Public Relations Degree Programs

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Building Relationships Between Organizations & the Public

Closely related to journalism, marketing and advertising, public relations is a multi-faceted field that bridges the communication gap between organizations and the publics they serve. Students who choose to get a public relations degree at either the associate, bachelor’s or graduate level will be prepared for a range of steadily growing careers. This guide outlines the field of public relations, including the education, skills, and experience a public relations degree can bring.

Top 10 Public Relations Degree Programs 4-Year colleges

#1 Oklahoma Baptist University Shawnee, OK
#2 University of Mount Union Alliance, OH
#3 Hawaii Pacific University Honolulu, HI
#4 Suffolk University Boston, MA
#5 Ashland University Ashland, OH
#6 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ
#7 Marietta College Marietta, OH
#8 Barry University Miami, FL
#9 Union University Jackson, TN
#10 Lipscomb University Nashville, TN

AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Top Online Programs

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Best Public Relations Programs: 2017

OUR METHODOLOGY + To be considered for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria: Accredited at the institutional level Private nonprofit or public school Minimum of 1 bachelor’s or master’s degree in subject area for 4-year schools Minimum of 1 associate degree or certificate program in subject area for 2-year schools Schools were then scored on factors such as: Cost & Financial Aid Number and variety of program offerings Student-teacher ratios Graduation rates Placement and support services offered Academic/Career counseling services Employment services Loan default rates These factors were assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or "bang for your buck" of a college or degree program.

Because the public relations sector of any business plays a crucial role in regulating the satisfaction of the company’s customer base, there are a variety of schools throughout the country offering programs in public relations to fill this need. Students studying in one of these programs will develop skills in marketing, advertisement, and even elements of journalism in order to facilitate a company’s success. By looking at a school’s statistics including student success rates, student population, and cost of tuition, we’ve found the best schools available throughout the country. Check out our ranking for the 2017 school year below, and find the best public relations program for you.

Oklahoma Baptist University View School Profile Shawnee, OK 52%
University of Mount Union View School Profile Alliance, OH 65%
Hawaii Pacific University View School Profile Honolulu, HI 40%
Suffolk University View School Profile Boston, MA 56%
Ashland University View School Profile Ashland, OH 60%
Northern Arizona University View School Profile Flagstaff, AZ 49%
Marietta College View School Profile Marietta, OH 63%
Barry University View School Profile Miami, FL 41%
Union University View School Profile Jackson, TN 67%
Lipscomb University View School Profile Nashville, TN 56%
Oral Roberts University View School Profile Tulsa, OK 51%
Point Park University View School Profile Pittsburgh, PA 50%
Pepperdine University View School Profile Malibu, CA 81%
Duquesne University View School Profile Pittsburgh, PA 74%
SUNY College at Plattsburgh View School Profile Plattsburgh, NY 61%
Marywood University View School Profile Scranton, PA 68%
Ithaca College View School Profile Ithaca, NY 77%
Taylor University View School Profile Upland, IN 77%
Ursuline College View School Profile Pepper Pike, OH 52%
Southern Adventist University View School Profile Collegedale, TN 58%
Bradley University View School Profile Peoria, IL 78%
University of Central Missouri View School Profile Warrensburg, MO 49%
Coe College View School Profile Cedar Rapids, IA 68%
Butler University View School Profile Indianapolis, IN 73%
Webster University View School Profile Saint Louis, MO 64%
Howard Payne University View School Profile Brownwood, TX 43%
Quinnipiac University View School Profile Hamden, CT 75%
Ohio Northern University View School Profile Ada, OH 67%
Drury University View School Profile Springfield, MO 48%
Belmont University View School Profile Nashville, TN 67%
University of Oregon View School Profile Eugene, OR 67%
Xavier University View School Profile Cincinnati, OH 78%
Evangel University View School Profile Springfield, MO 46%
University of Central Oklahoma View School Profile Edmond, OK 32%
Augsburg College View School Profile Minneapolis, MN 60%
University of the Ozarks View School Profile Clarksville, AR 48%
West Virginia Wesleyan College View School Profile Buckhannon, WV 58%
Quincy University View School Profile Quincy, IL 56%
Ferris State University View School Profile Big Rapids, MI 53%
Mount Vernon Nazarene University View School Profile Mount Vernon, OH 54%
Montana State University-Billings View School Profile Billings, MT 33%
Monmouth University View School Profile West Long Branch, NJ 64%
Notre Dame of Maryland University View School Profile Baltimore, MD 48%
Capital University View School Profile Columbus, OH 59%
Westminster College View School Profile Salt Lake City, UT 78%
Minnesota State University Moorhead View School Profile Moorhead, MN 46%
Lake Erie College View School Profile Painesville, OH 48%
Campbellsville University View School Profile Campbellsville, KY 44%
University of Southern California View School Profile Los Angeles, CA 90%
Mississippi Valley State University View School Profile Itta Bena, MS 22%

Top 10 PUBLIC RELATIONS DEGREE PROGRAMS 2-Year colleges

#1 North Idaho College Coeur D'alene, ID
#2 Cape Cod Community College Barnstable, MA
#3 Mesa Community College Mesa, AZ
#4 Glendale Community College Glendale, AZ
#5 Harper College Palatine, IL
#6 Long Beach City College Long Beach, CA
#7 Macomb Community College Warren, MI
#8 Monroe Community College Rochester, NY
#9 South Plains College Levelland, TX
#10 Cosumnes River College Sacramento, CA

AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Top Online Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

North Idaho College View School Profile Coeur D'alene, ID
Cape Cod Community College View School Profile Barnstable, MA
Mesa Community College View School Profile Mesa, AZ
Glendale Community College View School Profile Glendale, AZ
Harper College View School Profile Palatine, IL
Long Beach City College View School Profile Long Beach, CA
Macomb Community College View School Profile Warren, MI
Monroe Community College View School Profile Rochester, NY
South Plains College View School Profile Levelland, TX
Cosumnes River College View School Profile Sacramento, CA

Public Relations at a Glance

Students and professionals following the public relations path have to become masters of multiple specialties. Public relations is founded on strong communications, and combines elements of marketing, advertising, journalism and other media to build an organization’s image, reach out to the public and ensure that a mutually beneficial relationship remains between the two.

Similarly, many public relations degree programs are generally feature a curated mix of courses from other specialties within a school’s journalism and communications departments. Principles of advertising and design, media writing, business practices and sociology may all be addressed along with courses specific to public relations.

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People tend to think PR is taking something that’s not good and making it
look a little better. That may have been the case in the past, but today we live in an age of transparency. If the goal is to build mutually beneficial long-term relationships between the organization and its stakeholders, if you do anything that undermines trust, you’re going to hurt that relationship.

Matthew Cabot, San Jose State University

Related Degree Programs

If one aspect of public relations stands out more than the others, consider checking into one of these related degree programs.

  • Communications

    Like PR, communications degrees cover a range of different activities, skills and careers. Programs usually starting by honing the basics: speech, writing and social sciences. Advanced degrees allow students to take more direct paths within communications fields.

  • English

    English degrees can focus on literature, language study, writing or a combination of the three. Reading, analyzing and writing about various forms and works of literature are a large part of many English degree programs.

  • Management

    Prospective students who are interesting in taking on leadership roles in a variety of settings may be well-suited for management degree programs. Managers are needed in all fields, and management education can be applied in a variety of settings.

Public Relations Degree Options

All public relations degrees can help give students the skills needed to enter the PR field, but different degree levels will open students up to varying careers. While the field overview gained by an associate’s degree in public relations can help students get their feet in the door with entry-level PR jobs, an established professional looking to change careers or take a higher position may be more suited for a master’s degree program.

Public Relations Associate Degrees

Type of Schools:Community colleges, two-year colleges

Time to Complete:Two years

Career Opportunities:Entry-Level Press Relations, Marketing Assistant, Publicist, Political Campaign Worker

A public relations associate degree program may provide theoretical and practical study through a combination of courses that introduce students to the principles of public relations and practicum or internship courses where students can apply what they’ve learned in real-life settings. Students who earn an associate degree in public relations will be prepared for entry-level PR jobs, or they can continue their educations at the bachelor’s level.

The courses offered in public relations associate degree programs can vary, but typically they provide students with an overview or introduction to various aspects of the field.

INTRODUCTION TO MASS MEDIA

An introduction to communication theory and practice, the history of mass media and an examination of the business side of mass media in the U.S. Advertising and public relations will also be introduced.

CULTURAL DIVERSITY AND THE MEDIA

An exploration of the diverse cultures and gender issues within the U.S. media, racial and gender roles that shape the media and media roles that influence U.S. race relations and racial change.

MEDIA WRITING

The introduction and practice of different styles of writing for print, broadcast and web media as well as advertising copy and public relations materials. Students will learn about legal implications of media writing and how to write for specific audiences, gather information and check for accuracy.

PUBLIC RELATIONS PRACTICUM

A practical, on-campus public relations experience. Students will have the opportunity to write media releases, produce promotional materials, plan events, write scripts and create presentations.

Public Relations Bachelor’s Degrees

Type of Schools:Four-year universities

Time to Complete:Four years

Career Opportunities:Public Relations Specialist, Media Relations Specialist, Marketing Research Analyst

Public relations bachelor’s degree programs tend to go more in-depth than associate degree programs. Students will have the opportunity to explore PR-related topics in more depth and may be exposed to specific components of PR, such as writing for different audiences, graphic design, broadcasting, management or business. Strong research skills are very helpful in bachelor-level PR programs, and students should be prepared to apply their classroom skills and knowledge to practical settings through group projects, internships or study abroad opportunities.

Bachelor’s degree programs may have a greater range of topics than associate degree programs, giving students the opportunity to take more subject-specific courses related to

PR.PUBLIC RELATIONS ETHICS

A look at ethical concepts and issues on the societal and individual levels in relation to public relations and advertising. Personal and professional ethics based on traditional teaching, modern codes and other guidelines will be studied.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC FOUNDATIONS OF PUBLIC RELATIONS

Prepares students to meet the demand for PR and communication professionals who understand related business and economic principles. Traditional and emerging business models for PR agencies will be explored along with the business aspect of managing communications in corporate, government or nonprofit settings.

PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH

An introduction to research techniques, paying particular attention to applications of strategic planning, opinion research, message evaluation and theory testing. Both qualitative and quantitative methods will be addressed, along with data analysis.

WRITING FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS

An intensive hands-on writing course designed to provide students with an understanding of proper writing styles, keeping in mind different goals, situations and media. Writing mechanics, grammar, headlines, structure and the ability to express information clearly to an intended audience will all be honed.

Graduate Degrees in Public Relations: Master’s & Doctorate

Type of Schools: Four-year universities

Time to Complete: Two or more years, depending on thesis requirements

Career Opportunities: Public Relations Director, Marketing Director, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, College Professor

Master’s and doctoral degree programs in public relations tend to have much more hands-on work than undergraduate programs. Practical applications, examinations of case studies, and delving deeper into topics addressed in undergraduate courses may be the focus, giving graduate students the opportunity to build off of their previous education, which is typically required. There may be more student-led discussions in class rather than an instructor-led lectures in graduate courses as well. Students pursuing graduate degrees in public relations should see more opportunities for advanced careers in public relations and related fields.

At the graduate level, PR students have the option to take classes such as the following:

PUBLIC RELATIONS MANAGEMENT

Use theory and practice to create public relations campaigns and programs for clients in a variety of contexts. Methods include research, planning, implementation and evaluation of plans.

CONSUMER BEHAVIOR THEORIES

A look at behavioral sciences as they apply to consumer decision-making and the application of theories to develop consumer behavior research studies, advertising and public relations programs.

CRISIS COMMUNICATION MANAGEMENT

An introduction to crisis communication and management from a strategic, theory-based approach. Relevant historical and business case studies will be examined.

INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS

A study of the history, theory and practice of public relations on a global level.

Must-Have Checklist for Public Relations Programs

Before diving in to a public relations degree program, students can ask themselves a few questions to make sure they choose one that is right for them.

  • Does it meet your educational or career goals?

    Students can take a look at program profiles and course listings to see whether their public relations program offers courses and goals that align with their own. It’s also a good idea to check out the school’s campus or talk with students already in the public relations program to get a good feel for it.

  • Is it accredited?

    Accreditation is an optional evaluation process that schools and programs can undergo to show that they adhere to specific quality standards. While there isn’t an accrediting body specific to public relations programs, students should make sure their schools or programs are accredited by one of the U.S. Department of Education’s regional accrediting bodies.

  • Is financial aid available?

    Students should find out if scholarships, grants or loans are offered by their school or program of choice. Keep in mind that federal financial aid is only available for programs accredited by bodies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

  • Does the program offer real-world experience?

    Some public relations degree programs have internships, practicum or even study abroad programs that let students apply their skills in real-world situations. Students interested in these opportunities should make sure that they are offered by their PR program.

  • Is it relevant?

    Public relations is a rapidly evolving field, and students should make sure their degree program will prepare them for the future of public relations. Prospective students can look at course listings on their school’s website and see if the descriptions include new ideas, innovations and forms of media.

  • Is there opportunity for specialization?

    Especially in bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, students may have the option to take classes suited toward specific PR-related interests. A public relations student who is drawn toward the writing aspects of PR should make sure the program has plenty of opportunities to explore and hone those skills. Another student may seek out a program that covers graphic design principles.

Opportunities for Graduates: PR Careers & Specializations

I think there’s never been a better time to get into PR because the role of the public relations professional has expanded. Only 10 or 15 years ago, the role of the PR person was a little bit more limited in terms of gaining publicity and doing promotion work. Today, that role has expanded greatly, partly because of new media and social media.

Matthew Cabot, San Jose State University

Public Relations Specialists

Projected Job Growth (2014-2024): 6%

Annual Salary (2014): $55,680

Typical Education: Bachelor’s degree

Public relations specialists help execute plans to develop and maintain an organization’s positive image. They may use various media, from social networking to newspapers, to promote their organization and communicate the organization’s image to the public. Public relations specialists can also tackle unfavorable situations an organization may face, draft speeches and press releases and use media to evaluate the public’s opinion of the organization.

Public Relations & Fundraising Managers

Projected Job Growth (2014-2024): 7%

Annual Salary (2014): $101,510

Typical Education: Bachelor’s degree

Public relations managers help organizations develop their identity. They plan, create and execute campaigns to express this identity to the public and maintain a positive public image. Public relations managers create press and media releases and supervise other PR staff to make sure campaigns are effective and well-executed.

Advertising, Promotions & Marketing Managers

Projected Job Growth (2014-2024): 9%

Annual Salary (2014): $123,450

Typical Education: Bachelor’s degree

Closely related to public relations, these managers create campaigns to generate interest in products or services. They use print, radio, television and online media to promote their companies or products through advertisements.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014)

Essential Skills & Experience for the PR Professional

  • Honesty

    Public relations specialists are sometimes thought of as spin-doctors whose job is to put forth a positive image regardless of the situation. However, the modern world is a transparent one, and it’s vital that public relations professionals are honest and can rightfully earn public trust.

  • Writing Skills

    Writing remains a key aspect of public relations careers. Whether it’s drafting press releases or spreading the word in 140 characters, strong writing skills are a must for PR professionals.

  • Social Awareness and Perceptiveness

    Understanding the current social climate is essential in building relationships with the public and gauging its reaction to news, events and various PR efforts you may be working on. Being able to pick out ideas before they become trends can be extremely helpful in devising successful public relations campaigns.

  • Creative Problem-solving

    A large part of public relations is figuring out the best ways to create positive relationships between organizations and their publics. Strong problem solving skills can help PR professionals create effective relationship-building strategies and also come in handy when dealing with negative events that could hurt relationships.

  • Sales or Marketing Experience

    While it’s not necessary for all public relations careers, prior experience in sales or marketing can be helpful. The communication, public engagement and image-building elements or marketing and sales all play heavily in PR, and experience with them can give PR professionals an edge.

  • American Public Relations (APR) Credential

    The APR credential is offered by the Public Relations Society of America to strategic PR professionals who show they adhere to certain standards of practice. Applicants must sit for a readiness review and pass an exam.

Resources for Public Relations Students & Graduates

Public Relations Degree Programs Near Me

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AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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