Online Public Relations Degree

Many online schools offer online public relations (PR) degrees. PR pros set the tone for messaging and branding. With our growing reliance on social and digital channels, this may take certain skills. If you’d like to guide the campaigns that carry info to the public, it may be useful to have a PR degree.  

An online public relations degree programs typically studies how to communicate with audiences. Then applies different tactics to create clear and persuasive messages. These may then feed social media posts, brand images, events and marketing plans. One may find online PR degrees at all levels. Bachelors, masters and PhDs. At each level, you may learn to apply strategic thinking and message creation skills. Skills taught may empower you to create print, presentations, and digital media posts.

At the bachelors level, a public relations degree is likely introductory. It often explores argument, mass communication and writing methods. So, you may learn the skills to apply persuasion theory to craft messages for all platforms.

Masters in public relations tend to explore the tactical side of communication. Things like how to use analytics to target messages for specific groups and manage a crisis. Graduates may leave ready to step into a leader role and set strategy for a team to follow.

PhD in public relations programs typically look at how theory informs practice. So, they tend to look at advertising, journalism and marketing and their impact in society. Many use their PhD to teach what they know, research and consult.

Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations

Many schools award either an online BA or BS in Public Relations. These programs may frame communication theory, story telling and branding. Both the BA and BS in PR are entry level degrees that may prep you with pro PR skills. But there may be slight differences in the classes you take and structure of your program.  

A BA in PR tends to deliver a wider base of knowledge in areas like liberal arts and foreign language. As a result, you may study how people communicate and how things like gender impact it. In contrast, a BS in public relations may take a deeper dive into applied communications. So, you may study copy writing, debate and digital media.  

Knowing these topics may help you know how to produce PR campaigns and materials. You also may learn how to introduce brands and products to diverse groups. Many bachelors in PR programs may cover these areas in about 120 credits. If you have no transfer credits (and study full time) it may take four years to earn your degree. 

To apply to school, you often need a high school diploma or GED. Some schools may also want to see your SAT / ACT scores and set the bar for a min GPA. Another factor is tuition. It could go up or down if you study in state or out of state.

According to DataUSA, the average in state tuition for 2015-2016 (or whichever year)  was  $7,847. That’s at a public college. The cost for the same year was higher ($30,756) if you study out of state.

Master’s Degree in Public Relations

An online masters in PR is a grad level degree. And many schools frame PR within the context of communications or strategic communications at this level. Some schools may also offer two tracks. A professional track that typically preps you to pursue a PR practitioner career. And a thesis track that may prep you to pursue a PhD and career as an academic. 

So, depending on your goals, you may have more or less research to do. Apart from this angle, a MS in PR tends to dive deeper into tactics and planning. As a result, you typically tend to develop critical and strategic thinking. And, may learn how to interact with both clients and the news media in the many effective ways. For this reason, many programs cover concepts that may be new to you. Things like how to communicate in a crisis, negotiate and manage reputations as well as campaigns.

To do this, many PR masters programs may entail 30 to 36 credits. There may be  one year programs but you typically need up to two years, depending on your course load. When you are ready to apply, each school typically sets its own standards. Things you are likely to need are official undergrad transcripts and an acceptable GPA. GRE scores may be necessary or waived. You may also need to submit a writing sample, letters of recommendation, an essay about your goals. Some schools may ask for a resume with current info too.

PhD in Public Relations

An online PhD in PR is typically the highest level of award in the field. It tends to take at least three years and may entail 49 to 60 credits (more or less). A research degree, it tends to involve strong training in communications theory. But you may also tend to engage with the way theory informs practice. As such, you are likely to study how areas like advertising and marketing impact society. And, may choose an anchor point to see how this works with specific sectors. Like health care or politics.

The goal of a PhD is for you to typically produce an original paper called a dissertation. So, along the way, you may learn advanced ways to write and present data. Many PhD programs may also explore ways to teach and bring a subject to life. In these programs, your presence on campus may be necessary. Above all, if there is a teaching practicum.

To gain entry into a PhD program, you typically need a bachelors degree if not a masters (and thesis). School standards may vary. But many may ask for letters of reference, resume, personal essay and writing sample.

How much might it cost to earn a masters in public relations or PhD online? The average cost of a graduate degree from a public institution for the year 2015-2016 was $11,303. So, some online PR programs may be more affordable or more expensive than this amount.

What could I pursue with an Online Public Relations Degree?

An online public relations degree may be an entry point to a wide range of current and new fields. Above all since digital platforms create paths for businesses to reach many audiences. As PR careers continue to change, there may be jobs for all levels of education. In many jobs where you need PR and marketing skills, one may need a bachelors degree for entry level roles. Apart from having a bachelors degree, many PR managers may have a masters degree. Workers who have exec roles tend to need tactical skills in the field in which they work. 

1. Marketing Coordinator 

A marketing coordinator often estimates the demand for a client’s products or services. Plus, may identify potential markets and target consumers as well as pricing plans. Aside from robust analytical and communication skills, one tends to need a bachelors degree. But if the role entails complex analytical skills, it may be useful to have a masters or MBA.

2. Copy writer 

A copywriter may need to persuade and educate audiences to buy their client’s products or services. To do this, they must usually  craft clear messages that meet marketing goals. To work as a professional writer, you may need a bachelors degree. Some employers may also look for copywriters who could tell a story with tables, charts, infographics, video and maps.

3. Fundraiser 

A main goal of a fundraiser, as the name suggests, is to raise money. Fundraisers tend to do this through events and campaigns that secure donations. Apart from skills as an organizer and communicator, many start out with a bachelors degree. But to advance into a fundraising manager role, one typically tends to need a masters degree.

4. Media Buyer 

A media buyer often keeps an eye on print, radio, tv, film and internet platforms. Then decides where ad campaigns should go to reach the target audience. These tasks likely call on extensive research skills and a handle on performance metrics and budget. That said, many media buyers have a bachelors degree and with experience, may advance their career.

5. Journalist 

As a journalist, you may research stories, conduct interviews and report the news. The internet is also carving out new opportunities to inform people. So many journalists host podcasts, work with video, audio, data and graphics. Other than skills in writing, distribution and ethics, you may tend to need a bachelors degree. Many employers may also want you to have industry specific knowledge and a higher degree.

6. Top Executive

A top executive like an account executive often serves as a liaison between clients and an agency team. In this function, they may make sure the brand voice and advertising campaign align. And, that marketing projects not only come to life, but also, likely meet the client’s needs. For this type of corporate job, you may need a bachelors degree, if not a masters or MBA.

7. Public Relations Manager 

A PR manager often crafts and keeps up their client’s corporate image and reputation. To do this entails effective communication strategies. Also, clear and proficient writing skills. One may also need to be adept at building relationship and savvy in all kinds of media. While many PR specialists enter the field with a bachelors degree, PR managers tend to also need a masters.

8. Public Relations Specialist 

A public relations specialist typically plans and posts messages for audiences on different platforms. To do this takes an understanding of how to increase brand awareness and engage customers. The work in these jobs usually changes as digital media evolves. So, some jobs may be more creative, and others more technical.

Is a Degree in Public Relations worth it?

Public relations expertise may provide adaptable skills, opportunity above average earning potential.

Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, if you have digital media skills, the future may be brighter. Jobs in these areas predict from 5% to 9% growth through 2029. This is above the national average (4%) for all occupations.

Salaries in all these industries vary. But many jobs that call for PR and fundraising skills paid an median annual wage  of $116,180 in 2019. If you favor marketing and advertising, jobs in this area may be  in demand too. The need for digital media campaigns is creating yet other jobs. One example is advertising manager. This field is growing by 6% and 2019 median annual wage were $135,900.

Public Relations Degree Jobs & Salary

OccupationMedian Annual WageJobs
Marketing Coordinator$135,900286,800
Copywriter $63,200123,200
Fundraiser Manager$116,18081,200
Media Buyer $69,600503,900

Top States for Jobs as a Human Resource Managers

StateJobsAnnual Mean Wage
CA19,050$142,870
NY10,230$150,280
IL9,960$119,160
TX8,210$128,310
FL7,200$105,530

What classes could I take with an Online Public Relations Degree?

Many public relations programs draw on communication theory, persuasion and branding. These areas typically tend to help you frame the methods that go into messaging. Then may also show you how to apply theory to promote a public image or brand. You may study these topics (and more) when you pursue a PR degree online. But each level of degree typically does this with unique themes and projects. Here are samples of the kinds of classes you may find at the bachelors, masters and PhD levels.  

Bachelors Degree Courses

Classes at the bachelors level tend to cover a wide menu of communications courses. Not only how people communicate but also, how to analyze if a message is effective.

Also, writing with an awareness of brand, audience, and tone. You may pick up these skills from case studies, and possibly hands-on experience. You may also tend to learn how to persuade others when you create a message. And so, are likely to learn which tactics suit each media platform. For instance, tv, digital and social media.

Along the way, these classes may sharpen your thought process. Plus, may help you manage projects, create content, plan events and campaigns. Some topics at this level are:

Intro to International Relations

This is a fundamental course in Public Relations. You may learn theory and methods as it applies to international relations. You may also learn about interactions between those who were in the post World War II and post Cold War eras. This may include how conflicts occurred and alignments between countries happened.

Expository and Argumentative Writing

This is a hands on course in most cases. You may learn the principles of writing clearly as it applies to public relations efforts. This may include writing efficient, clear documents. You may focus on creating logical arguments and build on their ability to research. And, you may also develop critical thinking skills.

Writing for Strategic Communication

This is a type of course often used to help students to learn how to pitch, plan, and deliver content for a company or org so it has a desired outcome. This may include how to develop content rich marketing that can later be published online. This type of communication course is often designed for those in public relations.

Principles of Public Relations

This is a common course for those in this major. It helps to provide an overview of the democratic society as well as the activities of the public relations pro in these areas. You may learn about org’l behavior, ethics, and other areas as it applies to both public and private sector efforts.

Graduate Degree Courses

Classes at the masters level tend to connect learning with practice. As such, they may build on what you know but take it a step further. Since many masters students aim to step into a leader role, strategy is a key topic. You may learn key ways to craft persuasive messages by looking at metrics for past campaigns. This tends to add an element of research, analytics and social listening.

From these classes, you may learn how to place and respond to issues in the press. Many programs connect story telling with tactical plans too. This means you may learn ways to manage crisis, teams, and brand reputation. All with an eye on budget and an integrated marketing plan.

Many PhD in public relations delve into communication theory. You may also tend to study the impact the marketing world has on society. Classes may also focus on areas that straddle advertising, journalism and marketing. Like social media, political and health communication, ethics, media channels and video games.

You are likely to also take a wide range of research courses. These may  engage you with your dissertation and inquiry and may have you study in various faculty labs. Some programs may also feature classes related to teaching. If this is your goal, you tend to complete a teaching practicum. Some topics at the grad level are: 

Studies in Journalism and Communications

This type of course often looks at theory. It may include insight into the nature and propose of major journalism traditions. It may include a look at communication theories and when they are used. This often has a goal of helping students to understand how mass communication works.

Journalism and Mass Communication Research Methods

This course follows along the same lines as the others but has a methods application. That means students are likely to learn content analysis and qualitative skills necessary for research. They may also engage in a survey of mass media and journalism research methods as an overall look.

Public Relations Evaluations Techniques

This type of course offers a look at scientific methods as they apply to public relations activities. This course may have a good amount of research involved in it. The goal is often a focus on survey research to encourage development of skills.

Social Media Analytics and Engagement

This course often includes best practices for journalism and communications in a social media context. You may learn about how to implement analytics as they relate to social media. You may learn strategies to enhancing and measuring audience experience. And, you may engage in modern methods to connecting on social media.

How long does it take to earn an Online Public Relations Degree online?

The time it takes to earn an online degree in public relations typically varies. A typical bachelors in PR program may take four years unless you have transfer credits. From there, it may take from one to two years to earn a master’s degree in PR. And, usually at least three years beyond that if you pursue a PhD. Naturally, your course load and the format (full or part time) likely impact length, as does any research if you need more time.

University Level of Degree # of Credits Required Starts Per Year Minimum Months to Complete
Southern New Hampshire University Bachelors 120 6 24
National University Bachelors 180 QC Every 4 weeks 48
University of Louisville Bachelors 121 3 24
Lasell University Masters 36 4 12
University of Delaware Masters 30 3 24
Syracuse University Masters 40 4 13
American University PhD 54 1 36
University of Miami PhD 57 1 36
Liberty University PhD 60 Every 8 weeks 60

15 Schools with Online Public Relations Degrees

To get you started, we compiled a list of 15 schools with online public relations degrees at all levels. Our methods use data from the NCES.

  1. Southern New Hampshire University    
  2. National University  
  3. University of Louisville
  4. California Baptist University Online    
  5. Drexel University Online   
  6. Lasell University    
  7. University of Delaware     
  8. Syracuse University  
  9. University of Denver   
  10. Florida International University  
  11. American University
  12. University of Miami
  13. Liberty University   
  14. University of Colorado Boulder  
  15. Regent University  

FIND AN ONLINE PUBLIC RELATIONS DEGREE

Here is a more detailed look at the 15 schools offer Public Relations degrees online. 

1

Southern New Hampshire University

Bachelor of Arts in Communications – Public Relations

Online


SNHU’s online B.A. entails 120 credits and aims to build broad skills. In core classes, you study public speaking and tactical ways to tell stories and deliver clear messages. And in certain PR classes you study branding and writing styles. These classes may help you hone skills in critical thinking, writing, research and analysis. While also prepping you for a range of careers. Some topics are: 

  • Visual communication and design    
  • Org’al branding   
  • Social media strategy      

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $31,136
Grad $18,810
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$3,913

Average Net Price:
$39,743


National offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communication. It typically entails 180 quarter credits and classes are 4 weeks each. The program usually offers a blend of human and professional communication theory and skills. So, you may learn to communicate in suitable and effective ways across various channels. Interpersonal, intercultural, organizational, and mediated. Sample topics are:

  • Mediated story telling 
  • Strategic writing 
  • Media management 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $13,320
Grad $18,810
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$5,202

Average Net Price:
$29,382


U of Louisville offers a BA / BS in Communications. It typically entails 121 credits and gives you the option to focus on liberal arts and languages (BA) or applied communication (BS). If you choose the BS, you may need to complete an internship. Either way, the courses usually highlight theory, practice, contexts and points of view to help you tackle problems.

  • Intro to mass communication
  • Argument in everyday life
  • Debate

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $27,954
Grad $27,310
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$9,299

Average Net Price:
$17,490

4

California Baptist University Online

Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations

Online


CBU offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations. As a bachelor completion program, it typically entails 57 credits. A main goal is to train students in social media strategies, media relations, event planning, marketing campaigns and writing. All while stressing the importance of ethics and branding. You may also have the opportunity to focus on areas within PR. Like integrated marketing, international PR and new media. Sample topics are:

  • Media and society   
  • Principles of int’al PR 
  • PR research and campaigns  

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $34,882
Grad $13,560
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$17,482

Average Net Price:
$23,055

5

Drexel University Online

Bachelor of Science in Communication

Online


Drexel offers an online Bachelor of Science in Communication. It typically entails 180 quarter credits and four 10 week quarters. Two main drivers of the program are usually theory and methods. You may also have the option to concentrate in PR or General Comm. That said, core classes may help you learn to introduce a new brand, plan events and manage social media presence. Then, if you focus on PR, you could study ways to uphold the reputation of the company you work for. Sample topics are:

  • PR writing 
  • Campaign planning   
  • Marketing management

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $54,516
Grad $36,021
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$25,076

Average Net Price:
$38,025


Lasell offers an online Master of Science in Communications with a concentration in PR. It typically entails 36 credits of which 9 (3 courses) discuss public relations in depth. In the core program, the focus is likely to connect what you learn with practical ways to put it into use. So some of the things you study relate to persuasion, public opinion and negotiation. And others may  touch on media relations and ethics. Sample topics are;

  • Writing for PR
  • Principles of PR
  • Crisis communication

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $37,000
Grad $10,960
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$23,086

Average Net Price:
$28,404

7

University of Delaware

Master of Arts in Strategic Communication

Online


U Delaware offers an online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication. It typically entails 30 credits and you could personalize your program. Concentrations likely include PR and Digital and Social Media, or you could customize your own. Either way, the program may cover tactics for PR campaigns, digital media. You could also study strategic communications theory and research. Sample topics are:

  • PR management
  • Crisis communications
  • Reputation management

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $35,710
Grad $34,956
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$10,691

Average Net Price:
$17,539


Syracuse offers an online Master of Science in Public Relations. It is typically a 13 month program and there are two tracks. A professional track that could prepare you to pursue a career as a public relations practitioner (40 credits). And a thesis track (40.5 credits) that may lead you to doctoral study in preparation for a possible career in teaching or research. While in the program, you likely study theory, concepts, processes and practices of PR. You may also learn how to conceptualize, plan and execute PR activities. Like press conferences, client meetings. Sample topics are:

  • Basics of analytics and social listening 
  • PR theory
  • Multimedia storytelling 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $53,849
Grad $40,188
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$27,767

Average Net Price:
$43,111


U of Denver offers an online Master of Arts in Communication Management with a focus in PR. It typically entails 48 credits and may take as few as 18 months to complete. A main goal of the program is to train you to reach stakeholders, manage your company’s identity and reputation. As a result, the courses may touch on strategies to connect with influencers, use mass media and leverage social platforms. You may also study ways to persuade and come up with quality content. Sample topics are:

  • Business basics for communicators
  • Storytelling through research
  • Applied critical thinking in communication   

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $52,515
Grad $51,639
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$30,364

Average Net Price:
$37,263

10

Florida International University

Master of Science in Global Strategic Communications

Online


FIU offers an online Master of Science in Global Strategic Communications. It typically  entails 30 credits, takes one year to compete and has a dual focus. Communications management and digital communications. As such, you may study the global marketplace with an eye on ways to manage reputation, crisis and brands. The program may also includes core classes in research methods for mass media, ethics and social responsibility. And, there could be  an option to add a certificate in Conflict Resolution and Consensus Building. Sample topics are:

  • Theories of mass communication
  • Strategic story telling 
  • Social media metrics     

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $18,963
Grad $23,587
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$6,271

Average Net Price:
$9,888

11

American University

PhD in Communication

Online


AU offers an online PhD in Communication. It typically entails 54 credits and comes in a three year format. The core courses aim to equip you with expertise in the major theories and methods of the field. You may also work with an advisor to create and tailor a plan of electives. To do this, youcould choose one of three focal points. Media, Public Issues and Engagement; Media Industries and Institutions and Media, Tech and Culture. There may also be a teaching seminar in year one that preps you to work as a TA in and undergrad course during year two. Sample topics are:

  • Intersection of media, tech and democracy
  • Communications theory
  • Research methods 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $48,889
Grad $31,113
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$27,386

Average Net Price:
$40,469

12

University of Miami 

PhD in Communication

Online


U Miami offers an online PhD in Communication. It typically entails 57 credits and includes field research experience as well as teaching. The program may also allow you to tailor your niche. So, you may choose from areas like health, environmental, corporate and global communication. Or move towards journalism studies and media development if this suits your career goals. Sample topics are:

  • Methods of communication research
  • Theories of communication
  • Special topics

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $51,930
Grad $38,908
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$33,310

Average Net Price:
$33,102

13

Liberty University

PhD in Strategic Media

Online


Liberty offers a PhD in Strategic Media. It typically entails 60 credits and takes about three years to complete. The program covers the skills you may need to shape policy within the communication sector, from a Christian lens. Aside from theory, you may also study ways to apply communication practices for profit, nonprofit and education sectors. And, may likely explore digital and strategic media channels. Sample topics are:

  • Digital and strategic communication
  • Social, mobile and online media analytics   
  • Audience measurement

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad 22,747
Grad $8,400
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$7,550

Average Net Price:
$28,181

14

University of Colorado – Boulder

PhD in Strategic Communication

Online


University of Colorado Boulder offers an online PhD in Strategic Communication. It is a distinct track that is typically designed to provide students with rigorous training in theory and research. As such, courses may cover the theories and methods that shape strategic communication research. And, may emphasize how theory informs practice through critical analysis. Students in the program could also design their study plan to suit their interest. As a student, you might connect with faculty from within advertising, PR, corporate branding, moral psychology and other areas.

  • Digital advertising
  • Persuasion and digital media  
  • Crisis communication and risk   

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $38,318
Grad $33,014
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$11,198

Average Net Price:
$22,077

15

Regent University

PhD in Strategic Communication

Online


Regent offers an online PhD in Strategic Communication. It usually entails 49 credits and comes with a residency. Presented through a Christian lens, the program typically covers tactical messaging theory and tools. You may also study ways to message during crisis and apply theory within a new media context. In other classes, you may study research methods and conduct your own. Sample topics are:

  • Org’al communication
  • Advanced communication theory
  • Crisis communication       

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $18,620
Grad $16,952
Special rates available for military students.

Avg Grants & Scholarship Aid:
$7,801

Average Net Price:
$15,062

*Unemployment Earnings.  Sources for school stats and data include the NCES and IPEDS.