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A master’s in public relations is for aspiring communications experts. These programs help individuals master the various stakeholders, technology, and strategies necessary to become successful public relations professionals. Participants engage in media analysis, targeted customer branding, and writing exercises, ultimately developing the communications expertise required for corporate, nonprofit, and government employers.

Online students can find part-time or full-time degree options. A master’s degree in public relations requires 30-36 credit hours; full-time attendees will need four semesters (nine credits each semester) to graduate.

Prospective students will pay between $14,000 and $28,000 in tuition, though this figure varies based on a student’s residency status. Successful graduates will qualify for senior-level or managerial positions in the public relations field. Example positions include media director, senior public relations strategist, or communications specialist. These roles have the potential to earn an average annual salary of nearly $120,000.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Public Relations Program

Choose your area of study

Public relations graduate degrees often fall within the purview of a school’s communications or business department; you might sometimes see degrees listed as a Master of Arts in Communications with a concentration in public relations. However, most schools offer a specific Master of Public Relations.

Within each degree program, you should choose a specific area to focus your studies. Consider your long-term professional interests and goals, and research whether an institution’s master’s program offers related coursework and electives. For example, some programs emphasize corporate communication strategies, whereas others may instead focus on digital branding.

Research schools and programs

After narrowing down those programs whose coursework best aligns with your interests, consider other aspects of each program.

  • How will you attend class? Many programs deliver public relations courses through an asynchronous format; some integrate scheduled, interactive lessons instead. The former is ideal for students seeking a more independent, flexible program. The latter builds a stronger sense of an online community. There are pros and cons to both.
  • Is there a thesis or final project required to graduate? Most public relations degrees mandate a three-credit comprehensive capstone project. In this course, you can apply your skills to a real-world public relations problem, giving you valuable professional experience.
  • Are you eligible for the program? Some degree programs only accept students with prior professional experience or a minimum undergraduate GPA. Confirm that your background meets eligibility for the program.
  • Will this program lead to professional credentials? Some public relations degrees specifically prepare students for professional certification in the field, such as the Accreditation for Public Relations. These extra qualifications can give you an edge in your job search.

Most of the information you seek is available through program websites and information sessions. Contact an admissions counselor to get any specific questions answered or discuss accommodations you may require.

Prepare for tests and applications

Look out for application deadlines and prepare your materials well ahead of them. Application materials can take some time to request and organize, especially undergraduate transcripts and letters of recommendation. Online graduate programs in public relations don’t often require standardized test scores, so you can typically skip the GRE. Interested international candidates may have additional testing and other obligations for their student visas.

Select your program

Learn as much as you can about the programs. See if you can try a sample course. Attend orientations. Speak with a faculty member. Get a good sense of the online experience and network to help you select the best program for your professional and academic needs. From there, consider which program has the more affordable tuition package.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Don’t settle for the initial sticker price; master’s level students still qualify for financial aid, grants, and scholarships. Fill out the FAFSA and speak with a financial aid counselor to determine any funding opportunities for which you might be eligible. Some schools even offer credit for related work experience.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Public Relations Programs

Best Online Master's in Public Relations Programs Badge

Webster University

GW The Graduate School of Political Management

Purdue University

Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies

Marist College

Ball State University

University of Florida

Quinnipiac University

Texas Tech University

University of Louisiana at Monroe

Montana State University Billings

Northeastern University

University of Maryland Global Campus

University of Denver

Washington State University

California Baptist University

Sam Houston State University

Johns Hopkins University

South Dakota State University

Liberty University

Concordia University at St. Paul

Drexel University

Southern New Hampshire University

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Western New England University

University of Iowa

Ashland University

West Virginia University

Florida International University

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How We Rank Schools

This list concentrates specifically on graduate-level programs in public relations. The most common graduate degrees in this field are either a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS). Many programs award a degree in communications, with a concentration in public relations.

A primary criterion for our list was that programs be delivered entirely or primarily online. This flexibility ensures accessibility for the greatest number of students, regardless of their geographic location or availability.

All of the programs we reviewed are offered by schools with regional accreditation. Some programs also have accreditation through specialized accrediting bodies like the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Once we narrowed our list of programs, we evaluated all of them based on reputation, faculty, flexibility, cost, and outcomes. Based on these reviews, we calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Public Relations Program?

An online master’s in public relations empowers students to develop strategic responses to modern-day communication challenges. Participants learn how to craft a compelling speech, create a persuasive marketing strategy, and navigate digital media tools. Successful students will then apply that knowledge to a real-world context, whether through a comprehensive capstone project or thesis. Graduates will possess the knowledge and skills needed for advanced positions in the field.

If attending full-time, the online coursework takes two years; part-time students will likely need three-to-five years. While classes are remote, some master’s programs require a brief in-person residency during which students build a valuable peer and faculty network.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online Master’s in Public Relations program

  • Digital Communications Strategy. Students learn how digital communications integrate with traditional public relations strategy and ways to apply them to a real-world campaign or brand.
  • Media Relations. Participants will learn the ins and outs of the news cycle and its stakeholders. Students study multimedia sources and public opinion, developing a deeper understanding of how to leverage these resources as assets for a company.
  • Research Methods for PR. This class prepares students for secondary and primary research and how to use that knowledge to make informed public relations decisions. Participants will practice simulated, real-world examples, including mock focus groups and surveys.
  • Ethics in Mass Communications. Participants debate the morality of certain communications issues and critique modern-day media strategies. Students discuss moral and ethical philosophy and how it applies to media.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Public Relations?

Career outlook

In the ever-evolving world of communication, a master’s degree in public relations equips individuals with the strategic skills and expertise needed to navigate complex media environments, shape public perception, and drive impactful communication campaigns. From managing brand reputation to crisis communication and media relations, opportunities are available in a broad range of areas for those who earn an online master’s degree in public relations. These opportunities are growing faster than the economy as a whole, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a need for eight percent more PR professionals by the end of the decade. The median pay for public relations managers is $119,860 annually.

Career paths

As businesses and organizations recognize the importance of effective communication in a digital age, the demand for skilled public relations professionals continues to rise. Public relations specialists play a vital role in crafting narratives, managing online presence, and shaping public perception.

An online master’s degree in public relations opens doors to a wide range of dynamic and influential career paths. Here are some potential avenues to consider:

  • Crisis communication manager — develop and implement crisis communication plans and manage public perception during challenging situations
  • Digital marketing manager — use public relations strategies to manage digital marketing campaigns, engage audiences, and enhance online presence
  • Social media manager — curate and manage social media content, engage with followers, and create campaigns to build brand loyalty
  • Content strategist — plan and create engaging and relevant content across various platforms, ensuring consistent messaging and resonance with target audiences
  • Sports PR specialist — manage communications and media relations for sports teams, athletes, and sports organizations

Public Relations Manager

Earning Potential: $59,300-$126,250 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in public relations or related field

A public relations manager leads communication efforts to shape and maintain a positive public image for an organization. They develop strategic PR plans, manage media relations, and craft compelling messages to engage target audiences. PR managers oversee press releases, handle crisis communication, and coordinate with stakeholders to ensure consistent messaging. They collaborate with cross-functional teams, monitor media coverage, and analyze data to assess the impact of communication campaigns. PR managers play a pivotal role in enhancing brand reputation, fostering relationships, and driving success through effective public relations strategies.

Corporate Communications Specialist

Earning Potential: $44,570-$111,980 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in public relations or related field

A corporate communications specialist manages internal and external communication for an organization. They craft and disseminate messages to employees, stakeholders, and the public to ensure consistent and transparent communication. Corporate communications specialists handle executive messaging, write press releases, and manage digital platforms. They develop communication strategies for branding, events, and crisis situations, ensuring a positive company image. Collaborating with various departments, they align messaging with business goals. By fostering strong relationships and effective communication, corporate communications specialists contribute to a favorable public perception while promoting organizational values and objectives.

Media Relations Director

Earning Potential: $46,000-$137,000 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in public relations or related field

A media relations director oversees an organization’s interactions with the media. They develop and execute media strategies, manage press inquiries, and build relationships with journalists and influencers. Media relations directors pitch stories, coordinate interviews, and ensure accurate representation of the organization. They craft press releases, organize press conferences, and monitor media coverage. They navigate crises, shaping public perception and managing reputation. By effectively engaging with media outlets and fostering positive relationships, media relations directors enhance brand visibility, control messaging, and play a crucial role in shaping the organization’s public image.

Online Master’s in Public Relations Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in public relations degree program?

A typical online master’s in public relations application packet includes the following:

  • Undergraduate transcripts (many schools set a minimum bachelor’s GPA to qualify)
  • A resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A writing sample
  • A personal statement
  • A completed graduate school application form
  • An application fee

Should you have any questions about the process, speak with an admissions counselor.

How much does an online master’s in public relations degree cost?

The average cost of tuition for an online master’s in public relations degree is $21,000. According to U.S. News & World Report, programs charge between $14,000 and $28,000, though some private, out-of-state programs can cost significantly more. In most cases, in-state applicants, whether in-person or online, will pay less in tuition.

Some online programs charge the same tuition rate, regardless of residency, and many add supplemental fees for remote classes. To reduce your overall financial commitment, speak to an admissions counselor or academic advisor about relevant transfer credits, especially if you have professional public relations experience. To calculate your total cost, consider books, computer equipment, travel costs (for any in-person requirements), and other personal expenses you may make to succeed in the program.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s in public relations degree?

Online public relations programs are typically available as full-time or part-time options. Students must complete 30 to 36 credit hours to graduate, including a three-credit comprehensive project. Full-time students can graduate within two years; those working in the field may be able to receive credit for their professional experience and therefore graduate a semester sooner. Part-time students typically graduate between three to five years, depending on their course load.

Is an online master's in public relations worth it?

An online master’s in public relations can be worth it if you are looking for a rewarding and impactful career in the communications sector. When you graduate, you will have gained specialized knowledge, strategic thinking, and practical skills that are highly sought after in the field of communication.

One of the key benefits of earning a master’s in public relations is the potential for increased earning potential. Graduates with this degree often qualify for higher-paying positions, particularly in leadership roles that require expertise in strategic communication and reputation management. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for public relations managers was $119,860 annually in 2021, with the top ten percent earning more than $204,430.

Online master’s programs in public relations offer a high level of flexibility, allowing you to balance your studies with work or other commitments. Virtual learning platforms give you access to case studies, simulations, and interactive discussions, enabling you to enhance your skills and knowledge from anywhere.

Additionally, the networking opportunities provided by an online master’s program are invaluable. You’ll have the chance to connect with fellow students, faculty, and professionals in the field, expanding your professional network and potentially leading to job opportunities, collaborations, and mentorship.

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