Online master’s in communications and public relations
You’re fascinated by trends and the ways in which brands and society interact. You also want to stay competitive in your field. We’re here to help.
A graduate degree in communications and public relations can prepare you for advanced roles — such as digital strategist and corporate spokesperson — or managerial positions like brand director, media relations manager, and more.
What is a master's in communications and public relations?
In this type of master’s program, students learn how to share information with the public and promote a brand, individual, or business in an increasingly connected world.
Social media managers can benefit from this advanced degree, as can those working for TV studios or major corporations that need reputation management. If you’re interested in public service or government, you can use a master’s degree as an entry point to a career in political communication.
This degree may also be referred to as:
Master’s in Communication — Public Relations
Master of Science in Communications
Master of Arts in Public Relations
What is the difference between a master's in communications and public relations and an MBA?
Both degrees usually involve communications courses. However, an MBA with a concentration in communications and public relations also covers a broader set of business concepts, such as finance, general management, operations, and strategy.
A master's in communications and public relations allows you to explore communications topics at a closer level and develop more of a specialized focus.
What does a master’s in communications and public relations focus on?
These types of degrees revolve around communications — written, spoken, and digital. Today’s master’s programs focus on industry trends and allow you to get hands-on experience using the latest digital tools for audience engagement.
You will complete core coursework in the theory and practice of communications, including:
Social media management
Industry technology and software
Marketing and promotional communications
Research and analytics
If you’re looking to complement your public relations interest with practical expertise, a graduate degree can broaden your abilities and skill sets in the following areas of study:
Ethical decision-making is critical to success in public relations and communications. You will often be presented with ethical dilemmas and concerns and must be prepared to recognize and respond to these issues.
Ethics courses involve analysis and engaging discussion with your peers and are typically philosophical in nature.
This type of degree teaches you to approach all communication with a strategic eye. You can expect to enhance your strategic knowledge in areas such as:
Strategic plan development
Public relations writing
Writing is the foundation of any public relations career. Coursework in this area not only equips you with a firm grasp of language, grammar, and style, but also prepares you to develop a wide range of content, including:
Public service announcements
Responsible communication hinges on well-researched information. This area of study allows you to hone skills in:
Informational campaign planning
Evaluating information for factual accuracy and efficacy
Secondary, primary, and informal research methods
Analysis of online and traditional media
Focus group and survey research
Media segmentation and targeting
Many students who complete a communications and public relations master’s pursue a path in marketing. Examples include devising social media strategy for a brand or business, managing client relations for an advertising firm, or overseeing an organization’s marketing department.
A graduate degree will furnish you with these marketing-specific skills:
Identifying target audiences
Developing media strategies
Developing marketing content strategies
Determining brand positioning
Communicating across traditional channels and online platforms such as social media
The best leaders are also effective communicators. Within this area of study, you will learn:
How communication drives productivity
How to reach consensus
Interpersonal relationship management
Elements of psychology and social psychology
Typical concentrations and electives
Certain master’s programs give students the chance to specialize by taking electives or focusing on a concentration.
Some of the concentrations you can choose include:
Nonprofit public relations
Elective classes are designed to help you further your education in specific areas or fill gaps in your current knowledge. Some of these electives include:
Digital marketing and online brand management
Public service and government relations
Health care communication
Choose your coursework wisely — it should map to your career goals to help increase your job opportunities and starting salary.
There is no one-size-fits-all model for a graduate education. Many programs come in various forms, each with its own benefits. Here are some of the most common questions you should ask when researching your master’s in communications and public relations:
How long will earning my master's in communications and public relations take?
You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two years if you choose to study full time. Accelerated programs are also available to help you finish more quickly.
Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.
There are two types of accreditation — regional and specialized.
Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. Regional accreditation confirms that the provider has met and maintained adherence to a minimum set of academic standards.
Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.
Schools often apply to gain specialized accreditation for specific areas of study, departments, or degree programs. The leading accreditation for communication schools and public relations programs is the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) offered through the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Public relations master’s programs may also be accredited by the Universal Accreditation Board, or UAB.
Enrolling in an accredited program makes you more marketable to employers and can affect your career growth over the long term.
Why accreditation matters
Accreditation is key if you want to:
Transfer your credits, as most schools will only accept transfer credits from accredited institutions
Apply for financial aid, as federal aid is only granted to students who are studying at recognized accredited institutions
Check for both national and regional accreditation at your university of interest. You may also find that your degree program or academic department of interest has additional and specialized accreditations.
You have goals. We have a path.
Communication is at the center of all business. As the world’s learning company, we proudly partner with universities to offer a suite of online graduate degrees in public relations and communications. Whatever your career goals, we have a path for you.