Earning a Master's in Public Relations Online

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

Should I Pursue a Master's in Public Relations Online?

As technology changes the way we communicate, a master's in public relations online can prepare public relations professionals to compete in this fast-paced field, increase their salary potential, and advance to managerial positions. Earning a public relations degree online gives students the chance to attend classes without commuting to campus: With just a computer and an internet connection, students can receive the full academic experience. Learners can attend classes, participate in discussions, and access all of their assignments from the comfort of their home. Moreover, the flexibility and accessibility of online classes can help students with significant personal responsibilities that make regular trips to campus difficult, like childcare obligations or a full-time career.

Graduates of a master's in public relations degree are prepared for a variety of careers, including work as event coordinators, press secretaries, and marketing managers. Public relations professionals are in high demand in government and communications fields; nearly every industry and organization requires individuals with strong written and oral skills to effectively communicate their message to the public. Our guide below outlines what you can expect when earning your master's in public relations online degree.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Public Relations Graduates

Master's in Public Relations Salary

Salaries for graduates of a master's in public relations online can vary considerably, and are usually based on one's education, years of experience, and where they live. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the national annual mean wage for a public relations specialist is $59,300, though this figure is much higher in states like Virginia, which pays public relations specialists an average $78,980. Additionally, PayScale estimates that professionals with up to five years of work experience earn approximately $46,000 a year, while a public relations specialists with 20 years or more of experience can earn over $78,000 a year. For a more detailed breakdown of the top paying states, see the chart below.

Top Paying States for Public Relations Specialists

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
District of Columbia 17,350 $102,790
Virginia 6,680 $78,980
California 26,890 $75,540
Rhode Island 1,090 $73,760
New York 24,470 $72,130
Washington 5,860 $71,790

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pay by Experience Level for Public Relations Specialists

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
    $42,000
  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
    $53,000
  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
    $58,000
  • Late-Career (20+ Years):
    $60,000

Source: PayScale

Master's in Public Relations Careers

A public relations master's degree online degree prepares graduates for a variety of entry-level and mid-level careers. The precise job an individual secures may depend on their interests, strengths, and personality. For example, an outgoing individual who enjoys networking may be a good fit as a public relations and fundraising manager, while a more data-minded person may excel in market research analysis. Below is a list of the common career paths for graduates of an online public relations master's degree.

Public Relations Specialists

Annual Median Salary: $59,300

Projected Growth Rate: 9%

Public relations specialists work on behalf of individuals or companies to write press releases, coordinate interviews, and manage their public image. Public relations specialists also establish or improve their client's social media presence. This entry-level position requires a bachelor's degree in public relations, communications, or journalism.

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

Annual Median Salary: $111,280

Projected Growth Rate: 10%

Public relations and fundraising managers write press releases, manage communications, and work on specific campaigns to bring in donations. These individuals generally work in offices, although travel may be required. Many employers require a minimum of a bachelor's degree, though a master's degree may be necessary, as this position often supervises a staff.

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

Annual Median Salary: $129,380

Projected Growth Rate: 10%

Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers primarily work for ad agencies or corporations. They create marketing campaigns to generate buzz about products and services, and may coordinate ad campaigns or promotions campaigns like giveaways and contests. They meet with clients to understand their needs and are usually responsible for managing a staff. The position requires a bachelor's degree and relevant work experience.

Advertising Sales Agents

Annual Median Salary: $49,680

Projected Growth Rate: -4%

Advertising sales agents work for ad agencies, newspapers, radio, and TV. This is a high-pressure position in which individuals must meet monthly or quarterly sales quotas. They also work directly with clients to provide price quotes and format video, print, or audio advertisements. Part of an ad sales agent's duties may also include drafting contracts and analyzing sales data to stay current on industry trends.

Market Research Analysts

Annual Median Salary: $63,230

Projected Growth Rate: 23%

Most market research analysts hold a bachelor's degree, but some may have a master's degree. They work for consulting firms, in finance and insurance, publishing, wholesale, and for management companies. Market research analysts keep abreast of industry trends and use software to analyze marketing programs. They also gather data to help their clients maximize their marketing outreach.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statstics

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Public Relations Program?

The requirements to complete a master's in public relations online usually vary by program. The length, required coursework, capstone project, and faculty expertise can all play a role in determining the quality and fit of your online degree. However, most programs feature some common core coursework, including those listed below.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Public Relations

Public Relations Writing

Most careers in public relations require individuals to possess strong writing skills. This course introduces students to educational, persuasive, and informative writing styles. Students also cover AP style guidelines.

Communications Research

Students in this course develop quantitative and qualitative research skills to work as market research analysts. They also learn to properly use surveys, interviews, statistics, and other data.

Crisis Communications and Reputation Management

A course in crisis communications trains individuals to manage a brand's image and reputation in the face of a public crisis. The curriculum introduces ways to anticipate and bounce back from a public relations crisis, and gives students the tools to maintain an organization's reputation in order to safeguard its assets. Graduates may be prepared for roles as a crisis management agent.

Personal Branding

A personal branding course prepares graduates to maximize a personal brand for companies or individuals. Students create research plans to better understand a brand and boost brand identity. The course also touches on personal branding through social media. Graduates can leverage these skills to work as public relations specialists.

Public Speaking and Pitching

Students develop the tools to present their ideas to clients and pitch stories to the media. A core focus of the course is public speaking, as numerous assignments require presentations in front of the class. Graduates are prepared for careers in as a media public relations specialist or a media relations manager.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Public Relations Prepares For

  • Certificate in Principles of Public Relations This certification helps new online public relations master's graduates and students on the cusp of graduation distinguish themselves and land managerial jobs. Students must have current membership in the Public Relations Student Society of America or a partner organization. To receive the certification, students must complete a 13-lesson course and exam.
  • Accreditation in Public Relations (APR): To earn this credential, students must complete the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations Accreditation application. Then students must provide written answers about their professional background and present present their portfolio to a panel. Last, students must pass an exam related to subjects such as communication theory, law, and PR planning.