Few industries have been as radically transformed by new technologies in the past 20 years as the public relations and advertising professions. Now increasingly converged fields of practice and study, they remain central to the success of organizations of all types, whether business or purpose-driven. The Master of Arts in Public Relations and Advertising offers students a broad perspective across a changing global communication landscape and a deep grounding in foundational courses across disciplines such as persuasive writing, strategy, business fundamentals, advocacy, digital content creation, improvisational leadership and storytelling backed by data intelligence. Through a combination of conceptual courses, research and content creation labs plus electives, specializations and study abroad opportunities, this highly applied program prepares students to become a leader in one of the most dynamic global industries.

Upon completion of the program, graduates will be able to utilize strategic and critical thinking principles, quantitative and qualitative analyses, multi-platform content creation methods and ethical reasoning models to conceptualize and execute effective communication campaigns across all forms of media. In addition to the core competencies of public relations and advertising, graduates will work in other digital communication fields that include social media management, influencer relations, digital brand activation, etc.

Studies toward the Master of Arts in Public Relations and Advertising require 36 units in total, 27 of which are required, foundational courses. The remaining 9 units may be taken as PR and Advertising specializations, Annenberg electives or at other USC schools. No more than 9 units of 400-level course work may be applied toward the MA in Public Relations and Advertising.

Students who earn a GPA of below 3.0 will be placed on academic probation and must improve according to established terms if they are to remain in the school.


Normally, full-time students in the MA in Public Relations and Advertising can complete the program in four semesters.

Foreign Language/Research Tool Requirement

There is no foreign language or research tool requirement; however, prior knowledge of digital media and research tools is beneficial.

Master’s Thesis/Capstone

The Master of Arts in Public Relations and Advertising culminates in either a Thesis or Capstone option. Students may choose between two options: a) the 4-unit thesis/professional project option, which entails one of three approaches: a traditional academic thesis (generally reserved for students who intend to pursue a PhD); a research project (a strategic campaign plan or a white paper); or a video thesis. Alternatively, students may select b) a practicum to craft a digital capstone portfolio that tests overall program knowledge. A passing grade in the capstone portfolio is required for graduation.

Course Requirements (36 Units)

  • PR 508 Public Relations and Advertising Fundamentals and Strategy (3 units)
  • PR 522 Storytelling with Data Intelligence (3 units)
  • PR 524 Multimedia Content Creation for Brand Storytelling I (3 units)
  • PR 529 Business and Economic Foundations for Communicators (3 units)
  • PR 535 Persuasive Writing (3 units)
  • Plus 15 units of approved elective courses*

Core Electives

Choose two courses:

  • PR 523 Advanced Audience Insight Mining (3 units)
  • PR 525 Multimedia Content Creation for Brand Storytelling II (3 units)
  • PR 526 Understanding Transmedia Audiences (3 units)
  • PR 598 Improvisational Leadership (3 units)


*Students electing the thesis option are required to enroll in PR 594a (2 units) and PR 594b (2 units) and must complete 5 units of approved elective courses. Students electing the comprehensive examination option must complete 9 units of approved elective courses.

This page is based on the current 2022-2023 USC Catalogue. The 2023-2024 USC Catalogue will be published in Summer 2023.

An additional requirement for Public Relations and Advertising (MA) students will be to take the Managing Complexity in Diverse Organizations program during their time at USC Annenberg. MCDO is a professional skills-building program that addresses the ability to create, sustain and thrive within diverse work environments. More information here