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Public Relations Degree

The study of public relations involves the understanding of how to navigate through the waters of public discourse. This includes understanding the attitudes and concerns of a large number of people including consumers, employees, public interest groups, and the community. This allows PR professionals to establish and maintain more effective and mutually beneficial working relationships.
In order to seek employment as a PR professional, you would need at least a bachelor’s level qualification in the field.

Why is Public Relations Important?

An individual’s perception of any set of facts will influence how they act with regards to, and in relation to something. As such, the principal aim of public relations is to manage, control, and attempt to influence a person’s perceptions of a certain set of facts. This ultimately leads to people reacting more favorably to organizations for which PR professionals work for.

Degrees in Public Relations

The study of public relations often takes an interdisciplinary approach. Students can expect to study marketing, advertising or communication in addition to the public relations curriculum. Some programs may also offer concentration options in areas such as project management or international management. For some individuals, attending a traditional university may not be feasible for a number of different reasons. Certain colleges and universities offer online public relations program or hybrid programs, combining both online and on-campus study.

Associate’s Degree in Public Relations

An associate’s degree in public relations is not a very common degree because most employers require at least a bachelor’s degree. Nevertheless, there are certain colleges and universities which offer this degree. This two year program alone typically doesn’t enable students to seek PR positions. Students may transfer the credits from this program towards a bachelor’s program and gain the necessary educational requirements in order to work in this field.
Entry Requirements

  • High school diploma or GED

Some of the courses offered in this degree include:

  • Principles of speech
  • Composition
  • Introduction to desktop publishing
  • Writing for media
  • Print journalism
  • Mass communication
  • Humanities through the arts

Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations

The program teaches students the basics of PR, how to write press releases, how to deal with internal and external conflicts, and create an effective and favorable company image.
Entry Requirements

  • High school diploma or GED
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement

A bachelor’s degree in public relations is typically combined with the study of business, communications, or marketing and promotion. The program also focuses heavily on teaching students to communicate effectively using both written and oral communication. Some of the courses included in the program are:

  • Mass communications
  • Advanced copywriting
  • Strategic planning concepts
  • Brand management
  • Drafting press releases
  • Business communication
  • Marketing and promotion strategies

Master’s Degree in Public Relations

A master’s degree in public relations is ideal for those individuals who are seeking out senior positions within the domain of public relations.
Entry Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree transcripts
  • GRE scores
  • Professional experience and current resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement

Some of the courses offered in this degree include:

  • Reputation management
  • Managing media relations
  • Critical business skills for corporate communication
  • Crisis communication
  • Public relations consulting
  • Theory, history, and practice of public relations
  • Strategic communications

Ph.D. in Public Relations


A Ph.D. in public relations is intended to be pursued by those individuals who wish to go into academics or research with respect to public relations. There is a strong emphasis on research in this degree.
Entry Requirements

  • Bachelor’s and master’s degree transcripts
  • Strong master’s thesis project
  • Letters of recommendation

The coursework in this program has a strong emphasis on research and theory. At the end of the program, students must complete a dissertation on an original piece of research. Some of the courses offered in this program include:

  • Public relations research methods
  • Human behavior
  • Business science
  • Statistical research tools
  • Philosophy of science
  •  Communication theory
  • Public relations dissertation research


Certification in the field is not mandatory;  however, any student who has successfully completed a bachelor’s degree in public relations may seek voluntary PR certification and accreditation through institutes like the Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).
Both of these require members to pass a comprehensive exam and have several years of professional experience in the field before seeking accreditation.

Careers in Public Relations

Once you have earned a degree in public relations, some of the most popular working environments include advertising, marketing, or public relations firms.
There are also some individuals who may choose to work as independent consultants or start their own public relations firms.
Listed below are a few common job titles and positions for public relations professionals:

  • Promotions Assistant - or advertising assistant, this position is considered an entry-level job. Job responsibilities are mainly clerical duties such as telephone operations, client communication, and other office-related work.
  • Public Relations Specialist – or communication specialists, these individual would work closely with the media. This includes answering media questions, writing press releases, or sharing information with media outlets for marketing purposes.
  • Public Relations Manager – or PR directors, these professionals have total PR control in an organization. Job responsibilities include writing speeches, designing campaigns, and working to maintain and enhance a company's image.

Job Prospects and Salary

Listed below is the data corresponding to the public relations field according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • In 2012, the annual median salary for public relations specialists was $54,170
  • The top 10% in the field earned more than $101,030
  • The projected employment growth between now and 2022 is 12%. This is about as fast as the rate of growth for other professions, which is 11%.
  • According to BLS, competition is strong for PR related jobs
  • Candidates applying to advertising firms, organizations with large media exposure, and at esteemed public relations firms can expect the most amount of competition

Public relations is a dynamic field which involves attempting to influence public perceptions. With regards to any organization or company, customers will act towards them in a manner which is based on their perceptions. PR professionals use a variety of tools and techniques to ensure that these perceptions are as favorable as possible in order for the company or organization to do well, and consequently, have a good public image. There are a number of degrees available for aspiring PR professionals to choose from. Ultimately, the track you take will depend on your career goals in the field. 


States with the highest employment level in this occupation:



Employment per thousand jobs

Location quotient

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage

California 16600.111.2618.1337720
Florida 11300.141.6817.9737370
Illinois 9600.161.9217.937240
Texas 7600.070.7816.6234570
New York 6500.070.8520.1241840


Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:Can you please tell me about the curriculum of public relations graduate programs?

A:Public relations graduate programs will provide students with in-depth knowledge of media relationships and PR as an indispensable function. The coursework will include a range of subjects that students must cover. These typically include: communication, media relations, public opinion, communication research, organizational communication, negotiations and conflict resolution, and more. The curriculum may vary slightly from college to college.

Q:What will I learn in a public relations certificate program?

A:A public relations certificate program is a short course designed to provide students with career knowledge and skills. In the program, students will learn about the fundamental principles of PR, practices of PR, the effective use of PR tools, process and strategies for publicizing an organization, and how to interact with media.

Q:What can I do with a degree in public relations?

A:With a degree in public relations, you can work in different sectors such as advertisement, promotions, and communications. Many individuals opt for public relations specialist job with a degree in this field. Public relations specialists are professionals who help organizations create and maintain a favorable public image. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, PR specialists made a median annual income of $54,170 in 2012.

Q:What areas are usually studied in public relations courses?

A:The curriculum of a public relations program will depend on the degree-level and the institute. Students will most likely come across subjects such as: visual communications, public relations research, principles of public relations, law of mass communications, reporting, and more. You can check with prospective schools to find out more about the coursework.

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