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Public Relations Major Overview

By Zach Skillings

Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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Posted: January 5th, 2022
Public Relations Major Overview

Behind every successful business, politician, and government agency, there’s usually a PR specialist hard at work. These are the folks who communicate with the public on behalf of their clients, working to build and maintain a positive public image. They highlight the accomplishments of their clients, while limiting the damage of any bad publicity. If you’re interested in this kind of career, then a public relations major is a good place to start. 

Related: Scholarships360 major guides

What is a public relations major?

Being a public relations (PR) major is all about mastering the tools of image management. Students in this field learn how to write press releases and speeches, plan media campaigns, cultivate a social media presence, arrange interviews, and more. Throughout all this, students gain strong writing, speaking, and interpersonal skills. Depending on the program, PR majors may be able to concentrate in one (or more) of the following areas:

Social media

In today’s digital age, social media plays a crucial role in public relations. Students in this field examine social media theory and how it can be used to build a brand identity. They may also touch on topics such as search engine optimization (SEO) and digital analytics. 

Media relations

PR professionals work closely alongside journalists, which makes this a valuable area of study. Students concentrating in this field focus on how to build strong relationships with the media. They learn how to arrange press conferences, field questions from journalists, and land radio and TV interviews for their clients. 


While advertising falls more under the umbrella of marketing, it has its place within public relations as well. By studying effective advertising methods and gaining persuasive writing skills, students can diversify their skillset and boost their employability. 

Also see: Top writing scholarships

Coursework to expect

Students can expect to take a variety of courses covering public relations writing, strategy, and research. Since PR is a subfield of general communications studies, students can also count on taking some of the same classes as journalism and marketing students. These shared courses often include media ethics, communications law, and an introduction to mass communications. To round out their education, students may be required to complete a capstone project demonstrating their knowledge of managing a PR campaign. They may also need to fulfill an internship requirement in order to graduate. 

Below are some potential courses you may encounter in this field: 

  • Introduction to Mass Communication
  • Public Speaking 
  • Media Writing
  • Interactive and Social Media
  • Strategic Campaigns 
  • Principles of Marketing
  • Media Law and Ethics
  • Corporate Publishing 
  • Creating Multimedia Content 

Also see: Top careers for English majors

Opportunities after graduation

Because the need for public relations is so widespread across different sectors, graduates can expect to find work in a variety of settings. Popular areas of employment include corporate communications, nonprofit organizations, higher education, government, and PR agency work. PR professionals often earn higher-than-average salaries. 

Don’t miss: Scholarships360 scholarship search tool

Jobs you can get with a PR degree

While becoming a PR specialist is the obvious career move for anyone majoring in public relations, it’s certainly not the only one. Public relations is a versatile degree that lends itself to many other career paths such as event planning, fundraising, writing, and editing. Let’s talk about some of these jobs in more detail: 

1. Public relations specialist

PR specialists maintain a positive public image for the clients they represent, which range from  businesses and corporations to political figures and government agencies. They do this by writing press releases, planning social media posts, drafting speeches, and arranging interviews. After years of experience (and sometimes a master’s degree), PR specialists can become PR managers

2020 Median Pay: $62,810 per year
Projected Growth (2020-2030): 11% (Faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

2. Event planner

Event planners organize a variety of professional and social events including weddings, business conventions, and educational conferences. They handle all the important logistics such as finances, venue inspection, guest registration, catering, and transportation. A background in PR is helpful when it comes to promoting events and making them a success. 

2020 Median Pay: $51,560 per year
Projected Growth (2020-2030): 18% (Much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

3. Fundraiser

Commonly employed by nonprofit organizations, universities, and hospitals, fundraisers organize campaigns and events to collect money and other donations. Much of their job is based on interaction with the public, which should come naturally for anyone with a background in PR. 

2020 Median Pay: $59,610 per year
Projected Growth (2020-2030): 16% (Much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

4. Writer

With such strong communication skills, PR majors can also make a living as writers. There’s a number of ways to break into this field, with potential areas of employment including copywriting, content writing, technical writing, and blogging. The majority of writers are self-employed freelancers, meaning they work for various clients on a contractual basis. 

2020 Median Pay: $67,120 per year
Projected Growth (2020-2030): 9% (As fast as average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

5. Editor

Editors work hand-in-hand with writers to produce content that is error-free and ready for publication. Along with correcting spelling and grammar mistakes, editors also give general feedback to writers, brainstorm story ideas, and even write their own stories. Most editors start out as editorial assistants or writers. 

2020 Median Pay: $63,400 per year
Projected Growth (2020-2030): 5% (Slower than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

Also see: Highest paying careers

How do I know if this major is right for me? 

If you’re considering a major in public relations, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do you value clear and effective communication? 
  • Do you have strong people skills and writing abilities? 
  • Are you good at spreading news and information? 

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then a PR major could be right for you!

Related: Top journalism scholarships

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