Should You Major in Advertising or Public Relations

You have always known that your place was in some type of position where you would be responsible for representing the interests of a company to an audience. Either you would be busy at work designing creative ads to improve sales volume, or you would be designing the next press release that would take the business community by surprise with the direction a company was heading.

Unfortunately, the trouble you face is in knowing which avenue to commit to for a degree program. Sometimes these two fields of study seem to overlap so much that it is hard to tell one from the other. Yet, upon closer examination, it may be possible to make an informed, intelligent decision that best fits your overall career goals. The following are a few areas of consideration to use as points to help you decide which field is best for pursuing a major in advertising versus a major in public relations.

Products or Image

In general, a major in advertising is going to lean mostly towards helping you gain a sense of how to market products and services to consumers or other businesses. By contrast, a major in public relations is going to lean more towards a journalistic approach to selling a company’s image to the public. While both fields of study are useful for representing the same company, they tend to do so for very different purposes in most cases.

If you like designing ads and improving a company’s sales volume, then an advertising major is likely going to fit your career goals better than a major in public relations. However, if you like being in the spotlight and speaking with the public as a representative of a company, persuading people why your company is good for the community, meeting the needs of consumers and explaining why your company is a hit for share holders. Then you may find that you will enjoy a major in public relations far more than a major in advertising.

Job Availability

In your quest to decide whether or not you should major in advertising or in public relations, you should ask yourself which field of study is more likely to gain for you meaningful access to employment. The reason this is such an important concern to address is because most companies do not have a public relations department.

In fact, the budgeting for such individuals to be on staff is reserved for corporations that tend to be larger and which have lots of excess money to spend on public relations professionals to send out to represent these corporations to the media, the community and shareholders alike, for example. In fact, the majority of the public relations jobs exist in third party public relations companies.

By contrast, nearly every business today has some type of marketing and advertising professionals on staff. Consequently, if you want to be able to find a job in your field of study with reasonable ease, then a major in advertising will more likely give you that luxury.

Putting out Fires

One area where the individual involved in public relations is going to take a lot of heat is when their company is under fire in the media. Something like a serious data breach might occur, and it will be your job to step out into the media spotlight and be the person who gets the brunt of the criticism when the hard questions are asked about your company.

This is a side of the public relations field that is not as fun as when things are going good for a company. The types of fires you will be called upon to temper in the eyes of the public could be anything from an executive of your company being the object of a sex scandal or your company might be drug through court over alleged employee discrimination charges.

In such instances, you may be the only one chosen by your company’s legal team to be allowed to speak for your company and to attempt to shape public opinion to mitigate the damage being caused to your company’s reputation. If this is something you would be comfortable doing, then a public relations major may fit your personality and interests more than a major in advertising.

Getting the Traffic and Converting Leads into Profits

An important area of concern for those seeking an advertising major arises from the world of business becoming more entrenched in ecommerce style business solutions and business models.

As the one in charge of advertising your company’s products and services to online consumers, your challenge will be oriented around managing and directing the marketing strategies that drive a consistent flow of high volume traffic to your company’s landing pages. You will also have to implement strategies for converting leads to ensure revenue quotas are being consistently reached.

If you are not able to effectively advertise to an online consumer base through such approaches, you may find that your usefulness as an advertiser is questionable at best. If you consider these types of challenges to be what you were born for, then a major in advertising may suit your personality far better than a major in public relations.


When choosing a major for a career path, it will often come down to dollars and sense. While some people will urge you to follow your passion, this advice has rarely ever granted people the lifestyle they desire or deserve. Earning an adequate income, however, is a pillar of living a fulfilling life the way you always wanted.

By doing a comparison on the annual salary earned by advertisers and public relations professionals, you will begin to see that the path to the income level you require is spelled out in the numbers provided by the research you perform. Of course, this factor for determining which major to pursue is based in the assumption that you are money motivated.

If you are not money motivated, then this particular aspect to choosing a major in advertising or public relations may not apply to you. Furthermore, it may not carry as significant a weight as other relevant factors for making such a determination. Maybe pursuing your passion is truly what will make you happiest and satisfied.

Only you can answer this question about your bottom line in a way that best points you in a direction for meeting your educational and career needs.

How You See Yourself

While it has been necessary to talk about the various technical aspects of choosing a major in advertising versus a major in public relations, there is a fundamental aspect of your own self impression that must be taken into consideration. You will need to honestly ask yourself which field of study you believe best fits who you are.

It is easy to take up the wrong major and end up in a job you had no idea you genuinely hated. Upon closer self-analysis, you probably already know which major is a better fit for your personality and the skills you already possess. If you are unsure, there is no harm in attempting to gain some insight into the advertising and public relations careers first hand before making your final decision on which major you will pursue.

Many companies will entertain the interests of students who want an inside look at the careers they are interested in, and you may even want to shadow an advertiser or public relations professional for a few days. It takes courage to ask an executive for the opportunity to find out, by becoming an intern or volunteering your time, but it is this courage that will make you more informed and fit for these kinds of career paths.

Ronn Torossian is a public relations executive with over 20 years of experience

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