We’ve done the analysis and found the Best Online Colleges for Public Relations in the 2018-19 school year. Dive into details on Public Relations degree programs, tuition and fees, related career outlooks, employable skills and much more.
Nov 17, 2017 | By OnlineColleges Editors
Public relations is a field well worth considering for those with creative problem-solving abilities, great communication skills and an interest in business and media. Public relations professionals work to create a favorable public image for an organization or individual. This is often a fast-paced job, driven by the speed at which news and information can spread in the modern day. If you want to pursue a career in this field, an online degree program in public relations may be the most flexible and accessible way to go. To help you along your way, this page includes information on featured online public relation schools, as well as degree types, various types of public relations specializations, and various careers that may be available after graduation.
Featured Online Colleges for Public Relations in 2018-19
These 10 featured schools for online public relations degree programs were chosen based on data gathered from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). For more information on the methodology we used to select this list, please see the bottom of this page.
This private Christian university features an online bachelor's degree program in public relations that aims to prepare students to apply public relations skills in digital environments. It teaches students to apply a Christian worldview to public relations best practices. The school also offers an online master's degree program in public relations. This program challenges students to integrate high-level professional skills with biblical philosophy.
With a 2014 admissions rate of 80 percent and 20 distance education programs offered across all subjects, California Baptist University offers students accessibility and flexibility.
Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission
This private research university offers online bachelor's and master's programs in communications that covers many of the same subjects as a degree program in public relations. The bachelor's degree program prepares students for senior-level positions helping organizations address communications challenges that arise when dealing with the public. The master's degree program prepares students for professional careers as communications specialists.
Drexel University boasts a graduation rate of 67 percent in 2014. In comparison, the average graduation rate for all colleges in 2013 was 59 percent. The university offers distance education students 76 different online programs to choose from.
Located in the heart of the District of Columbia, George Washington University offers a master's degree program in strategic public relations that focuses on modern strategies for tackling PR issues. According to the school's website, the program also takes advantage of the university's connection to the nation's capital, providing real-world scenarios of how politics and government impact business. All courses take place in the online environment.
The reputation that George Washington has built as a university that excels in preparing professionals for the field is backed up by its 2014 graduation rate of 79 percent.
This university located in the Pacific Northwest offers an online program for a master's in communications and leadership studies. This program covers topics such as international communication, media literacy, digital and social media, and communication ethics. Course content aims to prepare students to become ethical and effective communicators in a wide variety of business settings.
With a graduation rate of 83 percent and an admissions rate of 68 percent in 2014, this private Roman Catholic college is clearly committed to producing professionals who can handle the challenges of modern industry.
This college in the Hudson River Valley of New York offers an online master's program in integrated marketing communications. This program provides students with digital marketing tools to help businesses deliver on-brand messages. The college also offers a master's program in public relations management that is delivered 100 percent online and gives students the skills to tackle a wide range of public relations issues.
This private, liberal arts college has produced professionals in a variety of fields for over a century, and it boasted a graduation rate of 78 percent in 2014.
This Christian university offers both bachelor's and master's degree programs in communications in an accelerated online format where students take up to 12 hours per semester during two 8-week sessions. This highly interdisciplinary major prepares students for careers in public relations, consulting or political campaign management.
Mississippi College had an admissions rate of 63 percent in 2014. The school offers a total of 12 distance education programs.
This private research university offers a master's degree program in integrated marketing communications. The program aims to give graduates a competitive edge by guiding them through an in-depth analysis of communications skills. Though the course can typically be completed in two years, students are given the flexibility to complete the degree within five years.
That flexibility may help students to follow through on their academic goals, as evidenced by Northwestern University's graduation rate of 93 percent in 2014.
The online campus of Pennsylvania State University offers a bachelor's degree program in advertising/public relations with an option in strategic communications. The course material covers a wide range of disciplines from psychology to statistics. The degree prepares students to cultivate an organization's image and launch effective communications campaigns.
Penn State's World Campus is committed to providing accessible and flexible online learning formats. In fact, the school offers a whopping 89 distance education programs across all subjects.
This private Catholic liberal arts college offers online students a master's degree program in communications. The degree aims to provide students with a modern tool-kit of skills for working in this fast-paced industry.
Located in the Midwest, Quincy University focuses on providing an accessible education, as evidenced by an admissions rate of 89 percent in 2014 and 7 distance education programs across all disciplines.
Webster University's online bachelor's program in media communications gives students the option of either concentrating in the theory and history of media or combining work in two or more media. For students interested in pursuing careers in public relations, a concentration in public relations and advertising is advised. A master's program in advertising and marketing communications is also available online. This program provides students with advanced theoretical skills that allow them to advance their careers in the field.
This private, nonprofit university located in Missouri offers 27 distance education programs across all subjects. In 2014, it also boasted an admissions rate of 72 percent.
Higher Learning Commission
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Degree Overview : Public Relations
Politicians, corporations, celebrities and nonprofit organizations need one thing above all else to be successful: credibility. Workers in the public relations field help these professionals maintain the positive image they need to get elected, sell products or inspire people to support their causes. Online public relations degree programs can impart various tricks of the trade to their students, polishing the skills employers want during their course of study. This section discusses those skills and the courses that nurture them.
Online Public Relations Courses
Online programs for public relations design their curriculums around what students need to enter the field. Although each school has its own specific courses and loadouts for its public relations programs, below are examples of classes that may be available in your program.
Social media: As social networking becomes an integral way for organizations to interact with the public, they need skilled professionals to help them manage their social media presence. Courses in this subject generally study topics such as community building, strategic uses of online networking, the history of social media and where the medium is headed, and the best practices for Internet interactions.
Principles in public relations: Students who enroll in these classes are typically exposed to the basic principles of public relations, including community relations, publicity, advertising, public policy and public relations theory.
Public relations ethics: This course discusses the ethical standards that are expected of professionals in the field. To that end, instructors may focus on the guidelines for working with clients, the media, employees or public officials.
Crisis management: When organizations or public figures need to clean up their image, they rely on crisis management professionals to help. Public relations majors who take courses in this subject may learn about corporate reputation management, ways to find out what the public thinks about a client, public policy analysis, grassroots mobilization and coalition management.
Public relations writing: An important subject for any public relations major, this field involves how to effectively write press releases, brochures, company profiles, editorials, executive summaries and newsletters.
Career-Related Skills to Develop
Online education for public relations helps students develop valuable skills that will benefit them throughout their career. The following are some skills students may hone by the time they complete their degree.
Speaking: There are times when public relations professionals are required to be the mouthpiece for their clients. As a result, they need strong speaking skills to convey the information a client wants the public to know.
Interpersonal: In addition to maintaining good relationships with colleagues and clients, public relations specialists must foster strong connections with members of the media. Interpersonal skills are a must in order to get along with the people they encounter during their career.
Writing skills: An important component of public relations degree programs is learning how to create written materials for clients, such as speeches and press releases. The writing required for school assignments gives would-be public relations professionals valuable practice in creating well-organized pieces that communicate a client's message.
Persuasion: Sometimes public relations professionals are hired to rehabilitate someone's reputation. Strong persuasion skills are advantageous for changing public perception from something negative to something positive.
Public Relations Specializations
Public relations is a competitive field, so those who want to stand out in a sea of job applicants might want to consider earning a professional certification. Obtaining official credentials can go a long way toward climbing up the ladder in a career and commanding a higher salary.
One certification that is available to workers in the public relations industry is the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), which is awarded by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for professionals who demonstrate leadership and expertise in the field.
In addition, workers who focus on public affairs work for the defense industry can validate their skills in this area by earning PRSA's Public Relations and Military Communications certification. The organization also has the Certificate in Principles of Public Relations for those who are graduating college or working in entry-level positions, which allows them to display their dedication to building a career in the industry.
Interview with an Expert
Our faculty ... all have quite an expansive range and depth of knowledge to relay to our online students.
Lead Faculty of the Strategic Communications Major
Pennsylvania State University-World Campus
Q: What qualities make Penn State World Campus' online Public Relations major an outstanding program?
A: The first important, distinctive point is that our online program is called Strategic Communications, which has its own unique program of study that can't be experienced in any alternative way. Also, the expertise and professional experience of the faculty keep the course content focused on the latest industry developments that students need to be prepared for. Some of our faculty teach online only courses, and some teach both online Strat Comm and in residence courses in the Advertising or Public Relations majors; all of them have impressive industry experience. So they all have quite an expansive range and depth of knowledge to relay to our online students. Lastly, Penn State's World Campus as a whole consistently ranks among the highest schools -- if not # 1 -- in various third-party ratings of online degree programs in the US
Q: What support does PennState World Campus offer their online student body
A: These are all dedicated services for PSU World Campus students only
Help desk for technology needs, available 24/7
Advising team for World Campus students only trained in needs of online students
Special advising team for military students & vets
Career/internship services office
Librarian & library services for World Campus students
Scholarships for WC students
Three WC student clubs/organizations including the Blue & White Society (the WC chapter is very active)
Q: How does the online public relations program differ from the on-campus program?
A: As far as the curriculum differences, the online Strategic Communications degree focuses more on aspects that inform the managing of an entire communications system for a brand or organization, whether the content is called advertising, PR, social media, etc., whereas the in-residence degrees focus more on developing the specific skill sets one needs to master the individual functions of public relations or advertising campaigns, and how to put all those concepts together to create and implement effective marketing-communications plans that affect attitudes, behaviors, and so on.
Online Public Relations Degrees
There are three main degree levels that a student of public relations can pursue, depending on their academic and career goals:
Online Associate Degree in Public Relations
This degree typically takes about two years to complete and prepares students for an entry-level job in a communications capacity at a wide variety of businesses. Students with an associate degree may also go on to complete their bachelor's degree in public relations, which opens up more professional career opportunities.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Public Relations
With an online bachelor's degree in public relations, students can pursue several avenues of employment. These include jobs as public relations managers, market and survey researchers, or public relations specialists. All these professions can help businesses improve their brand and grow their business. The degree typically takes four years to complete. However, through an online program, committed students might be able to complete the bachelor's in less time. Coursework covers several areas of business and communications, and students typically learn skills such as how to create media campaigns, the principles of advertising, how to manage social media channels, and public relations writing. Oftentimes, an internship at a public relations firm or other business is required in the later part of this degree, and it can help students learn how to apply their new skills.
Online Master's Degree in Public Relations
An online master's degree in public relations provides students with more complex public relations strategies to help them expand their toolkit. Depending on the program, students may learn how to navigate new social media channels, as well as the ins and outs of corporate social responsibility and skills for managing a customer service platform. These types of skills prepare graduates for jobs as executive-level communications professionals, such as a public relations strategist. An online master's program in public relations typically takes about two years of full-time study, though some accelerated programs may take less time.
5 Common PR Software Applications
1. PitchEngine When it comes to publishing a press release on social media, PitchEngine is one of the better tools out there. Not only does it help to create engaging brand narratives, but it is also a more affordable option.
2. Prezly This popular product helps public relations professionals manage their contacts. Press releases are published online and on social media, and they are pushed to relevant contacts with multimedia emails.
3. HARO This tool, which stands for "Help a Reporter Out,"sends daily email queries from reporters looking for experts. This can be very beneficial for matching your people with journalists who can give your organization free publicity.
4. BlogSynergy Blogger outreach is an important part of many public relations strategies. BlogSynergy can help PR specialists follow and share guest blog posts.
5. Meltwater No public relations campaign is worthwhile without good tracking tools. Meltwater helps you measure data-driven PR programs with a host of handy features.
Public Relations Career Outlook
The public relations field is vast and includes many different types of careers. Here is the career outlook for three of these careers:
Projected Job Openings
Projected Job Growth
Fundraisers typically work for nonprofits, organizing campaigns and special events to raise money for an organization. Responsibilities may include increasing awareness of an organization through strong messaging, finding potential donors, or orchestrating fundraising events. Though they work in collaboration with the director and board for a nonprofit, they typically do not work in large teams with other fundraisers. Instead, they usually work with volunteers, training them on the nonprofit’s mission or overseeing their work at fundraising events. Fundraisers may advance to become fundraising managers, though typically this requires a master’s degree or several years of experience.
Public Relations Manager
Projected Job Openings
Projected Job Growth
PR managers work in office environments, designing the materials that enhance the public image of a person or organization. However, traveling to give speeches, or attend meetings and conferences is also common. PR managers help clients communicate with the public and create promotion programs. They are responsible for developing, in collaboration with company leaders, an overall PR strategy. At larger organizations, they will manage a team of public relations specialists to implement that PR strategy. With work experience or a master’s degree in a related field, PR managers can move into higher-paying roles as analysts or strategists at the executive level of a company.
Public Relations Specialist
Projected Job Openings
Projected Job Growth
These professionals work to improve and maintain their company’s image through targeted media releases that aim to educate the public about the company. They work with stakeholders and company leaders to develop a positive brand image. Then, they implement campaigns that help spread the word about the brand. Typical responsibilities might be writing press releases and speeches, developing media contacts, and evaluating advertising programs. Most PR specialists work in offices, but traveling to special events and conferences can sometimes be part of the job. With experience, PR specialists can move into leadership roles at an organization, such as that of public relations manager.