Best Public Relations and Image Management Programs

Check out what the best bachelor's in public relations and image management programs offer that prepares students for the workforce.

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by Doug Wintemute

Published July 29, 2022

Edited by Colin Weickmann
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Individuals and organizations have a greater reach than ever before. With that, the need for professional image management has grown. In a four-year bachelor's in public relations and image management program, students gain the tools, skills, and strategies to build and manage effective images and communications campaigns.

The popularity and demand for business degrees and careers in public relations and image management are rising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 11% growth in public relations occupations between 2020 and 2030. The median annual wage for these professionals was $62,800 in May 2021.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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The higher-than-average wages can help offset the program costs, which hit $13,677 in 2020-21, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Online schools may also help lower the true program cost by limiting the need for travel and opening up more affordable options for students.

This page highlights the best bachelor's in public relations and image management, including both on-campus and online programs.

Our Top Pick

University of Southern California - Los Angeles, California

Why It's #1: We gave USC the top rank for several reasons. The school posted one of the top graduation rates at 92% while also having one of the lowest student-to-teacher ratios. Though tuition rates were some of the highest, a significant percentage of students received financial aid besides loans.

In general, USC's large number of online programs make it one of the more accessible schools in consideration.

Read Our Rankings Methodology

Best Accredited Bachelor's in Public Relations and Image Management Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1

University of Southern California

School Information
Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 92%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $2,137
Out-of-State | $2,137

Credits to Graduate
44 in the major (128 total)

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

In USC's bachelor's in public relations, students complete courses in effective writing for strategic communications, media and content, and business and economic foundations. The program also features internship opportunities.

In addition to the coursework and internships, learners can benefit from practical experience within the school's media center and digital lounge. Prospective students need a high school diploma or a GED for admission. 

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#2

University of Florida

School Information
Location Gainesville, Florida
Admission Rate 37%
Graduation Rate 88%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Year
In-State | $6,380
Out-of-State | $22,278

Credits to Graduate
124

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

UF's BS in public relations provides degree-seekers with communication skills, experience using relevant technologies, and an ethical and professional framework. They take courses in the law of mass communication, consumer and audience analytics, and public relations writing. 

Public relations students can pursue for-credit and noncredit internships. For admission, prospective students need a high school diploma or a GED and a minimum 2.0 GPA, plus the appropriate prerequisites.

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#3

Brigham Young University

School Information
Location Provo, Utah
Admission Rate 67%
Graduation Rate 78%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $323-$646
Out-of-State | $323-$646

Credits to Graduate
46 in the major (120 total)

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

BYU's bachelor's in public relations features core courses in public relations strategy, campaigns, and research. Learners also complete an internship, plus an advanced writing and oral communication course. 

The school's public relations intelligence lab provides students with more intimate and hands-on experiences. Prospective students need a high school diploma or a GED for school admission. For the major, they need communications course prerequisites and a completed strategic planning case study.

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#4

The University of Texas at Austin

School Information
Location Austin, Texas
Admission Rate 32%
Graduation Rate 86%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 25% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Semester
In-State | $5,615
Out-of-State | $19,878

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

Students in UT Austin's BS in public relations receive a well-rounded education with courses in writing, cultural diversity, ethics, global cultures, independent inquiry, and quantitative reasoning. They also take core public relations strategies, marketing principles, and integrated communications management. 

UT Austin learners also complete an internship and 12 business course hours. Prospective students need a high diploma or a GED for admission.

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#5

University of Georgia

School Information
Location Athens, Georgia
Admission Rate 45%
Graduation Rate 87%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Year
In-State | $9,790
Out-of-State | $28,830

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

The BA in public relations at UGA equips students to plan, design, and analyze public relations campaigns and communications. The program features core courses in research insights and analytics, graphic communications, and public relations ethics. 

UGA also hosts public relations student organizations and study abroad opportunities. Prospective students need a high school diploma or a GED, good grades, and the proper prerequisites for admission. For entry into the bachelor's in public relations, applicants need a minimum 2.8 GPA.

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#6

University of Florida-Online

School Information
Location Gainesville, Florida
Admission Rate 32%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $129
Out-of-State | $553

Credits to Graduate
124

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

UF Online's BS in public relations focuses on mass and visual communication and provides students with the strategies and skills to engage in both fields. The program includes courses in reporting, writing fundamentals, and ethics and problems in mass communications. 

Online classes run asynchronously, and students can customize their course load to fit their scheduling needs. Prospective students need a high school diploma or a GED and a minimum 2.5 GPA for admission. They may also need SAT or ACT scores.

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#7

Harding University

School Information
Location Searcy, Arkansas
Admission Rate 61%
Graduation Rate 69%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $750
Out-of-State | $750

Credits to Graduate
128

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

Harding's bachelor's in public relations combines theoretical and practical learning to help students pursue communications positions in various industries. Degree-seekers take 12 credit hours in communications, plus core courses in digital media strategies, public relations tactics, and multimedia storytelling. 

The program also features a professional internship and a five-part research project requirement. For unconditional admission, prospective students need a high school diploma, the necessary prerequisites, and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

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#8

American University

School Information
Location Washington, District of Columbia
Admission Rate 36%
Graduation Rate 79%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $1,768
Out-of-State | $1,768

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications

The BA in public relations and strategic communication from American University features specializations in political, lifestyle and culture, corporate, and social change and advocacy communication. Other options include digital communication content and analytics and diversity and multicultural communication.

The programs include core courses in understanding media, communication, and society, plus a public relations portfolio requirement. For admission, prospective students need a high school diploma or a GED, plus prerequisites. For entry to the major, applicants need a minimum of 60 credits and a minimum 2.5 GPA.

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#9

Syracuse University

School Information
Location Syracuse, New York
Admission Rate 44%
Graduation Rate 83%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Year
In-State | $58,540
Out-of-State | $58,540

Credits to Graduate
42 in the major (120 total)

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

Syracuse's BS in public relations prepares students to help organizations manage their images and strategic communications. The program includes courses in the ethics of advocacy, public relations law, and writing public relations in a digital age. Learners complete an online portfolio capstone project as well.

Syracuse students also enjoy access to the on-campus public relations firm, networking events, and more than 15 campus publications. For admission, prospective students need a high school diploma or a GED.

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#10

Southern Methodist University

School Information
Location Dallas, Texas
Admission Rate 47%
Graduation Rate 81%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes 

Avg. Cost per Year
In-State | $61,980
Out-of-State | $61,980

Credits to Graduate
37 in the major (120 total)

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | N/A

In SMU's BA in public relations and strategic communication, students take core courses in communication theory, data analytics, and free speech and first amendment. The program also has an ethics, international communication, and internship requirement. Students complete a campaign leadership practicum as well.

Prospective students need a high school diploma or a GED for admission to the school. To declare the major, applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA in the appropriate communications prerequisite courses.

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Featured Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Bachelor's in Public Relations and Image Management ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We identified 145 schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking, and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (60%) and affordability (40%).

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

BestColleges' Ranking Factors

Frequently Asked Questions About Public Relations and Image Management Programs

Is a bachelor's in public relations and image management worth it?

Yes. A bachelor's in public relations and image management equips students with the skills and expertise to help individuals and organizations stand out. These specialized programs cover campaign planning and building while exploring many media types and demographics.

In general, college costs can be quite expensive. However, the growth of online education has made education more accessible for working professionals. Students can get the most value from their online degree by selecting the best program for their needs and goals, regardless of where it is located.

What can I do with a bachelor's in public relations and image management?

The public relations specialist profession is the most direct career path for graduates with a bachelor's in public relations and image management. Depending on the organization, they may also qualify for public relations and fundraising management roles, though these positions may require master's degrees.

Other related fields include advertising and marketing, market research analysis, and management analysis. The communication skills gained in these programs apply to various positions in the media and communication sector as well.

What continuing education is available for public relations and image management graduates?

Graduates who want to keep going with their studies have several continuing education options available to them. The most direct path available is a master's in public relations. Other related master's degrees include fundraising management and many communications programs.

While these programs will help graduates develop their existing public relations skills, business-related degrees might give them the expertise needed for management and executive roles, such as MBAs and marketing master's programs. Graduates can also update their skills and knowledge with postgraduate certificate courses and programs.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in public relations and image management?

The salaries available to graduates with a bachelor's in public relations and image management depend on their career choice, employer, and industry. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for public relations specialists was $62,800 in May 2021, yet the top 10% earned more than $124,620.

Some of the major employment industries in this sector included advertising services, government, businesses, and educational services. In May 2021, the respective median annual salaries for these industries were $69,170, $67,270, $64,430, and $61,860.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's in public relations and image management?

The highest-paying jobs for graduates with a bachelor's in public relations and image management belong to the management sector. Public relations and fundraising managers made median annual wages of $119,860 in May 2021, as per the BLS. That exceeded the 2021 median annual salary for all occupations by nearly $75,000.

Some professionals made even more, depending on their experience and industry. For example, the top 10% in the field brought in more than $208,000 that year. Those who owned their own companies or enterprises earned median annual wages of $151,300.

Feature Image: Maskot / DigitalVision / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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