If you have a passion for marketing, branding, advertising, and helping clients maintain positive relationships with their customers, a career in public relations may be right for you.
This field requires strong writing, communication, organizational, and problem-solving skills. A master's degree in public relations can help you develop these skills and qualify for managerial positions.
This page explores typical career paths for graduates who earn an on-campus or online master's degree in public relations. It also covers common courses, concentration options, costs, and admission requirements.
What Is Public Relations?
Public relations involves using strategic communications to build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between a client and the public or their customers. Professionals in this field typically work as consultants or with firms to manage the release of information, create branding or marketing strategies, and develop crisis management plans to protect a client's reputation.
What Are the Best Online Master's in Public Relations Programs of 2020?
|1||Georgetown University||Washington, DC|
|2||University of Florida||Gainesville, FL|
|3||George Washington University||Washington, DC|
|4||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||Champaign, IL|
|5||University of Denver||Denver, CO|
|6||Syracuse University||Syracuse, NY|
|7||Florida International University||Miami, FL|
|8||Mississippi College||Clinton, MS|
|9||Webster University||Saint Louis, MO|
|10||Texas Tech University||Lubbock, TX|
Should I Get a Master's Degree in Public Relations?
Public relations offers several lucrative and promising career paths. There is a growing need for professionals who understand current marketing, social media, and branding strategies. As such, most public relations careers benefit from strong projected job growth over the next decade.
A bachelor's degree typically qualifies you for entry-level positions, but advancing in the field may require a master's degree. As such, pursuing a master's degree in public relations is often a good investment.
A master's degree in public relations builds on your previous education and work experience to develop more advanced skills. Many programs require a capstone and/or internship experience, giving you the opportunity to apply course concepts to practical situations. Programs also emphasize developing leadership skills to prepare you for managerial positions.
Because a master's degree requires a significant financial investment, you should make sure it is right for you. You should establish your goals and research the qualifications for the job you want. This research will help you select a program that matches your academic and career goals.
What Will I Learn in a Public Relations Master's Program?
Earning a master's in public relations provides students with advanced knowledge of essential topics in the field. The skills you gain through a master's program typically qualify you for career advancement opportunities, which may increase your salary. The exact curriculum varies by program, but common courses include public relations theory, social media analytics, and public relations writing.
Some programs also offer concentrations, which allow you to align your studies more closely with your specific career goals. Read on to learn about popular courses and concentrations.
- Law and Ethics in Public Relations
This course provides an overview of industry standards to help students practice public relations legally and ethically. Students learn about the First Amendment and its role in the field. Participants also learn how to identify and mitigate possible ethics violations.
- Social Media Analytics and Engagement
Students learn best practices for using social media analytics in journalism and communications. This course focuses on analyzing data to measure audience experiences to adjust or create new media content.
- Public Relations Theory
This class breaks down popular public relations and communications theories and how they shape current professional practice. Additional topics may include essential public relations models, organizational culture, diversity, and ethics.
- Public Relations Writing
Students taking this course develop strong professional writing skills. Coursework also provides an overview of several different forms of writing, including press releases, statements, public service announcements, fact sheets, and media correspondence.
- Consumer Insights
This course examines how cultural, sociological, and psychological factors impact consumer behavior. Students learn to use key concepts and knowledge of consumer behavior to shape effective branding strategies.
Students learn about the fundamental principles and techniques of advertising from the perspective of public relations. This concentration explores topics like print and broadcast media, communications strategies, advertising methods, copywriting, and persuasive writing techniques.
- Strategic Communications
This concentration explores how to maintain a positive brand identity and deliver effective marketing messages through communications strategies. Required coursework may also provide an overview of outreach methods, including newsletters, advertisements, and social media posts.
- Digital Media
Students pursuing this concentration learn how to incorporate social media and digital media techniques into their public relations strategies. Required courses examine topics like digital photography and imaging, graphic communication, and digital analytics.
- Media Relations
This concentration prepares students to coordinate relationships between their clients and the media. Required coursework emphasizes how to shape media coverage, communicate with media organizations, and promote a brand through media relations.
- Corporate and Organizational Communication
This concentration caters to students pursuing positions in management, human resources, and project management. Required courses provide an overview of communication ethics and the principles of negotiation, facilitation, and mediation.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Public Relations?
Earning a master's degree typically qualifies graduates for managerial positions leading teams and helping organizations shape effective public relations strategies. Common positions include public relations manager; public relations director; marketing director; and promotions, advertising, and marketing manager.
Below are several possible careers in public relations. Our public relations guide contains even more in-depth career information.
- Public Relations Manager
Public relations managers develop brand strategies for organizations and other clients. This process may include writing press releases and identifying audiences to create messaging campaigns. These professionals typically manage a team of public relations specialists working to generate leads and maintain professional contacts.
- Advertising, Promotions, or Marketing Manager
Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers typically work with department heads and staff to run campaigns. Their primary tasks include creating budgets, evaluating websites, directing market research, and negotiating contracts.
- Marketing Director
Marketing directors oversee marketing objectives for an organization. Primary tasks include creating projects, managing a staff of marketing professionals, and communicating with clients. They also analyze market data to develop effective strategies.
- Vice President of Public Relations
Vice president of public relations is an executive-level position. These professionals oversee department heads and provide final approval on all official messaging for an organization or client. Additional tasks include coaching managers, providing talking points for working with media, and spearheading crisis management.
- Meeting, Convention, or Event Planner
Professionals in this field organize large events. They typically meet with clients to establish event goals and secure all necessary components, including the venue, food, entertainment, and necessary equipment.
How to Choose a Public Relations Master's Program
Before enrolling in a program to pursue your on-campus or online degree in public relations, you should establish your educational, professional, and personal goals. This process can help you apply filters to your search and narrow down your choices. Factors to consider include concentration options, program length, and required courses.
You may also want to consider each program's format. Schools may offer on-campus, fully online, or hybrid formats. Explore our guide for in-depth information about top online master's programs in public relations.
How to Get Into a Public Relations Master's Program
Most master's programs in public relations require a 3.0 minimum GPA and a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Additional requirements may include GRE scores, a personal statement, a professional writing sample, and letters of recommendation. Some programs also prefer applicants with work experience.
Exact requirements vary by program. It is important to research admission requirements before submitting application fees.Read Our Guide to Graduate Admissions
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Public Relations?
Earning a master's degree in public relations typically takes 18-24 months. However, program lengths vary by school and may impact the overall cost of your degree. Self-paced programs, accelerated programs, and programs that award transfer credit for previous work experience often offer shorter completion times.
Public relations professionals generally do not need additional licensure or certification. However, if you plan to pursue an academic or research position, you should consider pursuing a doctorate.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Master's in Public Relations?
The cost of pursuing a master's degree in public relations varies by school. Factors that affect tuition include program length, whether you enroll full or part time, and whether a school is private or public.
Additionally, online learning may be more affordable than attending an in-person program. For example, distance learners can avoid costs related to on-campus housing and parking.