Best Online Public Relations Programs

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by Marisa Upson

Published on December 9, 2021 · Updated on April 26, 2022

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An online bachelor's in public relations from a top online school prepares students to develop and maintain a positive image for companies, organizations, and individuals. Participants learn how to utilize press releases, social media, and broadcast media to influence public opinion, whether to mitigate a crisis or increase a brand's awareness.

Graduates can pursue positions with numerous employers, including schools, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, healthcare providers, and other private or public businesses. Some work with one individual business, while others work for public relations firms, helping numerous brands. According to Payscale, individuals holding a BS public relations earned an average annual salary of $57,000, as of December 2021.

Like most business degree programs, a bachelor's in public relations takes about four years of full-time study to complete. However, online accelerated options can reduce completion times. The College Board reports that the average annual tuition at four-year institutions ranged from $10,560-$37,650 during the 2020-21 school year, depending on the type of school and resident status. Some online programs offer reduced tuition rates and no out-of-state fees.

What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Public Relations Program?

An online bachelor's in public relations program teaches students how to structure public relations campaigns and communicate with the press to receive positive media coverage. This role requires strong communication skills and the ability to persuade public opinion. These professionals also regularly engage in public speaking and require well-developed interpersonal skills.

Public relations bachelor's programs require about 120 credits and take four years of full-time study to complete. However, accelerated online tracks can reduce completion times. Schools may award a bachelor's of arts (BA) or a bachelor's of science (BS) in public relations.

BA tracks tend to focus more on the humanities and may require more foreign language classes. In contrast, BS pathways may lean more toward research and administration. However, both options tend to feature a lot of similar courses.

Most online bachelor's in public relations programs end in a capstone project or practicum. This could include working with an agency to develop a client's campaign or with the campus newspaper. Additionally, some programs offer optional internships that include hands-on training at a public relations firm, newspaper, TV station, or nonprofit organization.

Many programs also offer concentrations or electives that enable students to direct their education toward their career goals. Common specializations include business communication, social media and digital marketing, and event management. Some schools also offer a marketing or communication degree with a concentration in public relations.

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Popular Online Bachelor's in Public Relations Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Public Relations Program?

Public Relations Campaigns

This course teaches the techniques and principles used to create comprehensive public relations campaigns. Covered topics may include determining appropriate media to use in a project and relationship-building strategies.

Public Relations Writing

This class delves into the persuasive writing skills required to find success in public relations. Covered topics include message-based writing strategies and preparing information for television, electronic media, newspapers, and magazines.

Social Media Practices

This course focuses on the impact social media plays on public awareness and how it can fundamentally change the perception of companies, government agencies, and/or individuals. Students develop practical tools needed to build and maintain an online community.

Advertising and Public Relations

Students explore how to develop targeted markets and use persuasive communication to reach these personas. Covered topics include the link between advertising strategies and public relations and their contribution to an organization's growth.

Public Speaking and Persuasion

Students learn about ethical persuasive strategies in public speaking and practice delivering effective oral presentations for different audiences. Covered topics may include subject selection, argument development, and delivery skills.

What Are Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Public Relations Program?

While admission criteria vary by program, most online and campus-based bachelor's in public relations programs follow similar requirements. Students transferring from a community college or those who earned prior college credits may have different requirements than those applying right from high school, so make sure to check each program's admission policies.

Application

Students usually fill out their college applications online, either through a school's website or an online platform such as the Common Application. Utilizing an online platform enables students to complete one form while applying to multiple colleges. These applications request basic information, such as a student's family information, GPA, and extracurricular activities.

Test Scores

While some schools still require ACT or SAT scores, many list college entrance exams as optional. When optional, candidates should consider the strength of their test scores and the other parts of their application, such as their GPA. Average scores of accepted students vary by college, so make sure to check first-year student profiles.

Letters of Recommendation

Most programs require 2-3 letters of recommendation. These references should come from teachers, school counselors, and/or employers who know a student's academic and personal strengths. Make sure to request letters of recommendation a few months before the application deadline to ensure they arrive in time.

Essays

Most colleges require students to submit at least one essay or personal statement. This requirement allows students to let their personality and writing abilities shine. Consider highlighting your values, interests, and life experiences in a dynamic and personal manner.

Official Transcripts

Students must submit official high school transcripts and, if applicable, any official college transcripts. Generally, most programs require a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0. Many of these programs also accept transfer credits, with some accepting upwards of 90 previously earned college credits, which can significantly reduce costs and completion time.

What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Public Relations Degree?

Career Outlook

Public relations experts can find careers in just about every economic sector, including education, healthcare, and tech. As digital communications expand, individuals and businesses need these specialists more than ever to maintain a positive public image, sway consumer sentiment, and influence or change public policy.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 11% and 13% job growth for public relations specialists and public relations managers, respectively, from 2020 to 2030, which is higher than the projected average for all occupations over this time frame (8%).

Public relations graduates, as well as a few other popular college majors like communications and business, can also pursue in-demand careers as technical writers (12% projected job growth) and marketing managers (10% projected job growth).

Salaries vary widely in the many careers public relations graduates pursue. For example, as of May 2020, public relations specialists earned a median annual wage of $62,810, while public relations managers made $118,430.

See where a bachelor's in public relations can take you. Learn more about public relations careers.

Career Paths

Public Relations Specialist

Public relations specialists cultivate public interest and positive sentiment for a corporation, nonprofit organization, or individual. They do this by writing news releases, arranging interviews, acting as a spokesperson, writing speeches, and keeping abreast of social media platforms. When working for the government, they are referred to as press secretaries.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $62,810

Public Relations Manager

After gaining several years of work experience, public relations professionals may pursue managerial roles. These professionals may coordinate their clients' public relations campaigns, including targeting media outlets and communications with investors. Public relations managers also supervise and assign projects to staff members and assist an organization's spokespeople and executives.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $118,430

Communications Specialist

A communications specialist manages an organization's external and internal communications. Their roles vary depending on the company's size and type. Tasks may include preparing press releases, conducting media events and press conferences, and managing online content. After gaining experience, these professionals often pursue roles as communications and corporate communications managers.

Average Annual Salary (December 2021): $54,500

Campaign Manager

A campaign manager may work for a political organization or candidate, coordinating fundraising activities and advertising, arranging media visits, and overseeing all aspects of the campaign. These professionals may also work as advertising campaign managers, leading campaigns for clients and working for advertising agencies or large organizations that require an in-house advertising and promotions team.

Average Annual Salary (December 2021): $61,690

Content Marketing Manager

Content managers create written content for marketing materials, including advertisements, articles, and social media. They may oversee a staff of writers and track online metrics to determine the success of specific campaigns. In addition, these professionals may identify target markets, select types of content, and create editorial calendars.

Average Annual Salary (December 2021): $69,180

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Continuing Education

Students considering managerial roles or specialized positions may continue their education, pursuing options like a master's in public relations, a master's in communication, or an MBA in marketing. These degrees enable students to obtain mastery in their area of interest, pursuing specializations like political communication, digital strategies, crisis management, and public relations in healthcare.

Though not required, public relations professionals can earn the widely recognized accreditation in public relations (APR) credential. This requires an undergraduate degree and passing scores on a national exam. Candidates must also undergo an interview and portfolio review. Additionally, an APR military communications credential is available for active military personnel and civilians employed by the U.S. Department of Defense.

How Do I Choose an Online Bachelor's in Public Relations Program?

Cost

The average tuition cost for an online bachelor's in public relations ranges widely but often falls between $150-$650 per credit. Resident students at public colleges usually pay the lowest tuition fees, while private university students often find higher rates. Some schools do not charge nonresident fees for online programs. Online students may also find additional savings in reduced student fees and transportation costs.

Program Format

Many programs offer entirely online asynchronous learning formats that provide increased flexibility. Other hybrid programs require some on-campus or in-person participation, such as a residency requirement. Synchronous online programs usually require weekly scheduled virtual class sessions. Online programs may also offer accelerated formats as well as part-time options.

Location

Students may want to consider a school close to home for programs that offer hybrid learning formats and require some on-campus participation. Some online learners also enjoy attending sporting events and participating in in-person networking opportunities. Additionally, make sure to check if a school charges out-of-state fees for its online programs.

Accreditation

Accreditation ensures that a school meets certain academic standards. Regional accreditation is the gold standard for colleges and universities and makes it easier to transfer credits. Programs can also earn specialized accreditation. For example, bachelor's in public relations programs can earn accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Student Support

Online bachelor's in public relations programs offer varying student support services. Important online student services may include college mentorship opportunities, which can prove invaluable for student success, and internship assistance. In addition, support with career services, tutoring, and alumni and networking connections can also improve academic and career outcomes.

Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Public Relations Programs

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Best Online Bachelor's in Public Relations Programs

  1. University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    Tuition

    $10287

    Based in Gainesville, UF operates an online division to reach students around the globe. The university offers an online bachelor's in public relations that includes courses in reporting and public relations research, campaigns, and writing. UF students have won more Public Relations Student Society of America Bateman Case Study Competitions than students from any other university.

    Applicants can earn admission by completing three of five prerequisite UF Online courses with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

    Program Snapshot

    • Program URL: Visit Program
    • Cost-per-Credit: $129/credit in-state; $553/credit out-of-state
    • Program Length: 4 years
    • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 124 credits
    • Degree Completion Program: No
    • Instruction Style: N/A
    • Format: Online
    • School Status: Public
    • Program Accreditation: N/A
    • School Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  2. Florida International University
    Location

    Miami, FL

    Tuition

    $9180

    Located in Miami, FIU offers an online bachelor's in public relations program that includes major courses like strategic branding and social media, communication research methods, writing for public relations, and designing communication strategies. All students must complete a 12-credit concentration in an area outside the major like business communication, communication arts, social media and e-marketing, or digital photography.

    FIU students must complete certain prerequisite courses with a minimum 2.85 GPA before they can enroll in the university's public relations major.

    Program Snapshot

    • Program URL: Visit Program
    • Cost-per-Credit: $229/credit in-state; $346/credit out-of-state
    • Program Length: 4 years
    • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 120 credits
    • Degree Completion Program: No
    • Instruction Style: N/A
    • Format: Online
    • School Status: Public
    • Program Accreditation: N/A
    • School Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  3. Point Park University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Operating out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Point Park's online bachelor's in public relations program requires students to choose between two capstone experiences: participate in the National Student Advertising Competition of the American Advertising Federation or work in a student-run agency model to create a public relations campaign.

    Prospective students must have a minimum 2.0 GPA. Point Park may require an interview or additional materials from certain applicants to help the admissions department make a decision.

    Program Snapshot

    • Program URL: Visit Program
    • Cost-per-Credit: $520/credit
    • Program Length: 4 years
    • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 121 credits
    • Degree Completion Program: No
    • Instruction Style: N/A
    • Format: Online
    • School Status: Private
    • Program Accreditation: N/A
    • School Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  4. Montana State University Billings
    Location

    Billings, MT

    Tuition

    $11859

    MSU Billings modeled its online bachelor's in public relations program on the Public Relations Society of America's recommendations for undergraduate education. All students select an emphasis in digital media, community public relations, or public affairs. Core courses cover topics like reporting the news, campaign planning, research methods, and new media skills.

    Applicants must have a 2.5 GPA or rank in the top half of their high school class. The university does not require ACT or SAT scores, but prospective students can submit them if they wish.

    Program Snapshot

    • Program URL: Visit Program
    • Cost-per-Credit: $187/credit
    • Program Length: 4 years
    • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 120 credits
    • Degree Completion Program: No
    • Instruction Style: N/A
    • Format: Online
    • School Status: Public
    • Program Accreditation: N/A
    • School Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  5. Franklin University
    Location

    Columbus, OH

    Located in Columbus, Ohio, Franklin provides an online bachelor's in public relations program that strives for flexibility for working professionals. The program delivers six-week and 12-week online courses, offers multiple start dates throughout the year, and allows incoming students to transfer up to 86 credits. Courses in the 124-credit curriculum include client engagement, media and crisis communication, and media research and writing.

    Prospective students must submit proof of a high school or GED diploma.

    Program Snapshot

    • Program URL: Visit Program
    • Cost-per-Credit: $398/credit
    • Program Length: 4 years
    • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 124 credits
    • Degree Completion Program: No
    • Instruction Style: N/A
    • Format: Online
    • School Status: Private
    • Program Accreditation: N/A
    • School Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Public Relations Programs

Is a bachelor's in public relations worth it? true

If you enjoy helping individuals and companies create a positive public image, a bachelor's in public relations can pave the way to career opportunities in many fields. Most employers seek candidates with a bachelor's degree, although some companies may require a master's for leadership positions.

A public relations expert requires strong interpersonal and communication skills. They may regularly engage in public speaking, write press releases, and take the lead in protecting a brand's image during a crisis. If this appeals to you and your talents, an online bachelor's in public relations may lead to a career you truly enjoy.

What can I do with a bachelor's in public relations? true

Graduates with a bachelor's in public relations often pursue roles at government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and public relations firms and other private companies. Many organizations require some form of positive brand identity, a task that falls to public relations experts.

Public relations experts can find roles as event planners, public relations specialists, and fundraising and public relations managers. Some work with political parties as campaign managers, while others help shape the image of companies through communications with the media and public speaking engagements.

Are public relations majors in demand? true

As digital communications and social media expands, public relations experts can expect to see increased demand. One viral post can change public opinion in a day, and quick-thinking professionals are needed to respond to and prevent damage to a company or individual's reputation.

The BLS projects 11% and 13% job growth from 2020 to 2030 for public relations specialists and public relations managers, respectively. This exceeds the 8% employment growth projected for all occupations. Public relations majors may also pursue roles as content managers, another profession that continues to expand due to digital content's role in brand awareness and management.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in public relations?

An online bachelor's in public relations leads to varied salaries based on a worker's position, employer, location, and experience level. For example, according to the BLS, public relations specialists earned a median annual salary of $62,810 in May 2020. However, the lowest 10% earned less than $35,350, while the highest 10% earned more than $118,210 annually.

Additionally, public relations specialists who work in business and political organizations earned a median annual wage of $68,610, while those working in educational services earned $59,360. For graduates pursuing roles in content and social media management, Payscale reports that content marketing managers earn an average annual salary of roughly $69,000, while social media marketing managers make about $56,000 (as of December 2021).

What are the highest-paying jobs I can get with a bachelor's in public relations?

One of the highest-paying positions for those with a bachelor's in public relations is public relations manager. The BLS reports that these professionals earned a median annual wage of $118,430 in May 2020, with the top 10% earning more than $208,000 a year. In addition to a bachelor's degree, these roles usually require several years of work experience, with some employers requiring a master's degree.

The state in which one works as a public relations manager also affects the pay rate. Some of the highest-paying states for these professionals include New York, Virginia, and New Jersey, where the annual average wages in May 2020 were $175,170, $165,190, and $163,930.

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