Degree Options for Aspiring Public Affairs Specialists

Oct 22, 2019

Essential Information

Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in public relations emphasize research, analysis, and communications skills and can prepare a student for a career as a public affairs specialist. Corporate communications is another field that may suit students interested in learning about public relations.

Entry requirements for these programs will vary according to the level of study, but generally consist of a high school diploma or GED for undergraduate programs and completion of a bachelor's degree for the master's degree program. Doctoral applicants will need to have a master's degree in a related field. Prior to graduation, students may be required to complete a final project or internship. Students can expect to complete these programs within 2 to 5 years.

Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations

A bachelor's degree program in public relations emphasizes the development of sound writing and communications skills and may, therefore, fall under a school's communication or journalism department. In addition to studying how to communicate with diverse audiences, students learn to promote goods and services for entertainment, political, and non-profit organizations. Topics commonly included in the curricula include these:

  • Analysis and research
  • History of news
  • Mass communication law
  • Copy writing
  • Promotions

Master's Degrees Covering Public Relations

Students pursuing a master's degree in public relations or public relations and corporate communications gain practical knowledge and experience in media relations and creating communications plans. Graduates of these programs research, plan, and execute oral and written communication strategies for companies, individuals, and nonprofits in various fields. Topics generally covered in coursework include the following:

  • Crisis communications
  • Media relations
  • Program management
  • Relationship building
  • Strategic planning

Doctor of Philosophy Programs in Public Relations

Students desiring to enroll in a Ph.D. program in public relations must hold a masters degree in a related field. These programs, which require four or more years of study and research, prepare students for careers in transcultural studies, education, public policy, and media criticism. Typical coursework may cover the following topics:

  • Audience studies
  • Content analysis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Historical research
  • Media archaeology
  • Semiotics

Popular Career Options

In addition to working for large companies, workers in this field may be employed by celebrities and those who want to keep themselves in the media. Graduates of these programs were qualified to find work in one of the following roles:

  • Account coordinators
  • Associate editors
  • Marketing assistants
  • Publicists
  • Research assistants

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) jobs forecast from 2018-2028 showed an expected 6% increase in the number of public relations specialists employed ( According to the BLS, the median annual wage of the 239,030 professional public relations specialists was $60,000 as of May 2018. The fields with the highest employment of these were advertising, public relations, and related services as well as business, professional, labor, political, and similar organizations.

Public relations degrees give students skills related to communication and media relations. There are many different career paths for graduates as many individuals and companies require the services of a public relations manager.

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