduate level. The schools are ranked according to their academic strengths, positive student outcomes, course offerings and virtual classroom experience for online learners. Whether you’re intrigued by the field of public relations or are simply looking to boost your PR credentials with an advanced degree, this comprehensive list will help you find a suitable online master’s degree in public relations program.

2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

The George Washington University

 5/579.38%Washington, DC


GW acknowledges that public relations is constantly evolving, and so they have tailored their Master of Professional Studies in Strategic Public Relations to prepare students for that reality. By taking advantage of the school's strong connections within Washington D.C., students receive instruction and guidance from seasoned professionals working in both the public and private sectors. Through the development of a strong skillset in advanced PR concepts, and the corresponding training in their practical applications, students will graduate prepared for a career with some of the top names in the business and political worlds.

Designed to be convenient for working adults, the only difference between the master in public relations program at GW online and the one on campus is location. The school's Academic Technologies department works with several organizations to ensure its Blackboard powered virtual classroom is state-of-the-art, and the dedicated eDesign shop specializes in creating a custom online learning environment.

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Webster University

 4/563.64%Saint Louis, MO


Webster’s online master’s degree in public relations helps students develop excellent written and verbal communication skills. The curriculum covers how entrepreneurs, teams, and leadership help shape modern public relations practices and discourse. Students analyze current communication methods and consider the challenges inherent in crafting a well-disseminated message. As part of this online public relations degree, courses also explore how social media and new technology are changing the field.

Courses are taught asynchronously, and follow a weekly structure with set deadlines for assignments. All assessments are completed online; some courses may replace tests with final papers or open-ended projects. The program requires students to take nine core courses and at least three electives to earn their public relations degree online.

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Kent State University

 3/555.05%Kent, OH


The Master's in Public Relations Online from Kent State is a unique degree targeted towards PR professionals, individuals looking to make a career change and students with little-to-no PR experience. Kent's multidisciplinary approach allows them to have a program beneficial to a broad range of students, as even veteran PR experts will be exposed to new concepts and ideas. The school builds well-rounded professionals with the skills and talents needed to excel in a management level position. Specifically, the curriculum itself develops abilities in digital media and story sharing, as well as business savvy and political acumen.

The degree consists of twelve, 3 credit hour courses taught on the Blackboard platform. Students participate in both synchronous and asynchronous activities designed to enhance their abilities to effectively communicate in a digital environment, as well as challenge their critical thinking skills. Technology help services are available 24/7.

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Southern New Hampshire University

 4/5N/AManchester, NH


Students looking to earn a communications graduate degree with a PR focus can turn to SNHU's Master of Arts in Communication - Public Relations program. The degree consists of seven core communications courses in subjects like Knowledge & New Media, Law & Ethics and Communication by Design. The public relations concentration is composed of four additional courses: Reputation Management, Social Media Practices, Crisis Communication in a 24/7 World and Integrated PR Campaigns & Measurement. To graduate, a final capstone course is required; in it, students must demonstrate their cumulative knowledge of a graduate education in PR.

The virtual classroom at SNHU is hosted on the Blackboard LMS. Students participate in their coursework asynchronously through the submission of weekly assignments and regular postings on threaded discussions. A virtual bookstore is also available, allowing students to order their textbooks quickly and easily online. Full library access is granted to every online learner.

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California Baptist University

 4/555.38%Riverside, CA


Ideal for students hoping to integrate a Christian worldview into their educational outcomes, the Master of Arts in Public Relations at CBU specifically challenges students to apply biblical thinking to their contemporary education. With a curriculum based on traditional PR foundations, as well as modern courses in social media theory and utilization, students are guaranteed to receive a well-rounded education. The core curriculum covers general business, marketing and communication strategies, with a strong emphasis on the role technology plays in influencing the corporate environment.

CBU offers busy students the option to pursue this public relations graduate program in either a hybrid or fully-online format, run through the Blackboard LMS. Students possessing enough scheduling flexibility can get the best of both the traditional and online worlds by choosing the hybrid option. Classes are kept small to promote individual attention from professors.

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The PR industry is characterized by strong growth. As social media becomes increasingly important, engaging and forging a personal connection with your target audience has become a necessity for corporations, nonprofits, politicians and anyone else seeking to disseminate a message. Consequently, many large companies and organizations employ teams of PR professionals. There’s a particularly strong demand for PR services in the healthcare, technology, and finance industries.

Colleges have responded quickly to this growing demand, and many marketing and PR programs currently offer classes in social media, search engine optimization and native advertising. An online master’s degree in public relations can help seasoned professionals acclimate themselves to new technology and marketing strategies. The convenience of these online public relations degrees allows working professionals to complete coursework from home on a flexible schedule.

Newcomers to the field of PR can also benefit from online master’s-level education. Many companies hire PR professionals with multidisciplinary backgrounds. For instance, a master’s degree-holder in the nonprofit sector will be ideal candidates for roles as branding managers, marketers or fundraisers. Regardless of the industry you want to work in, most graduates of online master’s degree in public relations programs will pursue one two occupations.

Public Relations Specialists communicate with the public on behalf of an organization. This communication takes many forms; press releases are still an industry standard, but social media and email campaigns have also become a fundamental aspect of PR outreach. PR specialists work to shape a client’s brand image and reputation, monitoring and approving various advertisements and promotional statements. They also help organization executives effectively communicate with the public by drafting speeches and organizing media appearances. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these professionals earn a median annual salary of $55,680, and the growth rate for these positions is projected at 6% over the next eight years.

Public Relations Managers typically oversee a team of communication strategists dedicated to optimizing media relations and managing corporate brand images. These managers may also monitor changes in social or political opinion in an effort to maintain a favorable public image. This work has become crucial in recent years, as rapid communication methods can transform public opinion overnight. Consequently, “crisis management,” in response to negative press has become an increasingly important element of PR work. According to the BLS, PR managers earn a median annual salary of $101,510, and the growth rate for these positions is projected at 7% over the next eight years.

Now is the time to launch a career in PR. The demand is high for skilled communicators and qualified strategists in this fast-paced industry, and prospective PR professionals can choose from a wealth of high-quality online public relations degrees in order to upgrade their credentials and boost their resume.

Public Relations Organizations

Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) – With more than 22,000 members, PRSA is the largest organization of public relations professionals in the world. The organization provides professional development opportunities and sets forth a guide to ethical standards in the field.

Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) – The PRSSA is comprised of 11,000 students and advisors from over 300 chapters across the United States, Argentina, Peru, and Columbia. The organization aims to help enhance student education, broaden their members’ professional networks, and help students launch their career.

National Black Public Relations Society, Inc. (NBPRS) – The NBPRS advocates for African-American professionals in public relations, investor relations, corporate communications, government affairs, community relations, and other related fields. The organization offers mentorship, peer-to-peer support, networking, job opportunities, and more.

The PR Council – The PR Council is a trade association that helps current and future PR professionals connect with business leaders and industry innovators. The council offers continuing education opportunities, hosts professional events, and provides access to industry resources.

National Communication Association (NCA) – The NCA works to advance communications as a discipline that examines all forms, modes, media, and consequences of communication. The association serves teachers, scholars, and practitioners and offers professional development resources to its members.

Original Research

Best Online Public Relation Master's Degrees of 2015
Rank Name Location
1 George Washington University Washington, DC
2 California Baptist University Riverside, CA
3 Kent State University Kent, OH
4 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH
5 Montana State University-Billings Billings, MT