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How Do I Choose the Best Public Relations Master's Degree Programs?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell

Time is one of the most important parts of choosing public relations master’s degree programs: time to sort out your goals, time to research the strengths and weaknesses of programs, and time to talk to career insiders about the sort of education and credentials required to enter the field. There are many different public relations master’s degree programs offered at universities all over the world. Determining which will be best for you is usually much harder than simply finding a program that is well-ranked and respected. Coming up with a plan and approaching the search with intentionality is often the best way to keep yourself and your individual needs at the center of the search.

Public relations (PR) is a wide career area that is in demand in most business settings. Positions exist in nearly every public-facing organization, from health care providers to schools and major corporations. Deciding where you want to work is not usually required or even always recommended at the outset. Many students only discover their ideal employer once they are in school or participating in field-based internships. Having your general PR strategy in mind at the school selection phase is often important, however.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Although most PR reps do similar work no matter their organization, there are several main branches, or focuses, within the career. Some PR representatives are strategic and join corporate teams with the idea of boosting a certain brand, image, or impression. Others work on crisis control, helping to stymie media coverage of employee fall-outs or executive mishaps. Most work on general image management, be it for corporations, organizations, or even individuals. Passion for any one of these paths can of course be discerned in school, though having some sense of your broader aims will help you choose a degree program that will best equip you to do the sort of work you want.

Begin by identifying a number of public relations master's degree programs in your area of interest. You can usually find out about a school's main focus areas through published literature or by calling an admissions representative. Really understanding whether public relations master’s degree programs will be right for you often requires a bit more digging, however.

It is usually a good idea to look into not just what public relations master's degree programs say about themselves, but also what others are saying about them. Look into where a school’s graduates are working, as this can shed some light on the general market worth of the public relations diploma. If you can, talk to PR executives in your area to feel out their impressions of a certain school.

Scheduling a campus visit is also a good way to get a feel for public relations education. Most admissions departments will arrange visits, and may even permit you to sit in on classes or talk to enrolled students about their experiences. Campus visits cannot usually be arranged for public relations online degree programs, of course, but this does not mean that online schools cannot be personally assessed. You can usually request guest access to user portals, request a tour of web modules, and ask to be put in touch with current students, even if just over e-mail.

Choosing the right school is often one of the hardest parts of getting a public relations degree. Like most things, though, it gets easier with planning. Taking the time to make intentional, reasoned choices will serve you well for years to come.

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