A master's public relations program can provide students and professionals alike with the knowledge and expertise to strive for public relations careers with higher incomes. An online degree in this field may help them minimize their education expenses. They may also save their budgets on relocation, commuting, and other costs.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022), jobs in public relations are expected to increase by 8% in the next 10 years. Employers need strategic-minded, adaptable, and quick-witted public relations professionals who can keep up with new and upcoming trends, especially in this social media age when people are bombarded with information and businesses deal with both positive and negative reviews.
We have assessed different programs based on costs, application requirements, courses, and more to come up with the best online master's in public relations. This guide intends to help you elevate your public relations profession to the next level—the one who gains and maintains the trust and respect of his or her audience.
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be nearing its end, but online education trends indicate a growing population of online students. 2023 continues to see an increasing number of students who are opting for online masters in public relations programs over brick-and-mortar ones. Many highly reputed and accredited schools offer full-time, part-time, or hybrid online programs to students, letting them choose to fulfill their coursework at their own pace from wherever they may be.
Source: The College Crisis Initiative
Recent years' technological advancements and the prevalence of virtual communication due to the pandemic have changed employers' perspectives on online degrees. With more schools offering online options, many employers are now beginning to recognize their quality and merits (Kis, 2021).
There was a drastic gap in online enrollment from Fall 2019 to that of 2020. In 2019, online postsecondary degree students made up 17.5% of the overall student population. In 2020, this number rose to 45.5%, with online master's students even accounting for 51.8%. But are these online degrees getting recognition?
If you earned your degree from an esteemed school, most employers will not notice that it is an online program. If they do, all you have to do is let them know why you took it. Doing so shows your decision-making and critical thinking skills.
Be prepared to talk about the strong points and significance of your program, the skills you gained, and the ways you can apply your new learning to your job. Know that graduate students with online degrees are favored by employers because they are able to balance their studies with their other commitments, demonstrating their ability to beat obstacles and advance their education and careers.
For the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), companies ignoring applicants with online degrees will pass up on a dynamic pool of talent. SHRM suggests that they consider online degree graduates based on several criteria, such as a school's reputation, graduation rates, and accreditation. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation can help them check the legitimacy of a body that accredited these schools.
The best online master's in public relations teach about branding, market research, organizational behavior, interpersonal transactions, content creation, social media, problem-solving, corporate communications, and strategic communications. In effect, you will understand the principles of business and communication.
This comprehensive foundation empowers you to be effective in various roles. Your job may be a public relations manager, media relations manager, or communications director. This is quite similar to the posts that you can qualify for if you have a degree in communication. PR, of course, is a more specialized area of the field, just like digital marketing degrees. So, having this specialty has its advantages for such job opportunities.
Discover more about this field by breaking down some of its key elements and comparing each of them to its in-person counterpart.
In-person classes present more direct and engaged learning experiences. On the other hand, online classes rely primarily on online learning programs, pre-recorded videos, and chat rooms.
In essence, students communicate with their peers and teachers through these same mediums: in-class interactions for in-person master's degree in public relations students and email and direct messages or video chats for remote ones.
When it comes to career opportunities, traditional students might be given more opportunities in the form of job fairs. Yet, online students can create a broader network that is not limited by location.
Online and traditional degrees can give you both a rigorous and high-quality education. Their formats may differ, but both of them can bring more value to your career. In the end, it all boils down to personal choice, availability, and responsibilities you cannot just simply leave behind and, thus, need a more convenient degree format (Goodwin University, n.d.).
College costs differ vastly between public and private institutions. On-campus and online programs may also have varying prices. When looking for a school to attend, remember to determine the actual cost of a program. Aside from tuition, this cost may cover related expenses such as state residency, training, research, and practicum.
It is also worth noting that some schools are outsourcing and upskilling their academic staff to redesign their existing curricula for the online setting. Richard McInnes, Claire Aitchison, and Brigitte Sloot's 2020 study, "Building online degrees quickly: Academic experiences and institutional benefits," further expounds that "The redesign of existing courses taught in face-to-face or blended models, as well as the development of new courses, for the online environment, requires knowledge of online pedagogy, curriculum design, and technical expertise. In addition, the dynamic digital environment requires an awareness of rapidly evolving legislation concerning digital copyright, attribution, and access guidelines; multimedia skills, such as video recording, editing, and publishing; as well as digital literacies regarding online educational tools, platforms, and integrity issues."
Despite all of these, study participants were satisfied with their production processes, courses created, and knowledge acquired. The authors were from the University of Australia and their study was published in the Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice.
Yes. Meticulous standards, like proctored exams, make sure that you earn your grades through skills and knowledge. Accredited online programs also make the coursework as challenging as traditional programs, because they adhere to similar standards.
An online public relations master's degree cost is normally between $470 to $780 per credit. In total, prepare $14,000 to $28,000.
Yes, as the public relations landscape boasts steady job growth and a plethora of career potential. Public relations professionals may also earn competitively. In this field, the average annual income levels for entry positions range from $50,000-$60,000. This can go higher if a candidate earns a master's degree. The range of average annual income for managerial public relations positions is in the low six-figures.
Moreover, an online master's public relations program may help candidates land jobs in media, government, and politics.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022
Most online master's in public relations degrees have similar admissions requirements as their on-campus counterparts. This list details the key requirements for getting into graduate school. Some schools may ask for additional requirements not included here, like an interview.
Equipping yourself with the right tools is crucial to your attendance in an online program. You should have solid hardware and software, which include a desktop or laptop, microphone, webcam, and internet access. If you are living with someone, make sure they know your schedule so you will not get distracted during your class.
Professionals in the public relations field must be efficient, analytical, and fit to take leadership roles. In the first place, they must be good communicators. Excellent interpersonal skills should accompany writing and public speaking aptitudes. Aspirants with these qualities are likely to stand out in master's public relations degrees. Expect to study:
Mass Communication Theory. This course puts forward the field of mass communication theory, which includes its origins and latest applications. Students will be taught to probe how to connect the role of mass communication with social media and other digital communication means.
Media Communications and Technology. This course emphasizes how technology has impacted every angle of communications, especially in public relations.
Public Relations Writing and Content Creation. This course sheds light on the importance of written content in communication approaches. Here, students will learn how to make brief yet to-the-point writing and better understand their potential audience.
Consumer and Audience Analytics. This course delves into the major tools and techniques to collect consumer data and enhance messaging approaches.
Public Relations Ethics. This course looks at best practices for public relations ethics. Students may learn more about ethics theory and ethical models of decision-making. They may also explore corporate social responsibility and crisis communications.
Master's degrees usually comprise 30 to 40 credits and take a full-time study or 1.5 to 2 years to finish. Many colleges or universities offer part-time programs that come with lighter course loads per semester but take longer to finish. The online public policy masters is an example of an online program that offers flexible program schedules. Here are other things to keep in mind when looking for an online master's degree in public relations.
Many programs now allow you to obtain a degree without personally attending a campus. But some programs may include on-campus prerequisites or residency classes. If you have to go to campus, select a program closer to your location.
These programs offer flexible schedules for busy professionals. They often observe similar curricula as their on-campus options.
Master's degrees in public relations give plenty of methods to cater to each student. Some implement asynchronous learning without scheduled classes, while others observe synchronous learning with live classes. Part-time, full-time, and accelerated enrollment options are available as well.
Four-year colleges should be regionally accredited, while trade and vocational schools should be nationally accredited. Schools offering master's public relations programs should have regional accreditation/s.
Many schools impose a rolling admissions schedule, which means that they accept applications all throughout the year. Meanwhile, some only accept applications at the start of the fall and/or spring semesters.
You may also want to ask yourself if you are the type of learner who can adapt to the delivery of an online class. Visual or verbal learners who learn through visual aids can easily get the hang of it. Tactile or kinesthetic learners may have to rethink their options, but online education can still provide learning opportunities through fieldwork and hands-on coursework (ION Professional eLearning Program, n.d.).
Research.com's review experts gathered data from the newest public datasets from verified sources to produce the 2023 rankings on the best online master's programs in public relations. We measure programs by academic ratings, affordability, enrollment rate, online reliability, and other necessary metrics.
Online master's in public relations degree students from Georgetown University are trained to think strategically and globally. Its courses intermix real-life client tasks with public relations theories, allowing its students to build an in-depth portfolio. Its total cost for tuition and fees is $45,810. This is considered to be the best master's in public relations online today.
This program from USC enables students to complete it in just 16 months. Coursework centers on preparing for global business communication demands. The average tuition is $57,256 for in-state and out-of-state students.
Purdue's program teaches students how to devise strategies suitable for certain audiences and handle crisis communications. It is the ideal graduate degree for professionals aiming to be more proficient in strategic communication. Besides its concentration offerings, it also offers a general track.
The University of Florida offers a digitally-centered curriculum. This program was firmly established in theory but focuses on industry knowledge. It provides students with hands-on experience and advancement and networking opportunities, letting them hone and perfect their communication skills.
The Master of Science in Mass Communication: Global Strategic Communications program from Florida International University provides students with an all-inclusive viewpoint of a dynamic industry. It puts an emphasis on thriving on digital expertise. It offers two program options, as well as an optional certificate in conflict resolution and consensus-building.
With all the best online master's in public relations compiled in this article, there is no excuse for you not to pursue one. Many organizations hold first-hand public relations experience in high regard.
If you are taking a graduate degree in this field to set foot into it from another career, get a program that brings an empirical learning element, like an apprenticeship. This will allow you to apply your theories in physical situations and exhibit your adeptness. Advanced communication degrees like an online master's degree in communication, however, would be the best picks for those wanting to develop an ample skill set. This will help you flourish in management, digital marketing, and fundraising careers (Arizona State University, n.d.).