Online MBA in public relations programs prepare individuals to thrive in careers focused on maintaining a positive public image and improving relationships between organizations and communities. These degrees blend business, communication, and marketing competencies. Jobs in public relations are also likely to experience growth in the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for both business professionals and public relations specialists will experience employment growth between 2018 and 2028.
The top online MBA in public relations programs integrate business coursework with classes in promotion, digital communication, and media relations. Online MBA in public relations programs train businesspersons to shape the public image of their organization. A public relations MBA can also advance current advertising, promotions, and marketing professionals to senior positions in the field.
To find the right public relations MBA, learners should assess coursework, cost, and potential career opportunities. This guide details the top MBA in public relations programs.
Here are the 5 Best Online MBA Programs in Public Relations:
- Carnegie Mellon University - Pittsburgh, PA
- Webster University - Saint Louis, MO
- Western New England University - Springfield, MA
- Bellevue University - Bellevue, NE
- Fort Hays State University - Hays, KS
Top Online MBA Programs in Public Relations for 2020
|Rank||School||Location||Cost||Toggle||Logo||Tuition||% Receiving Financial Aid||Student Population||School Type||Description|
Carnegie Mellon University
|Location Pittsburgh , PA||Tuition $$$$$||% Receiving Financial Aid 60||Student Population 14,029||Tuition $136,000||School Type Private||
Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, CMU offers an MBA in public relations that students can complete online. However, this top online MBA program follows a hybrid format and includes some in-person requirements. Degree-seekers must attend a weekend meetup with professors and peers, and have six opportunities to do so every year.
CMU offers this program on a part-time basis, allowing students to continue working while earning their degree. Learners must attend live classes twice a week. Professors facilitate conversations in these sessions, making them interactive. Students can complete all other coursework online at their convenience. The public relations MBA focuses on how to maintain positive relationships with important stakeholders and the general public.
CMU awards up to $15,000 in financial aid per student. The school reports that 38% of students receive some sort of financial aid. CMU's MBA program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
|Location Saint Louis , MO||Tuition $$$$$||% Receiving Financial Aid 95||Student Population 11,406||Tuition $28,080||School Type Private||
Located outside St. Louis, Missouri, Webster provides students with an online MBA that covers topics in public relations. This private university offers an emphasis in digital marketing management that aligns with public relations principles. Learners learn how to communicate in primarily online settings.
Coursework in this top online MBA program covers management of digital marketing, marketing analytics, management of social media, and digital marketing strategy. The digital marketing emphasis consists of 39 credits, three credits more than the other options.
Core classes combine information from various disciplines to produce well-rounded graduates. Learners study finance subjects such as accounting and economics, production operations, and strategic management. This program requires a capstone that encourages students to apply their gained knowledge and skills to a real-life business scenario. Graduates finish the program with several valuable portfolio additions.
Currently, 65% of Webster's students receive some form of financial aid. Webster's Walker School of Business and Technology is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
Western New England University
|Location Springfield , MA||Tuition $$$$$||% Receiving Financial Aid 99||Student Population 3,780||Tuition $32,112||School Type Private||
In Springfield, Massachusetts, WNE offers an online MBA with a concentration in public relations. While this program runs entirely online, students participate in optional evening in-class sessions to interact with peers and professors. This private school requires GMAT scores for admission.
The public relations concentration focuses on how business professionals use communication tactics such as social media, press releases, and events to form a positive image on behalf of a business. Core classes cover topics that help learners become better leaders. Students learn how to develop effective communication skills, perfect financial management skills, and create business theories.
WNE self-advertises as one of the most affordable programs in New England. The school reports that 75% of its students receive some type of financial aid.
ConcentrationsView School Profile
|Location Bellevue , NE||Tuition $$$$$||% Receiving Financial Aid 89||Student Population 9,621||Tuition $21,060||School Type Private||
BU, a private, nonprofit institution in Nebraska, provides learners with an online MBA with a concentration in marketing, which is closely related to public relations. This program requires 36 credits and integrates applied learning with theory to produce well-informed graduates.
Core classes include business performance management, financial reporting and analysis, human capital and organizational performance, marketing and new media strategy, operations logistics, and strategy innovation. The marketing concentration requires classes such as internet marketing, global brand marketing, marketing research, and sales management.
Applicants do not need to submit GMAT scores. However, prospective students need a bachelor's or master's degree from a regionally accredited institution. BU accepts applicants with at least a 2.5 GPA in the most previous 60 credit hours gained.
Fort Hays State University
|Location Hays , KS||Tuition $$$$$||% Receiving Financial Aid 97||Student Population 15,523||Tuition $13,600||School Type Public||
Based in Hays, Kansas, FHSU offers an online MBA. Students who want to learn more about public relations can choose concentrations in corporate communication or digital marketing.
Core courses give students a broad understanding of business principles, while the concentrations offer specific knowledge. Core courses include marketing management, managerial economics, strategic management, organizational behavior in a global context, and advanced corporate finance.
Students who wish to work for large businesses can pursue the corporate communication concentration. This concentration focuses on how to encourage professional development for employees and create managerial reports. The digital marketing concentration focuses more on the external communication aspects of public relations classes. This concentration covers topics such as social media marketing and database marketing.
FHSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, with 41% of students receiving financial aid. Applicants must submit GMAT scores.
How We Rank Online MBA Programs
Want to know how we create our rankings? We assess schools based on academic quality, affordability, online flexibility, and student success.
Quality (30% of total score)
|A low student-to-faculty ratio, a wide breadth of specialized MBA programs, and a high retention rate of students returning after their first year are all indicators of a quality university.|
Affordability (10% of total score)
|The amount of financial aid offered factors into a school's net price; this, paired with a low loan default rate, indicates that students may find a school's tuition within their budget.|
Online Flexibility (20% of total score)
|Scores for online flexibility focus on schools that have a high percentage of fully online students, but consideration is also given to schools that enroll partially online students using hybrid programs.|
Student Success (40% of total score)
|Both strong hallmarks of student success, we look for programs with high graduation rates whose students go on to have higher-than-average median earnings.|
What Is an MBA in Public Relations?
MBA in public relations programs emphasize communication theories, tools, and techniques in business settings. By learning to effectively message and create a public image for an organization or business, public relations specialists increase profits, sales, and public perception.
The BLS reports advertising sales agents earned a median salary of $51,740 in 2018, while marketing research analysts took home a median pay of $63,120. Individuals with an MBA in business can advance to a managerial role in advertising or marketing. In 2018, advertising, promotions, and marketing managers earned a median salary of $132,620.
An MBA in public relations can prepare learners for careers in these roles or in other positions that require strong communication and messaging skills.
Why Should You Get an Online MBA in Public Relations?
Public relations MBAs build written, verbal, and digital communication skills. Through coursework in strategic writing, public relations theory, and messaging, students learn how to communicate on behalf of organizations and companies. MBA in public relations programs train learners to communicate during crises, manage an organization's reputation, and influence public opinion.
MBA in public relations programs prepare individuals to craft and shape perceptions of a brand, business, or organization. With a public relations MBA, students can evaluate the appropriateness of messaging, analyze trends and consumer data, and develop solutions to communication problems.
A public relations MBA can help graduates obtain leadership and managerial roles within an organization. Public relations managers work for entities across economic sectors, employing technology to craft messaging for healthcare, educational, and manufacturing companies alike.
In 2018, top-paying industries for public relations and fundraising managers included pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, computer manufacturing, and software publishing. According to the BLS, higher education was the industry with the largest number of public relations and fundraising managers.
What Can You Do With an MBA in Public Relations?
- Public Relations Manager
Public relations managers oversee an organization or business's communications, advertising, and messaging. They prepare press releases, organize corporate events, and give interviews to media outlets. Public relations managers work closely with advertisers, marketers, and promotion professionals.
Public relations managers monitor social and consumer trends, adjusting messaging to shape an organization's image as needed. They also coordinate internal communication within an organization, sending out newsletters and updates for employees.
- Director of Communications
Communications directors work with executives, managers, and employees alike to create a positive image of an organization or company. They develop strategic plans for outreach, social media campaigns, and promotions. They also issue press releases, interact with journalists, and serve as an organization's spokesperson.
Directors of communications monitor the efficacy of existing communication practices. They monitor communication technology and trends, pushing their organization forward to remain competitive. Communications directors work in private and public sectors, earning an average salary of around $80,000, according to PayScale.
- Public Relations Director
Public relations directors possess extensive marketing, media, and managerial experience. Entry-level public relations directors earn average salaries of about $54,000, while their senior-level counterparts earn over $96,000 annually.
Public relations directors provide press releases and media guides to the public. They organize events and fundraisers to boost public image. For public relations directors, strong written and verbal communication skills, creativity, and interpersonal skills are critical.
- Communications Coordinator
Vital to an organization's marketing activities, communications coordinators facilitate healthy relations among employees, managers, and executives. They also work closely with marketing, promotions, and advertising colleagues to create and disseminate publications and organizational information.
Communications coordinators manage organizational and company events. They possess excellent communication and organizational skills. By engaging with clients, consumers, and employees alike, communications coordinators mitigate complaints and problems. They earn about $44,000 on average.
- Marketing Communications Manager
PayScale reports marketing communications managers earn an average salary over $65,000. As senior-level marketing professionals, marketing communications managers supervise marketing campaigns and advertising strategies. They may craft messaging on a specific brand, business, or organization for the general public.
Marketing communications managers review consumer data, economic and social trends, and industry updates to create effective marketing strategies. By monitoring competitors, marketing communications managers craft plans to stay atop their respective industry.
Online MBA in Public Relations Curriculum
Curricula in MBA programs vary. Core classes typically emphasize business fundamentals such as finance, accounting, and management. Public relations coursework provides specialized content to prepare students to engage with the media and consumers while fostering innovation, creativity, and communication skills.
Media relations coursework emphasizes strategic interaction with media outlets through written and verbal communication skills. Students explore messaging for corporate, noncorporate, and government entities.
Emerging Digital Media Technologies
Courses in emerging digital media technologies assess the design, use, and efficacy of digital media tools. Students explore cultural and social influences on media and technology while evaluating the ever-changing social media landscape.
Advanced Marketing Strategies
Advanced marketing strategies classes reinforce best practices in marketing while introducing learners to evaluation, strategic, and communication practices. Coursework explores the marketing process, training students to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities at every stage.
See More Top MBA Programs
How to Choose the Right Online MBA in Public Relations Program
When choosing an MBA in public relations, learners should consider coursework, cost, and degree outcomes. Unlike a master's degree in public relations or communications, an MBA in public relations combines business and communication coursework.
Traditional MBA degrees typically take two years to complete. An online MBA in public relations provides a flexible, convenient alternative to an on-campus program. Learners can work full time, completing coursework while meeting their personal and professional obligations.
An online degree benefits full- and part-time students alike. Full-time learners can take classes along an accelerated timeline, earning a degree in as few as 18 months, while part-time students complete a program over several years.
An online degree often provides a more affordable option for public relations MBA students. Many institutions offer the same tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state students, allowing learners to earn a degree as a nonresident with no additional cost. Online programs also eliminate room and board, commuting, and comparable expenses incurred by on-campus students.
Curricula for MBAs in public relations vary by institution. Learners should make sure potential programs offer coursework that facilitates their career growth. Potential students may also consider internship, project, and research components. Working professionals may have opportunities to complete some degree requirements at their current place of employment.
Scholarships for Public Relations MBA Programs
Online students earning an MBA in public relations can apply for financial aid available to all students. Studying public relations and business administration opens additional funding options for learners. Many professional organizations and private funders offer scholarships and fellowships to learners earning a degree in these fields.
Public Relations Student Society of America Scholarships
Who Can Apply: PRSSA offers several scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students earning a degree in public relations. Scholarships exist for leaders in the field and members of specific demographic and ethnic groups. Some scholarships recognize learners who have had excellent internship experiences.
Amount: VariesApply for Scholarship
Mary Elizabeth Lockwood Beneventi MBA Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Mary Elizabeth Lockwood Beneventi MBA Scholarship, sponsored by Daughters of the American Revolution, supports students earning a business administration degree. Learners must submit documentation of a minimum 3.25 GPA for consideration. Applicants can reapply annually.
Amount: $2,000Apply for Scholarship
National Black MBA Association Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Through partnerships with educational institutions around the world, NBMBAA offers scholarships to support the educational and career advancement of historically underrepresented students. Requirements vary by program, but applicants must hold membership in NBMBAA.
Amount: VariesApply for Scholarship
Makovsky Best Master's Thesis of the Year Award
Who Can Apply: The Institute for Public Relations gives the Makovsky Best Master's Thesis of the Year Award to a graduate student who demonstrates advanced research-based knowledge of the field through a formal thesis. Applicants submit their completed thesis and letter of endorsement from a faculty member for consideration.
Amount: $2,000Apply for Scholarship
Forté MBA Fellowships
Who Can Apply: The Forté Foundation offers financial assistance to women earning an MBA. Applicants to the Forté Fellows Program must attend a sponsored school, enroll full time, and demonstrate leadership in the field.
Amount: VariesApply for Scholarship
Professional Organizations for Public Relations
Professional organizations for public relations build networks within the field. Individuals benefit from membership by gaining access to continuing education programs, resource libraries, and collaboration opportunities. Public relations organizations also provide job boards, career guidance, and mentorship support to members.
- National School Public Relations Association NSPRA, founded in 1935, provides communication training and services to schools and educational organizations. Members of NSPRA receive weekly and monthly newsletters, access to the NSPRA directory, and strategic counsel consulting services. NSPRA also offers professional development programs, awards, and an annual seminar to support best practices, networking, and interactive learning.
- Institute for Public Relations IPR supports the use of research and research-based knowledge in public relations and corporate communication. The institute maintains award programs, events, and an online community. Public relations students and professionals can sign up for IPR's research newsletter; contribute to organizational publications; and participate in bootcamps, symposia, and webinars.
- Public Relations Society of America With more than 30,000 student and professional members, PRSA serves the communications community through professional development, career building, and award programs. Members of PRSA also receive access to monthly webinars, event discounts, and access to PRSA awards competitions.
- International Association of Business Communicators IABC serves business communication professionals through educational programs, certifications, and an online resource library. IABC's mission is to unify the collective disciplines of business communication through best practices, innovation, and in-depth learning.
- International Public Relations Association Established in 1955, IPRA unites public relations professionals from around the world. IPRA offers code of conduct resources, training programs, events and conferences, and awards to advance communication and ethical practice in the discipline.