What is an MBA in Public Relations?

Advancements in technology and the rise of social media have changed the way companies approach public relations. Boasting a job growth rate of 6%, this competitive field demands skilled candidates who stand out from the crowd. Earning your master’s online is an affordable way to set yourself apart. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a guide of the best online schools for public relations.

Getting a public relations MBA online is a convenient way to increase your earning power.

Why Should you get an Online MBA in Public Relations?

Company policy, location, and professional experience are all factors that influence wages, but few variables impact earnings as strongly as education. As the table below demonstrates, higher education is correlated with higher salaries; even among entry level employees. Getting a public relations MBA online is a convenient way to increase your earning power.

Comparison of Public Relations Master's Degrees

There are several degrees that appear similar to an online MBA with a public relations concentration. While these programs address many of the same concepts, they have different focuses and outcomes. The table below shows how two related degrees measure up to an online MBA in public relations.

Degree Description Average Salary* Length
Master’s of Arts in Public Relations (MAPR) Rooted in the social sciences, this degree emphasizes the psychological and sociological elements in public relations while downplaying business theory. This program is ideal for those who want to take a multidisciplinary approach to public relations instead of examining the field from a business perspective. $45,365 1 Year
Master’s in Integrated Marketing and Communications Students earning a master’s in integrated marketing and communications examine branding strategies through the lens of several disciplines and multiple media platforms. Coursework stresses innovation and often includes numerous hands-on activities and projects. Graduates frequently pursue careers in advertising, direct and digital marketing, and product design. $35,000 2 Years
Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) in Public Relations A traditional or online MBA in public relations curriculum combines practical business skills and theory with the science of communication to give graduates a versatile skill set they can utilize in a range of professions. Students learn to synthesize business strategies and concepts in communications to develop effective public relations strategies. $52,421 1 to 2 Years

Online MBA in Public Relations Curriculum

Every program offers different courses and concentrations, but some concepts are considered integral to any public relations curriculum. Most students getting their MBA in public relations online will encounter some variation of one of these classes throughout the course of their studies:

Course Competencies Developed Occupational Skill Level
Corporate Communications Develop effective methods of communication between organizations and target demographics TITLE: Public Relations Manager
SALARY: growth of 15%
Media Relations Positively represent individuals and organizations through a variety of media platforms TITLE: Vice President, Public Relations
SALARY: growth of 3%
Strategic Planning Create and implement marketing strategies according to available resources TITLE: Director of Communications
SALARY: growth of 10%

What Can You Do With an Online MBA in Public Relations?

Graduates who have earned a public relations MBA online find employment in a variety of rewarding professions. Some of the most popular include:

Public Relations Manager Median Salary: $61,761
  • Companies
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Marketing firms
Public relations managers develop a positive public image of an organization or company through a variety of mediums. They create awareness campaigns, manage social media, and design media kits.
Director of Communications Median Salary: $73,031
  • Companies
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Government agencies
Often the primary point of contact for media inquiries, a director of communications must maintain an organization’s positive image in all situations. These spokespeople also monitor publicity regarding their organization and respond accordingly.
Public Relations Director Median Salary: $82,415
  • Corporations
  • Law firms
  • Universities
  • Healthcare facilities
A public relations director is tasked with the development of branding initiatives, creating press kits, and releases and promoting a positive view of their organization. Many oversee other staff members.

Schools Offering an Online MBA in Public Relations

Rank School Location Cost Toggle Logo Tuition % Receiving Financial Aid Student Population School Type Description

Concordia University - Wisconsin

Location Mequon, WI Tuition Tuition $27,261 % Receiving Financial Aid 67% Student Population 8,268 School Type Private

Founded in 1881 in Mequon, Wisconsin, CUW offers a Christian education in the Lutheran tradition. Concordia's MBA in communication and public relations online comprises 39 credits of coursework geared toward working professionals. Students complete 13 eight-week courses, including a capstone in strategic management.

Learners can choose synchronous or asynchronous coursework and select from several flexible start dates throughout the year. Concordia accepts up to six credits of previous graduate coursework for transfer toward the MBA in communication and public relations. Most students complete the program in less than two years.

Requirements for applicants include a minimum GPA of 3.0 and two letters of recommendation. Applicants with appropriate professional experience may receive a waiver of prerequisites. CUW also offers a 15-credit graduate certificate in public relations.


Concentrations

Liberty University

Location Lynchburg, VA Tuition Tuition $20,340 % Receiving Financial Aid 66% Student Population 80,494 School Type Private

Established in 1971 in eastern Virginia, Liberty provides an evangelical Christian liberal arts education. The school offers an online MBA in communication and public relations requiring 45 credit hours. With all coursework delivered online, most students take two years to complete the degree. Students study human resource management, media technologies, and strategic digital communications while developing a strong foundation in leadership skills and principles of finance.

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree with a cumulative 3.0 or higher GPA. Up to 50% of the required credits for Liberty’s may be transferred from previous graduate coursework. The online MBA public relations program is accredited by the Accreditation Council of Business Schools and Programs.


Concentrations

Olivet Nazarene University

Location Bourbonnais, IL Tuition Tuition $24,400 % Receiving Financial Aid 72% Student Population 4,892 School Type Private

A Christian liberal arts institution founded in 1907 in the Wesleyan tradition, Olivet offers an accelerated online MBA in public relations. Designed for working professionals, the program has seven start dates throughout the academic year and requires 36 credit hours, including a nine-credit concentration in corporate communications and media strategy. Students may elect to complete the program in 18 or 24 months.

Learners participate in hands-on application of professional tools to solve real-world public relations issues. Course topics include communications research and writing for internal and external audiences. The program accepts applicants with a 2.5 or higher cumulative undergraduate GPA. Olivet does not require GMAT or GRE scores for admission.


Concentrations

Virginia International University

Location Fairfax, VA Tuition Tuition $18,288 % Receiving Financial Aid - Student Population 895 School Type Private

Established in 1998 as a nonprofit institution in Fairfax, Virginia, VIU offers an MBA in mass media and public relations online with a strong global focus. The program comprises 12 courses and 36 credits; students complete nine credits for the mass media and public relations concentration.

Distance learners select three classes for the concentration according to their interests and goals. Options include international journalism, U.S. press history, new media technology, and small group communications. Students also complete an advanced final project addressing business problems in Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia companies. Application requirements include a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Virginia International does not require GRE scores for admission to their MBA in communication and public relations online, but prerequisite courses may be required for students without a business background.


Concentrations

How to Choose an Online MBA in Public Relations Program

Choosing an online master of business administration (MBA) in communication and public relations is a significant step in learners taking their educations to the next level, but this decision requires careful attention. In addition to the unique, individual needs they may have for a program, students should also remember to consider some of the factors outlined below.

  • Search for Schools in Your Area

    When students begin their search for an MBA in communication and public relations online, location may not immediately factor into their decision-making process. Attending a nearby school offers benefits, even if you do not need to visit campus for classes. In addition to name recognition for local employers, degree seekers can also attend networking events, meet with recruiters, visit campus to take advantage of available resources, and stay plugged into the local alumni community.

  • Ensure the School's Admission Requirements Match Your Expectations

    Online MBAs in public relations have expanded significantly in the last decade, so students have more choices than ever before. When reviewing potential degrees, make sure to read admission requirements carefully. If the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores seem far lower or higher than yours, the program might not make for a great fit. Similarly, if the previous school and work experience requirements remain out of line with your own experiences, perhaps you should continue exploring elsewhere.

  • Compare Student Outcomes Data

    Outside of national rankings against other notable schools, student outcomes data represents one of the most important components available to a learner deciding on an institution to attend. By observing factors such as graduation and employment rates, average starting salaries, and the ways recent graduates use their degrees in the real world, prospective degree seekers get a better sense of how well the university prepares learners for success. If not shared online, ask an admission professional to send you data from the three most recent years available.

  • Estimate the Expected Costs of Your Program

    More so than even other master's programs, online MBA in communication and public relations degrees cost a significant amount to complete, due to students' average starting salaries. In addition to big-ticket items such as tuition and course fees, degree seekers must also factor in several other expenses to comprehend a true sense of how much they will spend on the degree. These costs include textbooks, course materials, housing and utilities, transportation, various types of insurance, and healthcare.

  • Check That Classes Will Fit Your Schedule

    Many distance learners pursuing an MBA in communication and public relations online will often elect to continue working part time while in school to help offset costs and maintain professional relationships. For readers planning to do the same, make sure the institution you select offers asynchronous learning options. Schools only providing synchronous courses will require learners to log in at specific times to participate in live lectures and discussions.

  • Look for Partnerships With Local Public Relations Firms

    Since many online MBA in public relations programs call for students to partner with local firms to complete class assignments, learners receive an opportunity to build meaningful professional contacts. Rather than treating this encounter simply as an assignment, forward-focused students should explore networking opportunities within the firm and seek out ways of staying in touch that could lead to a job offer after graduating.

  • Make Sure the Program Maintains Accreditation

    In the midst of surveying admission requirements, calculating the true cost of getting a degree, and considering the importance of location, some learners may forget to focus their attention on accreditation. Learners should not overlook this critical component, as those attending unaccredited schools may struggle to transfer credits, compete for jobs, and experience difficulty receiving certification or licensure. In addition to ensuring the school holds regional accreditation, look for online MBAs in communication and public relations that maintain certification by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

  • Talk to Current Students and Recent Alumni

    While marketing materials, rankings, and student outcome data can paint a certain picture of your desired institution, one of the best ways to receive insider knowledge is to talk with a current student or recent alumni about their experiences. Most schools provide a list of students willing to talk with prospective degree seekers. If not, consider searching on LinkedIn or ask friends, family, and colleagues if they know of anyone who attended the school and enrolled in an MBA in communication and public relations online program.

What Certifications and Licenses are Needed for a Career in Public Relations?

Certain careers in the field of public relations require or encourage additional licensure. While most online master’s in public relations programs don’t include these certification exams, course materials can help you prepare for them. Below are two optional certifications that would enhance the resume of any recent grad.

Liscense Description
Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) Accreditation demonstrates a commitment to professional development, competence, and ethical action in the field of public relations.
Certificate in PAC and Grassroots Management Intended for those seeking careers or already working in the political sector, this certificate is awarded to applicants who complete 25 combined credit hours of coursework and community engagement.

Resources for MBA in Public Relations Students

Scholarships

Many schools and organizations offer generous scholarships to students earning a public relations master’s degree online. Depending on your personal, financial, and academic history, you may be eligible to apply for one or more scholarships. Awarded sums range from $1,000 to $30,000. The following scholarships are just a few examples of awards available for graduate students in the public relations field.

Other Online MBA Programs That May Interest You