Public Relations Degree

By Henry R. Steele - May 1, 2017
Reading Time: 7 minutes

In order for an organization to survive, regardless of its size or industry, it has to have a good reputation. This is something that companies have little control of, as it depends on the opinions of regulators, journalists, investors, employees, suppliers, and customers. The only thing a company can do is try to get those stakeholders to develop a positive opinion about the organization, which is done through public relations (PR).

A company’s reputation is said to be its greatest asset in today’s competitive world. It is this that gives companies their competitive edge. Through effective PR, companies can develop excellent communication channels and build the necessary relationships with their stakeholders. Essentially, PR looks after a company’s reputation, influencing behavior and opinion through sustained and planned efforts.

Public relations, as a discipline, therefore encompasses a huge variety of different things. This includes marketing and sales, and also advertising. It is a discipline that focuses mainly on communications, however.

Opportunity

A public relations career is much in demand because companies and organizations will always require such services to ensure that they maintain a positive image. Thus, those who have excellent communication and convincing skills are sought after. For instance, marketing companies and advertising agencies are always looking for PR specialists because those who have such skills are quite rare.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), public relations specialists earned an average of $58,020 per year as of May 2016 at bachelor’s degree level. They have also projected that from 2014 to 2024, there will be a 6% increase in demand for these professionals. This will translate into 14,900 new jobs.

Career Paths

According to the BLS, the average annual salary for a public relations specialist in May 2016 was $58,020. The bottom 10% earned $32,090 per year or less, while the top 10% earned $110,560 or more. The BLS has also reported on where these professionals work and their average earnings. Those in:

  • Professional, scientific, and technical services, earned an average annual salary of $61,090. 21% of public relations specialists work in this industry.
  • Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations, earned an average annual salary of $56,540. 22% of public relations specialists work in this industry.
  • State and local government, excluding education and hospitals, earned an average annual salary of $56,360. 7% of public relations specialists work in this industry.
  • Educational services; state, local, and private, earned an average annual salary of $53,840. 12% of public relations specialists work in this industry.
  • Healthcare and social assistance, earned an average annual salary of $51,620. 7% of public relations specialists work in this industry.

Payscale.com has reported on common positions for public relations specialists at bachelor’s degree level, and their associated salaries. This showed that:

  • Assistant Account Executives earned an average annual salary of $34,817.
  • Marketing Assistants earned an average annual salary of $30,000.
  • Marketing Coordinators earned an average annual salary of $30,000.
  • Public Relations (PR) Specialists earned an average annual salary of $49,805.
  • Account Supervisors earned an average annual salary of $69,000.
  • Communications Managers earned an average annual salary of $52,500.
  • Communications Directors earned an average annual salary of $86,000.

Salaries

Geographical location is a determining factor on how much someone can earn in public relations. It should be noted, however, that areas with relatively high salaries also often have a higher costs of living.

According to the BLS, the top five states for public relations specialists to work in are:

  • The District of Columbia, with average annual earnings of $95,750.
  • California, with average annual earnings of $77,870.
  • Virginia, with average annual earnings of $76,110.
  • Rhode Island, with average annual earnings of $75,170.
  • Washington, with average annual earnings of $71,410.

Meanwhile, Payscale.com found that those in:

  • New York, New York, earned an average annual salary of $40,000.
  • Dallas, Texas, earned an average annual salary of $48,187.
  • Chicago, Illinois, earned an average annual salary of $52,107.
  • Houston, Texas, earned an average annual salary of $32,750.
  • San Francisco, California, earned an average annual salary of $68,000.
  • Indianapolis, Indiana, earned an average annual salary of $40,000.
  • Redmond, Washington, earned an average annual salary of $52,500.

Employers

What is perhaps of greater importance than geographical location with regards to salary for those in the field of public relations is the company that someone works for.

Indeed.com has released a report on common employers for public relations specialists and their associated salaries. This showed that:

  • CHASE Professionals paid an average salary of $112,886 per year.
  • AMD paid an average salary of $102,813 per year.
  • Access Staffing LLC paid an average salary of $91,238 per year.
  • Bay Shore Staffing paid an average salary of $96,798 per year.
  • CyberCoders paid an average salary of $92,296 per year.
  • JBCStyle paid an average salary of $87,484 per year.
  • The Royak Group Inc. paid an average salary of $83,102 per year.
  • Robert Half Finance & Accounting paid an average salary of $74,941 per year.
  • Robert Half The Creative Group paid an average salary of $78,834 per year.
  • Planet Interactive paid an average salary of $93,295 per year.

Bachelor’s Degree

In order to gain a lucrative career in the field of public relations, you will certainly need a good education. This starts with a bachelor’s degree. Fortunately, many colleges and universities now offer degree programs that can be accessed online, even though on campus studies continue to be popular and are still available. One example of a bachelor’s degree in public relations is offered by the University of Florida, which is available online. The curriculum for this degree includes:

  • Persuasive and strategic communication
  • Writing
  • Research
  • Strategy
  • Mass communication law
  • Visual communication
  • Anticipating, analyzing, and interpreting public opinion
  • Counseling management
  • Developing programs for public understanding
  • Planning and implementing efforts to change public policy

Interestingly, the curriculum of this particular degree is known to be one of the most in-depth in the country. It focuses on both conceptual and skills courses. This has made it one of the highest ranked courses in the country, winning various important competitions, including the in the Public Relations Student Society of America’s (PRSSA) Bateman Case Study Competition.

Master’s Degree

To really advance your career, however, you it is advisable to get a master’s degree in public relations. This will give you the opportunity to gain advanced skills and knowledge, and set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd in public relations. As with bachelor’s degrees, many master’s programs are now also offered online, which makes it easier than ever to complete a degree without having to completely stop working. This is vital for graduate degrees because most students will likely be employed and they would prefer not to go on leave just to finish their master’s degree.

An excellent example of a master’s degree in public relations is offered by Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

Admission Requirements

Each school is entitled to set its own admission requirements. However, they are usually quite similar across the board due to the fact that these requirements are designed to demonstrate whether or not someone has the academic capacity to complete a program at graduate degree level. For instance, the admissions requirements for Michigan State University are:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • All official transcripts
  • TOEFL/IELTS for non-native English speakers
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Academic statement of goals
  • A resume
  • Financial proof for international students.

Curriculum

Just like with the admission requirements, schools are allowed to set their curriculum as they see fit. This is why it is very important to study with an accredited university as this guarantees prospective employers that your degree included courses that meet the minimum requirements for the profession.

The curriculum offered for the Master of Arts in Public Relations at Michigan State University includes:

  • Public Relations Management
  • Public Relations Theories
  • Media Relations
  • Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods
  • Marketing Management
  • Master’s Thesis Research
  • Consumer Behavior Theories
  • Seminar in Social Marketing
  • Media Innovations
  • Strategic Brand Communication
  • Media Strategy
  • Advertising and Society
  • Internship
  • Consumer Behavior Theories
  • Media Innovations
  • Strategic Brand Communication

Financial Assistance

Completing an education, especially the master’s degree, is very expensive. Firstly, you have to invest a substantial amount of time. While this can be mitigated to a certain degree by studying online, the amount of time needed will still be quite substantial. The second major investment is a financial one. The university of your choosing will be able to signpost you to financial aid, and they may also have scholarships and grants available that you can apply for. At the same time, there are a number of external scholarships that you may want to consider. These include the:

  • Aziz Jamaluddin Scholarship, to the value of $4,000.
  • AAAS Minority Science Writers Internship, with varying values.
  • ABA Academic Merit Scholarship, to the value of $2,500.
  • ACF American Advertising Federation-NM Scholarship, with varying values.
  • Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference, to the value of $1,000.
  • ALBA George Watt Memorial Essay Contest, to the value of $250.
  • American Copy Editors Society Scholarship, to the value of $2,500.
  • AQHA Journalism or Communications Scholarship, to the value of $32,000.
  • Ashbrook Scholar Program, with varying values.
  • Augustana College Fryxell Scholarship to the value of $1,000.
  • Austin Alliance for Women in Media Scholarship, to the value of $5,000.

Generally speaking, obtaining a scholarship means that you have to meet certain requirements. These include studying at a certain school, taking on a certain concentration, aiming to work in a certain field, demonstrating financial need, having a minimum GPA, belonging to a certain minority group, being a member of a professional organization, or being of a certain gender.

Certifications

A certification is not really a requirement in the field of public relations, but it is recommended. Through certification, you demonstrate that you are committed to your own professional development, and to the advancement of the field in general. That said, completing certification does require a further investment of time and money, and you often have to maintain certification through continuous education credits. Nevertheless, this is a very worthy investment because new careers become possible. Some certifications that you may want to consider in the field of public relations include the:

  • Public Relations Certification
  • Accreditation in Public Relations
  • Certified Public Relations Professional

Associations

It is recommended that you become a member of relevant professional organizations as soon as you decide to study towards a public relations degree, even at the bachelor’s degree level. This is because professional associations and organizations often offer scholarships and grants that you could then become eligible for. However, more importantly, by being a member of associations, you will always be at the forefront of new developments within your field, ensuring your skills are always up to date. Additionally, you may be able to complete certifications and continuous education credits. And perhaps the greatest benefit of being a member of a professional association or organization is the fact that you can build a professional network that will serve to further your career.

Some of the associations in the field of public relations you may want to consider becoming a member of are the:

  • International Public Relations Association (IPRA)
  • Public Relations and Communications Association
  • Public Relations Society of America
  • African Public Relations Association
  • Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA)

References

Henry R. Steele
Henry R. Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of BusinessStudent.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.Follow on Twitter.com

As Seen On

BusinessStudent.com provides students of business with the opportunities to get ahead in their career.

“It doesn't matter how many times you have failed, you only have to be right once.” - Mark Cuban