Earning a public relations bachelor's degree prepares students to become strategic communications professionals. These individuals protect the image and reputation of nonprofits, multinational corporations, and small businesses.
In the age of online journalism and social media, public relations professionals must work quickly to stay ahead of the news and mitigate crises. Today, public opinion changes rapidly, and many types of organizations demand highly qualified public relations workers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for public relations and fundraising managers to increase 10% from 2016 to 2026. The guide below includes information about admissions requirements, curricula, and tuition costs for students pursuing a public relations bachelor's degree.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Public Relations?
Students earning a bachelor's degree in public relations develop skills necessary to work as a communications professional in the public and private sectors. Many universities also help students make connections in the field and conduct a job search.
Public relations professionals serve as the liaison between an organization and the public. Students in the field learn to draft speeches, write press releases, and communicate with media members. They gain an understanding of the strategies that PR specialists use to craft effective campaigns and react to difficult situations. PR programs emphasize oral, visual, and written communication skills.
Most universities offer career development resources and host jobs fairs that allow students to network with industry professionals. Additionally, career counselors can help students find jobs and internships. Graduates join an alumni network that can benefit them during their entire career.
Recent high school graduates pursuing a public relations bachelor's degree often prefer on-campus programs, which provide in-person networking opportunities. Online programs, on the other hand, generally attract learners who have some work experience and who want to advance their career or switch fields.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Public Relations?
Public relations students gain the communication skills needed to succeed in a variety of roles and settings. Many organizations need public relations professionals to communicate with the media and maintain a positive relationship with the public. During times of crisis, public relations workers maintain and manage an organization's reputation.
Public relations students may become managers who shape an organization's corporate identity. Graduates can also support businesses through marketing, advertising sales, and market research. Earning a public relations bachelor's degree prepares students to excel in a variety of communications-driven careers.
- Public Relations Specialist
These communications professionals manage the public image of an organization. They may work for a company or for a public relations firm that represents many clients. Public relations specialists prepare press releases, field requests from the media, and organize social media campaigns. Public relations firms typically require specialists to hold a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $59,300
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
- Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Manager
These managers generate interest for a service or product through promotional, advertising, and public relations campaigns. They often conduct market research to analyze the demand for a particular product. They may strategize with other departments, develop pricing models, obtain customer feedback, and negotiate contracts with vendors and advertisers.
Median Annual Salary: $129,380
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts determine whether a product will sell and at a what price point. They assist top-level managers by preparing reports on competitors and consumers. They also evaluate the effectiveness of marketing and advertising strategies. Analysts generally need at least a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $63,230
Projected Growth Rate: 23%
- Public Relations and Fundraising Manager
Public relations managers plan and oversee public relations campaigns. They supervise specialists and work with executives to establish an organization's image and identity. Fundraising managers set fundraising goals and develop new strategies. They also apply for grants and meet with donors. These management positions typically require a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $111,280
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Advertising Sales Agent
Sometimes called advertising sales representatives, these professionals sell advertising space and find new clients for advertising agencies. They explain advertising options to clients and recommend the most effective formats for a particular product or service. Many large corporations prefer sales agents to hold a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $49,680
Projected Growth Rate: -4%
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Public Relations Program
Before selecting a bachelor's in public relations program, students should consider factors including program requirements, campus location, and total cost. These program characteristics significantly affect a student's overall education, and learners should choose a school that aligns with their career goals and lifestyle.
Prospective students should first determine which programs fit their academic needs. Each prospective school's curriculum should include coursework related to the learner's career aspirations. Students who want to gain direct experience in the field should look for programs that emphasize hands-on opportunities. Students should also consider whether each program offers specialization options relevant to their goals.
Learners can narrow their search by choosing a program format. Recent high school graduates typically attend on-campus programs on a full-time basis. Working professionals often pursue their bachelor's degree in public relations through part-time, evening, or online coursework.
Cost is another major consideration, and students should only schools they can afford. Tuition costs vary significantly, and individuals receive unique financial aid packages from each school. Learners should also factor in the cost of housing and meal plans; some schools require first-year students to live on-campus.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's Programs in Public Relations
Students should look for bachelor's in public relations programs with recognition from a reputable accrediting agency. Accreditation signifies that a school or program consistently meets set standards of quality. Accreditation requires a regular and thorough review process. Only students at accredited universities can qualify for federal financial aid. In addition, studying at an accredited school ensures that other universities and employers will recognize your public relations bachelor's degree.
While some accrediting agencies evaluate entire schools, many award accreditation to programs within a particular field. Public relations students should prioritize programs with approval from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. Students should also ensure the school holds accreditation from an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Bachelor's in Public Relations Program Admissions
Applying to college may seem daunting, but adequate preparation makes the admissions process much easier. Students should understand the expectations of their potential schools before applying. Most students apply to six to nine schools, including safety schools and reach schools.
Most schools require an application and an essay. Many schools accept the Common App, although institutions may require supplemental forms and essays. Applicants must typically submit high school transcripts and standardized test scores. Applicants may also need to submit letters of recommendation or sit for an interview. The admissions process for online programs is similar to the process for on-campus programs, but online programs generally require applicants to complete more steps.
- Minimum GPA: Many schools require a minimum GPA between 2.5 and 3.5. Most colleges accept students with lower GPAs who excel in other areas.
- Application: Most schools accept The Common App, an application students complete once and submit to multiple schools. The application involves basic questions and an essay.
- Transcripts: Most universities require applicants to submit official high school transcripts. Students can obtain official transcripts through their school, often for a small fee.
- Letters of Recommendation: Most schools require about three letters of recommendation. Students should give recommenders as much time as possible to complete the letters.
- Test Scores: Colleges typically require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores, and some also require SAT II subject test scores. Universities often publish minimum SAT or ACT scores online.
- Application Fee: Institutions often charge $25-$90 per application. Students can apply for an application fee waiver through The Common App or through the college. Many universities charge no fee.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Public Relations Program?
Each public relations program features different courses, requirements, and costs. Concentration options vary by school, but the concentrations below are common to many bachelor's in public relations programs. Students should research each prospective program to ensure it offers coursework relevant to their career goals.
|Digital Media||This concentration teaches students to effectively leverage online publications, social media, and other forms of digital media. Courses introduce concepts related to web design, visual storytelling, and multimedia journalism. Students learn how new media formats alter the entertainment, news, and public relations landscapes.||Public Relations Specialist, Digital Marketing Specialist, Promotions Manager|
|Corporate Communication||Students in this concentration develop the skills needed to manage the internal or external communications of a large company. Students learn to effectively communicate with stakeholders through courses in media relations, international communication, and investor relations. This concentration often provides an overview of corporate responsibility, identity, and branding.||Corporate Communication Specialist, Media Relations Specialist, Investor Relations Associate|
|Political Communication||A political communication concentration prepares students for communications-oriented roles in the public sector. Students learn to support candidates and politicians through courses in speechwriting, public speaking, and campaigning. They also learn to apply fundamental communication and reputation-management principles to government work.||Communications Assistant, Press Secretary, Speechwriter|
|Advertising||Advertising plays a key role in reputation management and in crafting a company's public image. Students in this concentration learn about advertisement creation and the role advertising plays in marketing campaigns and strategies. Students analyze case studies and examine successful advertising campaigns.||Advertising Sales Agent, Marketing Associate, Advertising Manager|
|Project Management||Public relations students who concentrate in project management gain skills needed to lead teams and oversee campaigns. Coursework covers techniques in organization, planning, scheduling, and quality assurance. Students also learn to create and manage budgets, negotiate with vendors, and set long-term goals.||Public Relations Manager, PR Account Supervisor, Marketing Manager|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Public Relations Program
Curricula vary by school, but most public relations programs cover the same basic skills and concepts. Required courses depend on the particular school and program, but the sample courses below are common to most bachelor's in public relations programs.
- Communication Writing
Students learn the fundamental principles of writing in a public relations context. The course provides an overview of various forms of PR-related written communication, including newsletters, press releases, and reports.
- Public Relations Campaigns
This course introduces public relations strategies and campaigns. Students analyze case studies to understand the qualities of a successful public relations campaign. Students explore common approaches to public relations and evaluate the effectiveness of various PR strategies.
- Media Law and Ethics
This course provides information on legal and ethical issues in public relations. Students learn about the laws that govern journalism, entertainment, advertising, and digital media. Students learn to work ethically and to avoid common legal problems.
- Digital and Online Media
Public relations programs generally incorporate coursework on traditional print and broadcast media, as well as new formats. Digital and online media courses explore how interactive advertising, social networks, and online journalism affect the mass communication field.
- Media Relations
This course provides a general overview of media relations processes and techniques. Students gain skills necessary to interface with reporters, pitch stories, and craft media campaigns. Students also explore how the media can promote products, services, and ideas.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Public Relations?
Bachelor's students generally graduate in about four years. However, program characteristics and student preferences can impact the length of the degree.
Some schools design bachelor's programs to take five years to finish. Others allow ambitious students to pursue an accelerated course of study. To graduate more quickly, students may be able to take additional credits each semester or enroll in summer and winter courses.
Working professionals and students with personal responsibilities often choose to enroll part time, which extends the length of the degree and may increase overall cost. Most public relations bachelor's degrees require about 120 credits, but students may receive credit for college-level courses completed during high school.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Public Relations?
Tuition for bachelor's programs in public relations range from about $10,000 per year to more than $40,000 per year. Whether a school is public or private can greatly affect tuition rates. Public institutions receive government funding and typically charge lower tuition rates than private universities. Additionally, public universities generally offer discounted tuition to in-state students.
Some schools charge a per-credit tuition rate, while others charge per semester. Students can reduce out-of-pocket costs through scholarships and grants. Work-study programs can help learners offset costs through on-campus employment.
When budgeting for college, students should consider the cost of transportation, meals, and other expenses. Learners who plan to relocate should factor in the cost of rent or campus housing. Additionally, some schools require freshmen to purchase a meal plan. Other expenses, such as textbooks and technology fees, also impact overall cost.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Public Relations Prepares For
- Accreditation in Public Relations
The Universal Accreditation Board grants this certification, which verifies that the holder has reached a high degree of professional competence in public relations. Candidates typically complete five years of work in the PR field prior to earning the certification. Candidates must sit for an interview and pass an online examination.
- Professional Researcher Certification
This credential can help market researchers advance their careers. The certification demonstrates the researcher's knowledge and proficiency in the field. This credential also indicates a commitment to the prevailing standards and ethics in research. Candidates must log 12 education hours through Insights Association events and must pass an exam.
- Communication Management Professional:
The Global Communication Certification Council (GCCC) offers this certification to mid-level communications professionals. The credential indicates proficiency in GCCC's six core competencies: ethics, strategy, analysis, context, engagement, and consistency. Candidates must have several years of professional experience in communications, complete 40 hours of training, and pass an online exam.
Resources for Public Relations Students
Students can use this resource to become familiar with developments in public relations theory. Journal articles examine the history and ethics of PR, as well as current PR practices.
This association fosters business communication research and teaching. Students can access recent research in the field and find information on graduate programs.
The AMA's College2Career Center helps students find internship and job opportunities. The center also provides information on scholarships, student competitions, and common career paths.
This association works to advance communication as a discipline. NCA publishes the latest communication research in 11 academic journals and provides educational resources for communication students and scholars.
This academic database allows students to search journals and articles on topics related to mass media, communications, and organizational communication.
Professional Organizations in Public Relations
Through networking opportunities and continuing education programs, professional organizations can help current students and recent graduates jumpstart careers in communications. Members can form industry connections and gain expertise to stand out from other aspiring PR professionals.
Professional organizations in the field often host online and in-person workshops on topics such as media relations, augmented reality, and PR writing. Associations may also organize excursions and conferences to foster connections between members.