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New U.S. Study: PR Graduate Programs Have Increased Greatly But Vary Widely

October 28, 2011


Public relations graduate programs in the U.S. have nearly tripled since 2000 but inconsistent curricula and degree requirements are causing confusion among students, educators and employers, according to a new study by The Commission on Public Relations Education.

The Commission, having reviewed graduate public relations curricula at 75 U.S. institutions, is now incorporating the findings into a comprehensive report, expected to be completed by late 2012, that will recommend standards for such programs.


The Commission graduate education research is also based on a survey sample of some 400 public relations practitioners and educators and in-depth interviews with major public relations employers on how a master’s degree in public relations influences their hiring decisions. Although the study is being limited to U.S. institutions, the Commission believes that its final recommendations may be useful as a point of reference for graduate programs in other parts of the world.


“This is the first comprehensive look at the status of U.S. graduate public relations in over ten years, and it shows that we have a long way to go before an advanced degree in our field has clear meaning and value”, said Elizabeth L. Toth, Ph.D. APR, Fellow, PRSA, professor and chair of the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland and the study’s principal investigator.


“When an employer is hiring for an advanced public relations position, a graduate degree in the field should count in the decision, just as relevant experience counts,” said Frank Ovaitt, APR, practitioner co-chair of The Commission and President and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations (


“Supporting this type of research – to drive professionalism in graduate education as well as in public relations practice – is a top priority for the PRSA Foundation”, said Debbie Mason, APR, Fellow, PRSA and President of The PRSA Foundation Board of Trustees. The foundation is a major supporter of the research.


The Commission on Public Relations Education ( “is composed of  public relations educators and practitioners who represent 12 professional societies in public relations and related fields  of communications. For several decades it has periodically presented recommendations for undergraduate and graduate public relations curricula and associated subjects. Its curriculum recommendations have been adopted by colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and have become points of reference for the development of public relations education in many parts of the world.”


The Institute For Public Relations ( is “the premier professional organization … bringing the power of research-based intelligence to public relations. IPR has sponsored or published more than 500 studies and papers since its founding, such as the recently published paper, “‘Using Public Relations to Drive Business Results.’”


The PRSA Foundation ( “is an independent … charitable foundation … raising funds to support scholarships for public relations students, research projects that impact the practice of public relations, and public education initiatives that build greater awareness among business and government leaders about the role of public relations in serving the public good.”