Public Relations Degree Guide – Everything You Need To Know
Are you a high school graduate who’s interested in studying public relations but not sure if it’s the right field of study for you? maybe you’re a public relations practitioner who wants to advance his/her career by gaining certification or a higher degree level? We live in a world where communication plays a vital role in forging our ideas and influencing our decisions. Public relations is the study of mastering the forms of communication and using them for promotional purposes. It’s a fast-growing field with a wide range of opportunities.
What is public relations?
Public relations professionals are responsible for creating a positive public image for their organizations. They manage the flow of information between the organization and their target audience by communicating through media to craft the public perception of their organization and build awareness of its goals. Public relations specialists are sometimes called communications specialists. When organizations improve their reputation through an array of public relations activities, they’ll attract more potential customers.
Public relations may sometimes be confused with marketing. While both specialties eventually lead to increased profitability, the core difference is that the primary focus of marketing is sales, while public relations places emphasis on relationships.
Public relations specialists don’t spend on advertisements to promote their organizations, they aim to acquire the media’s coverage of their stories by delivering a positive image of the organization’s vision and goals. Both public relations and marketing employees work together to design strategic tactics that promote their brand’s image and find creative solutions to potential and current problems that face the organization.
- Maintain communication between clients and the public, including consumers, investors, reporters and other people who work in the media through oral and written communication
- Improve their organization’s public image
- Work with the press and write press releases
- Crisis management
- Find and contact potential fund-raisers for financial backing
- Internal communication
- Plan campaigns and events
- Conduct market research
What are the different careers you can pursue with a bachelor’s degree in public relations?
There are numerous opportunities for public relations majors. With the huge development in information technology, company leaders recognize the importance of public relations as a vital organizational function to maintain a good reputation of their businesses. Public relations majors employment is projected to grow 9% from 2016 to 2026 which is the average for other occupations. Common career paths to consider are:
Publicist – The role of a publicist is to communicate directly with clients and promote brand identity by starting campaigns that can effectively reach both the public and the media. They consult their clients about the most competent ways to promote their brands.
Social media manager – Public relations graduates who work in this position are responsible for promoting their organization’s brand exclusively through common social media platforms with a wide user-base like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Copywriter – A copywriter’s role is to write publicity and marketing materials for clients like blog posts and press releases. It’s usually done with the guidelines a public relations strategy that is constructed by the public relations team. copywriters are also responsible for preserving a persistent brand image and identity across multiple channels simultaneously.
Spokesperson – A spokesperson’s the organization’s main representative to the media and the public. Duties of a spokesperson’s to make TV appearances, make official statements, and prepare answers to the media’s questions.
Freelance writer – After gaining adequate experience in the field of public relations, some people choose to work as freelance writers. Many websites and portals hire freelance writers to promote their businesses using professional content that appeals to the public and delivers the intended message. Freelance writers also write news, press releases, and emails.
How much do public relations majors make out of college?
Since pursuing a degree in public relations or any other field is a huge investment in terms of time and money, you need to make sure that you can establish a rewarding and sustainable career after completing the program. The median pay for a public relations graduate is roughly 59,000 per year. Moving through your career path, that figure should significantly increase. Public relations managers’ average salary is $108,260 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These are only estimates and they differ state to state.
By all means, salary isn’t everything. Genuine interest to work in the numerous fields of public relations and to gain experience in it is more important than salary, so make you have a good understanding of the nature of working in public relations.
What certification will I need to work in public relations?
Most public relations practitioners who are interested in further advancing their careers require to gain certification in the field. The Public Relations Society of America offers accreditation to public relations professionals. The applicants must go through a comprehensive exam and have at least five years of experience in the field to get accredited. Another association that offers accreditation is the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), which also requires you to take a comprehensive exam and to have a minimum number of years of expertise in the field before you get certified. However, for a fresh graduate, certification is usually not required by employers.
Another option public relations professionals often consider is to pursue a master’s level degree to have more specialized knowledge in the field thus increasing their chances of getting higher managerial positions.
Levels of Public Relations Degrees
Certificate in Public relations
Anyone who’s interested in public relations may consider taking an introductory-level course to get an understanding of its dynamics. This’s a good option for those who are working in a related field such as marketing or journalism and want to be able to communicate with their colleagues in the public relations department. It can also be a good starting point if you’re planning to pursue a degree in public relations.
Associate’s Degree in Public Relations
An associate’s in Public Relations is a two-year degree that offers introductory-level courses in written and oral communication, marketing and digital media. It provides the students with a base knowledge of mass communications, marketing, and writing. Students learn how to analyze advertisements, broadcasts and other types of mass media.
They also learn the most powerful ways of transmitting information and public relations messages using different media formats. Most public relations practitioners need to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in communications or public relations. However, students may consider an associate of arts in communication program with a public relations emphasis. Students are able to transfer their credits to a four-year degree program to improve their knowledge.
Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations
A bachelor’s degree in public relations usually takes about four years to complete. This degree usually includes an emphasis on writing coursework such as multimedia writing and public relations writing. Additionally, you gain relevant knowledge in public relations campaigns, audience analysis, and international public relations campaigns. You’ll learn how to conduct presentations and improve your debating skills. Electives may include other topics like fundraising, advertising and magazine writing. This degree is the most prominent choice for people who want to break into the public relations field of study.
Master’s Degree in Public Relations
A master’s in public relations is a graduate degree that offers extensive professional studies. Most public relations degrees at the master’s level focus on communications management. There’s no exact time of completion for this degree as it generally depends on the school offering the degree and the number of academic credits that must be earned. Typically it takes anywhere from eight months to two years to complete the degree.
Generally, in this graduate-level degree, you’ll learn about international public relations, crisis management, media relations management, and audience research. You’ll explore the innovative methods modern communications need. You’ll learn how a public relations professional plays the role of a brand manager; how to protect and build a brand, or sometimes, remove a brand’s tarnish following a misconceived event. Curriculums are based on teaching best practices for building and maintaining brand value through keen public relations strategies and effective use of external communications.
People already working in the field seeking to advance to managerial positions usually consider a master’s degree a good investment to help them climb up the ladder.
Doctoral Degree in Public Relations
A doctoral degree in public relations usually requires a minimum of three years to complete, some may require up to six years. Courses in a doctoral program in public relations concentrate heavily on theory and research techniques. They may include courses in public relations research methods statistical research tools, Communication theory, and business science.
Some of the available degrees for a doctorate in public relations:
- Strategic Communication and Advertising
- Journalism and Public Relations
- Public Relations and Marketing
Different Types of Public Relations Bachelor’s Degrees
Degrees in public relations are offered as either a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree or a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree depending on the program’s learning outcomes and curriculum; in addition to the availability of a professional internship or training, which is usually included in a Bachelor of Science degree.
General public relations degrees include coursework in public relations writing, multimedia, marketing, research, and audience analysis. However, there are more specialized public relations programs that offer additional courses that help the student gain knowledge in a specific related field of study and some programs even require a more extensive in-depth study through a minor. Common types of public relations degrees include:
Bachelor of Science in Public Relations
This’s the most general type of public relations degrees. The students will learn different writing styles, social media tactics and principles of communication. Moreover, topics like group communication, crisis management, event planning, and the ability to conduct valuable research in the field are also touched upon. Coursework in marketing and advertising is usually offered too.
Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Marketing Communications
Almost all public relations programs include courses in marketing but this specialized program places even more emphasis on marketing. You’ll gain experience in fields like graphic design and media arts. Courses include Organizational Communication, introduction to graphic design, visual communications, financial aspects of business, and principles of marketing.
Bachelor of Science in Public Relations and Information Systems
A program in public relations and information systems will include coursework that provides the students with technical skills and knowledge.
Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications – Public Relations
You’ll learn to launch strategic communications campaigns for local, national and global brands; manage crisis communications for businesses in trouble and arrange press conferences to enhance media relations skills. The curriculum usually includes mass media writing, introduction to mass communications, legal and ethical principles of mass media, Mass Communications Research Strategies, and portfolio assessment.
Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Public Relations
In this program, you’ll acquire skills in writing, marketing communications and media strategy across print, screen and internet platforms. You’ll also learn to launch strategic communications campaigns for local, national and global brands. Typical coursework for this program includes visual journalism, newsgathering, civic journalism, reputation management, public relations skills, public communication, research ethics, graphic design, and digital communication management.
Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Public Relations and Advertising)
In this program, you’ll gain knowledge of the conceptual, historical and theoretical perspectives that shape the communication field. Additionally, you’ll be able to analyze the global effect of media and media institutions on society and deliver theoretically informed media content using concurrent media technology. Coursework includes an introduction to literature, foundations of the liberal arts, digital storytelling, sociology and an introduction to mass communication.
Bachelor of Science in Corporate Communications and Public Relations
This program enables the students to be familiar with the management of the mechanisms governing communication in public and private organizations. Graduates are able to master all types of communication—including conventional advertising, event planning, and social media management—in order to interact with customers, business partners, institutions, policy-makers, communities, citizens, journalists, and the media. They’re also able to develop communications strategies and assess their results. Coursework includes Business Economics, semiotics, sociology of media, information systems, digital trends, and consumer/corporate culture.
Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs
This program’s a good option for students interested in policy analysis, community advocacy, journalism, public administration, political activism, entrepreneurship, guardianship and conservatorship, and pre-law. You’ll be able to work in fields linked to activism, policy analysis and advocacy, government and business employment.
Public Relations Degree Requirements and Prerequisites
A high school diploma or GED is required for undergraduate programs. For graduate programs, you need a bachelor’s degree. Some degrees may require a pathway preparation course for applicants to get a place on their chosen degree. For a non-US citizen, demonstration of English proficiency is usually required through IELTS or TOEFL certification. For graduate programs, a minimum GPA(Grade Point Average) of 3.0 or higher is generally required for admission.
What you will learn in a bachelor’s in public relations program?
The main foundation that public relations programs coursework is built around is to significantly develop the students’ communication skills whether it’s oral or written. You’ll learn how to effectively use the RACE method ( Research, Action Plan, Communication, and Evaluation) in practical real-world applications. Coursework usually includes, but not limited to:
Multimedia/Public Relations Writing – Most public relations practitioners picture writing as the fundamental required skill of professional public relations practice. It’s the most formal form of communication and is widely used for initiating communication. In these courses, you will learn to make public service announcements, prepare and give convincing speeches, in addition to doing professional presentations. The objective is to realize the role of effective writing in supporting the organization’s strategy and create appropriate public relations material that is suitable for a wide base of the audience.
Principles of Public Relations – In this course, you’ll get the big picture of public relations practice and its role in inspiring the business decision-making process. The objective of the course is to learn about the main elements of the public relations process: communication, research, and planning. In addition to other core public relations concepts including its function in an industrialized society, audience analysis, and practical guidelines to use spoken, written and visual methods to reach the target audience and achieve the organization’s objectives.
Principles of Marketing – This course gives you a good understanding of the interrelations between public relations and marketing in promoting the organization’s brand and products/services. You’ll learn how companies use marketing to persuade potential customers and retain current customers. The course teaches core marketing topics that include the marketing environment, buyer behavior, decision making, and marketing mix strategies. Moreover, the course covers the role of strategic planning, the importance of market segmentation, and factors that affect the consumer’s decisions.
Public Relations Campaigns – This course builds on the skills learned in fundamental courses in writing, principles, and research methods. You’ll learn how to use these skills in implementing effective public relations campaigns for clients.
Social Media Strategy – The primary emphasis of the course is to understand the influence of social media on shaping public opinion and how it is used for marketing purposes.
Photography Fundamentals – Humans are more influenced by pictures more than text. Understanding how to shoot and select quality photos to grab the target audience’s attention is a crucial matter. This course helps you do just that by exploring photography tools such as ISO, shutter speed, and aperture in addition to certain techniques that make the pictures more appealing like the rule of thirds and framing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does it mean to have an accredited public relations degree?
There are two types of accreditation: regional and national accreditation. National accreditations agencies are not tied to a specific geographic area, unlike regional agencies. The major difference between the two is credit transfer. Regionally-accredited institutions usually don’t accept credit from nationally-accredited institutions while nationally-accredited institutions accept credit from both nationally and regionally accredited institutions. There are three main national business bodies: AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE; in addition to six regional bodies: WASC, NCSU, NCACS, SACS, MSACS, and NEASC. Accreditation is an important factor when considering to enroll in a public relations program because it gives credibility to your degree thus improving your chances with employers.
How long does it take to get a public relations degree?
The duration of completion depends on the level of the degree you are taking. An associate’s degree requires two years to complete, a bachelor’s degree takes 4 years, and for a master’s degree, you need anywhere from eight months to two years while a doctoral degree could take up to six years to finish.
Should I get my public relations degree online?
Many institutions offer online public relations degrees. Pursuing an online degree has many advantages:
- Costs less
However, an online degree may not be suitable for everyone. It requires a high level of self-discipline and there’s little face-to-face interaction. If you do decide to enroll in an online program, make sure it’s accredited by a recognized accrediting agency as many of them are low quality and unaccredited.
What public relations degree jobs are available to graduates?
Public relations majors employment is projected to grow 9% from 2016 to 2026 which is the average for other occupations. Available jobs include:
- Public Relations Specialist
- Marketing/Social Media Manager
- Content manager
- PR Consultant
- Public Relations Manager
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