Bachelor's programs in public relations include internships, and master's programs include a research project tailored to a student's area of interest. Graduates who meet specific education and experience requirements may qualify for certification through the Public Relations Society of America.
Undergraduate programs require an applicant to hold a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate. Strong writing and presentation skills are also helpful, and individuals benefit from participating in activities that demonstrate leadership and teamwork abilities, such as student council, athletics, drama and band.
Graduate applicants must have a bachelor's degree in public relations, advertising, communications or a related field. Some programs also require scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and a portfolio of professional work.
Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations
An undergraduate degree program in public relations will prepare students for entry-level positions, as well as graduate-level PR study. Public relations professionals with bachelor's degrees and professional experience advance to management positions. Some bachelor programs include an internship where students gain work experience.
While in an undergraduate-level PR program, students take classes in humanities, science and math, in addition to core courses in public relations theory and practice. The curriculum also includes classes that help develop professional skills, including:
- Creative and persuasive writing
- Traditional and social media
- Public speaking
- Business and finance
Master of Arts in Public Relations
Earning a graduate degree in public relations will help students advance to management-level positions faster than climbing the corporate ladder alone. Studies are centered on designing and tracking campaigns and measuring outcomes. Business, finance and team management skills also are emphasized.
Courses in a graduate-level public relations program cover concepts in human resources and budget planning, in addition to general public relations topics. Students will learn to provide effective PR services to government agencies, sports teams, nonprofit organizations, healthcare providers, and other corporate clients. Coursework includes:
- Project and staff management
- Strategic planning and program assessment
- Advertising and marketing management
- International and domestic media theory
- Social and cultural research methods
Popular Career Options
As a professional in PR management, you may work for in-house departments of large corporations, nonprofit institutions, schools or government agencies. Public relations agencies and consultancy firms service a variety of clients, from individual artists to entire corporate brands. Many public relations management professionals focus their careers on a specific industry, such as book publishing, healthcare or crisis communications.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 8% increase in the employment of public relations and fundraising managers between 2018 and 2028, due largely to the speed by which news reaches the public through social media (www.bls.gov). This job growth is the same as the average for all occupations. Job applicants experienced in the use of social media campaigns and electronic media will be the most in demand. As of May 2018, median annual wages were $114,800 for public relations and fundraising managers, according to the BLS (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
An Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation is available from the Public Relations Society of America (www.prsa.org). Another professional certification is the APR+M, which is designed for PR managers who specialize in providing publicity for the armed forces, military contractors and related government agencies.
Professionals who earn these credentials must have a bachelor's degree, five years of work experience and pass an exam. Certification holders must complete continuing education. Relatively few managers hold these credentials, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that more PR professionals will be seeking certification in the coming years (www.bls.gov).
Managerial positions in the public relations industry require high-level skills in designing, executing and tracking PR campaigns to achieve corporate or business goals, so a master's degree in public relations is essential. A bachelor's in public relations will prepare graduates for entry-level positions in PR management.