The Number of Public Relations Graduate Programs Increasing —
Research Findings Presented at Annual Meeting of PRSA Foundation
Orlando, Fla. (Oct. 17, 2011) — While the number of public relations graduate programs in the United States nearly tripled since 2000, inconsistent curricula and degree requirements may be lowering the perception of the value of this education and is creating confusion for students, educators and employers. This was the message delivered at the annual meeting of the PRSA Foundation during the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) International Conference in Orlando, Fla., Sunday. The Foundation supported the study as part of its mission to fund research that influences the public relations profession and its ability to serve the public good.
Three studies by the Commission on Public Relations Education include a detailed review of the curricula of 75 U.S. public relations graduate programs, the opinions of a sample that included more than 400 public relations practitioners and educators on what should be included and what students should expect from a master’s degree in public relations/communication management, and in-depth interviews with major public relations employers on how a master’s degree in public relations influences their hiring decisions.
“This is a first comprehensive look at the status of U.S. graduate public relations education in over 10 years, and it shows 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.
The Commission on Public Relations Education, which has periodically presented recommendations on public relations education the past three decades, will use the research results as a basis for a 2012 report on the status of master’s degree education and recommendations for its standards. The 2012 report will be sponsored in part by the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations.
No comprehensive standards of this sort have been attempted in at least two decades.
“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 on Public Relations Education and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations. “Standards for graduate public relations education will help employers and students understand the value of such education.”
Included in the findings are:
The Audit of Graduate Programs
Quantitative Survey of 400+ Public Relations Practitioners and Educators
Qualitative In-Depth Interviews With 21 Public Relations Industry Employers
“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, president, PRSA Foundation Board of Trustees. “We are looking forward to the full report and curricular recommendations next year.”
About the PRSA Foundation