Thanks to the Public Relations Society of America, students seeking their master’s degree in business administration (MBA) might soon find themselves taking courses on public relations and crisis communications in addition to traditional offerings like accounting and finance.

Earlier this month, the PRSA announced its MBA Initiative, a program designed to address what it calls “a lack of training in communications and reputation management skills among MBA graduates.” Through the initiative, a select group of business schools will implement PRSA-developed strategic communication coursework in the fall of 2012, with a wider national rollout planned for the following year.

The move was prompted by the PRSA’s recent survey of 204 American business leaders, which found a “knowledge gap” in the communications and reputation management skills training of MBA graduates.

The surveyindicates that business leaders think public relations skills are vital:

  • 93 percent said public relations is just as important to their companies as other forms of communication, including advertising and marketing.
  • 97 percent said CEOs should understand the role of corporate reputation management, and 94 percent said C-level executives should have a working knowledge of basic PR skills.
  • 98 percent believe that business school should incorporate instruction on corporate communications and reputation management strategy into MBA curricula.

But the survey also shows that companies aren’t as knowledgeable about PR as they’d like to be:

  • 94 percent of respondents said their senior executives need additional training in core communication disciplines
  • Only 40 percent of the companies who have hired recent  MBA grads within the last three years found the skill sets of those hires to be extremely strong in the areas of building and protecting the company’s reputation and credibility

You can read the full study and more information about the MBA Initiative at this link. In the meantime, tell us what you think. Do you agree that C-suite business leaders need a working knowledge of PR skills? Do you think MBA students should receive more PR and communications training along with their traditional business courses?