Program Summary

The Public Relations Master of Arts degree program provides students with the cutting-edge knowledge, theory, and skills necessary to design, manage, and execute strategic communication plans in a contemporary society where communication technology, especially social media, is critical to all local and global organizations.

The innovative program provides a synthesis of traditional communication principles with understanding how to reach audiences, consumers, and users by applying concepts of user experience design to websites, apps, online content, videos, and mobile communication. The speed, scale, and mobility of information access facilitated by internet technologies makes communication professionals in demand worldwide.

Communication professionals are essential for business, governmental, nonprofit, political, and advocacy organizations. Based on Emerson’s tradition of excellence in oral and written communication, this program provides students with tools to assess the needs of a particular audience, design powerful messages with the appropriate appeals and cultural understanding to be effective in persuading a targeted audience, and the ability to decide which communication channel(s) should be used to achieve strategic communication campaign objectives.

In addition to honing speaking, writing, listening, and negotiating skills, the Public Relations Master of Arts degree program teaches communication professionals how to utilize social media platforms and web analytics, as well as mobile applications, in order to provide competitive advantages for future employers or clients. Students learn to develop engaging online content through digital storytelling to support core messaging strategies.

The program includes three tracks: (1) Strategic Public Relations; (2) Political Communication; and (3) Sports Communication. The Strategic Public Relations track is intended for professionals who manage communication for organization settings and must be able to bring a coherent message to a complex combination of internal and external publics. The Political Communication track is designed for practicing professionals in the local, national, and international field of politics, advocacy, public affairs, and public diplomacy. The Sports Communication track is recommended for individuals interested in working as communication practitioners in sports industries.

All tracks are aimed at those who desire to be leaders in crafting, producing, and delivering effective communication messaging to targeted publics in various types of businesses, organizations, advocacy, and electoral campaigns as well as various corporate and NGO efforts. In order to respond immediately concerning significant events that have impact on people, students learn to apply crisis communication strategies and messaging to maintain positive relationships between organizations, governments, NGO, and publics.



Strategic Public Relations: Focused on private and public sector organizations, this track will teach you how to manage corporate identity and reputation, perform crisis management, and create multi-channel communication plans. Become an expert in transforming PR principles such as trust and credibility into online strategies for brand recognition and matching tactics with audiences’ preferred media channels.

Political Communication: This track emphasizes campaign leadership in strategic messaging, with a special focus on polling, focus group and survey research, and delivering political narratives across traditional and digital media. Develop skills in electoral politics and public diplomacy in local, national, and international politics, advocacy, and public affairs.

Sports Communication: In this track, you will gain the knowledge and skills integral to managing communication for sports organizations of all kinds, worldwide. Learn everything from digital sports media management, speech writing, facility and event management, and media coaching for athletes to sports law and ethics, sports analytics, and online fandom. 

This program requires 36 total credits.

Core Requirements (16-20 credits)

Number Course Online Credits
CC 652 Emerging Communication Technologies Available Online in Fall Semester Only 4
CC 645 Public Opinion Research and Practice Not Available Online 4
CC 608 Public Affairs Not Available Online 4
CC 692 Capstone Course Not Available Online 4
CC 699 Master's Thesis*  Not Available Online 4

*To be repeated for a total of 8 credits


Students select one track and complete two courses (8 credits)

Strategic Public Relations Track (8 credits)

Number Course Online Credits
CC 647 Organizational Communication Not Available Online 4
CC 648 Public Relations Available Online in Spring Semester Only 4

Political Communication Track (8 credits)

Number Course Online Credits
CC 609 Political Communication Not Available Online 4
CC 623 Public Diplomacy Available Online Semester TBD 4

Sports Communication Track (8 credits)

Number Course Online Credits
CC 630 Sports Communication Not Available Online 4
CC 631 Sports Management Not Available Online 4

Elective Courses

Number Course Online Credits
CC 604 Strategic Planning and the Managerial Process Not Available Online 4
CC 621 Speech Writing and Online Content Development Not Available Online 4
CC 624 Campaign Management Available Online in Fall Semester Only 4
CC 626 Crisis Communication Not Available Online 4
CC 628 Entrepreneurship and Creative Problem Solving Not Available Online 4
CC 636 Negotiation and Group Process Not Available Online 4
CC 640 User Experience Design Available Online in Summer Semester Only 4
CC 643 Global Communication Not Available Online 4
CC 651 Persuasion and Propaganda Not Available Online 4
CC 655 Project Management and Communication Not Available Online 4
CC 690 Internship in Public Relations Not Available Online 4
CC 695 Seminar Topics in Public Relations Not Available Online 4

With the approval of the Public Relations graduate program director, one course from another Emerson College graduate program may be taken as an elective. Below are three suggestions for Marketing Communication Department courses that complement the Public Relations curriculum.

Marketing Communication Department Electives

Number Course Credits
CC 620 Public Relations Management 4
CC 621 Writing for Marketing Communication 4
CC 653 Web Page Development and Management 4

To complete the degree, each student completes either a Capstone project or thesis that synthesizes prior coursework and applies information gleaned from the various courses.

Thesis or Capstone Class

All three tracks will culminate with a capstone or thesis, giving you the chance to synthesize everything you’ve learned in a format that works best for you. There are two options:

  • The capstone, which can be a client-based communication or creative project, academic paper, or case-study, allows you to put theory to practice, with the option to write a crisis communication plan, develop a publication or online program, conduct a comprehensive communication audit, or create a public affairs and communication plan to affect public policy.
  • The thesis lets you conduct deeper research on a particular dimension of public relations and is a good option if you wish to further your studies with a PhD in communication.