What to Know About a Master’s in Strategic Public Relations

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Before we get to the master’s degree, let’s define strategic public relations (SPR). At its core, SPR fuses essential PR skills with practical applications of strategic thinking, while also touching upon topics in domains including media relations, ethical standards and public opinion. A master’s degree in SPR has become a popular option among students with a diverse set of interests and backgrounds: A SurveyMonkey report identified mass communications, English, political science, business and journalism as common majors among eventual SPR students.

A public relations master’s program in SPR should provide convenient and comprehensive preparation for an advanced career in PR. To that end, the Master’s in Strategic Public Relations from The George Washington University (GW) is a 100 percent online degree opportunity designed for everyone from the experienced PR professional to the graduate student looking to break into PR.

Master’s in Strategic Public Relations at GW: Overview and key requirements
The strategic public relations master’s degree from GW features coursework in PR principles and practices, crisis management, research methods and related concepts in communications. There is also a required capstone project.

Together, these courses ensure that students understand the expectations of PR professionals, know how to deploy useful industry tactics and strategies and grasp the major ways in which trust is established with audiences (e.g., through political processes). SPR graduates will have gained insight into PR’s applications within many employment environments.

Each course is worth three credit-hours, and all curricular requirements are completed online. The 10 specific class titles are:

  • Ethical Standards in Public Relations and Public Affairs
  • Fundamentals of Business and Finance for PR Professionals
  • Issues Management and Crisis Communications
  • Media Relations in the New Media World
  • Political Socialization and Public Opinion
  • Public Relations Principles and Practices
  • Public Relations and Public Affairs Capstone Research Project
  • Research Methods for PR and Public Affairs Managers
  • Strategic Marketing Communications
  • Sustainable Communications

As an online program, the SPR track offers considerable flexibility in its scheduling. There are four start dates each academic year – two in the summer and one each during fall and spring – and students can expect to complete the degree that consists of 30 credit hours in as few as 18 months.

For admissions purposes, an applicant should have a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher from an accredited institution, or equivalent international credentials. Three letters of recommendation, a written statement of purpose and a collection of professional writing samples are required, in addition to academic transcripts and a professional resume.

Outcomes for students with public relations master’s degrees
Employment of PR specialists and managers should grow at a strong clip from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For example, the BLS foresees 10 percent growth, or faster than the average for all professions, in public relations and fundraising managers over that time span.

A Master’s in Strategic Public Relations opens the doors to some of the most desirable positions in PR, many of which require both a master’s degree and extensive related experience. With an SPR degree, a student is well-positioned to attain roles with high median compensation instead of having to vie for competitive entry-level PR jobs. The BLS estimates a PR manager can expect a salary of more than $107,000.

Even if a student does not have a specific career in mind while completing the program, the SPR track prepares them for many possibilities by honing skills across not only PR but also marketing, communications and public affairs. PR professionals are now expected to have multifaceted expertise aligned with the industry’s shift toward an integrated, multidisciplinary approach.

A look at GW SPR program demographics
The Master’s in Strategic Public Relations at GW draws students from many different disciplines, with equally varied aspirations and goals between them. The most common reason for pursuing the degree is to increase PR-specific knowledge and skills, followed by the chance for long-term advancement in the field.

Many SPR students consider other graduate education programs before enrolling. The most frequently evaluated degree-granting alternatives are in mass communications, business administration and public administration. Ultimately, most SPR students choose public relations instead because they perceive it as a more practical degree, one that develops transferable skills for multiple professions and does not pigeonhole their career options.

Plus, a public relations master’s program is a strong option for current PR workers looking to expand their expertise and further develop their careers. GW SPR is designed as a straightforward program for working professionals who want to apply what they have learned right away, in the form of creating up-to-date insights and campaigns for clients.

Why earn a Master’s in Strategic Public Relations from GW?
The online format of the GW SPR program has been one of the most important factors for students when evaluating educational options – only the curriculum had a higher weighted average in the survey results we mentioned earlier. Students benefit from the flexibility and practicality of being able to complete readings, discussions and assignments from anywhere they have internet connections.

At GW SPR, they also gain the confidence of enrolling in an accredited and highly ranked program. Accreditation is through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Both the school and the program have been recognized for excellence by multiple publications:

• GW SPR was named the best PR education program in 2015 by PRWeek, which cited its creativity and innovation in preparing students to navigate an ever-changing communications landscape, think strategically and focus on results-oriented strategies.
• Other recognitions include a distinction as a top crisis management program from The Washington Post, and GW’s “Best Colleges” ranking from U.S. News and World Report.

PR managers review a recent campaign

Earning a Master’s in Strategic Public Relations from GW SPR is a proven way to take your PR career to the next level or get it off on the right foot. Learn more by downloading our program brochure or contacting us directly via live chat.

Recommended readings:
Key Skills for Dominating the PR Field
4 Unexpected Jobs You Can Land With a PR Degree