Online Public Relations Bachelor's Degree

What You'll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Given today's rapid dissemination of information and viral content, it's imperative for individuals, organizations, and brands to get in front of news stories and control the narrative and/or message. Public relations (PR) specialists help clients with this goal through their expertise in verbal and written communication and a variety of media. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of public relations specialists will grow 9% from 2016 to 2026, which translates to nearly 23,000 new job openings.

Companies of all sizes look to hire individuals skilled in traditional forms of public relations, like press releases, as well as those who are experts in new ways of reaching the public, such as social media. The growing demand for these professionals should put recent graduates at a distinct advantage as schools strive to update bachelor's of public relations programs to reflect the latest industry trends and methods.

Why Earn a Public Relations Bachelor's Degree Online?

As programs expand and adapt to the latest forms of technology, more students are earning their degrees online. While schools tend to keep the curriculum of their online and on-campus degrees fairly similar, there are various beneficial differences associated with distance learning. Students pursuing a public relations bachelor's degree online can expect their program to provide convenience, flexibility, and affordability.

Many programs offer asynchronous courses, which allow students to log in to their courses from anywhere at any time. This convenient option makes programs like an online bachelor's degree in public relations ideal for working professionals and/or those with families. Moreover, students can often choose from part-time, full-time, or accelerated tracks to find what works best for their own schedule.

As for cost, online degrees tend to be less expensive than their on-campus counterparts because online learners can eliminate a few college expenses like room, board, and transportation. What's more, online students can often pay discounted tuition or even the same tuition as in-state learners, no matter their state of residence.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Public Relations?

A versatile degree, a bachelor's in public relations prepares students for careers beyond PR. A successful public relations specialist must possess a number of skills. At any time, they may need to be a problem-solver, an organizer, an analyst, or a spokesperson. They must have strong writing, analytical, and technical skills. They should be effective communicators and must also be comfortable analyzing and explaining data.

A bachelor's degree in public relations can open doors in various industries as well as provide a strong foundation for those who pursue an advanced degree in PR or other fields like business and marketing.

Skills and Knowledge Gained

A balanced public relations bachelor's degree online program includes courses that devote equal time to the technical and strategic sides of PR.

On the technical side, students study writing, design, and research methods. Public relations specialists often work with data, including statistics, polls, finance, and other quantitative information. To turn these numbers into a well-crafted message for public consumption, PR specialists must possess excellent writing skills. In fact, writing is the most important skill covered in most bachelor's in public relations programs, with students taking foundational courses in media writing, reporting, and editing.

In addition to written communication, visual communication is also a critical skill for PR professionals. In a design course, for example, online students learn how to use layout, art, and typography effectively in print and digital media.

Most students in a public relations bachelor's degree online program also take courses in strategy, tactics, and project management. Aspiring PR specialists develop their skills in problem-solving and strategic planning and explore tactics the PR industry uses, such as press releases, position papers, and media kits. Advanced courses in a bachelor's in public relations program cover ethics, media law, and rhetoric, while electives may focus on topics like social media, crisis management, and digital media.

According to the BLS, most employers prefer candidates with an accredited bachelor's degree. Earning a public relations bachelor's degree online allows future PR specialists to choose an area of focus and sharpen their writing, analytical, research, and managerial skills.

Careers and Salary Potential

You can tailor your public relations bachelor's degree online with an area of interest, like corporate public relations, financial/investor relations, or health communications. While a bachelor's in public relations transforms you into a skilled communicator who can adapt to various roles, a concentration can prepare you to work in a particular field like government or healthcare. Those who go into PR tend to be strong writers and persuasive public speakers with an aptitude for research, organizing, planning, and working with others.

Check out the following lists of industries and common careers for PR professionals to learn more.

  • Special Events Services: Special events, such as a product launch, are increasingly important ways to build buzz and create brand loyalty. A PR specialist helps promote such events through press releases, social media campaigns, and local news coverage.
  • Marketing, Advertising, and Media Management: PR professionals in this industry help clients generate consumer interest and expand their market share, so talented writers who are creative and have good problem-solving skills are in high demand. Advertising and PR serve similar aims, but PR works through channels that aren't monetized -- like a news segment -- while advertising deals with purchased space and airtime.
  • Healthcare: Providers of healthcare, such as diagnostic, preventative, and therapeutic services, comprise the healthcare industry. PR specialists can help hospitals, nonprofits, doctors, nurses, and manufacturers of health equipment and medicine communicate with the public they serve.
  • Financial Services: The industry of financial services includes banks and credit unions, credit card companies, accounting firms, and other entities engaged in financial activities like lending, investment, and asset management. These organizations use public relations to promote things like new products or services, news, and industry or consumer concerns.
Account Coordinator

Annual Median Salary: $39,184

An account coordinator is a typical entry-level position in the PR, advertising, and marketing fields. Job duties include writing press releases, gathering research, creating presentations, and attending special events. Many companies require managerial candidates to hold a bachelor's degree in public relations, marketing, or journalism.

Advertising, Promotions, or Marketing Manager

Annual Median Salary: $129,380

Managers in advertising, promotions, and marketing plan campaigns designed to generate interest in a product or service. Together with other team leads, they strategize regarding budgets and contracts, promotions, and media, such as radio, billboards, or social media. Most companies look for candidates who hold a four-year degree and have relevant work experience.

Public Relations Specialist

Annual Median Salary: $59,300

Companies generally task public relations specialists with promoting and maintaining a favorable image with the public. They work with print, digital, and broadcast media; gauge public opinion and determine appropriate courses of action; and draft speeches, press releases, and other materials to capture and convey the desired message of their clients.

Public Relations or Fundraising Manager

Annual Median Salary: $111,280

Public relations and fundraising managers work to promote their clients to the public. While a public relations manager helps shape or enhance the public image of a company, individual, or brand, a fundraising manager aims to bring in donations by raising awareness and inspiring help from supporters. For management positions, you typically need at least a bachelor's degree in public relations, fundraising, journalism, or English; however, some employers will give preference to candidates with a master's in one of these areas.

Social Media Manager

Annual Median Salary: $49,252

Social media managers lead online campaigns that center on social media, like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. A social media manager works closely with clients and vendors to determine targets and discuss strategy for the management of social media pages, accounts, and sites.