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.

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

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%

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.
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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If you’ve decided that an MBA in public relations is right for you, then it is time to start narrowing down the list of schools you are interested in. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you through this process.

  • Search for schools in your area

    Even though you are looking for online programs, it’s always helpful to choose a school that is within a 100 mile radius of your home. Online students often report that they enjoy the ability to visit campus if the need arises. In addition, schools often partner with local businesses, meaning a school in your area will have a better chance of helping you find a job close to home.

  • Compare student outcomes data

    Many schools will readily provide this information on their website; however, if you can’t find it, be sure to contact the school and ask for it. This data should include graduation rates, employment rates, and compensation levels of recent graduates. When compared side-by-side, this information can provide a snapshot of program quality.

  • Estimate the expected costs of your programs

    Prospective students often underestimate the total cost of their program. Make sure you calculate the total number of credit hours you will need to graduate, and multiply that by cost per credit hour. Do not forget to include the cost of supplies, internet, and time you will spend not earning an income. Additionally, compare financial aid options, different schools may offer better financial aid packages and/or scholarships that can offset the cost of education.

  • Check that classes will fit in with your schedule

    One of the central benefits of online education is flexibility. However, some programs require set meeting times, synchronous workshops, and mandatory campus visits. Be sure that you are aware of all time commitments and be sure that they will fit into your current schedule.

  • Look for partnerships with local businesses

    The main objective of getting your MBA in public relations is to find a job with a healthy salary in a field you enjoy. Attending a school that is well connected with local businesses can provide an advantage. Many of these partners will offer internships to students that can lead to full-time employment or provide the network and experience you need to get a job elsewhere.

  • Make sure the program is accredited

    Accreditation is the formal review process that ensures a school is offering a reputable program adhering to minimum academic standards. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business is the national agency that accredits for undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs in business and accounting. By checking a program’s status with the AACSB you can be confident you are receiving a recognized, quality degree. Employers generally will not hire candidates who possess a degree from a school that is not accredited, and schools will not accept academic credentials from an unaccredited program.

  • Talk to current students and/or recent alumni

    One of the best resources when it comes to making a final decision on an online MBA in public relations program is actual students and graduates. They can give you an unbiased, real-world take on how the program has served them, what they have liked, and what they have disliked. Ask an admissions counselor to put you in touch with a current student or recent alumni. Alternatively, use LinkedIn or Facebook to find and reach out to people.

Search Programs by Concentration

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.

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.