Communication and public relations specialists play a vital role in shaping public opinion and behavior. Businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies all rely on people skilled in the arts of oral and written communication for their success and well-being.
Communication and Public Relations Job Prospects
With the emergence of multiple new media platforms (e.g. web sites, social networks, mobile applications) and a more global and interconnected marketplace, the demand for tech savvy communication and public relations specialists is growing. This now makes an excellent time to consider a degree in communications and public relations. According to a 2010-2011 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment of public relations specialists is expected to grow 24 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations.” According to the same report, in 2008, the median annual wages for salaried public relations specialists were $51,280, with the middle 50 percent earning between $38,400 and $71,670 (the lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,140, and the top 10 percent earned more than $97,910).
Opportunities for Communication and Public Relations Bachelor’s Degree Graduates
A bachelor’s degree in communication or public relations can greatly expand your career options and give you an entry into this exciting and growing field. A bachelor’s degree in communication, public relations, or journalism is a necessary prerequisite for most entry-level positions, be they in Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, etc. The number of possible occupations for graduates of communication, public relations and journalism programs are numerous and include positions in corporate communications (Media Relations, Speech Writer, Public Affairs), marketing/sales (Sales Representative), advertising (Media Planner, Ad Specialist), education (Teacher, Admissions Counselor, College Recruiter), government (Speech Writer, Lobbyist, Campaign Director), broadcasting (On-air Talent, Floor Director, Assistant Producer) and religion (Minister, Preacher, Motivational Speaker). If you already have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, you might consider a top-ranked master’s degree program in communication or public relations.
Online Communication and Public Relations Bachelor’s Degree Rankings
Increasingly, people are choosing to pursue their communications and public relations due to the greater flexibility and affordability of online degrees. Because the quality and credibility of online schools and online degree programs vary widely, it’s important to do a thorough investigation before settling on a program. To help with that investigation, we’ve put together a ranking of what we consider to be the best online and distance learning bachelor degree programs in communication, public relations and journalism. Our online degree rankings are based on several factors, including school and program reputation, peer and instructional quality, and overall affordability. Only fully accredited programs were considered for our rankings. You can also check out our ranking of online communication and public relations master’s degree programs.
The Scoop: Walden University is a private, for-profit online university with a socially progressive mission. Walden’s online and distance learning programs are highly regarded. The school’s online Bachelor of Science in Communication empowers students to explore basic communication theory and concepts and how they can be adapted for a variety of contexts and technologies. Students will learn how to develop effective and strategic messaging strategies using any number of traditional and emerging communication technologies. Students will also reflect on their own individual communication strengths and weaknesses and learn to improve upon both. In addition to the opportunity to design a personalized concentration, students can choose from concentrations in Marketing Communications, New Media, Online Work and Communities, Organizational Communication, and Public Relations. Graduates will be prepared for careers in advertising, marketing, public relations, promotions and many other fields.
Length: 181 credit hours over 4.5 years. Students may transfer in up to 135 credit hours.
#2. Arizona State University
The Scoop: Arizona State University is an established and respected state school, frequently ranked one of the top public universities in the U.S. ASU’s online and traditional programs are designed and taught by the faculty found on campus. The online Bachelor of Science in Technical Communication familiarizes students with traditional communication technologies, while also providing training in the use of cutting-edge and emerging technologies for designing, producing and managing information. The knowledge and skills students gain in multimedia, communication, writing, editing and information technology will prepare them for careers as technical writers, editors, publication managers, information designers, instructional and training developers, and other career fields.
Length: At least 120 credit hour
#3. Regis University
The Scoop: Regis University is a private, Catholic university with a 130 year history. Regis’s College of Professional Studies was a pioneer in online education, offering some of the first online degree programs in 1997, and has since grown into one of the most highly ranked online schools in the country. The college’s Bachelor of Arts in Communication, offered in both online and on-campus formats, is designed for current professionals and adults looking to develop careers in leadership, human resources, and public relations. Students in the program can choose a concentration in either Leadership or Conflict Management, both of which offer significant flexibility for personal customization according to individual goals and interests. Graduates will come away with the skills and confidence to make public presentations, prepare written materials, lead meetings and other activities required of management level communication and public relations specialists.
Length: 128 credit hours
#4. CUNY School of Professional Studies
The Scoop: The City University of New York (CUNY) is the largest urban public university in the world, and one whose academics are highly regarded. CUNY’s School of Professional Studies was started in 2003 with the purpose of expanding CUNY’s opportunities to working adults and was home to CUNY’s first online programs. The online Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Culture is an innovative interdisciplinary program that draws on the social sciences, the arts, and communications. Students learn how to interpret, evaluate, and construct various forms of communication, with special attention given to internet-based technologies. Students also learn about the ways in which urbanization and globalization are bringing diversity of cultures together; they are given an opportunity to engage in cutting-edge research on particular questions at the intersection of communication and culture. Graduates will be prepared for careers in management, media and communications, social services and international organizations.
Length: 120 credit hours
#5. University of Nebraska at Kearney
The Scoop: The University of Nebraska at Kearney is one of the four public universities in the University of Nebraska System. UNK’s online programs are the same offered on-campus, and are notable for their quality and affordability. The online Bachelor of Science in Organizational Communication (Comprehensive Option) is a degree completion program designed for students with an associate’s degree or for students with most general studies credits already completed. Students learn the basic operations of businesses and nonprofits, along with the knowhow to carry out any company’s communications-heavy workload. Graduates of the program will be prepared for junior management, human relations, marketing, sales, or public relations positions, among others.
Length: 45 credit hours
#6. University of North Dakota
The Scoop: The University of North Dakota is a public research university with a solid national reputation. UND has been offering distance education programs since it began offering correspondence courses by mail in 1911. The university’s online Bachelor of Arts in Communication, while providing students with a broad liberal arts education, focuses on the ways in which information processes and communication technologies influence local and global communities. It also allows students to further focus their program upon individual areas of interest in interpersonal communication, organizational communication, public relations, advertising, print journalism, and media studies. Ethical and socially responsible information and communication practices are emphasized throughout the program. Graduates will find themselves prepared for careers in advertising, public relations, speech writing, print journalism, broadcasting, fundraising, and politics, to name a few.
Length: 125 credit hours
#7. University of Massachusetts
The Scoop: UMass Online is one of the top online universities in the world. The online Bachelor of Arts in Journalism Studies Concentrations program has been recognized as a “Program of Excellence” by the University Continuing Education Association (UCEA), one of the most prestigious awards in distance education. It is a degree completion program that allows students to transfer up to 75 previously earned college credits (no matter how old) and earn up to 30 additional credits for previous life, work and training experiences. The program is designed to fit the schedule of working adults and to prepare graduates for work in travel writing, sports writing, photojournalism, war reporting, science writing, arts reviewing, citizen journalism and a number of other fields in journalism and communication.
Length: Depends on number of credits needed for degree completion. At least 15 credits for journalism studies concentration.
#8. University of Louisville
The Scoop: The University of Louisville is a top-tier public research university with a history going all the way back to 1798. Louisville’s relatively small online learning program is awards the same degree as a traditional, on-campus program. The university offers both an online Bachelor of Arts in Communication and an online Bachelor of Science in Communication. Both programs, which are administered through the College of Arts & Sciences, are designed around research and coursework that emphasize the rhetorical, organizational, interpersonal, and mediated contexts and perspectives definitive of the communication field. The two programs differ in that the bachelor of arts requires more foreign language and liberal arts credits and fewer credits in communication. Graduates from either program will be prepared for careers in electronic media, print media, public relations, and communication training and development.
Length: At least 36 credit hours
#9. Southern New Hampshire University
The Scoop: Southern New Hampshire University is a top-tier private university with a business and professional studies focus. SNHU’s online degree division has distinguished itself as providing one of the very best values in online education. The online Bachelor of Arts in Communication emphasizes basic communication theory and industry-specific concepts and is designed to prepare students for a variety of career fields. Students are familiarized with emerging communication technologies and the skills necessary to succeed in public speaking, presentations and interviews. Students may choose concentrations in either Professional Writing or Public Relations, which will further provide them with the specialized knowledge needed to succeed in those fields. Graduates of the program will be prepared for positions in public relations, marketing, media relations, copy writing, and reporting, among others.
Length: 120 credit hours
#10. Drexel University Online
The Scoop: Drexel University is a private research university, frequently ranked one of the top universities in the country. Drexel Online has been recognized as one of the top places for online degrees. Drexel Online’s Bachelor of Science in Communication with a concentration in Corporate Communication and Public Relations was designed by the School of Art and Sciences to prepare graduates for senior level corporate communications and PR positions at corporations or non-profits. The curriculum includes a core of basic communication theory and method, and a focus on PR and corporate communication, which looks at journalism, publication design, new communication technologies, and the interplay between mass media and society. Graduates of the program will be prepared for a variety of senior level corporate positions.
Length: 182 credit hours