Online Public Relations Degree

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What is a Public Relations Degree?

Public relations (PR) is a branch of marketing and communications. As such, an online degree in PR often covers both marketing communication skills and media relations. These areas help students learn to tell stories in order to sell services and products. And, improve the brand of a company using mass media and special events.

Problem solving is important too. So, you may study research methods and analysis.  This may improve your ability to create and run campaigns. Then, score the results using metrics and data. Part of any communications degree is to learn how to speak and write with clarity. Writing for public relations may span speeches, press releases, and social media. And public speaking is about confidence and grammar. Plus, using suitable language for products, services and corporate communication.

As a result, online students may grow skills while also building know how. You may learn to express yourself better with your peers and coworkers. Public relations specialists also need to know crisis management. That is about knowing how to take the lead with media communications. Like creating a plan that manages fall out from bad publicity.

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TYPES OF ONLINE PUBLIC RELATIONS PROGRAMS

There are many types of online programs in PR. To narrow school search results, choose a level of program, then check out all the different majors. Here are a few as a resource guide.

B.A. in Public Relations and Marketing

Explore PR as the core of a business. Study creative subjects such as communication, customer behavior, and advertising. Learn how to devise and conduct research for various public relations campaigns.

Course Examples:

  • Social Media strategy
  • eBusiness
  • Visual communications

B.A. in Communication Studies: Advertising and Public Relations

Explore ideas and practices in marketing and branding. Learn public relations writing. That is about how to write effective messages to sell and promote products and people.

Course Examples:

  • Marketing principles
  • Public speaking
  • Communication theory

B.S. in Marketing

Learn how to use marketing channels. Use digital and other media to create marketing and communications plans that work.

Course Examples:

  • Consumer behavior
  • Promotions
  • Strategic communication

Online Public Relations Degree Levels

There are four levels of PR programs. Associate, bachelor’s, masters and PhDs. These programs may fall under many titles. Communications, journalism, marketing, or business, for example. All relate to public relations. If just starting out, you begin with an undergrad degree. Some people do this at community college with an associate degree. That said, a bachelor’s tends to be a gateway for many of the job fields public relations professionals go for.

There are two kinds of online bachelor’s degree programs. Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science in public relations (BS). Both tend to take about four years and entail 120 credit hours of coursework. From there, you may continue your higher education in grad school. There are master’s, MBAs and PhD degree programs at this level. Nearly 11 % of students who studied PR earned a master’s degree. In doctorate PR programs, you learn to do research in the field.

The Road to Earning a Public Relations Degree:

The hardest aspect of earning a Communications and PR degree was a “service learning” aspect of the program for a couple of the courses, in which you have to seek out a connection in the real world that will allow you to handle basic public relations functions for that organization, or at least give you the information you need to create a hypothetical PR campaign.

Chris Clark

Marketing & Communications Coordinator at UHY Advisors

hardest part of earning a PR degree from Chris Clark

Public Relations Courses

Gen ed courses cover subjects like English, math, history, science, and philosophy. If you are earning a B.A., you will have to take courses like these and a capstone project. These courses are not all connected to PR. But, may help you improve your writing, reading, critical, and communications skills. These are all good skills for public relations managers to have.

The online courses you take in a PR major will cover many subjects. To put these areas in perspective, you may learn through case studies. These may provide strong foundation of skills and knowledge in public relations. If in a public relations bachelor’s degree, you’ll also take elective courses. Electives help you learn more about a certain area of PR. For example, you may study journalism, business, entertainment PR, or sports PR.

Course Examples:

Mass communications: A broad course of study that may help you open doors to a career in advertising, broadcasting, PR, journalism, and publishing. Learn how media works and impacts society.

Organizational communications: Learn skills and gain knowledge that you can apply to your work place at once. Study the effect of communication on organization.

Public speaking: Learn to deliver effective oral communication with focus on research, prep and performance.

Multimedia journalism: In this course, you may cover the use of digital tech to produce news stories that combine different formats of media, such as text, hypertext, photos, video, animation, databases and more.

Electronic public relations: Learn about the strategic use of online, mobile and social media tools in PR.

Communication Strategies/PR: This course may teach you the usage of PR tactics in an overall communications or marketing plan.

Research and analysis in PR: Learn the role research plays in PR.

Law and ethics in PR: This course teaches critical knowledge of essential and relevant law impacting professional communicators.

How long does it take to earn an online Public Relations degree?

You may earn an associate’s degree in PR in two years or less with full time study. That said, you may earn a B.A. in four years with full time study. If you are a working student, online schedules allow for flexibility. This enables many working students to pursue a degree full time, and work at the same time.

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Examples of How Long it Might Take To Earn a PR Degree

School# of Credits RequiredStart DatesMinimum Months to Complete
Full Sail U120Monthly29 months
Ashford U120Monthly (every five weeks)48
Pennsylvania State U120Winter, Summer, and Fall48

Average Public Relations Degree Costs

In 2017, students paid a median in state public tuition rate of $7,847. They paid a median out of state private tuition rate of $30,756. Below are the costs to earn a B.A. in PR:

School# of Credits RequiredCost Per CreditTotal Tuition Cost
Northern Michigan University120$437$52,440
Ashford University120$510 + fees$61,200 + fees
University of Florida124$955 + fee$114,633 + fees

Top Public Relations Schools

DataUSA tells us there were 288 schools in the United States that offer PR degrees or communication programs in the 2017 school year. From those schools, there were 18,861 degrees earned by students. Most of these degrees were B.A.’s.

School2017 degrees awarded2019/20 Tuition (out of state unless *)
Fashion Institute of Technology618$16,490
U of Texas at Austin529$38,326
Michigan State U519$39,766
Southern New Hampshire U401$31,136
U of Alabama396$30,250

BECOMING AN ACCREDITED PR PROFESSIONAL

Once you’ve completed your PR program, you can pursue PR accreditation or certification. Both signify to future employers that you have the skills, knowledge, and talent you claim to have. Firstly, by taking an exam and being interviewed, you can show your ability to a panel of proven professionals. If you do well, you can secure a cert or accreditation. Adding this to your resume can help employers verify your skills and talents.

Accreditation and certification are offered by professional PR organizations. These are well trusted in the field. They may add a level of respect and honor to your resume. While you don’t need to be accredited or certified to work in PR, it helps to be so.

Some examples of bodies that offer certification and accreditation (or can connect you with one who does) include:

You may also join agencies like these to grow your professional knowledge in the field. Through membership, you may also attend conferences and access research in the field. By joining professional organizations, you can help keep your skills top notch.

A Career in PR

The PR workforce has 2.27 million members. A worker’s average age in the field that same year was 40.1 years old.  Nearly 73.2 % of the workers with a degree in PR were female.

What can you do with a PR degree?

Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, earning an online PR degree may give you the skills you need to pursue a career in many fields such as:

  • Public Relations
  • Copywriter
  • Fundraiser
  • Marketing
  • Media Buyer
  • Communications Manager

Mean Annual Salary for PR Specialists by State

The table below shows states with the highest employment levels. As such, this career path often asks for a degree in PR or communications.

StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
California26,700$74,990
Texas26,110$60,600
New York25,760$78,230
District of Columbia18,600$109,390
Florida11,830$60,740

PR SPECIALISTS

As a PR Specialist, you may write press releases and carefully craft informational material for the media. In addition, you could help clients communicate with the public, respond to media requests or customer questions. Also, you may even write speeches for public figures or business executives. Your role is to make clients appear in favor to the public.

According to 2019 BLS data:

Avg. Salary: $61,150 per year

Job growth to 2029: 7% (As fast as average)

Entry level edu: B.A.

PR FUNDRAISING MANAGERS

PR Fundraising Managers are similar to specialists. They are different in that the former is also responsible for creating campaigns that attract donors. As a manager, you could contact potential donors, hold meetings with high profile contributors, and apply for grants. You may also design ad campaigns to raise money for your clients.

According to 2019 BLS data:

Avg. Salary: $116,180 per year

Job growth to 2029: 9% (Faster than average)

Entry level edu: Bachelors

ADVERTISING, PROMOTIONS, AND MARKETING MANAGERS

As an advertising manager, you will typically work for companies to help publicize a product or service. If your focus is on advertising, you may write marketing campaigns, such as TV commercials, radio spots, print ads, online marketing efforts, and more. In addition, you could also spend a large portion of time doing industry research in order to develop potential marketing strategies.

According to 2019 BLS data:

Avg. Salary: $135,900 per year

Job growth to 2029: 6% (Faster than avg.)

Entry level edu: Bachelors

COPY WRITER

In general, a writer will write content for all types of media. A copy writer, on the other hand, writes short ads and slogans to help sell a product. Skills that are key to this job include being able to adapt, creativity and persuasion.

According to 2019 BLS data:

Avg. Salary: $63,200 per year

Job growth to 2029: -2% (Decline)

Entry level edu: Bachelors

© Education Connection 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Sources for school statistics is the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

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This is an offer for educational opportunities, not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum. Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. The financial aid information on this site is for informational and research purposes only and is not an assurance of financial aid.