Public relations (PR) involves helping a client or employer maintain a good public image. Most PR degrees are offered through journalism or communication departments and many schools offer distance-learning programs for public relations at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. Most degree work can be completed entirely online, although some programs may require internships.
Courses in a PR degree program teach students how to write press releases, conduct PR campaigns and disseminate information through social media. Other courses deal with ethics and legal issues in PR.
No special licenses or certifications are needed to work as a PR communications professional, but many people in the industry are members of the Public Relations Society of America, a professional organization that offers certification based on experience and a competency exam. Other professional organizations offer certification as well.
Bachelor's Degrees in PR
Bachelor's degree programs in PR communications include media relations, corporate communications, community relations, crisis management and positive relationship building. A focus on communication strategies is often prominent. PR programs, like a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations, Bachelor of Arts in Communications with an emphasis in PR, or B.A. in Public Relations, give students the basic knowledge they need to cultivate a career as a public relations specialist for businesses, government agencies or non-profit organizations.
Information and Requirements
Most programs offer two focuses - communications and public relations. Students will also have to complete general education courses. Most schools offer all courses online, so the degree can be completed fully through the school's online platform.
List of Common PR Courses
Coursework in a PR communications program generally covers communication skills and methods, as well as public relations-specific information. Common general courses introduce students to the field of public relations and cover different aspects of a career in this field, such as public speaking and writing.
This course covers public relations basics, such as developing press releases, PR strategies and problem-solving techniques. Most core courses include an introduction to public relations as a requirement.
Legal Consideration in PR
Courses in how the law influences public relations may cover topics such as invasion of privacy and copyright issues. The First Amendment is also typically covered. Some courses may present case studies, which allow students the chance for practical study of legal issues in public relations.
An ethics course usually focuses on the issues that arise when dealing with public relations practices. Students may learn about professional behavior. This course usually introduces students to ethical situations and allows them to apply theories to solving the dilemmas.
Master's Degrees in PR
Students who want to advance in their careers to a management level often pursue a master's degree in public relations communication, such as the Master of Science in Public Relations or Master of Arts in Communication with a focus public and media relations. Students will usually learn about social media and brush up on their writing and speaking skills. Many programs also have a strong focus on research, so students can develop their skills to assist them with creating PR campaigns and other materials.
Program Information and Requirements
Master's programs are typically offered fully online, but some schools may offer hybrid programs where some classes are campus-based. Programs can be completed in less than two years; some allow students to complete the program more quickly through an accelerated format. Master's programs in PR are designed mostly for PR professionals. As such, these programs are flexible, allowing students to take as many or as few classes as they feel comfortable with each semester.
List of Common PR Graduate Courses
PR courses at the master's level cover basic topics, such as writing, speaking and research. Professionalism is also usually covered, as is ethics. Programs also may include a thesis project, which is an individual research project on a PR communications topic.
PR specialists often act as leaders or managers of others within the PR department. In a management course, students learn how to properly guide others to form a solid and functional PR team. Leadership styles, challenges and general relations between the PR department and other company departments are other topics covered in this course.
PR Case Studies
Most PR master's programs include a course that allows students to examine different PR case studies. In this type of course, students analyze different PR situations and apply their knowledge to solve issues and recommend ways to handle the situations.
Developing a public relations campaign is a large part of this career, so students learn about how to effectively create a campaign in this course. The course may cover fund raising, meeting planning and volunteer efforts.
This is a basic course that introduces students to the fundamentals of communication. Students learn how the simple communication skills that people exhibit can have impact on the PR field.
Public relations specialists serve as the main spokesperson for a company, agency or organization. In this career, a person must have excellent communication skills and be able to handle problems quickly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2014, PR specialists held around 240,700 positions (www.bls.gov). Employment for PR specialists was expected to grow by 6% from 2014-2024, with a 7% growth rate predicted for PR managers over the same period. The BLS reported in 2015 that the average salary for PR specialists was $65,830. In the same year, the average salary for public relations managers was $119,390.
Distance-learning degree programs in PR communications are offered in many schools; most degrees may be completed entirely online, although hybrid programs are also available. While bachelor's degrees in PR could be good for entry-level positions, PR professionals who are interested in holding management jobs may pursue flexible online master's programs.