Like many other fields, public relations has changed in recent years as more workers have explored new working arrangements such as telecommuting. According to Global Workplace Analytics, the number of employers offering flexible workplace setups to employees climbed 40% between 2013 and 2018. Plus, half of the U.S. workforce holds a position theoretically compatible with telework, and 20-25% of workers telecommute at least some of the time.
PR professionals have contributed to this trend toward remote and mobile work. Many of the core responsibilities of a PR specialist or manager can now be performed from virtually anywhere. Collaborating via email, instant messaging, video conferencing and other tools with members of the media and colleagues is simple as long as you have a device with a reliable internet connection. This setup is even beneficial if you have a busy schedule with variable hours and frequent travel.
The online Master’s in Strategic Public Relations (SPR) degree at the George Washington University (GW) is designed with these realities in mind. As a 100% online program, the SPR track is a perfect fit for any current or aspiring PR professional who wants to expand their expertise, enlarge their professional network and gain the practical experience that can help in the search for a new career.
A closer look at trends in working hours and arrangements in PR
We mentioned the rise of telework as an important influence on the current PR industry. Another key trend is the emergence of millennials as the largest cohort of the U.S. workforce. This generation, born between approximately 1980 and 1996, is the largest in the country’s history. It seems to have distinctive workplace preferences that differ somewhat from those of its predecessors.
For starters, flexible and rewarding work is a priority. A 2018 survey from FlexJobs had some revealing findings on this topic, including:
- Almost 80% of millennials would be more loyal to their employers if flexible work arrangements were allowed; that compares to only 71% of older workers. Similarly, 70% of millennials have either left or contemplated leaving a job because it wasn’t flexible enough, compared to just 50% of other generations.
- Millennials generally give more importance to both company culture and benefits than other groups. More than one-third (35%) of millennials think benefits are a very important part of a job, versus 17% of other generations. They value workplace culture by an even wider margin of 44% to 24%.
- Work-life balance is another lens through which millennials evaluate employers and professional opportunities. Eighty-three percent of millennials ranked it as the most important factor in deciding about a job prospect, compared to 62% of older workers.
Flexible work can refer to schedules that do not adhere to the standard continuous eight-hour workday, or to telecommuting arrangements. PR firms have noticed the evolving attitudes toward workplace environments and cultures and responded accordingly. In 2017, PR Week chronicled how multiple firms had sought to implement virtual offices to serve employee needs and streamline their operations.
One firm noted that flexible work had been particularly beneficial for staff returning from parental leave who might have otherwise struggled coming in five days a week. A representative of that same organization explained that 70% to 80% of its workforce was receptive to virtual working.
Largely or entirely virtual agencies can sometimes offer lower fees to their clients, too, since they don’t have to pay for office space, which can account for 10% or more of a firm’s overall expenses. An agency in London was able to give a 15% discount to clients thanks to its support for flexible work.
3 ways the GW SPR degree prepares you for these current workplace trends in PR
The GW SPR is fully online, with no required residencies or commutes to campus. When you complete all of the requirements, the master’s degree you earn is exactly the same as what you would have received from an on-campus equivalent. Here are a few more ways it helps prepare you for life in today’s PR industry, in which flexible and internet-centric working arrangements are increasingly common.
Comprehensive online coursework
All courses for the SPR master’s can be completed online. The program curriculum features classes exploring a wide variety of relevant PR topics in depth, including:
- Strategic marketing communications
- Digital media relations
- Ethics in public relations and public affairs
- Sustainability communications
- Crisis management
Students also get to complete a capstone research project, through which they will explore a topic of interest in conjunction with program faculty and a current employer or other relevant organization.
Multiple starting times
The traditional academic year has a familiar and rigid format: Classes usually start near the end of summer in either August or September and end in late spring. For online students, there’s much more flexibility.
GW SPR degree candidates can select from four different start times. There are two dates in the summer and one each in the fall and the spring. This way, you can select the one that best aligns with your current schedule and other commitments.
Completion in less than two calendar years
How long does it take to finish a master’s degree? Instead of the usual timeline of two or more years, the online public relations degree from GW can be finished in as few as 18 months. After earning your degree, you are ready to explore new opportunities equipped with up-to-date expertise and the benefit of the GW alumni network.
Getting started with your online PR degree is easy: Just visit the main program page, where you can read a quick overview of the program and answer a few questions to receive a copy of our brochure. You can also view the curriculum here.
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