Online Public Relations Degree

To meet demand, 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 takes 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 studies how to communicate with audiences. Then applies different tactics to create clear and persuasive messages. These 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 PR degree is an intro. It often explores argument, mass communication and writing methods. So, you may take away the skills to apply persuasion theory to craft messages for all platforms. Masters in PR tend to explore the tactical side of communication. Things like how to use analytics to target messages for certain groups and manage a crisis. Grads may leave ready to step into a leader role and set strategy for a team to follow. PhD in PR programs 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 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 are 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. Most bachelors in PR programs 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 need a high school diploma or GED. Some schools also want to see your SAT / ACT scores and set the bar for a min GPA. Another factor is tuition. It can go up or down if you study in state or out of state. As per the NCES, the average in state tuition is $7,847. That’s at a public school. It’s 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 most schools frame PR within the context of communications or strategic communications at this level. Some schools also offer two tracks. A professional track that 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 tend to develop critical and strategic thinking. And, may learn how to interact with both clients and the news media in the most 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 entail 30 to 36 credits. There are one year programs but you tend to need up to two years, depending on your course load. When you are ready to apply, each school sets its own standards. Things you are likely to need are official undergrad transcripts and a min GPA. GRE scores may be needed or waived. You may also need to submit a writing sample and an essay about your goals. Some schools ask for a resume with current info too. 

PhD in Public Relations

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

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

How much might it cost to earn a masters in PR or PhD online?  

The average cost of a grad degree from a public school is $11,303. So, some online PR programs may be more affordable or more expensive than this amount. 

What can I do 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 needs a bachelors degree for entry level roles. Apart from having a bachelors degree, many PR managers 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 estimates the demand for a client’s products or services. Plus, will deal with and look at 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 

copy writer needs to persuade and educate audiences to buy their client’s products or services. To do this, they must craft clear messages that meet marketing goals. To work as a pro writer, you tend to need a bachelors degree. Some employers also look for copy writers who can tell a story with tables, charts, info graphics, video and maps.

3. Fundraiser 

The 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, most start out with a bachelors degree. But to advance into a fundraising manager role, one tends to need a masters degree.

4. Media Buyer 

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

6. Account Executive 

An account exec serves as a liaison between clients and an agency team. In this function, they make sure the brand voice and advertising campaign align. And, that marketing projects not only come to life, but also, 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 crafts and keeps up their client’s corporate image and reputation. To do this entails proper communication strategies. Also, clear and proficient writing skills. One also needs 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. Social Media Specialist 

A social media specialist plans and posts messages for audiences on different platforms. To do this takes a knowledge of how to increase brand awareness and engage customers. The work in these jobs changes as digital media evolves. So, some jobs may be more creative, and others more technical. That said, most hiring managers prefer those with a bachelors degree.  

Is a Degree in Public Relations worth it?

PR expertise may provide adaptable skills, and above average earning potential. Jobs in media and communication are in steady demand and show salaries higher than the norm. Per the BLS, if you have digital media skills, the future is brighter. Jobs in these areas predict from 6% to 8% growth through 2028. This is above the national average (5%) for all occupations. Salaries in all these fields vary. But many jobs that call for PR and fundraising skills paid an average yearly salary of $114,800 in 2018

If you favor marketing and advertising, jobs in this area are in demand too. The need for digital media campaigns is creating yet other jobs. One example is advertising manager. This field is growing by 8% and 2018 average annual salaries were $117,130

Public Relations Degree Jobs & Salary

Occupation Average Salary Jobs
Marketing Coordinator $135,900 286,800
Copywriter $63,200 123,200
Fundraiser Manager $116,180 81,200
Media Buyer $69,600 503,900

Top States for Jobs as a Human Resource Managers

State Jobs Annual Mean Wage
CA 19,050 $142,870
NY 10,230 $150,280
IL 9,960 $119,160
TX 8,210 $128,310
FL 7,200 $105,530

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

Most PR programs draw on communication theory, persuasion and branding. These areas tend to help you frame the methods that go into messaging. Then 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 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 hands on experience. You also tend to learn how to persuade others when you create a message. And so, may to learn which tactics suit each media platform. For instance, tv, digital and social media. Along the way, these classes may sharpen your though process. Plus, 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. Most 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.

Most PhD in public relations delve into communication theory. You also tend to study the impact the marketing world has on society. Classes also focus on areas that straddle advertising, journalism and marketing. Like social media, political and health communication, ethics, media channels and video games. You may also take a wide range of research courses. These engage you with your dissertation and inquiry and may have you study in many faculty labs. 

Another key area at the PhD level are global, federal and state regulatory and ethical factors. To learn this, you may explore the strategic side of labor relations and succession planning. Some programs 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.

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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 get an Online Public Relations Degree online?

The time it takes to earn an online degree in public relations can change. A typical bachelors in PR program takes four years unless you have transfer credits. From there, it may take from one to two years to earn a masters degree in PR. And, at least three years more if you go for your PhD. Of course, your course load and the format (full or part time) 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)

2

National University

Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communication

Online


National U’s online B.A. entails 180 quarter credits and classes are 4 weeks each. The program offers a blend of human and pro communication theory and skills. So, you may learn to communicate in suitable and effective ways across many channels. Interpersonal, intercultural, organizational, and mediated. Some 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
WASC Senior College and University Commission


U of Louisville’s BA / BS 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 need to complete an internship. Either way, the courses 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

Military Programs:
Credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
SACSCOC

4

California Baptist University Online

Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations

Online


CBU’s online B.A. completion program entails 57 credits. One of the main goals 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 also have the opportunity to focus on areas within PR. Like integrated marketing, international PR and new media. Some 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact & recognized student vet organization.

Accredited:
WASC Senior College and University Commission

5

Drexel University Online

Bachelor of Science in Communication

Online


Drexel’s online B.S. entails 180 quarter credits and four 10 week quarters. Two main drivers of the program are theory and methods. You also have the option to focus 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 study ways to uphold the reputation of the company you work for. Some 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)


Lasell’s online M.S. entails 36 credits of which 9 (3 courses) discuss public relations in depth. In the core program, the focus is 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 touch on media relations and ethics. Some 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
NECHE

7

University of Delaware

Master of Arts in Strategic Communication

Online


U Delaware’s online M.A. entails 30 credits and you can personalize your program. Focuses include PR and Digital and Social Media, or you can customize your own. Either way, the program covers tactics for PR campaigns, digital media. You 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
MSCHE


Syracuse’s online M.S. is a 13 month program and there are two tracks. A professional track that preps 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 prep for a possible career in teaching or research. While in the program, you study theory, concepts, processes and practices of PR. You also learn how to conceptualize, plan and execute PR activities. Like press conferences, client meetings. Some 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
MSCHE


U of Denver’s online M.A. 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 touch on strategies to connect with influencers, use mass media and leverage social platforms. You also study ways to persuade and come up with quality content. Some 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact & recognized student vet organization.

Accredited:
Higher Learning Commission (HLC) 

10

Florida International University

Master of Science in Global Strategic Communications

Online


FIU’s online M.S. entails 30 credits, takes one year to compete and has a dual focus. Communications management and digital communications. As such, you study the global market place with an eye on ways to manage reputation, crisis and brands. The program also includes core classes in research methods for mass media, ethics and social responsibility. And, there is an option to add a certificate in Conflict Resolution and Consensus Building. Some 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

Military Programs:
Credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
SACSCOC

11

American University

PhD in Communication

Online


AU’s online PhD 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 also work with an advisor to create and tailor a plan of electives. To do this, you can choose one of three focal points. Media, Public Issues and Engagement; Media Industries and Institutions and Media, Tech and Culture. There is also a teaching seminar in year one that preps you to work as a TA in and undergrad course during year two. Some 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
MSCHE

12

University of Miami 

PhD in Communication

Online


U Miami’s online PhD entails 57 credits and includes field research experience as well as teaching. The program also allows 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. Some 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
SACSCOC

13

Liberty University

PhD in Strategic Media

Online


Liberty’s PhD 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, will likely explore digital and strategic media channels. Some 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
SACSCOC

14

University of Colorado – Boulder

PhD in Strategic Communication

Online


U of Colorado Boulder’s online PhD is a distinct track that is designed to provide students with rigorous training in theory and research. As such, courses cover the theories and methods that shape strategic communication research. And, focuses on how theory informs practice through critical analysis. Students in the program can also design their study plan to suit their interest. As a student, you might connect with faculty from within advertising, PR, corporate branding, moral psych and other areas like: 

  • 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
HLC

15

Regent University

PhD in Strategic Communication

Online


Regent’s online PhD entails 49 credits and comes with a residency. Presented through a Christian lens, the program covers tactical messaging theory and tools. You also study ways to message during crisis and apply theory within a new media context. In other classes, you study research methods and conduct your own. Some 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

Military Programs:
Yellow Ribbon Program, credit for military training, dedicated point of contact, recognized student vet organization & member of SOC.

Accredited:
SACSCOC

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