Online Degrees in Public Relations

In a media-driven world, image is everything. Public relations specialists work with businesses, universities, political figures, celebrities, government agencies, organizations and the like to build a positive public image for their clients and good relationships with the public at large.

According to the College Board, public relations specialists must have top-notch communication skills and a deep understanding of every form of media. If you can quickly and easily analyze a situation, have an outgoing personality, and enjoy creative problem solving, then maybe a career in public relations is the one for you. A public relations degree online can help you develop these traits and help you prepare for a career in this exciting field.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines public relations (also known as PR) as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” To put it simply, public relations is all about building a positive reputation with the public (and other stakeholders) and maintaining that reputation using different strategies.

Public relations specialists may work in a large firm or set up shop on their own handling the interests of different clients. Additionally, the skills learnt during the course of an online public relations degree program can prepare students for occupations in closely related fields such as journalism, speech writing or marketing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that aspiring PR specialists should have a bachelor’s degree in public relations for most entry-level positions. Degrees in journalism, communications and marketing are also good routes to enter this career, according to the BLS.

As a PR degree can provide you with quite a few transferable skills, the table below lists the occupations related to the field along with their associated mean wage, employment outlook and job outlook for the decade leading up to 2028 using data from the BLS.

Online public relations degree programs can help you learn the specific skills needed to work in the field. For example, the use of technology to communicate effectively and quickly is a hallmark of public relations work. Communicating with instructors and peers through online course work can be excellent training to prepare you for this aspect of your future career. Additionally, online classes may allow you to interact with individuals from varied backgrounds which can be immensely useful later on in your career.

Since many programs are asynchronous, which means you can access your course content whenever it is convenient to you, online PR programs can allow you to adhere to work or any other commitments you may have.

The Public Relations Firms industry experienced growth over the five years to 2019. IBISWorld estimates that industry revenue has increased an annualized 2.1% to $14.9 billion during the period, which includes estimated growth of 2.6% in 2019 alone.

Public relations specialists typically have contact with the public on a regular basis. They may have to plan media campaigns, write press releases and be creative in getting the word out for their clients. Public relations experts may also set up public appearances, events, conventions and the like. They might research and write materials, maintain contacts, network and respond to inquiries. Some public relations experts handle all aspects of the job on their own, which can require a strong knowledge of marketing, advertising, sales and promotion, while others may fill a more specialized role in a public relations agency.

The following steps outline one way to become a public relations specialist.

  1. Study psychology in high school, it can help you learn how people think.
  2. Study English and take speech classes if possible and/or write for the school newspaper.
  3. Research public relations degrees online.
  4. Enroll in a PR degree program that suits your needs.
  5. Gain experience through an internship.
  6. Build your portfolio while still in school.
  7. Opt for a more advanced degree should you wish to.
  8. Obtain professional certifications.
  9. Look for a job.
Clients hire public relations (PR) firms to manage a company’s image, publicize a product or service and communicate with stakeholders.

Online public relations degrees are available at all levels, from associate to doctorate, though the most popular degrees for public relations specialists are the bachelor’s or master’s degrees. According to O*Net, 92 percent of the PR specialists they surveyed hold bachelor’s degrees while 8 percent held master’s degrees. However, an associate degree may still permit to you work in the field in entry-level positions. Doctoral degrees may suit those who want to enter the fields of research and academia.

What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?

Online associate degrees in public relations can give students an overview of how the PR industry functions along with the different media used in the field and the various strategies used to deliver effective messages to the public.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Courses may give students an introduction to topics in communication, marketing, and advertising among others. Some examples of courses include:

  • Interpersonal communication
  • Introduction to mass communication
  • Introduction to public relations
  • Media and crisis communication
  • Media research and writing

What kind of jobs can I get after earning an associate degree in public relations?

An associate degree may allow you to transfer your credits to a four-year degree program or qualify you for entry-level roles in the PR and media industry. Some examples of job titles you may be eligible for are:

  • Communications generalist
  • Communications specialist
  • Event planner
  • Media writer
The Public Relations Firms in the US industry consists of General PR services, public affairs, media relations, event management and other.

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor’s degree program?

A public relations bachelor degree online can prepare students to develop their skills in order to implement creative public relations approaches to benefit their future clients. They can learn to analyze problems, develop solutions, and engage audiences through PR campaign as well as handle PR crises.

Typical duration: Four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Topics can include marketing, communication, promotional strategies, and client relations among others. Some examples of courses you may take are:

  • Business communications
  • Client engagement
  • Consumer and audience analytics
  • Consumer behavior
  • Public relations and promotional strategy

Students may also have to complete a capstone project or an internship as a part of their online bachelor’s degree program in public relations.

Possible electives: Customer relationship management; introduction to grant writing for non-profits; rhetoric and social influence

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a bachelor’s in public relations?

A bachelor’s degree is often the minimum educational requirement to work as public relations specialist according to the BLS. It may qualify you to work in a number of settings including advertising and PR industries, educational services, government agencies, businesses and non-profits to name a few. Some jobs you may be eligible for include:

  • Account coordinator
  • Campaign and PR manager
  • Fundraising manager
  • Media coordinator
  • Press agent
  • Public relations specialist
Public relations firms compete with law firms and advertising agencies to manage clients’ reputation and relationship with the public.

What can I expect to learn in an online master’s degree program?

A master’s in public relations online degree program can help prepare students to work in managerial roles – from coordinating teams of PR personnel to building positive brand images from the ground up.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’ degree in public relations or a related field

Typical coursework: Students explore advanced topics in PR and management such as project management, ethics, brand management and more. Some courses that may be included in your online master’s degree in public relations program are:

  • Branding strategies
  • Conversations in ethics
  • Law and ethics in public relations
  • Public relations management
  • Strategic public relations and reputation management

Students may have to complete a capstone project in order to earn their public relations degree online.

Possible electives: Investor relations; social media practice and techniques; health and strategic communications

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a master’s in public relations?

A master’s degree in public relations can qualify individuals for leadership and management roles in the PR industry. Some master’s graduates with enough previous work experience may also set up their own PR agencies while others may choose to continue with a doctoral degree. Some job titles you may qualify to hold are:

  • Crisis management agent
  • Global communications manager
  • Market research analyst
  • Media relations manager
  • Public relations director
  • Vice president of communications

Online public relations certificate programs at the graduate level may suit those who already have a degree in another subject and want to brush up on the requirements and courses most helpful for a career in PR or may help those with a bachelor’s degree in the field gain some graduate education without the financial or time commitments necessary for a full-time master’s degree. Students enrolled in the course may be able to build their skills in a number of different areas of public relations depending on the focus of the program.

Typical duration: One to two years of part-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’ degree in public relations or a related field

Typical coursework: Courses you take may vary depending on the focus of the program. However, you may study topics like digital platforms, public relations strategizing, and advanced communications among others. Some examples of courses include:

  • Crisis management and communications
  • Public relations and branding in practice: putting it all together
  • Strategic planning and public relations campaigns
  • Working with the media
  • Writing for public relations

Online doctoral degrees in public relations are currently not available. However, students enrolled in these programs may be able to take some courses online.


Accreditation can be an important aspect to look out for while choosing your public relations degree online. It is a voluntary process that institutions undergo to demonstrate their educational offerings meet or exceed a standard level of quality. Accrediting bodies, which are private organizations that may have a regional or national scope, evaluate schools to determine whether certain objectives and criteria for learning in certain subjects are met.

Additionally, attending an accredited school may be a prerequisite for receiving federal financial aid or for transferring credits from one program to another. Graduation from an accredited program may also be a criterion for professional certification.

The best online public relations degree programs are accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC).

Specializations in Public Relations

As the way we communicate becomes more diverse, especially with the explosion of the virtual world, public relations roles have diversified. Choosing a specialization during the course of your public relations degree program online may help you narrow down the focus of your studies as well as your career in an area of your interest. Some options you may come across include:

  • Information systems
  • International management
  • Project management

Certifications in Public Relations

Professional certifications are not always mandatory. However, they can serve to reassure your clients of your competency in the field of public relations. Employers may prefer to hire candidates with such qualifications over those without. Certifications typically need to be renewed periodically via continuing education classes or through reexaminations. Some examples of certifications include:

Employment Statistics

Public Relations Specialists

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
  • Social Advocacy Organizations
  • Home Health Care Services
  • Business, Professional, Labor, Political, and Similar Organizations
  • Grantmaking and Giving Services
States with the highest level of employment
  • Texas
  • California
  • New York
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
  • St. Joseph, MO-KS
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  • Salem, OR
  • Kennewick-Richland, WA

Advertising and Promotions Manager

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
  • Sound Recording Industries
  • Radio and Television Broadcasting
  • Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers
  • Agents and Managers for Artists, Athletes, Entertainers, and Other Public Figures
States with the highest level of employment
  • New York
  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Massachusetts
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Boulder, CO
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
  • Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Attending college, even virtually, can be expensive. Fortunately, there are plenty of scholarship programs available for eligible students of online public relations degree programs. Scholarships may be offered by universities and educational foundations among others. We’ve listed a few programs below to help you get started in your search.

Professional Organizations and Resources for Public Relations Majors

Article Source




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  • Public Relations Certificate, University of Virginia,, accessed December 2019
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  • Strategic Branding & Public Relations Certificate, UCLA Extension,, accessed December 2019
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