District of Columbia Masters in Public Relations Programs | Masters in Advertising & PR Degrees

Masters in Public Relations and Advertising Degree Programs Overview

Masters in Public Relations programs are designed for students who intend on pursuing a career in the broad field of public relations and advertising. Master degree programs in public relations teach students how to meet client needs through effective communications, media relations and marketing campaigns.

Public Relations and Advertising Masters Degree Program InformationStudents in Public Relations Masters degree programs study the connections between public relations, media, and public opinion.  It is likely that these programs will also explore the processes involved between managing the various forms of communications, such as advertising, between organizations, groups and individuals.

To a large extent, advertising, media, marketing, technology, entertainment, journalism, and public relations are intertwined. Advertising is a form of marketing communication used to promote or sell a product or service. Public relations is the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or business and the public. Public relations specialists establish and maintain relationships with an organization's target audience, the medium and others, by designing communications used on a variety of channels, from written to digital platforms.

The typical prerequisite for entry to masters level public relations graduate programs is a Bachelor's degree in a field related to communications; GRE score; and acceptable GPA. Masters in PR and Advertising degree programs are approximately 2-year programs, and may involve internships, class projects, thesis development and thesis defense.

Finding the Right Masters in Public Relations Degree Program

Whether you are primarily interested in theory, mass communications, or focusing on a master’s in advertising degree, public relations is a fairly extensive field where prospective students have different options both academically and for potential future careers.

Some colleges or universities offer Masters in Public Relations through their business administration, journalism, or communications degree programs. Alternatively, there are advertising schools that specifically focus on teaching advertising.  The decision to choose one type of program over the other depends on specific preferences, the course selections, and the career aspirations of the student.

GradSchools.com has easy to use search tools to help you find public relations schools, and a master’s program that aligns with your goals. If you know you are looking for a campus program, a location search can help you find programs in a particular city, state, or country. If you are more inclined to search for a distance-learning option, hybrid programs combine onsite and web-based coursework into one low residency and flexible format. Busy working professionals or those who live too far to commute to university might want to search primarily for Online PR masters degrees.

There are numerous listings under all categories, and by requesting information from each school, you can generate a list from which you are able to pinpoint the ideal program.

Some of these listings might include: MA Professional and Business Communication, MS Public Relations, MA Communicative Arts and Sciences, and MA Corporate and Public Communications.

Masters in Public Relations Potential Curriculum

Most programs conferring a Master in Public Relations degree offer curriculums that concentrate on communications practices used in government, public communication, non-profit organizations and private businesses.

Typically, students will learn about research methodology, communications theories, and leadership in public. It is common that a masters program may include internships or culminating capstone projects that entail real-world experience. Coursework within the PR program may include:

  • Media, culture and society
  • Ethics and law
  • Public opinion research
  • Campaign planning
  • Writing for news and media
  • Digital platforms
  • Advertising

FUN FACT: The primary goal of most commercial firms is to market and sell their products or services at a profit. Advertising is the mass-market equivalent of the salesperson's one-on-one approach.[i]

What Is A Public Relations Specialist?

Public relations specialists aim to create and maintain a favorable public image for their client, whether this is an individual, the government, or a business. They design media releases in order to shape public perception of their client and to increase awareness of its work and goals. 

The median annual wage for public relations specialists was $55,680 in May 2014; the lowest 10 % earned less than $31,190, and the highest 10 % earned more than $105,720[ii].

Public relations specialists differ from advertisers in that they get their stories covered by media instead of purchasing ad space in publications and on television. Some of the media used in PR includes:

  • Social Media
  • Internet
  • Television
  • Radio
  • Newspapers
  • Publications
  • Press releases

Potential Career Options For Masters in Public Relations Graduates

Graduates of degree programs in the broad field of Public Relations may seek potential careers in marketing, advertising, fundraising, sales, community relations or corporate communications. Students are typically prepared for opportunities in corporate, government or non-profit organizations. Some possible job titles could include:

  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Communications Director
  • Media Relations Specialist
  • Public Information Officer
  • Press Secretaries
  • Public Relations and Fundraising Managers
  • Advertising, Promotions and Marketing Managers
  • Account Executive
  • Director of Public Relations
  • Business Development Director

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in advertising and public relations are considered fast growing fields over the upcoming period from 2014-2024:

  • Employment of advertising, promotions, & marketing managers is projected to grow 9 %
  • Employment of public relations specialists is projected to grow 6 %
  • Employment of public relations and fundraising managers is projected to grow 7

CAREER TIP: Internships at public relations firms or in the public relations departments of other businesses can be helpful in getting a job as a public relations specialist.[iii]

Ready to Pursue a Masters in Public Relations Degree?

With the changing business trends such as the use of social media in advertising and as a tool for PR firms and professionals, earning a master’s degree may not only help give you an edge over the competition when you enter the workforce, but also be a fascinating subject for advanced education. Why not explore your options for programs on GradSchools.com today.


Sources: [i] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advertising | onetonline.org/link/summary/27-3031.00 | bls.gov/ooh/management/advertising-promotions-and-marketing-managers.htm | bls.gov/ooh/management/public-relations-managers.htm | bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/public-relations-specialists.htm | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/public-relations-specialists.htm#tab-5 [iii] bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/public-relations-specialists.htm#tab-4

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