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Best Online Bachelors in Public Relations Degree Programs

Explore online public relations bachelor's degree programs, including common coursework. Also, learn about the top programs, how to afford your public relations degree, and what types of careers you will be prepared for.

Best Online Public Relations Bachelor's Degree Programs

To determine our list of the top programs of this type, we took into consideration program flexibility, affordability, and other unique program features.

1. Washington State University

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Pullman, WA $11,584 90%

Washington State University offers an online 120-credit Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communication degree program that is housed within the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, named after the broadcasting legend who studied here. This program features a unique, broad-based curriculum that includes the study of public relations management, media strategies, and advertising practices. Along with flexible coursework that can be completed on the student's own schedule, this program also requires an internship where students work on a real-world communications problem. Students also benefit from working with faculty who have won awards for their professional work and teaching.

2. University of Memphis

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Memphis, TN $9,317 98%

The University of Memphis' online Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations degree program has the distinction of not only being accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) but also being endorsed with a Certification in Education from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSSA). The curriculum is well-rounded, with classes on marketing, public relations writing and campaigns, and social media. This online program also has a recommended (but not required) internship course where students can gain important real-world work experience. The University of Memphis' charges all online students the same tuition, which comes in at $463 per credit for undergraduate programs, a rate that's guaranteed for 8 semesters.

3. Florida International University

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Miami, FL $6,546 89%

At Florida International University, students can earn an online Bachelor of Science in Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communication degree that features courses in global media, strategic branding, and digital editing as well as specialization courses in social media or journalism. Additionally, students are required to complete 12 credit hours in a concentration outside of the degree major, which could be in marketing, hospitality, psychology, or information technology (among others), so that they can further expand their chosen area of expertise. This program provides students with a personal success coach, and all classes feature interactive elements that allow students to connect with their professors and peers. Tuition for in-state undergrads here runs just $228 a credit.

4. Oral Roberts University

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Tulsa, OK $27,728 90%

Oral Roberts University offers an online Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Communications program that prepares students for public relations careers by developing their speaking, written, and media skills with courses on public speaking, intercultural communication, and interpersonal communication. Oral Roberts University pairs each online student with a success coach who guides them through their entire degree program. Flexible classes, which can be accessed through the web or a mobile device, allow students to balance all their life, work, and school commitments. Oral Roberts University has received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

5. University of Florida-Online

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Gainesville, FL $3,876 88%

The University of Florida-Online has a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations degree program that requires 124 credits and can be completed 100% online. This program features unique coursework that covers public relations writing, research, and strategy. Courses also develop students' practical skills through the study of public relations campaigns and media analytics. The University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, which houses the public relations degree, boasts the most wins of any university in the country when it comes to the prestigious Public Relations Student Society of America's (PRSSA) Bateman Case Study Competition. This online program also has an affordable rate of only $129.18 per credit for online resident students and $552.62 for online non-resident students, which includes fees.

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Overview of Online Public Relations Bachelor's Programs

Public relations degree programs usually include the study of a broad range of topics that incorporate media studies, journalism, advertising, and communication. Typically, public relations programs at the undergraduate level lead to either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations degree. However, other degree types, such as a bachelor's degree in communication studies, can offer a concentration in public relations or can have a similar focus as public relations degrees.

Online programs of these types require around 120 credits of public relations-focused coursework along with general education coursework in the social sciences, the natural sciences, math, the humanities, and writing. Some programs, while not offering strict concentration areas, allow students to specialize in one area of public relations, such as social media, advertising, or journalism.

Generally, public relations bachelor's degrees can be completed 100% online. However, some programs may require or make optional a real-world internship that provides students with professional experience.

Length of Online Public Relations Bachelor's Programs

With about 120 credits required, students can usually earn their public relations bachelor's degree in 4 years, if they are attending full-time. Choosing a part-time class load means it will likely take more than 4 years to complete your program. Additionally, some programs feature an accelerated semester format, which means it may be possible to earn your degree in fewer than 4 years. Also, taking summer classes or extra classes during the regular semester can shorten the time it takes to earn your public relations degree.

Common Courses in Online Public Relations Bachelor's Programs

Public relations bachelor's programs include the study of communications, marketing, journalism, and public relations theories, methods, and skills. Although exact coursework varies by university, below are some common topics and courses that you'll likely study in your program.

A class on media and/or communications law covers important legal topics and principles that affect the media and mass communications field. Students study such subjects like slander, libel, copyright law, and privacy.

Public relations writing is a course that focuses on developing a student's professional and persuasive writing skills, including how to plan and produce public relations content for new and print media and how to write for specific audiences.

Classes on reporting center on the journalistic techniques and methods students need for reporting and writing news stories for online and print platforms. Students learn elements of writing craft, such as descriptive writing, clarity, story endings, and accuracy.

Public relations campaigns is a class that explores the different techniques and skills needed to create and develop a public relations strategy and/or campaign. These classes often look at the benefits and potential dangers of PR campaigns in society.

A course on advertising usually introduces students to fundamental topics in the field, such as promotional strategies and planning, brand development, and media coordination.

Accreditation for Online Public Relations Programs

There are two types of accreditation that are important for online public relations bachelor's degree programs: school accreditation and program accreditation.

School Accreditation

First, school accreditation is important because it means your college or university has met high, independent standards in terms of academics and resources. You'll want to make sure your school has received regional accreditation by an organization that has been approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). These approved accrediting organizations include the:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

Program Accreditation

You can also look for public relations programs to be accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC), which accredits journalism and mass communications programs at the bachelor's and master's level. Programs that are ACEJMC-accredited have met standards that measure curriculum, faculty credentials, diversity, and program resources.

Additionally, public relations programs can earn the Certification in Education for Public Relations from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSSA). This credential is given to programs that meet standards related to professional affiliations, curriculum, faculty, resources, and assessment methods.

Scholarships & Financial Aid for Public Relations Bachelor's Degrees

As an undergraduate student, you can receive financial aid from the federal government and receive scholarships from a range of sources.

Federal Aid

Your very first step when researching your financial aid options is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from the US Department of Education. This application informs you about the types and amount of aid you qualify for, and as an undergraduate student, you may be able to access the following:

  • Pell Grants, which are need-based grants that you don't need to pay back.
  • Direct Subsidized Loans, which are need-based loans that you must pay back.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans, which are non-need-based loans that you must pay back.

Also offered is the Work-Study Program, which allows you to work part-time, on- or off-campus, and earn a paycheck that can help you offset any educational expenses.

Scholarships

There are also a number of scholarships available to undergraduate students who are earning a public relations or related degree or who have the goal of pursuing a public relations career. These scholarships come from private or non-profit organizations and are based on different criteria, such as heritage, financial need, or commitment to the public relations field.

Axia Public Relations Scholarship

This is a $2,000 award from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for a college junior or senior student with financial need who wants to pursue a public relations career and is currently earning a public relations degree. To apply, you must have some public relations work or internship experience.

PRSA Diversity Multicultural Scholarship

Also from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), this scholarship awards 2 students a $1,500 scholarship each. To apply, you must have a 3.0 GPA, be of African-American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, Native American, Alaskan Native or Pacific Islander ancestry and be a full-time undergraduate student who is pursuing a public relations minor or major (or a communications-related degree).

Betsy Plank/PRSSA Scholarship

From the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), this scholarship grants 1 student a $5,000 award, 1 student a $1,500 award, and 1 student a $1,000 award. To apply, a student must submit a statement speaking to their dedication to public relations, a letter of recommendation, and other materials. You must also demonstrate academic achievement and have practical experience.

TLF Scholarship Program

This program awards 50 scholarships, 30 of which are $2,500 awards for ethnic minority undergraduate students. This program also grants recipients a trip to New York City where they participate in networking activities. To apply, you must be enrolled at a 4-year, accredited university and must be pursuing a degree in public relations or a related field.

It's also a good idea to check with your public relations program or your university's financial aid department about scholarships that you may qualify for. Some universities even offer scholarships specifically for online students. For example, Washington State University offers the ASWSU Global Scholarship, a $ 1,000-a-semester award that goes to new or continuing students who are earning an online degree at the university.

Job Options with Public Relations Bachelor's Degree

Graduates with a degree in public relations are able to pursue careers in the fields of business, non-profit, and government. Below, you can explore career and salary information for public relations specialists, social media specialists, and fundraisers, all of which are positions that require a bachelor's degree in public relations or a related field.

Public Relations Specialist

A public relations specialist, also known as a communications specialist, is someone who manages the public image of their organization or employer. Their job responsibilities include:

  • Writing press releases, speeches, and other media materials
  • Interacting with the media
  • Monitoring media channels
  • Working on promotional or advertising campaigns

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2018, public relations specialists earned a median salary of $60,000, and a 6% increase in the number of jobs is expected from 2018-2028.

Social Media Specialist

Social media specialists are responsible for managing the social media accounts and platforms of their employer. Their job duties include:

  • Creating and sharing content, such as videos or text
  • Interacting with the public through social media platforms
  • Working with marketing consultants or other professionals on campaigns or messaging
  • Tracking social media engagement and analytics

For salary and job outlook purposes, the BLS groups social media specialist with public relations specialists, and those working as media and communication workers made a median salary of $57,530 in 2018 and are expected to experience job growth of 4% between 2018-2028.

The website Payscale.com offers self-reported salaries specifically for social media specialists: entry-level professionals in the field made an average salary of $38,408 as of 2020.

Fundraiser

Fundraisers are primarily concerned with raising funds and seeking donations for their organizations. To do so, they must:

  • Find and create relationships with donors
  • Manage online fundraising campaigns
  • Plan fundraising events
  • Track and keeps records of donations

As per the BLS's 2018 numbers, fundraisers had a median salary of $56,950 and have a job outlook of 9% from 2018-2028.

Professional Public Relations Organizations

Public relations organizations are dedicated to advocating for the profession and supporting professionals and students. Joining one of these organizations can help you advance your career by granting you access to exclusive opportunities and resources.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)

PRSA has been working on behalf of public relations professionals for over 70 years. As a paid PRSA member, you can access discounts on educational programs, can attend the PRSA conference, can receive an exclusive newsletter, and can get discounts at major retailers.

The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA)

PRSSA is a student organization that consists of over 9,000 students and advisers and operates chapters all over the world. By joining PRSSA, you are able to take advantage of scholarship and networking opportunities, events and conferences, and educational resources.