Many public relations professionals, also known as PR specialists, earn distance learning degrees with an emphasis on communications. Both bachelor's and master's degree programs are available in both fully online and hybrid formats. Many undergraduate programs in public relations focus on writing and communications, while master's degree coursework often focuses on public relations management and strategy. Some programs may also require an internship. Applicants for the master's program need to have relevant work experience or have completed prerequisite courses.
Public Relations Degree Options
Online bachelor's degree programs in public relations often combine core communications courses and liberal arts electives, such as foreign languages; however, some programs also have basic math and science requirements similar to on-site degree programs. In addition, many public relations university degree programs require online students to declare a minor.
Master's-level programs are often aimed at professionals who are already working in the public relations industry, and schools may require several years of work experience for admission. Online counselors can help clarify eligibility requirements, and students who lack industry experience may be required to complete prerequisite courses.
Public Relations Courses
Major-specific courses may include the following:
- Writing for Public Relations
- Communication in Organizations
- International Communications
- Strategic Communications
- Crisis Management Communications
- Public Speaking Techniques
- Marketing Management
- Electronic Publishing
Distance learning programs offer flexibility for public relations students pursuing bachelor's and master's degrees, with course offerings that can be completed at a student's convenience. Some programs can be completed entirely online, while others require an internship for added hands-on skills development. In addition, many online university programs benefit from instruction by industry professionals working throughout the United States.
Time and Financial Considerations
Online programs can often be completed in less time than traditional degree programs, and, in some cases, tuition may be less expensive. What's more, many universities accept credits earned through online community college programs. Additionally, professional organizations and companies may provide financial assistance for members and employees enrolled in distance learning degree programs.
Public relations professionals promote an organization's image, whether by getting the word out about a product via new media and social networks, protecting a company's reputation during a time of crisis, or building a relationship with a community through sponsorship of local events. Graduates of distance learning public relations university programs may work for the following:
- PR firms
- Corporate communications teams
- Fundraising organizations
- Nonprofit agencies
According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), though many companies trimmed advertising and public relations budgets in 2009, nearly 25% are beginning to hire again. Emerging fields in public relations include social networking, new media, and digital marketing.
Online public relations programs can be completed at the bachelor's or master's level. Bachelor's students learned the foundational knowledge needed to begin a career in public relations, while master's students may already be working in the public relations industry and are seeking to advance their knowledge in the field.