The public relations field features fast-paced environments and exciting careers. Job responsibilities include writing editorials and planning promotions that connect organizations with the community. Public relations specialist careers are projected to see a 6% job growth by 2024. The most common job setting for a public relations graduate is in an office. This career path allows you to serve as an integral figure in the relationship between business, government, and the general public.
What are the best public relations programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||University of Florida||Gainesville, FL|
|2||Florida International University||Miami, FL|
|3||Colorado State University Global Campus||Greenwood Village, CO|
|4||Washington State University||Pullman, WA|
|5||Bellevue University||Bellevue, NE|
|6||Webster University||Saint Louis, MO|
|7||California Baptist University||Riverside, CA|
|8||Mississippi College||Clinton, MS|
|9||Pennsylvania State University||University Park, PA|
|10||Point Park University||Pittsburgh, PA|
Choosing a Program
A bachelor's in public relations prepares graduates for careers as PR specialists, event planners, fundraising managers, and copywriters. Program electives allow students to customize their coursework to fit their professional interests, and programs often include topics in nonprofit grant writing, crisis management, and campaign planning. Many public relations programs offer specializations in areas such as information systems and project management. While PR programs share common learning outcomes, requirements will differ between schools. Some programs may require a capstone course or internship. Final projects allow students to integrate knowledge acquired throughout their studies and develop communication strategies that fit within their career goals. Figuring out what your career and personal goals are will help you choose the right program.
What Are The Best Online Bachelor's in Public Relations Programs?
University of Florida
|Gainesville, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
The University of Florida's online division hosts a nationally ranked bachelor's in public relations program. In-state students and those who qualify through reciprocity agreements enjoy some of the lowest tuition rates of any regionally accredited school in the United States.
Learners pursuing this degree prepare for entry-level careers or graduate-level study related to topics like public relations, business, and marketing. The online program furthers three main learning areas: cross-platform and digital media communication skills; industry-leading public opinion research skills; and foundational knowledge in public policy, economics, political science, and social psychology.
Public relations students at UF have won more Public Relations Student Society of America-sanctioned competitions than any other college in the country, adding further esteem to this top online program.
Florida International University
|Miami, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
Florida International University offers an online bachelor's in public relations, advertising, and applied communications. This program explores public relations as a marketing and advertising tool, and coursework maintains a strong emphasis on case studies.
By engaging with examples of successful and unsuccessful campaigns, students acquire a detailed understanding of what works, what does not work, and why. Students apply their knowledge in creative ways while maintaining the ability to customize their studies. Through electives, learners can hone specific skills, such as those related to written communications, public speaking, social media and digital communications, and applied research.
FIU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Colorado State University Global Campus
|Greenwood Village, CO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
Online learners can pursue a bachelor of science in marketing with a public relations specialization at Colorado State University Global Campus. This versatile program prepares graduates for a variety of career tracks — marketing degrees are in high demand across industries.
Students learn to craft custom marketing and PR messages, develop brand-building proficiencies and professional marketing skills, and contribute to organizational marketing efforts. The public relations specialization accounts for 15 credits of the 120-credit degree, emphasizing hard PR skills that can be used on digital platforms and international audiences.
Learners benefit from an entirely online, asynchronous delivery structure. Classes start monthly. CSU-Global also accepts up to 90 transfer credits, enabling some learners to complete their degrees in just one academic year.
Washington State University
|Pullman, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
The bachelor of arts in integrated strategic communication program at Washington State University teaches students how to build positive relationships between organizations and the public. This program is offered through WSU's College of Communications.
The curriculum emphasizes applied theory and helps graduates develop vital advertising, marketing, and PR skills. Participants take classes like quantitative research methods and digital content promotion. They also complete an internship. Faculty maintain industry-leading quality standards that focus on data-driven decision-making backed by proven theoretical models.
All online students pursuing this degree pay in-state tuition rates, regardless of residency. WSU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges And Universities.
|Bellevue, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 0%||
Nebraska's Bellevue University offers multiple options to students seeking online public relations training. Degree paths include an accelerated bachelor of science in communication, as well as bachelor of applied science and bachelor of arts pathways. Degree-seekers can complete any of these three programs without setting foot on campus.
The accelerated bachelor of science program emphasizes data- and evidence-based approaches built around statistical analysis and modeling. The bachelor of applied science track focuses more on technical skills, while the bachelor of arts option prioritizes creativity and the strategic use of mass media tools.
Specializing in adult learning, the university may appeal to working professionals and nontraditional students seeking to improve their academic credentials. BU holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
|Saint Louis, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
St. Louis-based Webster University features an entirely online bachelor of arts in media communications designed for students interested in multiple media platforms. Participants prepare for many different types of media careers by pursuing a single major.
Learners following this degree path build customized skills by choosing electives that support the development of focused proficiencies, such as scriptwriting, animation, and public relations. Graduates of this program can pursue work related to marketing and advertising, journalism, special events, public relations, gaming, TV, and corporate communications.
Guided by an institutional commitment to embrace global perspectives, Webster stresses the importance of an international outlook. All students complete global learning components that emphasize the importance of broadly inclusive viewpoints.
California Baptist University
|Riverside, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 55%||
Regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, California Baptist University delivers its bachelor of arts in communication studies from a Christian perspective. Degree-seekers learn to leverage multimedia communication channels while maintaining sound ethics that support positive public relations.
The communication major accounts for 48 credits of the 120-credit degree. Required courses cover topics like written communications, research methods, public relations, and persuasion and rhetoric. The program emphasizes the practical and professional application of coursework. Graduates are prepared for careers in social media marketing, journalism, marketing, event planning, and public relations.
CBU uses a variety of e-learning technologies, including HD video streaming and Blackboard. Classes prioritize interactivity between peers and instructors, creating a supportive learning environment.
|Clinton, MS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
Students attending Mississippi College can earn an online bachelor of science in communication with a focus in public relations. This degree path focuses on corporate and organizational advocacy, while also emphasizing hard skills in marketing and relationship building.
As part of the public relations concentration, degree-seekers also take core courses in mass media, communications law, research techniques, journalism, graphic design, and public speaking. Graduates emerge with an adaptable skill set that may appeal to employers in many industries.
Online learners can also access many extracurricular activities. These include a weekly campus news show, broadcasts of the school's athletic events, and reporting and editorial opportunities with the college newspaper.
Pennsylvania State University
|University Park, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 29%||
Through its online bachelor of arts in strategic communications, Pennsylvania State University offers a program for students interested in multidisciplinary approaches to public relations. Supplemented by courses in psychology, law, statistics, and research methods, the program's core covers a variety of public relations techniques.
Spanning 120 credits, this strategic communications degree prepares new students, adult learners, and established professionals to change careers or advance their education. The degree's 38 core credits cover topics like social media strategies and strategic communications law. Students also have the option to complete an internship.
Graduates emerge with many skills, including those related to advertising campaign strategies and management, corporate communications, project management, brand management, and image building.
Point Park University
|Pittsburgh, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 60%||
Pittsburgh's Point Park University features small class sizes to build an intimate learning environment. The school ranks among Pennsylvania's leading online universities, and its bachelor's in public relations and advertising program is a versatile and practical degree path.
The curriculum of this program is grounded in current industry best practices. Seasoned professionals helped develop coursework to ensure its practical relevance.
Core courses develop hands-on skills, and the program culminates in a capstone project that includes an agency placement. During the capstone, degree-seekers work alongside professionals to create an integrated advertising or marketing campaign for a real client in the public or private sector.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Public Relations Program?
This section serves as a guide to assist prospective PR students in the process of pursuing their online degree. While details differ depending on the program and school chosen, the following information highlights common features of a public relations bachelor's degree online and other important topics to consider when selecting an academic program.
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN PUBLIC RELATIONS
While courses may vary slightly, the following sample curriculum highlights common topics found in a bachelor's degree in public relations. Each course provides students with a specific skillset that's needed for careers in the field.
- Principles of Public Relations: This course provides an overview of the field of public relations. Students develop skills to promote positive publicity and become familiar with concepts and tools used in the field. This foundational course prepares students for careers in PR management, community relations, and public affairs.
- Electronic Public Relations: This course familiarizes students with technology-based PR strategies. Students learn how to ethically use social media and effectively communicate through digital formats. Knowledge of technology communication prepares students for careers as media relations specialists and press agents.
- Media Planning: Students gain skills in media plan development. This course examines the process of message distribution and emphasizes the use of consumer research to guide media planning and strategies used in a variety of formats, such as television, radio, and newsprint. Special events coordinators and executive directors rely on knowledge of media planning.
- Writing for Public Relations: This course examines the fundamentals of writing and provides students with an overview of writing techniques for copywriting. Students learn how to write news releases, editorials, and brochures. This course prepares students for careers as feature writers and copywriters.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN PUBLIC RELATIONS?
A public relations bachelor's degree online takes about four years of full-time study to complete. Part-time students may take five to eight years to earn their degree. Some programs offer single consecutive courses that require part-time status. The average curriculum consists of 120-124 credits. Internship requirements may lengthen the time it takes to complete the degree, while previously earned credits and accelerated semester structures shorten the path to degree completion.
Online public relations degrees allow students to pursue their degree at an individual pace or through a cohort learning model. Self-paced learning programs often have rolling admissions dates, and students independently complete assignments at their convenience. Cohort learning fosters a group educational experience, and students often begin their program in the spring or fall semester. Students in a cohort program progress through the curriculum together and create learning communities that promote interconnection.
Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Public Relations Degrees
The top online bachelor's programs are accredited. This assures students that the program and university adhere to educational standards set forth by an accrediting body. The majority of U.S. universities are regionally accredited. Six regional accrediting associations exist in the U.S. and set the standards for universities in specific areas. National accrediting agencies commonly accredit vocational and trade schools. While regionally accredited universities tend to cost more to attend, nationally accredited universities are less standardized and credits may not transfer to regionally accredited schools. When choosing an online school, it is important to search for DEAC accredited programs. Online schools accredited by DEAC participate in assessments and peer reviews to ensure academic quality. ACEJMC accredits mass communication programs and promotes professional standards through the rigorous evaluation of program curriculum, instruction, and diversity.
Regional and national accrediting agencies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). While the ED does not play a role in the institutional accreditation process, it ensures that accrediting agencies enforce standards. Similarly, CHEA employs recognition standards that promote academic quality and institutional accountability. Both the DOE and CHEA play important roles in the advancement of higher education, such as requiring the ongoing self-scrutiny of accrediting bodies. The ED and CHEA provide extensive databases of accredited universities and programs, allowing prospective students to make informed decisions about their academic futures.
Employment Outlook for Bachelor's in Public Relations Graduates
A bachelor's degree in public relations provides students the opportunity to advance their careers and improve their potential earnings. Most entry-level positions in public relations require a bachelor's degree. Data from the BLS demonstrates that higher education positively impacts annual earnings. The following table contrasts annual earnings of careers in public relations and similar areas in relation to their educational training required. PR careers that require a bachelor's degree offer higher salaries with increases up to 70%.
Annual Salary by Occupation
|Job Title||Entry-Level Education||Annual Average Salary|
|PR and Fundraising Managers||Bachelor's degree||$107,320|
|Public Relations Specialist||Bachelor's degree||$58,020|
|Advertising Sales Agent||High school diploma or equivalent||$50,380|
|Customer Service Representative||High school diploma or equivalent||$32,300|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
BACHELOR'S IN PUBLIC RELATIONS SALARY
Factors that influence annual earnings of public relations specialists include work experience, employer industry, and location. The following table features data from the BLS highlighting the highest paying states and corresponding annual earnings for public relations specialists. Not only does the District of Columbia provide public relations specialists with the highest salaries, it has the highest concentration of employment in the field.
Top 5 paying U.S. States for Public Relations Specialists
|District of Columbia||$95,750|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
BACHELOR'S IN PUBLIC RELATIONS CAREERS
Graduates of public relations programs possess the knowledge and skills needed to pursue a variety of careers, including entry-level positions as PR specialists and executive roles as PR and fundraising managers. The following careers illustrate the occupational paths available to students upon earning their bachelor's degree in public relations. The following careers require strong interpersonal, organizational, and problem-solving skills. Fast-paced work environments and frequent deadlines are common of these careers.
- Public Relations Specialist
Public relations specialists conduct a variety of tasks, including writing press releases, helping clients communicate with the media, and maintaining an organization's image. A bachelor's degree in public relations prepares students for entry-level positions that often consist of assembling speeches and maintaining an organization's files.
Median Annual Salary - $58,020
Projected Growth Rate - 6%
- Meeting, Convention, and Event Planner
An event planner ensures the smooth operation of an event from start to finish. Tasks include planning the time, location, and cost of the event; reviewing bills; and approving payments. Several planner specializations exist, including corporate planners, government meeting planners, and nonprofit event planners.
Median Annual Salary - $47,350
Projected Growth Rate - 10%
- Public Relations and Fundraising Managers
Public relations managers develop advertising and promotion programs to maintain the public image of their employer. They convey their organization's point of view to its audience through the use of media and follow social and political trends that impact their organization's image. Fundraising managers apply for grants, contact potential donors, and devise fundraising strategies. Both positions require a bachelor's degree and several years of work experience.
Median Annual Salary - $107,320
Projected Growth Rate - 7%
- Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers
Advertising managers communicate with potential buyers and create product interest. Promotions managers increase sales through purchasing incentives, such as discounts or rebates. Marketing managers identify the need for new products and potential markets. Shared duties include planning promotional campaigns, negotiating advertising contracts, and conducting market research studies. Managers have several years of work experience and often begin their careers as public relations specialists.
Median Annual Salary - $100,810
Projected Growth Rate - 5%
Writers in the field of public relations often establish careers as copywriters. Job duties include preparing advertisements, promoting sales, developing slogans, and creating advertising themes. Copywriters work with clients to develop content. Copywriters usually hold a bachelor's degree in public relations or a related area and have skills in web page coding.
Median Annual Salary - $61,240
Projected Growth Rate - 2%
Professional organizations provide public relations students and recent graduates with numerous opportunities, including access to continuing education programs, recent job postings, and conferences. Professional conferences allow students to network with professionals and explore the latest PR topics. These invaluable experiences expose new professionals to diverse perspectives presented by leaders in the field. Professional organizations emphasize ethical conduct and professional advocacy. Extensive job boards connect recent graduates with potential employers around the world. Many professional organizations provide access to scholarly publications and case studies.
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Public Relations Program
A variety of options exist to help pay for your public relations bachelor's degree online. Federal aid programs provide students with financial support. To begin the process of securing federal financial aid, complete the FAFSA online. In addition to federal aid, numerous scholarships and grants exist to help reduce the cost of tuition. Universities and public relations professional organizations offer scholarships, including the Gary Yoshimura Scholarship and the Bill Gove Scholarship.
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