Best Master’s in Public Relations and Image Management Programs

Discover the best master's programs in public relations and image management to prepare you for this exciting field.

portrait of Blake Weil
by Blake Weil

Published on July 27, 2022 · Updated on July 29, 2022

Edited by Kristina Beek
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Public relations and image management is the art of swaying public opinion and shaping the image of businesses, organizations, or high-profile individuals. Public relations professionals form relationships with the media and publish press releases to try to control the story surrounding your client. Going to graduate school to pursue a master's in public relations and image management teaches students advanced techniques and helps them apply their skills to real-world scenarios.

The average program takes 1.5-2 years to complete. However, some online programs may allow a student to finish faster than this. Graduate degree tuition and fees cost, on average, $19,792 as of 2019-20, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). True program costs may vary depending on each school and program.

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 career outlook for public relations professionals is generally good in terms of both salary and job growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), public relations jobs are expected to grow 11% between 2020 and 2030. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $62,800 as of 2021.

Our Top Pick

Georgetown University - Washington, D.C.

Why It's #1: Georgetown University tops our list of the best master's in public relations programs. Georgetown boasts a stellar graduation rate of 95%. It also has a good record of awarding financial aid, with 55% of students receiving aid. Tuition is $45,381, close to the average tuition rate for private schools. Admissions are highly competitive, with an admission rate of 14%. Fifteen percent of Georgetown students attend online classes. Students can attend Georgetown's master's in public relations and corporate communications fully online.

Read Our Rankings Methodology

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

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1

Georgetown University

School Information
Location Washington, District of Columbia
Admission Rate 14%
Graduation Rate 95%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online, On-Campus, or Hybrid | Self-Paced Classes or Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
Private | $1,483 - $1,527

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Georgetown offers a master's in public relations and corporate communications. The flexible program is available online, in person, or as a combination of both. Students can complete this program either full or part time. Enrollees complete coursework in writing, planning, and research coursework and have opportunities to work with real-world clients.

Applicants must submit transcripts, a CV or resume, a statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation alongside their online application. Standardized test scores are not required.

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#2

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
Private | $2,035

Credits to Graduate
36

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

USC's M.A. in public relations and advertising is devoted to preparing public relations leaders. The curriculum covers PR techniques and platforms, research and analysis skills, and business fundamentals. 

Students can specialize in computational public relations; digital, interactive, and converged communications; corporate and business communication; civic engagement; sports and entertainment; or lifestyle public relations.

Applicants must submit writing samples, letters of recommendation, a CV or resume, and a personal statement. USC has suspended GRE requirements through 2022. 

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#3

Boston University

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 19%
Graduation Rate 88%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Tuition
Private | $61,050

Credits to Graduate
48

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

The BU master's in public relations program offers a blend of management, writing, and research instruction. The program prepares students for jobs in public relations via work with the PR Lab, a student-run PR firm, as well as through internship placements.

Applicants must submit transcripts, a CV, and letters of recommendation. They must also submit a 750-word personal statement answering one of two prompts.

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#4

University of Miami

School Information
Location Coral Gables, Florida
Admission Rate 27%
Graduation Rate 83%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
Private | $2,310

Credits to Graduate
30-36

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

UM offers two tracks for their master's in public relations. The first is a 30-credit thesis track focusing on public relations research. The second is a 36-credit coursework-only track designed to advance PR and corporate communications knowledge. Both programs seek to develop both creative and analytical skills.

To apply, students must submit undergraduate transcripts and a personal statement. GRE scores are encouraged but not required. 

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#5

Florida State University

School Information
Location Tallahassee, Florida
Admission Rate 36%
Graduation Rate 83%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $479
Out-of-State | $1,111

Credits to Graduate
33-36

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

FSU offers a master's in integrated marketing communication. It combines public relations with applied research, advertising, and cross-cultural communication. Students can pursue multiple pathways through the program, including a thesis option.

Applicants must submit transcripts showing a minimum GPA of 3.0, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and, optionally, a resume or writing sample. FSU has waived GRE requirements through 2026. 

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#6

George Washington University

School Information
Location Washington, District of Columbia
Admission Rate 41%
Graduation Rate 82%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus or Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
Private | $1,625

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Students in GW's master's in strategic public relations gain broad expertise in the field, with special emphasis placed on political communications. Coursework is scheduled and tailored for career advancement for working professionals. Students expand their experiences with internships in both the public and private sectors.

Applications must include transcripts, a resume, a statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation. Students with less than a 3.0 GPA must submit a work portfolio with a descriptive essay or GRE scores.

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#7

Emerson College

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 33%
Graduation Rate 82%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus or Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
Private | $1,349

Credits to Graduate
36

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Emerson prides itself on offering the first communication program in the U.S. In its master's in public relations program, students have access to real-world experiences to supplement their courses. Courses are primarily offered in the evening to make the program accessible for working professionals.

Applicants must submit college transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a resume. They must also submit an admissions essay answering one of two prompts. 

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#8

University of Denver

School Information
Location Denver, Colorado
Admission Rate 59%
Graduation Rate 77%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 28% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus or Online | Scheduled or Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Tuition per Academic Year
Private | $36,728

Credits to Graduate
48

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

DU offers a master's in public relations designed for working professionals. Students can either complete the program either on-campus or entirely online. Enrollees can also tailor their curriculum to their individual goals and interests with elective courses. In addition to coursework, students receive career support, including coaching and mock interviews. 

Applicants must submit a personal statement, resume, and official college transcripts. DU has waived the application fee for all students. 

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#9

Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

School Information
Location Indianapolis, Indiana
Admission Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 50%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 41% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus or Hybrid | Scheduled or Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $390
Out-of-State | $1,078

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

IUPUI's master's in public relations is designed to help experienced public relations professionals take the next steps in their careers. In addition to coursework, students participate in real-world applications of PR and crisis communications. Students can pursue a degree in general public relations management or specialize in healthcare and life sciences or sports public relations management.

Applicants are encouraged to contact the program before applying to confirm application requirements. Applications must be submitted through a central IUPUI portal. 

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#10

University of Houston

School Information
Location Houston, Texas
Admission Rate 65%
Graduation Rate 61%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 43% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $470
Out-of-State | $978

Credits to Graduate
30-36

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

UH offers both a thesis and non-thesis master's in public relations studies. The program is designed for professionals looking to move up the career ladder or looking to pursue advanced graduate studies. Courses focus on conceptual, applied, and research skills.

Applicants must have at least 18 credits of previous coursework in public relations. Applications must include transcripts, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and GRE scores. 

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Popular Online Public Relations and Image Management 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 Master's Public Relations and Image Relations Programs 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 64 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 master's in public relations and image management worth it?

Yes, a master's in public relations is worth it. Public relations is a fast-growing and well-paying field, with the BLS projecting that public relations jobs will grow by 11% between 2020 and 2030. These professionals had an average salary of $62,800 as of 2021.

However, always consider your financial situation before enrolling in a graduate program. Consider loans you may have to take out, salary potential after graduation, and your financial plan after graduation. Speak with a financial institution or a school's financial aid office for help.

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

Generally, people with a master's in public relations and image management work in upper levels of institutional communications. They are eligible for the highest positions in the field, often managing teams of public relations professionals and directing PR campaign strategy.

Graduates with a master's in public relations and image management work across all spheres, from politics to travel and leisure. Some programs offer students a chance to specialize in the unique challenges of a specific industry, such as sports or entertainment management.

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

A career in public relations and image management typically does not require additional education past a master's degree. Some professionals may pursue an MBA, but it is not necessary for anything but specialized leadership positions.

For those who choose not to pursue additional schooling, they can continue to learn and grow in a variety of ways. The public relations industry often has conferences and conventions, where speakers discuss new trends and offer advice. Professionals can also choose to self-study.

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

According to PayScale, the average master's in public relations program graduate earned $64,000 in 2022. PR professionals made a median annual salary of $62,800 as of 2021, according to the BLS. Those in leadership positions or with more experience generally earn more — the top 10% of earners in public relations made a median annual salary of $124,620 in 2021.

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

Public relations and image management professionals can command salaries in the six-figure range. The top 10% of earners in public relations earned a median salary of $124,620 in 2021, according to the BLS.

Feature Image: Luis Alvarez / 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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