Whether you’re looking to jumpstart your career in communications, or enhance a current one, reviewing public relations masters programs could be the next step to achieving your professional goals. The skills and knowledge you might develop in public relations masters programs may help increase your understanding of the inner workings of the bustling PR industry. Your teachers might even be active top public relations professionals themselves, allowing you to learn about core PR concepts through their real-world experience. Ready to get started? Keep reading to learn more and find a masters of public relations program that could be best for you!
What was the most valuable part of earning your masters degree in PR?
Learning from other case studies was one of the most valuable parts of my Masters in PR degree. Something else that I gathered from my PR graduate work was that my thesis topic provided me the foundation for my company’s approach to big picture problem solving.
written by Rana Waxman
Pursuing a masters degree in public relations could be a great way to not only further develop foundational skills and knowledge from undergraduate studies, but learn new methods to address contemporary communications obstacles as well. Masters programs are typically offered as either a master of arts (MA) or master of science (MS). MA programs often take a scholastic approach in their academics, placing emphasis on media theory, history, and critical analysis. MS programs, on the other hand, tend to focus more on the analytical side of PR such as data analysis and real-world scenarios. While these degree programs differ in teaching strategy, each focus on key public relations topics to help students better understand the field. These subjects could include PR history, media strategies, brand development, international relations, and crisis management, to name just a few. With this curriculum in mind, students could expect to complete public relations masters programs in 1 to 2 years.
We asked Fellow PRSA Associate Professor Kathleen D. Rennie what makes a great public relations masters program:
The best public relations masters programs are focused on public relations strategy. They also feature the study of media relations, crisis communication, and corporate social responsibility. Students in a public relations masters program need to understand how business works in order to create communication plans to help meet business goals and help organizations manage their reputations.”
~Kathleen D. Rennie, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA Associate ProfessorClick to Tweet
When applying, students may find that school’s require the submission of a 2.5 to 2.75 undergraduate GPA in addition to GRE exam scores. Supplemental criteria might also be requested, such as an in-person interview or an example of previous work. Specific curriculum, application requirements and program lengths may vary depending on your intended school and program. Contact them directly to learn more.
When researching potential public relations masters programs, you may find that some programs use the terms advertising and public relations interchangeably. What’s the difference between the two? It comes down to money. Both public relations’ and advertising‘s goal is to spread a specific message to the public. Advertising pays for their messages to be placed in the media. PR, on the other hand, sends theirs to a wide range of outlets with the hope that they may be interested and distribute it. In the end, these different programs have similar goals and that is why many companies, and schools, combine them into one department. So, when you take your PR masters degree into the professional world, you may find you also have some basic advertising experience!
Many who pursue a masters in PR may already be involved with the public relations industry in some capacity and hoping to deepen their knowledge and expertise to enhance their career. But if you’re new to the field, the skills and knowledge you could develop in a masters program may be a great way to jumpstart your career. You could dive deep into topics such as media strategies and crisis management to help you handle the day-to-day challenges of a PR career.. Your program may also be a great opportunity to network and build connections with industry peers – an especially important aspect in this relationship driven field.
While public relations might seem to feed directly into specific career positions, like a public relations specialist, you may be surprised to learn that the subjects studied in public relations masters programs may be applied to a range of other professions as well. Topics such as writing, data collection, and public speaking might be widely applicable. For example, you could potentially pursue a career as a sales agent, market research analyst, event planner, or writer thanks to your PR know-how. [i]While these occupations might require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level roles, a masters degree in public relations may provide a helpful push towards career enhancement and positions in managerial roles.
In addition to having many potential career paths available, these same PR related professions may also see an increase of potential career path opportunities. Positions throughout the communications sphere are projected to see possible growth from 2014 to 2024. Public relations specialists are estimated to see a 6% growth in employment[ii], sales agents 3%[ii], market research analysts 19%[iii], event planners 10%[iv], and writers 2%[v]. Now could be a perfect time to jump into a PR masters program.
Fitting your education into your busy schedule might seem daunting, but public relations masters programs are offered in a variety of formats that could help you integrate your academics into your weekly routine. Masters programs may be offered in the on-campus, online, and hybrid formats. Each of these have the own pros and cons, and understanding them could help you narrow down your list to find a perfect program for you.
Pursuing a public relations masters degree on campus may be a great choice for students who require structured class times. Regularly occurring class times may make it easier to plan the rest of your weekly routine around their education. This might be a great option for current freelance public relations specialists because they could arrange their meetings and work time around the predictable timetable. Additionally, these programs may place you under the tutelage of industry professionals – your professors! By working with them during class and one-on-one during office hours, you could receive critique and insight to help better develop your understanding of key PR concepts. And build potentially useful professional relationships while you’re at it.
Some students may be looking for a more flexible type of education, which might make an online masters in public relations a perfect choice. In online programs, students could log into their classes as their routine allows, and where convenient. You might have the luxury of logging into your coursework during lunch, after work, or on the weekend – whatever is great for you. This could be especially beneficial for students who are currently working. As another potential benefit, students may also be granted access to campus resources like libraries and data collections. Even when you’re not on campus, you could tap into some of its possible benefits!
Do both above formats sound great? Having trouble picking just one? Then you may want to consider a hybrid PR masters program. The blended masters program might give you the opportunity to experience both the hands-on learning of traditional campus programs, as well as the flexible scheduling inherent in online programs. Depending on the demands of your schedule, you could possibly arrange your courses each semester to better meet your needs. This might mean taking online courses during a particularly busy time at work. Or, you could take classes on campus when your routine is laxer. This might be a great way to get a bit of both worlds!
By earning a masters in public relations, you may be taking your first steps into a bustling industry or continuing on your journey within the field. Regardless, the skills and knowledge you may develop could serve you well as you continue your journey. Below is a list of potential masters programs that might be perfect for your continued education. To refine the results further, choose your intended program format from the menus on this page. To request more information from one of the public relations masters programs, click through their link and select “request info.” Good luck!
Sources: [i]bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/public-relations-specialists.htm#tab-8 |[ii]bls.gov/ooh/sales/advertising-sales-agents.htm#tab-6 | [iiii]bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/market-research-analysts.htm#tab-6 | [iv]bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/meeting-convention-and-event-planners.htm#tab-6 | [v]bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/writers-and-authors.htm#tab-6