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Public relations may be a good fit if you’d like a career that combines journalistic creativity with business acumen. Careers in public relations include fundraising manager, public relations manager, advertising and promotions manager, and marketing manager — all of these occupations have higher average salaries than the overall median wage ($46,310). In 2022, public relations specialists earned an average salary of $67,440, while public relations and fundraising managers made an average of $107,390 to $129,430.Business students, journalists, and communications majors often pursue postgraduate degrees in public relations to master marketing skills and advance in their careers. The average cost of a master’s degree in public relations program was $20,513 in 2023, with room and board adding additional costs.

How to Choose a Public Relations Program

Choose your area of study

If you’d like to apply a master’s degree in public relations to a business career, most Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs offer a specialization in public relations. You can also earn a postgraduate degree that is more specific to public relations and advertising, such as:

  • Master of Science in public relations
  • Master of Arts in public relations
  • Master of Arts in advertising and public relations
  • Master of Arts in strategic public relations

Applying a public relations focus to a broader communications postgraduate degree can give you a professional edge in the future. These master’s degrees include:

  • Master of Science in communications
  • Master of Science in global strategic communications
  • Master of Arts in integrated marketing communications
  • Master of Arts in mass communications

Choosing between a Master of Arts (MA) and a Master of Science (MS) degree in public relations depends on the style of coursework you’d like to complete. Master’s degrees in public relations from schools of arts focus on journalistic and humanities perspectives of the field. A public relations master’s degree from a school of science includes coursework focusing more on data analysis and math-based projects. Both degrees in public relations are valuable, so choose the degree that best suits your learning style.

Research schools and programs

Finding an accredited public relations degree program ensures that you’re receiving a rigorous education and can transfer and apply the credits you earn. The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC) and Higher Learning Commission (HLC) regularly assess institutions with public relations programs for high-quality instruction and adherence to professional standards. For programmatic accreditation, refer to the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) for a list of schools that they accredit in their organization.

Prepare for tests and applications

Professional writing skills are critical in a public relations program, so spend time outlining, drafting, and editing your letter. It should address your past education, current skills, and future goals. Apply any copywriting and copyediting skills acquired in past journalism or marketing courses.

Before applying to a public relations master’s degree program, take any required entrance tests (with enough time to retake them, if necessary). The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) are standard tests required by postgraduate programs. Business schools typically prefer applicants to take the GMAT, while journalism schools often require the GRE. Check with your desired program for their specific testing requirements.

In addition to your letter of intent and graduate test scores, you’ll need letters of recommendation from prior employers and professors, sealed transcripts from your bachelor’s program, and any other requirements listed on your program’s website.

Select your program

The public relations program you choose depends on whether you’re looking for a journalistic or business focus. Students who want to apply journalistic skills to a career in public relations should look for institutions with reputable journalism schools. Students who aim to use their master’s degrees in public relations in the corporate or business world should look for institutions with high-quality business schools.

Your program should also fit your needs — factor in the cost, transportation needs, room and board, and scheduling into your decision. If you’re already working, taking care of family members, or unable to attend school full-time, look into schools with part-time schedule options.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to see what financial aid you can apply toward your postgraduate education. Next, narrow your list of public relations programs down by affordability. Which schools are out of your budget, and which could you realistically afford to attend?

Talk to the financial aid office at your desired school for more financial tips and insights. They can help you navigate grants, scholarships, and other ways to pay for your public relations master’s degree.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Public Relations Degree Programs

Best Master's in Public Relations Degree Programs_2024 badge
Intelligent Pick
George Washington University
Best Faculty Mentors
Ball State University
Best Private Institution
Lasell University
Best Two-Year Program
Georgetown University
Best Thesis Option
Texas Tech University
Best In-State Tuition Rate
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Best One-Year Program
Full Sail University
Best in the Mid-Atlantic Region
Drexel University
Best Focus on Advertising
The University of Alabama
Best Job Placement Rate
University Of Southern California
Best Faculty
American University
Best Hands-On Learning
Boston University
Best Alumni Network
DePaul University
Best Critical Thinking Focus
Hofstra University
Best for Non-Profit Communications
Iona College
Best On-Campus Program
NYU School of Professional Studies
Best Public Institution
Rowan University
Best Real-World Education
University of Miami - School of Communication
Best Faith-Based Institution
Ashland University
Best Research Focus
Baylor University
Shortest Classes
Concordia University, St. Paul
Best in New England
Suffolk University
Best for International Students
University of South Florida
Most Customizable
Michigan State University
Best for Leadership Training
Montclair State University
Best Catholic Institution
Seton Hall University

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

This list covers graduate programs in public relations that prepare students for senior-level positions in PR, marketing, and communications. Degree types offered include Master of Science in public relations, Master of Science in global strategic communications, Master of Arts in advertising and public relations, Master of Arts in integrated marketing communication, and Master of Arts in mass communication. Students can choose between in-person, online, and hybrid learning formats.

All of the programs on this list are approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) or the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Many of these options also have programmatic accreditation from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC).We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect From a Public Relations Program?

A public relations master’s degree includes graduate-level courses, lectures, discussions, and internship opportunities. Students complete a thesis or capstone project, which may consist of a strategic campaign plan or portfolio of work completed throughout the program.

Potential courses you’ll take in a public relations program

  • Advertising. Students learn to apply advertising principles and best practices to various forms of marketing communication and create advertising campaigns using consumer motivation, copywriting, and persuasive techniques.
  • Public relations writing. In this class, students develop essential writing skills, including outlining, drafting, and editing, for PR-specific material such as op-eds, press releases, and digital media copy.
  • Brand management. This course teaches the basics of branding and brand management for business strategy. Students explore how mission statements, brand identity, target audience, and company voice affect brand management.
  • Content creation. In content creation courses, students use campaign strategies to design multimedia content for different organizations. They then analyze existing content as it relates to advertising in case studies and group projects.
  • Media and culture. By applying an interdisciplinary understanding of media and culture to an advertising or public relations campaign, students learn to analyze its effectiveness and impact.

Public Relations Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a public relations degree program?

A program’s website is the best place to find application information for your public relations degree. It will list application deadlines, requirements, recommendations, and interview dates (if needed). The website should also list a minimum GPA, test scores, and other necessary elements of your application package. Contact the admissions office at your desired school for more information about application requirements.

How much does a public relations degree cost?

In 2023, the average tuition and fees for a master’s degree in public relations was $20,513. Room and board, transportation costs, books and educational materials, and additional fees will increase that number, so factor all elements into your budget before making admission decisions.

How long does it take to earn a public relations degree?

Most public relations master’s degrees require 30 graduation credits, which take students four semesters (or two years) to complete. Some master’s programs offer accelerated options, in which students can complete all 30 credits in one year. Part-time master’s degree courses take longer to complete, as students take fewer than 15 credits per course year.

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