Online Public Relations Master’s Degree: An Overview
Public relations experts manage the images and reputations of individuals, as well as those of corporate, government and nonprofit organizations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public relations and fundraising managers earned a median salary of $107,320 in 2016. Analysts expect employment in the field to grow 10 percent between 2016 and 2026.
The public relations field in the social media age demands professionals adept in nontraditional branding methods.
The public consumes massive amounts of information at rapid speeds, and people scrutinize the businesses they patronize.
The most successful public relations professionals gain and maintain the trust of their audience.
Employers need highly skilled, strategic and adaptable representatives who can keep pace in this constantly changing field. Aspiring public relations professionals can improve their job prospects by earning a master’s in public relations online. Students of online public relations master’s programs acquire strategic, interpersonal and leadership skills that help them in pursuing private and public sector PR careers.
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Should you stay or should you go?
An online public relations master’s program offers flexibility for students who are also working professionals. Web-based programs typically follow the same rigorous curricula as brick-and-mortar options, leading to similar advancement opportunities for graduates. The online format is also ideal for students who must tackle additional commitments such as child or family care on top of their work and class schedules.
How long does it take to earn a master’s in public relations online?Students who choose to pursue a master’s in public relations online typically receive their degree after completing 30 to 36 credits. Full-time students usually complete the requirements in one to two years.
How much does an online master’s in public relations cost?The cost of an online public relations degree depends on several factors. State residency is an important consideration, since many colleges and universities charge higher tuition for out-of-state students. However, some schools charge flat tuition for online students regardless of residency.
Technology fees are another key factor; these fees often apply to online students but not their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
Per-credit costs for an online public relations degree typically range from $470 to $780. Students should expect to pay between $14,000 and $28,000 in total tuition.
Online master’s in public relations admissions requirementsStudents typically need a bachelor’s degree before enrolling in a master’s in public relations online program. Some applicants may possess a bachelor’s in public relations or a related field, but most programs accept any bachelor’s degree.
Though industry experience may benefit prospective master’s students, it is rarely a requirement.
Choosing an accredited master’s in public relations online degree program
Accreditation status is one of the most important considerations for prospective students.
Colleges and universities in the U.S. receive accreditation from agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education; the accreditation process involves an extensive review of a school’s educational programs and student services.
A school’s accreditation impacts course credit transferability, as well as student eligibility for federal financial aid, so students should ensure the school offering the program has earned national or regional accreditation.
- Legal, ethical and social foundations of public relations
- Critical thinking and crisis management
- Applied public relations and public affairs research
- Reputation management: building a brand
- Social media: objectives, strategies, tactics
Students of online public relations master’s degree programs usually take courses in research, ethics, strategy and crisis management.
In research courses, students learn to collect and assess engagement data and will use this methodology to coordinate and oversee brand-building initiatives.
Ethics courses teach students the legal and social implications of the PR field. Students also examine the private and professional dilemmas they may encounter.
In courses on social media and marketing strategy, students learn to build and maintain a following through the calculated use of multimedia resources. They study the impact of social media and discuss its incorporation into comprehensive communications strategies.
Crisis management courses teach students to protect brand reputations. Students learn to prevent image disasters, manage their fallout and respond to public outcry.
Students who complete a public relations master’s curriculum should graduate with the critical thinking, media savvy and analytical prowess necessary to take on leadership positions in the field.
Capstone experienceStudents who earn a master’s in public relations online may be asked to complete a capstone experience as part of their core coursework, which usually provides three credits.
Capstone experiences require students to identify and research an issue in the public relations field. They then use the skills and knowledge they have acquired from their online public relations degree coursework to address this issue. Students may devise a strategic PR plan, then present a written description of the challenge and its potential solutions.
Professional Associations in Public RelationsStudents who graduate from an online public relations degree program may choose to take advantage of membership in one or more associations for PR professionals. These associations provide members with access to networking opportunities, professional development resources and industry news.
Students pursuing an online master’s in public relations may choose to join one of the organizations listed below.
Public Relations Society of America: PRSA supports U.S. public relations professionals and promotes ethics, innovation and diversity. Members can access industry publications, including the PRSay blog, and stay apprised of communications issues. PRSA’s professional development resources include webinars, certification workshops, award presentations and conferences. Members network online and at local meetups. They receive employment assistance through PRSA’s Jobcenter and qualify for discounts on products and services.
International Association of Business Communicators: IABC promotes the global betterment of communications professionals and their businesses. Members network locally and internationally, benefiting from IABC’s online Job Centre, professional development workshops, certifications, conferences and industry research. The Gold Quill Awards showcase members’ best work, and the service-oriented IABC Foundation encourages professionals to use their PR savvy for the greater good.
International Public Relations Association: IPRA promotes high ethical standards and transparency in PR. Maintaining consultative U.N. partnerships, it awards public relations campaigns that promote U.N. developmental goals. IPRA members can network online, attend conferences globally, improve and promote themselves professionally, receive professional recognition, consume industry and leadership information, and access service and product discounts.
Job Outlook and Salaries for Graduates
Social media has created new challenges in public relations. The rapid and constant dissemination of information has meant a new demand for adaptive public relations professionals who think critically, creatively and strategically.
The BLS projects 9 percent employment growth for public relations specialists from 2016 to 2026. These professionals earn a median salary of $58,020.
Employers typically prefer to hire public relations specialists, project coordinators, social media specialists, and public relations and fundraising managers who hold a degree in public relations or a related field.
What can you do with a master’s degree in public relations?After completing a master’s in public relations online, graduates use their marketing, research, communication and leadership skills to find employment in the government, education, nonprofit and corporate sectors. Employers in these industries may prefer to hire candidates who hold a master’s degree, and the degree may mean higher initial pay.
Graduates of online public relations degree programs may choose to pursue one of the following careers after earning their master’s, though often the advanced degree is not needed.
Director of public relations: These professionals help organizations establish and maintain a positive public image. They oversee internal and external company communications, manage interactions with the media and oversee social media marketing. These directors may lead a public relations team and coordinate fundraising activities.
Senior account executive: These professionals help businesses acquire new clients. They research industry trends and identify marketing opportunities, using data to develop account proposals, hit sales targets and establish new contracts. Many companies prefer to hire executives who hold a relevant master’s degree.
Social media director: These professionals help organizations build and maintain brand loyalty through strategic social media use. They act as digital brand ambassadors, communicating constantly with customers on social media platforms. These directors may manage damage control during company image crises, analyze engagement data and help other specialists strategize for future campaigns. They usually possess at least a bachelor’s in a related field.
Licensure and certificationGraduates of online public relations master’s programs may find that certifications make them more competitive in the job market.
The accredited in public relations credential and accreditations from the Global Communication Certification Council help public relations professionals demonstrate their expertise and maintain current knowledge within an ever-changing industry.
The certification process typically requires applicants to complete an exam, which may assess their knowledge of industry ethics, research and strategy. Professionals must usually possess a degree and industry experience before applying for certification.
How much are salaries for master’s in public relations graduates?
Senior account executive
Social media director
Director of public relations