Commission on Public Relations Education Sets Standards for Public Relations Master’s Degree Education

CONTACT: Judy VanSlyke Turk, APR, Fellow PRSA | 804-827-3707

Commission on Public Relations Education Sets Standards for Public Relations Master’s Degree Education

NEW YORK (Nov. 21, 2012) –

Public relations graduate students and their future employers have a first-ever set of standards against which to measure the quality of college and university programs leading to a master’s degree.

The standards, based on two years of research involving both public relations practitioners and educators, were developed by the Commission on Public Relations Education and have been released in a report, “Standards for a Master’s Degree in Public Relations: Educating for Complexity.” The research and the report were funded by the PRSA Foundation and the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations.

The Commission’s standards call for a minimum of 30 semester credit hours that include mastery of a core curriculum and, for students pursuing a professional career in public relations, a specialization such as health care, social services, entertainment and/or sports and an internship, practicum or co-op experience. Students intending to pursue an academic career would complete additional research courses in addition to the core.

“The Commission, whose members represented 16 academic and professional associations in public relations in the United States and Canada, ventured beyond the curriculum to set standards for other aspects of graduate education such as the necessary credentials for faculty, admissions standards and global linkages to public relations practitioners,” said Frank Ovaitt, APR, practitioner co-chair of the Commission.

“And the report also addresses managing the quality of a master’s degree program that is offered entirely or in part online,” added Dean Kruckeberg, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA, the academic co-chair.

The core curriculum of a master’s degree program should develop knowledge and skills in these areas:

  • Strategic public relations management
  • Basic business principles and processes
  • Communication/public relations theory and research methods
  • Global influences on the practice of public relations
  • Ethics

“These standards are based on extensive contemporary research that included an online audit of existing programs in public relations master’s degree programs, a survey of public relations practitioners and educators and interviews with industry employers,” said Elizabeth L. Toth, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA who headed the team that conducted the research.

The core curriculum directly addresses the skills and knowledge both practitioners and educators identified as necessities in a graduate program.

“While the Commission does not purport to tell individual schools and programs what specific courses to offer,” said Maria P. Russell, APR, Fellow, a member of the Commission’s Steering Committee, “it does emphasize that these five main areas make up the core of any graduate public relations curriculum, whether it be a program, or a track, sequence or concentration in a broader master’s degree program.” She added that the Commission’s recommended standards echo a theme increasingly put forth by both educators and practitioners today: that all master’s degree programs in public relations go beyond the traditional areas of communications and require their graduates to also gain an understanding of business principles.

While the research and standards focused on the U.S. and Canada, the Commission included representatives of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, a consortium of more than 70 public relations associations around the world. “We believe the standards address global best practices, not just regionally focused on North America,” said Judy VanSlyke Turk, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA and interim chair of the Commission as it organizes itself for future research and activities. “We hope that our report will stimulate discussion of master’s degree standards in all countries and on all continents.”

About the Commission on Public Relations Education
Since 1975, the Commission on Public Relations Education has presented standards for public relations education. Its most recent standards for undergraduate education, “The Professional Bond: Public Relations Education and the Practice,” was released in 2006 and have been adopted by colleges and universities throughout the United States and has become a point of reference in other parts of the world. The Commission was composed of public relations educators and practitioners who represented 16 professional associations and societies in public relations and related fields of communications. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is one of those organizations and provides administrative support to the Commission. Read the full text of “Standards for a Master’s Degree in Public Relations: Educating for Complexity” at