Public Relations Degree

What Is a Public Relations Degree?

A public relations degree is designed for individuals who wish to pursue careers interacting with consumers and the media as advocates for their employers; this degree can prepare students to work in the public eye in entry level and management positions. Public relations professionals ensure that organizations have a strong company image and positive reputation. Individuals who commonly interact with the public, such as government officials and celebrities, may also employ public relations professionals. The education earned in pursuit of a public relations degree equips students with the written and verbal communication skills needed to be successful in this profession.

What Can You Do with a Public Relations Degree?

A public relations degree is the gateway to a number of careers in public relations and marketing. Most graduates choose to become public relations managers and specialists, which can often be the first step towards executive management. Public relations managers and specialists earn an average salary of $57,550 per year, and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates job growth for this occupation at 21% between 2010 and 2020.1

Graduates of public relations programs may also become advertising, promotions, and marketing managers. These are frequently public-facing occupations in which an education in consumer behavior and corporate messaging is desirable. Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers make a competitive average annual salary of $108,260.2 This is also a field where strong job growth is expected, with estimates for growth at 14% between 2010 and 2020.2

Professional designations can further prove an individual’s qualifications in public relations, and a degree is often a prerequisite for designation eligibility. The Public Relations Society of America awards the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation to qualified candidates, which is the only post-graduate designation specifically tailored to the public relations industry.

Prerequisites and Requirements

Public relations degree programs most commonly culminate in the award of a bachelor’s or master’s degree, since most employers require at least a bachelor’s degree for public relations positions. Public relations programs are offered by schools across the selectivity spectrum due to the popularity of this degree, so prerequisites and requirements for admission differ by program. Typically, however:

  • Admission to a bachelor’s degree program is contingent upon completion of high school through diploma or GED. Certain programs may require a minimum high school GPA and minimum scores on the ACT or SAT exams.
  • Admission to a master’s degree program is contingent upon award of a bachelor’s degree. More selective schools are likely to give higher consideration to individuals with a bachelor’s degree in business or public relations. It is common for schools to require minimum GRE or GMAT scores, or a record of strong academic performance at the undergraduate level.

Typical Coursework

The coursework for a public relations degree combines studies in the liberal arts with studies in quantitative science so that students can understand and measure the impact of marketing efforts. Internships are a common part of the curriculum, and are usually undertaken during a summer semester. Students can expect to take courses in:

  • Communication Theory
  • Media Relations
  • Organizational Communications
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Crisis Communication and Management
  • Financial and Strategic Management
  • Strategic Messaging
  • Advanced Media Writing
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Public Relations Theory
  • Business Law
  • Ethics
  • Finance in Public Relations

Public relations is a growth field, as the media channels that organizations and individuals are using to reach the public are constantly growing and diversifying. Expertise is needed to exploit these channels to employers’ best advantage, which is why public relations degree is a helpful qualification for entering this career track and public relations graduates are in demand.

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1. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics: