Public Relations Major Guide for 2011-2012

What is Public Relations

Public relations involves effective management of an organization’s relationships with various publics, such as employees, community, investors, consumers/customers, the media, etc.  Public relations has evolved over recent decades to include not only what organizations say, but also what organizations do.  Graduates in public relations are expected to contribute to the strategic decision-making and policy-making of organizations.  Public relations practitioners conduct research to better understand organizations’ target audiences.  They plan ways for their organizations to respond more effectively to their publics, implement communications strategies, and evaluate the effectiveness of those strategies.  The professional practice of public relations results in win-win relationships between an organization and its important publics, ultimately helping interdependent elements of a democratic society work more effectively together. 

People who have successful careers in public relations tend to be self-starters with both creative and analytical abilities.

Career Opportunities in Public Relations

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, public relations is in the top ten growth industries in the country.  Every organization, big and small, has a need to communicate with the people it serves, and public relations practitioners serve this function.  Corporate public relations work includes investor, community, and employee relations, reputation management, and marketing support.  Non-profit work includes fund raising and providing educational information.  Other types of public relations jobs are found in the entertainment, sports, and travel fields as well as in the government and military.  Many students begin their careers in public relations agencies where they are exposed to a variety of clients.  The public relations process, which involves research, planning, communication, and evaluation, can be applied to the management of communication in any type of organization.  Understanding the process allows students to find jobs in a variety of industries.

Salary Trends in Public Relations

Tennessee public relations graduates command starting salaries competitive with starting salaries nationwide.  Like other communication professionals, public relations graduates tend to begin their careers in the low salary ranges and then move up quickly when they demonstrate their ability to perform.

High School Preparation

Creativity, initiative, good judgment and the ability to express thoughts clearly— both verbally and in writing—are essential for students who are contemplating majoring in public relations.  Problem-solving, decision-making and analytical skills are also important.  Inquisitiveness about a broad range of topics, including current events and trends, is another fundamental characteristic. 

While in high school, you should consider working for your school newspaper, radio station, yearbook committee, or any other opportunity that will enable you to sharpen your communication skills.  Enrolling in courses such as public speaking, desktop publishing, accounting, finance, English, and creative writing is also valuable to those considering an undergraduate degree in public relations.

How to Major in Public Relations

Students are admitted as pre-majors to the College of Communication and Information.  After completing the first-year curriculum with a grade point average of 2.75 or higher, students may apply to become majors in the School of Advertising and Public Relations.

Requirements for Public Relations

Students must complete two units of English composition, six hours of foreign language at the intermediate level, eight hours of natural science, calculus, Anthropology 130, and Communication and Information 150 to be admitted to the public relations program.

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

All public relations majors may take one hour of internship credit.  That translates to 10 hours a week for a semester or full time in the summer.  A major benefit is that the experience routinely reduces the amount of time you’ll need to become productive as a new employee on your first job.  That’s an important consideration for a potential employer.  For that reason, many students complete more than one internship. 

Students have interned on and off the campus in Knoxville, and in other cities and states.  Interns often are hired full-time after graduation based on their internship.  You may find your internship work either confirms the kind of job you want after graduation, or leads you to a job in a different aspect of public relations.

Highlights of Public Relations

International study is possible through well-established exchange programs with professional schools in the Netherlands, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Italy.  Public relations majors join the Public Relations Society of America and participate in local, regional, and national conferences.  As of Fall 2005, the University of Tennessee is the only university in the state and one of a very few nationwide who offer a separate major in public relations.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

Students in the College of Communication and Information are encouraged to participate in a study abroad program as part of the University of Tennessee’s commitment to make our graduates “Ready for the World.”  Studying abroad opens up many opportunities for students to learn about communication and information in an international setting, develop cross-cultural communication skills, and enhance their marketability and career options.  Students often say that their study abroad experience was the highlight of their college years.  Communication and information students may study journalism in Denmark or the Netherlands, intercultural communication in Paris and Brussels, foreign language in any number of countries, or participate in the study abroad program of their choice.  Most students participate in study abroad during their second or third year at UT.

Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

Sample Curriculum

Freshman Year Credit Hours
English 101, 102 6
Communication and Information 150 3
Intermediate Foreign Language 6
Anthropology 130 3
Natural Science Electives 8
Mathematics 119 or 123 3
Mathematics 125 or 141 3-4
Key Tracking Courses:  English 101, 102; Natural Science Electives; Mathematics 119 or 123; Mathematics 125 or 141.  
TOTAL 32-33
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Advertising 250 3
Public Relations 270 3
History 241, 242 or 261, 262 6
Journalism and Electronic Media 200 3
Economics 201 4
Statistics 201 3
Accounting 200 3
English Literature Electives 6
Key Tracking Courses:  Public Relations 270; Intermediate Foreign Language; History 241, 242 or 261, 262; Statistics 201.  
Junior Year Credit Hours
Psychology 110 3
Management 201 3
Journalism and Electronic Media 333 or 375 or 412 or 414 or 430  3
Public Relations 310 3
Public Relations 340 3
Public Relations 380 1
Public Relations 320 3
Public Relations 370 3
Communication Studies 240 3
Marketing 300 3
Arts and Sciences Elective 3
Senior Year Credit Hours
Psychology 360 3
Public Relations 470 3
College Elective 3
Journalism and Electronic Media 400 3
Arts and Sciences Electives 9
General Electives 4-5
TOTAL 25-26

For More Information

School of Advertising & Public Relations
476 Communications Building
Knoxville, TN 37996-0343
(865) 974-3048



The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.