Never before have brands and organizations been more visible to their clients and stakeholders than today. From live chat options on websites, brand social media managers quipping in real time with clients, to instant feedback and even video of experiences at organizations, putting your best foot forward to the public is a full-time job. The stakes have never been higher, as well. From campaign trail gaffs lighting up the 24-hour news cycle, to video of employees physically removing a paying customer from your premises, PR blunders can literally cost billions of dollars. For career marketers and communications professionals, or those who thrive under tight deadlines and great scrutiny, careers in public relations can be incredibly exciting and rewarding. And if that describes you, you’re in luck! Never have there been more or more accessible PR degrees. Here are Best Marketing Degrees we realize the pivotal role public relations plays in a comprehensive marketing strategy. Check out our picks for the 10 best online programs today!
Affordability (1/3): the out-of-state tuition per credit hour for programs surveyed.
Flexibility (1/3): the number of flexibility-enhancing program components, including the number of concentrations, specializations, and emphases, accelerated course options, and lenient transfer policies.
Core Curriculum Areas (1/3): the number of core curriculum areas with coursework offered in the degree, including courses in public relations writing, new media and public relations, research methods, and media relations.
California Baptist University (CBU), established in 1950, is a private, Christian, liberal arts university sitting on a beautiful 160-acre campus in urban Riverside, CA. CBU’s Online and Professional Studies program was designed specifically to serve working professionals with family responsibilities but who require flexibility in education, offering over 25 master’s degrees with 45 concentrations. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges–one of six official academic bodies responsible for the accreditation of American universities–CBU ranked #1 “Graduate Education Faculty Credentials and Training” in 2015 and is currently ranked #73 “Best Online MBA program” and #101 “Best Online Graduate Education Programs” by U.S. News & World Report. California Baptist University enrolls approximately 9,100 students and offers a 100% Christian faculty and staff.
California Baptist University’s online Master of Arts in Public Relations program (MAPR) emphasizes flexibility with a friendly credit-transfer policy, classes starting every 8 weeks, and accelerated online, hybrid, or evening campus-based course offerings. Moreover, CBU’s 33-credit-hour program is affordable with an estimated completion time of only 12 months at an estimated cost of $19,000–in fact, CBU boasts very low student default rates. In addition to a classic MAPR curriculum, California Baptist University’s program emphasizes specialized writing for PR, new and social media strategies, and audience research.
Ball State University (BSU), established in 1918, is a public, co-ed, research university sitting on a contemporary 1,100-acre campus in suburban Muncie, IN–just an hour northeast of the entertainments of Indianapolis. BSU is touted specifically as a doctoral, high research university and is part of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, offering over 20 master’s degrees online. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission–the primary educational accreditation organization of the central United States–BSU is currently ranked #93 “Top Public School” and #176 “Best National University” by U.S. News & World Report. Ball State University enrolls approximately 17,000 undergraduate and 5,000 graduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 14:1, and 42.1% of its classes cater to fewer than 20 students.
Ball State University’s online Master of Arts in Public Relations program (MAPR) emphasizes flexibility with self-paced courses, accelerated and blended (online/on-campus) course options, and 12-credit-hour specializations including: business, communication studies, public affairs, and sport communication. BSU’s 33-credit-hour program is relatively affordable with start dates in every semester and an estimated completion time of only 5 semesters. BSU’s program is the nation’s first and only graduate program in public relations certified by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Notably, Ball State University’s MAPR focuses on research, offering students courses like “Statistical Methods in Educational and Psychological Research” and the opportunity to write a thesis for an additional 6 credit-hours.
Montana State University (MSU), established in 1927, is a public, co-ed university sitting on an 112-acre campus in urban downtown Billings, MT. As the state’s commercial center for business, industry, media, and healthcare, students receive excellent career networking and internship opportunities during their educational career. Accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities–the regional authority on educational quality and institutional effectiveness–MSU is currently ranked #210 “Best National University” and #238 “Best Business Program” by U.S. News & World Report. Ball State University enrolls approximately 3,000 undergraduate and 200 graduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 17:1, and 52.7% of its classes cater to fewer than 20 students.
Montana State University’s online Master of Science in Public Relations program (MSPR) promises flexibility with an accelerated 3- to 4-semester option and 4 program emphases to choose from including: Public Relations Theory, Health Communication, Public Communication, and Media & Society Communication. MSU’s 30-credit-hour program is relatively affordable with an estimated full-time completion in 6 semesters and a nearly 50% reduction in the cost-per-credit for full-time as opposed to part-time students. Notably, Montana State University’s MAPR curriculum offers courses pertaining to writing, contemporary media types, audience research, and media relations specific to each of the 4 program emphases.
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), established in 1932, is a private, not-for-profit, co-ed university sitting on a 300-acre campus between Manchester and Hooksett, NH–two quaint suburbs about one hour south of Concord, NH. As one of the largest online universities in the United States with over 40 graduate online programs and 34,000 online students, SNHU is known for its innovative educational offerings and strong distance learning options. Accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges–the regional authority on educational quality and institutional effectiveness–SNHU is currently ranked #101 “Best Regional University, North” by U.S. News & World Report. Southern New Hampshire University provides approximately 72% of full-time undergraduate students some form of need-based financial aid, offers a student-faculty ratio of 15:1, and 54.6% of its classes cater to fewer than 20 students.
Southern New Hampshire University’s online Master of Arts in Communication is one of the most rigorous programs on the list, offering an emphasis in Public Relations (MACPR). SNHU’s 36-credit-hour program consists of 7 core courses, 4 electives, and a communication capstone where students learn to strategize and execute a real-life public relations campaign. The program is flexible and affordable, offering self-paced courses and the ability to complete the program in as little as 15 months at an estimated cost of $24,000. Notably, Southern New Hampshire University’s MAPR core curriculum offers courses centered on PR writing skills, social media campaigns, and media relations.
The University of Maryland University College (UMUC), established in 1947, is a public research university sitting on a 1,250-acre campus in Adelphi, MD–a suburb of Washington, D.C. UMUC is one of the largest online universities in the United States, offering 17 graduate online programs and enrolling over 90,000 students around the world. With a long-time commitment to active-duty military personnel, UMUC offers reduced tuition rates for members of the military and federal government employees. The University of Maryland University College offers a student-faculty ratio of 22:1, and 64.8% of its classes cater to fewer than 20 students.
The University of Maryland University College’s online Master of Science in Management with a specialization in Public Relations (MSMPR) is one of the most affordable programs on the list, offering free books for many courses and accepting up to 6 transfer credits for prior college coursework and experience, including military experience and training. UMUC’s 36-credit-hour program consists of 3 core courses, 7 specialization courses, and a strategic management capstone. Notably, The University of Maryland University College’s MAPR curriculum offers courses centered on PR writing skills, audience research, and media relations.
Webster University (WU), established in 1915, is a private, non-denominational Catholic university sitting on a 47-acre campus in Webster Groves, MO–a prominent suburb of St. Louis. Also accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, WU is currently ranked at #24 “Best Regional University, Midwest” and #19 “Best College for Veterans” by U.S. News & World Report. Webster provides a 50% tuition reduction to veterans and has a global footprint, offering study abroad opportunities and distance learning options to all students. WU only offers online graduate programs and enrolls approximately 12,000 online graduate and 2,000 undergraduate students. Webster University has a total enrollment at its campus in Webster Groves of approximately 3,000 undergraduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 9:1, and 87% of its classes cater to fewer than 20 students.
Webster University’s Master of Arts in Public Relations (MAPR) can be extremely affordable due to the fact that 79% of students receive need-based financial aid and the average award is $9,000. The 36-credit-hour program is highly customizable, consisting of 9 core courses and 3 elective courses to be chosen from 17 options including: Advertising Decision-Making, Crisis Management Communications, and Multinational Public Relations. Notably, Webster University’s MAPR curriculum offers several courses centered on PR writing skills, contemporary media types, audience research, and media relations.
Full Sail University (FSU), established in 1979, is a private, for-profit university sitting on a beautiful 210-acre campus in Winter Park, FL–a suburb of Orlando. Full Sail is more of a technical school, delivering an education through the lens of entertainment media and technology, including PR. Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, FSU has recently earned coveted rankings on The Princeton Review’s most-recent lists saluting the top 25 graduate and top 50 undergraduate schools to study game design for 2017. Full Sail graduates 78 percent of its students and all students receive a Macbook Pro.
Full Sail University’s Master of Arts in Public Relations (MAPR) is one of the most efficient programs on the list allowing students to graduate with 38 credit-hours in 12 months. However, for expedience, Full Sail students sacrifice curriculum flexibility; aside from a personalized final thesis project, all students are required to complete 11 core courses including: Writing for Interactive Media, Market & Consumer Research Analysis, Social Media Metrics & ROI, and Media Relations. Of course, students must remember the primary industry of application for all coursework will be entertainment.
Quinnipiac University (QU), established in 1929, is a private, co-ed university sitting on a rustic 600-acre campus in suburban Hamden, CT–a classic and quaint New England town. Also accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, QU is currently ranked #11 “Best Regional University, North” by U.S. News & World Report. Despite its relative inconspicuousness, Hamden is in New Haven County, which surprisingly hosts a high concentration of industry, business, and professional services. Indeed, this access to commerce leads to better internship opportunities and higher employment rates for QU graduates. Quinnipiac University enrolls approximately 7,000 undergraduate students.
Quinnipiac University’s online Master of Science in Public Relations (MSPR) offers a high degree of flexibility with an accelerated option that allows students to graduate in one year without sacrificing customizability. Aside from 8 required core courses and a senior capstone, QU’s 36-credit-hour program is relatively customizable, requiring students to take 3 electives to choose from 6 course options including: Social Media Concepts & Practices, Investor Relations, and Health & Strategic Communications. Notably, Quinnipiac University’s MSPR curriculum offers courses centered on PR writing skills, contemporary media types, audience research, and media relations. Students who complete the program will also be prepared to sit for the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) exam from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU), founded in 1873, is a public liberal arts university, located in Nova Scotia, Canada. Sitting on 40 acres of beautiful greenery and overlooking the Bedford basin, it is only minutes from downtown Halifax. Originally established by the Sisters of Charity, it was the first Canadian higher education institution to admit women. Officially accredited by the Canadian Department of Labour and Advanced Education, Mount Saint Vincent, often referred to as The Mount, enrolls approximately 2,290 students from 50 countries and offers a student-faculty ratio of 20:1.
Mount Saint Vincent University’s online Master of Public Relations program (MPR) emphasizes professional application rather than academic theory. The program offers flexibility like full- and part-time schedules or evening and distance learning options that allow students to graduate generally between 18 and 24 months. Recognized by the Canadian Public Relations Society for its excellence in public relations education, MSVU’s 10-course program is the one of the most affordable on the list. Notably, Mount Saint Vincent University’s MPR offers courses centered on market and audience research.
Marist College (MC), founded in 1929, is a private, co-ed liberal arts college sitting on a beautiful 210-acre campus in suburban Poughkeepsie, NY–about 2 hours north of New York City. Also accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Marist is currently ranked #9 “Best Regional University, North” by U.S. News & World Report. MC can boast a special technological project partnership with IBM and offers over 40 undergraduate and 10 graduate degrees. The student-faculty ratio at Marist College is 16:1, and the school has 46.1 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students.
Marist College’s Master of Integrated Marketing Communications with a specialization in Public Relations Management (MIMC) can be affordable due to the fact that 56% of students receive need-based financial aid and the average award is $16,000. MC’s MIMC offers flexibility in both directions; students can take advantage of part-time courses or the fastest accelerated option on the list at under one year. The 30-credit-hour program is clearly an integrated marketing degree where public relations is considered a pivotal part of an organization’s marketing strategy. Notably, Marist College’s MIMC curriculum offers courses centered on writing skills, contemporary media types, and audience research.