Do you love building relationships and identifying creative storytelling angles? If you’re gifted at communicating and connecting people, you might be a natural in the field of public relations.
But the world of PR can be competitive, meaning it’s best to earn your online PR degree in order to acquire the skills for a successful career. That’s the inherent value of this guide, which will help you learn about accredited online public relations bachelor’s degree programs — those that will accommodate your busy life through flexible delivery modalities.
To help you sort through the many options out there, we’re spotlighting three high quality online PR bachelor’s degree programs. Our full list will drop later in 2023, so be sure to bookmark this page and check back.
Public relations students at the University of Florida (UF) benefit from an in-depth curriculum taught by successful PR professionals. The program emphasizes strategy, research, writing, and visual communication. You’ll graduate ready to be employed as a PR practitioner by an agency, non-profit businesses, or government agency.
The online PR degree curriculum is designed for students with busy lives that make traditional attendance impractical. However, students will experience flexible academic options with the same elite faculty and rigor that make UF a leading university and top research institution.
When you earn your online public relations degree from UF, you’ll have access to numerous student support resources. They can join Gator Nation to find in-person meet-ups in their area, or access the UF Online Student Plaza — an app that helps you stay in touch with professors, classmates, student groups, and advisors. And all this happens at a fraction of the price of traditional college courses, as UF Online students who are Florida residents pay only $129.18 per credit hour for tuition plus fees.
- Bachelor of Science in Public Relations
- Credits: 124
- Length: 4 years
- Cost: $129.18 per credit in-state | $552.62 per credit out-of-state
- Mode: Fully Online
- Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) —Institutional; Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) — Programmatic; Certification in Education for Public Relations (CEPR) from the Public Relations Society of America
Students who earn their BA in Journalism & Mass Communication in Public Relations from Drake University have the benefit of flexibility, with asynchronous courses — six to 15 weeks in duration —taught in a 100% online environment. You’ll study more macro-level PR topics like strategy, multicultural communication, consumer behavior, and global branding, but then drill down in a focused specialization among three choices: Global and Multicultural Communication; Corporate Public Relations; or Nonprofit and Advocacy Communication.
In Drake University’s PR classes, you’ll couple hands-on training in professional skills with a strong liberal arts education. You’ll also explore industries where public relations practitioners are sought — like sports, entertainment, fashion, business, and non-profits — and develop professional portfolio pieces that will help set you apart from your peers.
Best yet, Drake reports that in recent years, close to 100% of School of Journalism & Mass Communication graduates have reported finding jobs in their fields of education or interest within six months — or making the choice to further their education in graduate school.
- Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication in Public Relations
- Credits: 120
- Length: 2-4 years
- Cost: $650 per credit in-state | $650 per credit out-of-state
- Mode: Fully Online
- Accreditation: Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC)
Students in the BS in Public Relations program at Montana State University, Billings (MSUB) will be enrolled in a curriculum designed to provide ample communication training and abundant internship opportunities for future PR practitioners. Students will learn essential writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills. A degree from MSUB teaches communication, media studies and marketing concepts, exposing students to both theory and practice of public relations skills.
Online courses at MSUB allow you to learn at your convenience, though some classes will have deadlines for homework and testing, and instructors may require weekly chats or discussions. But the remote format is ideal for students with busy lives who need flexibility from their degree program.
MSUB students earning an online public relations degree are digital creators as well as communicators. Students learn video and editing equipment as they study the many ways they can effectively connect with their target audiences.
- Bachelor of Science in Public Relations
- Credits: 120
- Length: 4 years
- Cost: $443.90 per credit in-state | $642.11 per credit out-of-state
- Mode: Fully Online
- Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
What You’ll Learn in Your Online Public Relations Degree Program
Public relations programs are primarily comprised of journalism, communication, and marketing courses. These programs aim to provide you with a strong foundation in the principles of public speaking, writing, and strategic thinking. Typically, all students pursuing an online PR degree will participate in core courses covering fundamentals like media relations and audience engagement. From there, you’ll have the opportunity to take electives that offer insight into specialized topics that match your goals and interests.
Main Topics You’ll Cover
- Strategic communication planning
- Public speaking
- Principles of ethical communication
- Brand management
- Crisis communication
- Information management
Lower Division Curriculum (Years 1 and 2)
In the early stages of your online public relations degree program, you’ll learn the basics of persuasive writing and public speaking. Your coursework during the first few semesters will help you gain insight into the PR industry and learn basic concepts of journalism and marketing. These core classes are designed to prepare you to advance into more challenging coursework. As you progress and perhaps pursue a specialization, the material covered in your lower division classes will provide essential context and background knowledge.
- Business Communication: This introductory class covers the basics of professional communication. Over the course of the semester, you’ll learn about the standard communication tools employed by PR professionals, including proposals, press releases, and newsletters. You’ll research, write, and revise communications using a variety of platforms.
- Digital Content Writing: This course covers effective communication techniques across a range of digital platforms, including blogs, websites, and social media. Here, you’ll explore how to craft and deliver a message meaningfully through multimedia tactics including imagery, sound, and written language.
- Intro to Public Relations: This is one of the core classes that will provide critical insight into the roles and responsibilities of a PR practitioner. You’ll also cover the basics of PR’s guiding principles, ethical considerations, and effective communication strategy.
- Public Speaking: PR practitioners spend a lot of time communicating with different audiences in public ways, so this introductory course in public speaking will give you the confidence you need to speak effectively in a variety of settings.
- Interpersonal Communication: Interpersonal communication classes are designed to teach effective verbal and nonverbal communication techniques to various audiences, between different cultural groups, and in business settings.
Upper Division Curriculum (Years 3 and 4)
As you progress into upper-division online PR degree classes, you’ll begin to explore specialized topics in greater depth and add layers of economics, psychology, and sociology. For programs that offer specializations like crisis communication, this is when you’ll start classes specific to your emphasis. Even if your program doesn’t offer specializations, when you start taking upper-division classes, you’ll have a range of electives to choose from so that you can explore your individual interests. Additionally, most programs will require a capstone class or internship for graduating seniors to help them gain real-life experience.
- Public Relations Theory: This class merges PR with psychology to teach you how to hook audiences through powerful storytelling. Here, you’ll explore what motivates people and how communicators can appeal to these motivations when crafting their message.
- Strategic Social Media: This class will help you learn how to capture audiences’ attention and build brand messaging through social channels. It will dive deep into integrating social media marketing into a brand’s overarching marketing plan. You’ll also explore social influence and its power in communication.
- Public Relations Campaign Planning: This course often provides students real-world experience in the PR field. Over the course of a semester, you’ll develop a campaign from start to finish, including writing an initial proposal, drafting press releases, and developing a marketing plan.
- Marketing Research: Students will learn the theories and techniques of planning, conducting, analyzing, and presenting market studies, and how these are used in PR messaging. Different primary research methodologies like questionnaire design will be addressed.
- Media Criticism: You’ll explore and analyze the media and its foundational role in democracies throughout this course. With current events in focus, you’ll understand the ways our society learns about, interprets, and interacts with mass media messaging.
Admissions: Getting into a Top Online Public Relations Degree Program
Many online PR degree programs recognize that students are more than their GPA or SAT scores, which means applicants of all academic backgrounds are considered. They often base admissions on a combined strength of factors, including recommendations, work experience, personal statements, and academic records. In general, schools will have you submit some standard components, including:
- Official Transcripts: Programs want to see your transcripts from high school and any colleges you’ve attended.
- Personal Statement: Some applications will include a short essay component so the admissions committee can learn more about your background and motivations. This statement is a chance to make a good impression, and a strong statement can dramatically improve your chances of acceptance.
- Letters of Recommendation: Some programs will request recommendation letters. Be sure to choose people who have worked with you academically or professionally and can speak positively about your performance.
Because these programs allow you to provide context for your academic past or interests, many students take advantage of the opportunity to highlight their achievements or potential. Here are a few ways to make sure your application reflects your talents:
- Work History: If you’ve been out of school for a while, or your academic record isn’t perfect, you might find ways to highlight how your work experience relates to PR. Even entry-level jobs like food service can demonstrate that you have communication and interpersonal skills.
- PR Experience: If you’ve created a hashtag, supported a product launch or business event, or managed a business’s social media accounts, make sure that experience is highlighted on your application.
Paying for Your Online Public Relations Degree: Costs and Financial Aid
While earning an online PR degree is a lucrative investment, tuition can be a significant upfront cost. You may have already noticed that the cost of your degree can vary widely depending on the school. State universities tend to be more affordable because they are partially funded with taxpayer money, with discounted tuition available for in-state residents. Private universities are usually more expensive, with private for-profit universities typically the most expensive option.
If you’re worried about tuition costs, online programs can help you save money, as many offer reduced tuition for online students. Plus, you’ll avoid moving, commuting, and facilities fees, meaning you can save even more.
|Southern New Hampshire University
|Louisiana State University
|Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville
Remember that you can take advantage of scholarships and financial aid programs to lower your tuition bill. Most schools have a range of funding opportunities available to current and incoming students. Some schools, like the University of Alabama, Birmingham, even have multiple scholarships specifically for communications majors. You can also find scholarships offered by state governments, public relations professional associations, or non-profits.
Your aid opportunities don’t stop at scholarships: Many schools offer financial aid packages or work-study jobs to incoming students, your employer might have a tuition reimbursement program, and you may want to consider student loans as well.
If you’re ready to learn more about financing your online public relations degree program, read our full guide.
FAQs About Earning Your Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations Online
Are online public relations degree programs offered 100% online?
If you prefer to study remotely, there are plenty of fully online PR degree programs out there. Many students choose 100% online programs for their flexibility and convenience. Alternatively, you can customize your learning experience by opting for a hybrid program. Hybrid programs offer a mix of online and on-campus learning experiences, but they limit you to schools in your area. Regardless of which learning style best suits your needs, be sure you’re clear on your program’s structure before enrolling.
What can you do with a bachelor’s degree in public relations?
No matter the industry, professionals with strong communication skills are in high demand — making a public relations degree a profitable option. Given that all types of organizations require communicators, you can follow your interests in healthcare, government, entertainment, business, or anywhere else that excites you. Some common job titles for PR degree holders include:
- Public information officer
- Advertising director
- Public relations executive
- Press secretary
- Event planner
Is earning a public relations degree worth it?
Yes. Nationally, the demand for public relations specialists is growing at a faster-than-average rate. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be about 27,400 openings for public relations specialists projected each year, on average, over the decade.
Having a degree is particularly important in the PR field because specialists work across so many industries, and the unique knowledge earned in a public relations program prepares you to apply your craft to different projects and topics.
What accreditation should I look for in a public relations degree program?
The accreditation system ensures that your chosen school provides quality education on par with in-person programs. When researching programs, look for schools that have reputable regional or national accreditation. If you are unsure, you can check the database maintained by the U.S. Department of Education.
The best public relations programs will also carry accreditation from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. This is an industry-specific certification and indicates that you will be attending one of the top PR programs in the country. Some schools also hold a Certification in Education for Public Relations (CEPR) issued by the Public Relations Society of America.
How long does it take to earn a bachelor’s degree in public relations?
Generally, it takes four years of full-time study to earn your bachelor’s degree in PR. However, this timeline can vary significantly. For example, most programs allow students to take breaks or study part-time. As you can imagine, taking fewer classes each semester means it will take longer to graduate. On the flip side, if you opt for an accelerated program or already have some college credits, you can graduate more quickly.
Employment Outlook with a Public Relations Degree
Employees with bachelor’s degrees in public relations are in high demand across specialties. We’ve researched popular careers for PR students and found that job growth is faster than average in most positions. This is good news, as after graduation, you’ll have your pick of exciting, well-paid jobs. As someone with a public relations degree, you’ll qualify for higher-level positions that offer greater responsibility and earning potential. To help you visualize your future, we’ve collected a few statistics for popular PR jobs in the table below.
|Median Annual Earnings (2021)
|Job Growth (2020-2030)
|Public Relations Specialist
|Meeting, Convention, and Event Planner
|Market Research Analyst
|Public Relations and Fundraising Manager
|Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Manager
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics