2021 Best Online Masters in Public Relations Programs

Earning a masters in public relations online may be beneficial for anyone who wants to advance their career in communications and business.

Masters in Public Relations Programs

After completing a masters program, you may become a public relations manager, a communications director, or a media relations manager. In order to discover the public relations master program that is right for you, you may want to learn more about the studies in this field and explore accredited online programs.

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You may find yourself taking intriguing classes and developing your expertise as a PR professional.

Online Masters in Public Relations Programs

Marketing Manager meeting with his staff

A successful public relations career depends on stellar communication skills. When you study for a public relations masters degree online, you may hone your ability to deliver messages and strategically promote brands.

As you study effective communication, you may take courses on writing, speaking, and storytelling. You may perform analyses of others’ messages and use those lessons to fuel your professional development.

Crisis management is an important skill for PR professionals to have, so you may learn how to deliver announcements to the public during times of trouble. You might also discuss how to preserve your organization’s image when things seem to be going wrong. Today, much PR work happens online.

A modern public relations program may cover how to strategically use social media and other online platforms to enhance your organization’s reputation. Learning about analytics may be an important component of your social media studies. Although public relations is a communications field, it is also a business discipline.

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As a result, you may round out your master’s program with business classes that cover topics like organizational leadership, finance, and business law. Taking these types of classes can help prepare you to assume management roles.

Some PR professionals work for individuals. For example, celebrities often have public relations teams. In politics, public relations representatives are frequently called press secretaries.

Businesses and other organizations hire PR specialists too. If you have your sights set on a management job, getting a master’s degree in public relations online may be an important step toward that goal. Some companies prefer managers or directors who have both experience and an advanced degree.

PR managers may specialize in one of the many subsets of this field, such as social media management, crisis management, event planning, fundraising, or media relations. There may also be a place for you in marketing or advertising management. In time, you might even advance to one of your organization’s top executive roles.

Public Relations Careers & Salaries

Public Relations Careers & Salaries

Public relations professionals understand both business and communication principles. This broad foundation means that you may be equipped to succeed in a variety of different roles after graduating with an online masters in public relations.

The field of public relations deals with creating a positive image for an individual or an organization. Job titles within PR include press secretary, social media manager, communications director, and media director.

Your PR skills might help you become a fundraiser who solicits donations for a nonprofit organization or a market research analyst who studies consumer trends. Event planners also need PR know-how, so you may qualify for that position as well.

If you already have training in graphic design, you might find that a master’s in public relations can pair well with that skill. You can use your designs to convey a message or relay information from your organization.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a masters in public relations, you may pursue any of the following jobs.

Careers Annual Median Salary
Marketing Manager $142,170
Advertising and Promotions Manager $133,460
Public Relations and Fundraising Manager $118,430
Top Executive $107,680
Postsecondary Teacher $80,790
Writer or Author $67,120
Market Research Analyst $65,810
Public Relations Specialist $62,810
Fundraiser $59,610
Meeting, Convention, or Event Planner $51,560

With a master’s degree, you could also have opportunities to teach public relations at the college level. Full-time faculty usually need doctorates, but a master’s may help you become an adjunct professor.

A masters can also help you qualify for managerial roles in public relations and fundraising. Because public relations shares similarities to advertising and marketing, you may be able to hold leadership roles in those fields as well.

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With both a master’s degree and much experience, you might even get the opportunity to move into one of the top executive roles in your organization one day.

Public Relations Master’s Curriculum

Advertising team planning together

A public relations graduate program usually requires students to take 30 to 36 credit hours. That means that you may take 10 to 12 classes. Your curriculum may be similar to some of the example courses listed here:

  • Case Studies in PR: You’ll take time to explore situations that others have faced in PR and see what you can learn from how they handled them.
  • Concepts of Mass Communication: This foundational class will cover theories of communicating to the public through television and other forms of media that reach large audiences.
  • Crisis Leadership: In this course, you’ll discuss how to maintain positive public relations in the face of emergencies or other difficult issues.
  • Data Collection and Analysis: You’ll learn to collect information from the public, interpret the meaning of the data, and use your findings to fuel PR decisions.
  • Data Visualization: This class will teach you to create image-based representations of the information that your organization wants to share with others.
  • Nonprofit PR: Nonprofit organizations sometimes have unique needs, so you may take a class on providing PR services in those settings.
  • PR Law and Ethics: Learning and following regulations and operating with integrity is essential for your professional career and your organization’s long-term success.
  • Social Media for Public Relations: You will learn to engage customers through social media and evaluate your organization’s online metrics.
  • Strategic Digital Communication: In this class, you will explore the concept of using digital advertising, copywriting, and other online strategies to achieve your organization’s goals and build the brand.
  • Writing for Public Relations: By practicing your writing skills, you’ll become more adept at persuading audiences through clear, professional, and engaging messages.

In addition to courses like these, public relations master’s programs may include elective options, a capstone class, or an internship.

Admissions Requirements

Masters in Public Relations student studying on his laptop

Before beginning a master’s in public relations, you’ll need to submit your application with components like those listed below.

  • References: The school may want to hear about you from professional or academic supervisors.
  • Resume: Some masters programs may appreciate candidates with several years of professional experience.
  • Test results: Some schools ask for GRE or GMAT scores, but that’s becoming an increasingly less common requirement.
  • Transcripts: Official records from previous college programs will showcase your academic background.

Some schools allow applications at any time during the year, but others hold to firm deadlines.

Accreditation

Online Masters in Public Relations Programs Accreditation

When you’re looking for public relations master programs, you may want to check a college’s accreditation status. The best type of accreditation to consider is regional accreditation.

A college earns regional accreditation by proving its ability to educate students well. This certification can help give you confidence that you’re earning a degree that has value and substance.

Employers will often appreciate that you graduated from a master’s program at an accredited school. Regional accreditation can also help you transfer graduate credits to another university or enroll in a doctoral program.

Information on regional accreditors is available from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Online Masters in Public Relations Programs Financial Aid

If you qualify, you may be able to benefit from financial aid or scholarships that can help pay for your education.

Both state governments and the federal government sponsor student aid programs. You might be able to access low-interest loans from the government. Even better, you may qualify for grants, which don’t have to be paid back.

Scholarships are another valuable form of financial aid. You might be able to win this type of tuition assistance from your college. Scholarships may also be offered by a business, a professional industry organization, or a philanthropic group.

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Your workplace might have a student assistance program as well. Employers are most likely to support degrees that will enhance employees’ contributions to the organization.

Speaking to a college’s financial aid office may help you learn more about your options for paying for school. You my start, though, by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master’s in Public Relations Online?

Marketing Manager working in her office

Traditional public relations graduate programs take about 1 to 2 years to complete. If you enroll in a program with 16 week semesters, 2 years may be about what you can expect.

Some schools have fast-track calendars with 8 week terms, and the classes run throughout the year. With that scheduling, you might be able to finish your master’s degree in about 18 months. Other factors may influence your program length, such as how many credits you are able to take if you are balancing work and family responsibilities.

Full-time students can finish more quickly than part-time ones. It is possible, though, that transferring credits or receiving credit for prior knowledge may shorten the length of your studies.

What Can You Do with a Public Relations Degree?

Advertising Manager and assistant working on a project

Public relations graduates often work as PR specialists or managers. Jobs in this field include social media director, communications director, press secretary, media relations manager, and event planner.

You might also have the opportunity to be a graphic designer, a market research analyst, or a fundraiser. As a public relations professional, you may work for a well-known individual, such as a Hollywood star, or you may be employed by an organization. Both nonprofit groups and corporate businesses can benefit from the input of PR experts.

Is a Masters in Public Relations Worth It?

PR manager meeting with team

Yes, a master’s degree in public relations is worth it for many students. In the media and communication field, jobs are projected to grow at a rate of 4% in the next 10 years (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Common public relations careers in this field include public relations specialist, public relations manager, marketing manager, event planner, and fundraiser.

Having a masters may qualify you for higher positions in the communications industry.

Universities Offering Online Master’s in Public Relations Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Ball State University

Ball State University campus

Ball State University offers an online Master of Arts in Public Relations through its Department of Journalism.

The curriculum includes courses covering project planning and development, digital marketing communication, strategic communication development, market research, social media and digital analytics, and competitive communication analysis. It requires between 30 to 33 credits for completion.

Ball State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Bellevue University

Bellevue University campus

Students interested in public relations can enroll in Bellevue University’s Master of Arts in Business and Professional Communication program.

They’ll take courses designed to teach them to think critically, communicate professionally, and apply relevant theories to professional communication. The curriculum includes 24 core course credits and 12 concentration-specific course credits.

Bellevue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

California Baptist University

California Baptist University campus

The Master of Arts in Strategic Communication program from California Baptist University equips students with the knowledge and skills needed to examine the role communication plays in all aspects of their lives.

Students are also encouraged to incorporate biblical thought within current cultural concepts. Students usually finish in 12 months.

California Baptist University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Concordia University – St Paul

Concordia University St Paul campus

Concordia University – St Paul’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication Management program is a 36 credit program designed for working professionals who need flexible courses that can be completed entirely online. It’s a great program for students interested in furthering or changing careers into corporate communication or public relations fields.

Concordia University-Saint Paul is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Concordia University – Wisconsin

Concordia University Wisconsin campus

Students enrolled in the Master of Business Administration in Communications and Public Relations program at Concordia University – Wisconsin should leave the program as more articulate, engaging speakers and better professional communicators.

The program is designed to improve the skills of current professionals in public relations, consulting, human resources, and advertising fields.

Concordia University Wisconsin is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Drexel University

Drexel University campus

Students in Drexel University’s Master of Science in Communication program can select concentrations in either Public Communication or Science and Health.

Students interested in public relations can select the public communication option. Students will undergo a 6 month internship and leave the program with an impressive portfolio to show potential employers.

Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Florida International University

Florida International University campus

Florida International University’s Master of Science in Mass Communications program with a concentration in Global Strategic Communications is a 30 credit course that can be completed in 1 year.

The program helps students become socially responsible, globally minded leaders in communications within the fields of government, nonprofit, or public relations.

Florida International University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

George Washington University

George Washington University campus

The strategic public relations masters program from George Washington University stresses the importance that adaptability, foresight, and strategy play in professional communications.

It’s a good program for students interested not only in public relations but also in public affairs, advertising, marketing, or communications. The program provides many networking opportunities as well.

George Washington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Georgetown University

Georgetown University campus

Georgetown University has a Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program that’s a three-time winner of PRWeek’s PR Education Program of the Year award. The 30 credit program is open to full-time or part-time students and features courses in public relations writing and communications research.

Georgetown University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University campus

Students in the Master of Arts in Communication program at Johns Hopkins University will take ten required courses over the course of 1 or 2 years.

There are six concentrations available to students: Public and Media Relations, Political Communication, Corporate and Non-Profit Communication, Digital Communication, Applied Research, and Health Communication.

Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Lasell University

Lasell University campus

Lasell University’s Masters in Communication program features a concentration in Public Relations that can be earned entirely online. Professors seek to teach students to identify key audiences, create targeted, powerful messages, and work with the media to develop and sell their brands. Data analytics and crisis communication are also key components.

Lasell University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

The Master of Business Administration in Public Relations program at Liberty University has ACBSP accreditation and can be completed entirely online via subsequent 8 week sessions.

Notable curriculum courses include communication and conflict, media technologies and communication strategies, contemporary issues in human resources management, and strategic communication campaigns for the digital age.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Marist College

Marist College campus

Marist College’s Master of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communication program is a 100% online program that seeks to enhance students’ communication and strategic marketing skills.

There’s a heavy public relations component to the curriculum. There are also courses in brand management, social media strategies, and tactics and global consumer insights.

Marist College is accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Maryville University

Maryville University campus

Maryville University’s strategic communication and leadership masters degree is an experience-driven degree that combines a background in theory with hands-on, practical application.

There are plenty of immersive, collaborative class projects, and students have opportunities to earn various industry certifications. There’s no public relations concentration, but there are several PR-relevant courses.

The Maryville University of Saint Louis is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Mississippi College

Mississippi College campus

At Mississippi College, students are able to tailor the curriculum in their Master of Science in Applied Communication degrees to focus on their specific areas of interest.

Students interested in public relations can choose electives in either the interpersonal and public communications concentration or the public relations and corporate communication concentration.

Mississippi College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Montana State University – Billings

Montana State University Billings campus

The Master of Science in Public Relations program from Montana State University – Billings provides students with an advanced, comprehensive understanding of how to negotiate with and facilitate conversations between two people, groups, industries or governments.

The curriculum consists of courses teaching theoretical knowledge and courses delivering hands-on, practical experience.

Montana State University Billings is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Pennsylvania State University – World Campus

Pennsylvania State University campus

There are no GRE or GMAT scores required for students seeking admittance into Pennsylvania State University – World Campus’s Master of Professional Studies in Strategic Communications program.

The program requires 30 total credits and is designed for students interested in careers as fundraising and marketing managers, market research analysts, or public relations specialists.

Pennsylvania State University – World Campus is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Purdue University

Purdue University campus

Students interested in public relations at Purdue University can enroll in the Masters in Communication program and select the Strategic Communications and Public Relations concentration.

In this program, students should learn to successfully cultivate and maintain relationships with stakeholders, find and address key communication issues, and respond effectively to various organizational crises.

Purdue University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Quinnipiac University

Quinnipiac University campus

Quinnipiac University’s public relations masters program is designed to turn public relations specialists into leaders capable of guiding their organizations through the complex landscapes of ever-evolving media.

There are five key competencies that program graduates are expected to have mastered: literacy, social intelligence, effective communication, critical and creative thinking, and information fluency.

Quinnipiac University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University campus

There are two concentration options within Southern New Hampshire University’s Master of Arts in Communication program: New Media and Marketing and Public Relations.

The big issue in the public relations concentration is brand management. Students are taught to use the most up-to-date and innovative technology to effectively manage organizations’ brands.

Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Stephen F Austin State University

Stephen F Austin State University campus

Stephen F. Austin State University offers three concentrations with its mass communications masters program.

Students interested in public relations should choose the advertising and public relations concentration. There are also three options in terms of final projects. Students can choose the thesis option, the non-thesis option, or the media project option.

Stephen F Austin State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Syracuse University

Syracuse University campus

Syracuse University’s Master of Science in Communications program features a concentration in Public Relations that can be completed online.

The program consists of 33 credits, and 12 of those will come from the public relations concentration. Concentration-specific courses include public relations theory, public relations management, and advertising and research design.

Syracuse University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Troy University

Troy University campus

The Master of Science in Strategic Communication program at Troy University is a 30 credit program that can be completed in a single year. Core courses focus specifically on communication and strategic communication, but students can select five elective courses that relate to their interests, including electives in public relations.

Troy University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Arkansas – Little Rock

University of Arkansas Little Rock campus

Students in the Master of Arts in Mass Communications program at University of Arkansas – Little Rock can choose concentrations in either Mass Media Research or Professional Mass Media, which is the better option for students interested in public relations. Courses in this concentration include media criticism, journalism history, and mass communication.

UA Little Rock is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Denver

University of Denver campus

The public relations masters program at University of Denver should help strengthen students’ complex reasoning, critical thinking, and precise and professional writing skills.

Students should also learn to manage and maintain organizations’ identities, utilize mass media, reach and impress stakeholders, leverage social media, speak persuasively, and maximize companies’ reputations.

The University of Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Florida

University of Florida campus

University of Florida’s Master of Arts in Mass Communication features an optional concentration in Public Relations.

The program requires 30 credits of coursework and 3 additional capstone credits for completion. The school partners with APCO Worldwide to teach students cutting-edge strategies used by the company and to give them real-world experience.

The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Maryland Global Campus

University of Maryland Global campus

Students hoping to pursue careers in public relations can enroll in the strategic communications masters program from University of Maryland Global Campus. It’s a 36 credit program—into which six credits can be transferred—that prepares students to pass the certification exams for public relations and strategic communications.

University of Maryland Global Campus is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of Southern California

University of Southern California campus

The Master of Communication Management program from University of Southern California is a good choice for students interested in obtaining careers in the fields of public relations, advertising, market research, marketing communication, or consulting.

Sample courses include principles of public relations, foundations of effective public relations writing, and audience analysis.

USC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Webster University

Webster University campus

Webster University has a Master of Arts in Public Relations program that requires 36 credits—27 core credits and 9 elective credits—for completion. The program teaches students about globalization, ethical frameworks, and entrepreneurship through a mixture of coursework on theory and practical application of public relations skills.

Webster University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Western New England University

Western New England University campus

Students at Western New England University can earn their Master of Arts in Communication degrees with concentrations in Public Relations. In addition to being able to take courses online, students also have the option of taking accelerated terms to potentially finish faster. The program requires 30 total credits for completion.

Western New England University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Getting Your Master’s in Public Relations Online

Getting Your Master’s in Public Relations Online

Earning a master’s degree in public relations may help you get started in this exciting field or help you advance your current PR career.

In a public relations program, you may study mass communication, social media, data analytics, and other important business and communications topics. After graduation, you may work as a PR manager, a social media director, a fundraising coordinator, or a market research analyst.

Earning a public relations master’s degree through online study can be a convenient, flexible way to complete your graduate education. You may consider exploring accredited online PR programs to find the one that’s the best fit for you.

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Joy Cromwelle
WRITTEN BY
Joy Cromwelle
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration. Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.