An online communications masters degree can catapult you toward professional development and expand your career opportunities in media, public relations, or marketing.
If success in your field depends on skillful mastery of the written or spoken word, then a masters in communications can help you advance your expertise. Getting this degree may also offer the opportunity to break into a new line of work.
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For busy professionals, an online program may offer a convenient approach to completing communication studies and earning an accredited degree.
Online Communications Masters Degrees
Words hold power. They can persuade audiences, settle arguments, calm fears, relay information, and build loyalty. A graduate degree in communications can help you develop your communication skills and prepare for positions in leadership or management.
At the start of your program, you might study communication theories and the history of this field. As you move into current times, you’ll discuss new media formats and how they affect communications strategies.
Much of your program’s focus will likely be on communication through words. In addition, you’ll spend time exploring visual media and the role it plays in modern messaging. Knowing the right method of communication for a situation requires insight and critical thinking.
In your graduate program, not only will you gain knowledge about communications, but you’ll learn to apply your skills in ethical, effective, and innovative ways. In so doing, you may further cultivate your leadership potential.
During your graduate studies, you’ll also learn how to overcome communications challenges. To get your messages across, you may need to deliver them through multiple channels. You might also need to shift your phrasing to reach diverse audiences.
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A master’s degree program will typically focus on research as well. You can learn to design studies and carry them out. Your research findings may contribute to your final thesis project at the culmination of your program.
Communication plays a critical role in many industries. A communications graduate degree may be relevant to a career in:
- Digital media
- Public relations
Through a concentration track or elective courses, you might be able to customize your degree plan to match your career goals. Some students pursue specializations like health communication, branding, or social advocacy.
Earning a masters degree can also help you qualify for leadership or management positions. Graduates may pursue careers as public relations managers or fundraising managers. Management roles in sales, advertising, and marketing might be other relevant options.
Your graduate studies may also qualify you for jobs in education. For example, some colleges, especially community colleges, hire speech professors who hold masters degrees.
Communications Master’s Concentrations
At many colleges, you can choose a concentration track for your graduate degree in communications so that your courses align with your career interests. The specialization options at your school might include the following:
Digital communications topics include social media, cinema, online analytics, and website development.
Studying digital communications can be useful for a career in advertising, public relations, marketing, or journalism. There may also be courses on consumer behavior and demographic research.
A PR communications program generally covers topics like strategic communications, survey questionnaires, crisis management, and fundraising.
You may also discuss communication strategies for appealing to various audiences, such as donors and investors.
In a marketing-focused program, you’ll likely take classes that cover global marketing, advertising theories, and strategies for social media. Brand development may be a key focus of this concentration.
For studies in health communications, you can explore informatics, patient-provider interactions, family dynamics, and medical controversies. There might be an emphasis on encouraging communities to make healthy choices.
To prepare for a career in campaigning or advocacy, you may study persuasion, political engagement, public opinion, and mass communication. This type of program may focus on political communication in the digital age.
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This list represents just a sample of possible concentrations. Elective classes might allow you to customize your own specialization track as well.
Communications Careers & Salaries
Any job that involves transforming public opinion, building brand loyalty, or leading teams can benefit from the input of a communications expert. There’s a strong connection between communications and public relations.
PR professionals often speak on behalf of companies or clients with the goal of protecting their reputation and bolstering their image. Media specialists and communications specialists have similar responsibilities. Industries that hire PR experts include business, community development, government, professional services, and education.
There are also several subsets of PR that might be of particular interest to you. If you like politics, you may be interested in being a press secretary for a political leader. If you enjoy technology, then social media management might be a good fit.
A fundraising career could be a strategic choice if you enjoy networking with donors and want to use your talents for social good. With experience and a masters degree, professionals may pursue public relations management or communications director positions.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, media and communication occupations pay a median annual salary of $61,310.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Advertising and Promotions Managers||$133,460|
|Human Resources Managers||$121,220|
|Public Relations and Fundraising Managers||$118,430|
|Postsecondary Communications Teachers||$71,030|
|Market Research Analysts||$65,810|
|Public Relations Specialists||$62,810|
|News Analysts, Reporters and Journalists||$49,300|
Advertising, sales, and marketing are other fields that pair well with communications studies. As with PR, having a masters degree might help you qualify for advancement into management roles. As you gain experience in management, you might even work your way toward your organization’s executive leadership team.
In journalism and broadcasting, communication happens on a mass scale. Reporting and news editing can be intriguing fields to consider. A masters degree may also help you qualify for jobs in community colleges. As a professor, you might share your knowledge with up-and-coming communications students.
Earning a master’s degree has the potential to increase your salary potential, but your income will also depend on a variety of factors, such as your experience and employer.
How to Choose an Online Master’s in Communications Program
Many schools offer master degree programs in communication, so it’s beneficial to consider various criteria to decide which ones might be best for you.
- Accreditation. Regional accreditation is the mark of a high quality education, so accreditation is often one of the first things to check when exploring colleges.
- Concentrations. Not every university offers the same concentration options. If you have your sights set on a particular line of study, you’ll likely want to zero in on colleges that offer that specialization.
- Format. Online programs aren’t all the same. Some may require logging in at certain times, which can be good for those who appreciate accountability. Other schools may allow you to complete schoolwork whenever it fits your schedule.
- Outcomes. By taking a look at post-graduation employment rates, you may learn more about what sort of reputation a school has among employers.
- Price. Tuition costs can vary greatly among schools. A robust financial aid package could reduce how important a factor this is, though.
As you search for programs that fit your top criteria, you can try to narrow your list down to a handful of your top choices.
Communications Master’s Curriculum
Many communications graduate programs require earning 33 to 36 credit hours, but some may have higher requirements. To complete these hours, you might take classes like the following:
- Branding: You’ll discuss the importance of branding in the modern marketplace and learn strategies for developing a strong brand image.
- Communication Theories: This course on the philosophical underpinnings of communication can serve as a foundation for your graduate studies.
- Conflict Resolution: Your communication skills can help parties work through conflict or navigate negotiations.
- Crisis Mediation: You can learn to use clear, careful communication to help organizations survive corporate crises.
- Leadership and Communication: You’ll talk about what it means to be a leader in the communications profession and how you can fulfill that role in a manner that’s effective, honest, and empowering to those under you.
- Media and Communication Law: This course explores First Amendment rights, journalistic integrity, censorship, and other matters of law and ethics.
- Research Methods and Design: After studying quantitative and qualitative research methods, you may craft a research proposal of your own.
- Strategies for Digital Media: Social platforms and other forms of digital media have transformed modern marketing and communications, so you’ll learn about making the most of these new channels.
- Visual Communication: This course will cover using graphics, videos, and other visual media forms to deliver messages, educate people, or build brand recognition.
- Writing Workshop: You’ll review grammar and practice your written communication so that the pieces you create can be professional and compelling.
Some communications masters programs also have opportunities for internships or study abroad. You might conclude your studies with a thesis or a capstone project.
It’s necessary to earn a bachelors degree before entering a communications graduate program. Your undergraduate studies may need to be in a field that’s relevant to communications studies.
In addition to a bachelors degree, common admissions requirements include:
- Curriculum vitae or resume
- GRE or GMAT scores (if required)
- Statement about your motivation and goals
- Transcripts from previous colleges
Admissions requirements can vary for each program. A school’s admissions committee will review your submitted materials to determine whether you’d be a good fit for their program.
Colleges can undergo the accreditation process through one of the nation’s seven regional accrediting agencies. Schools that meet the reviewing organization’s standards receive the distinction of regional accreditation.
Your school’s accreditation status can be especially critical if you decide to transfer your credits elsewhere or apply to a doctoral program. Educational institutions recognize accreditation as a sign of solid academics.
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Having an accredited degree can make a difference during job searches as well. Some employers prefer hiring professionals who have studied at regionally accredited institutions.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
To start exploring the financial assistance that’s available to you, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Many graduate students benefit from state or federal loans. With government loans, you can borrow money at a low interest rate. In select cases, you might also be eligible for government grants or work-study programs.
Scholarships and fellowships are tuition gifts that are often granted based on merit. Some college communications programs have money set aside to help qualified students pay for their studies. You may also apply to scholarship awards from professional organizations or community groups.
Some employers are even invested in their employees’ continuing education. You may consider talking to your HR department about the possibility of receiving tuition reimbursement.
Communications Professional Organizations
Through benefits like webinars, journals, online forums, and digital libraries, membership in an industry organization could contribute to your growth as a communications professional.
Organizations that you might want to check out during your time in a communications graduate program include:
- International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)
- National Communication Association (NCA)
- Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
Belonging to a group might allow you to connect with a local chapter or network with colleagues at an annual conference.
What Jobs Can You Get with a Communications Degree?
In some companies, a master’s degree is required for the position of public relations manager. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, success in that role requires being adept with both written and spoken communication.
Market research analyst is another role in this field. A communications background can be useful when collecting consumer data and presenting research findings to business leaders. A communications skill set is also applicable to journalism. In this role, it’s critical to deliver information clearly.
What Can You Do with a Masters in Communication?
Professionals in the communications field hold jobs in a variety of industries, including business, education, healthcare, and government. With a masters in communication, you might be able to specialize in public affairs, public relations, marketing, or advertising.
Some graduates are able to earn high-paying roles in the business world. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that managers in advertising and promotions often earn between $68,940 and $208,000 per year. Public relations and fundraising managers frequently make between $66,740 and $208,000.
A masters degree can also help qualify you to teach communications courses at the college level.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Masters in Communications Online?
If you can commit to full-time studies, there are some graduate programs in communications that can be completed in just 1 year. This is especially true for programs that only consist of 36 credit hours and have no thesis requirement.
The exact length of your masters program will depend on a few different factors. One is the format in which you take your classes. Online studies sometimes offer accelerated course schedules that aren’t available for on-campus programs. This is often the case whether it’s a masters, bachelors, or even an associates degree in communications online.
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Also, with a masters program, a thesis requirement can add time—often about 6 months. In that case, it may take you about 18 months to finish your online masters in communication when enrolled full-time.
What’s the Difference Between an MBA vs. Masters in Communications?
If you’re interested in a management career in sales, public relations, human resources, or marketing, you might be considering a Master of Business Administration or a masters in communication. The curriculum differences might help you decide between the two.
MBA course topics can include:
- Business ethics
- Corporate finance
- Human resources leadership
- Market research analysis
Masters in communications course topics can include:
- Digital media strategies
- Persuasion theories
- Professional writing
- Visual communication
An MBA can have many added concentrations from various fields, but an MBA in itself is business-specific. A communications degree might be relevant in business, government, or nonprofit work.
What’s the Difference Between a Graduate Certificate vs. Masters in Communications?
After earning a bachelors, you can choose to increase your education with a graduate certificate or a masters degree in communications.
A masters degree might:
- Cost more money
- Include about 12 classes
- Last around 12 to 18 months
- Qualify for more financial aid
A graduate certificate might:
- Have lower tuition costs
- Include 3 or 4 courses
- Take around 8 months
- Qualify for limited financial aid
If you’re unsure which to pursue, a certificate can be a strategic way to try out studies since the credits may transfer into a masters program.
What’s the Difference Between an MA vs. MS in Communications?
A Master of Arts in Communication and a Master of Science in Communication are often quite similar, but there may be some curriculum differences.
Topics covered in an MS in Communications might include:
- Digital marketing
- Health communications
- Leadership responsibilities
- Strategic planning
For an MA in Communications, you might study:
- Cultural factors
- Interpersonal dynamics
- Public policy leadership
An MS is sometimes the better choice for those with a career in healthcare or business. Those who want to work in government or education might opt for an MA.
What’s the Difference Between Marketing vs. Communications?
Communication plays a significant role in marketing success, but not all communications professionals are involved in marketing.
The communications field focuses on:
- Contributing to an organization’s strategic goals
- Coordinating internal and external communications
- Persuading audiences
- Sharing information
The marketing field addresses:
- Building brand loyalty
- Engaging customers
- Growing product awareness
- Increasing sales
If your goal is to build a marketing career, you may consider earning a Master of Communications or an MBA in Marketing.
What’s the Difference Between Public Affairs vs. Public Relations?
Public affairs and public relations sound similar, but there are key differences.
With public affairs, you can expect to:
- Communicate with the public about laws and policies
- Contribute to policy goals
- Work in a nonprofit or government setting
In a public relations jobs, you might be more likely to:
- Communicate with the public about the benefits of an individual or a company
- Contribute to your organization’s profits
- Work in a business setting
A communications degree can be useful for either of these lines of work.
Is a Masters in Communications Worth It?
Yes, a masters in communications is worth it for many professionals. This is a versatile degree that has applications in fields like healthcare, education, and business. Anywhere that communication takes place, the input of trained professionals can be a benefit.
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Communications studies can help you develop in-demand skills. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in public relations and fundraising management are expected to grow at a 9% rate over the next decade. During that same period, positions for market research analysts may increase at an impressive 18% rate.
Universities Offering Online Masters in Communication Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
American University offers an online Master’s in Strategic Communication program. Students may choose between two concentrations: Digital Communication Strategies and Analytics or Advocacy and Social Impact. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree and need to submit a statement of purpose and letters of recommendation.
American University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.
Arizona State University offers an online Master of Arts in Communication program. Classes are 7.5 weeks long, and only 10 classes are needed to graduate. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher from a related field. A personal statement, resume, and policies acknowledgement must be submitted when applying.
ASU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
California Baptist University offers an online Master’s in Communication program. It can usually be completed in 12 months and only requires 30 credits to graduate. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 2.5 and need to submit official transcripts and a personal statement.
California Baptist University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
Columbia University offers a Master’s in Strategic Communication. The program is designed for people working full-time and can typically be completed in 16 months. To graduate, students must complete 36 credits and a capstone project. Applicants must submit a resume, 2 letters of recommendation, and a video essay when applying.
Columbia is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Concordia University—St. Paul offers an online program for a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication Management.
Each course is 8 weeks long, and only 36 credit hours are needed to graduate. Applicants must submit an online application with official transcripts from previously attended post-secondary institutions and a personal statement about their professional goals.
Concordia University-Saint Paul is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
East Carolina University offers an online Masters of Communication program. Students may choose to add a concentration in either Health Communication or Strategic Communication. A total of 30 credit hours are needed to graduate. Applicants must submit a resume, transcripts, 2 letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose.
East Carolina University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Eastern Illinois University offers an online program for a Master of Arts in Communication Studies. Students can usually obtain the 33 credit hours needed to graduate within 2 years. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and need to submit 3 letters of recommendation, a resume, and a writing sample.
Eastern Illinois University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of College and Schools.
John Hopkins University offers an online Master of Arts in Communication program. To graduate, students must complete 10 courses and a thesis. The program offers two tracks: the strategic planning track and the research track. Applicants need a minimum GPA of 3.0 and must submit a resume, 2 references, and a statement of purpose.
Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Lasell University offers a Master of Science in Communication. Students may choose between one of 6 concentrations, including Public Relations and Digital Media. Each concentration has different requirements, but 36 credits are required for each. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0, official transcripts, and a personal statement.
Lasell University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Liberty University offers an online Masters of Communication program. Each course lasts 8 weeks, and 33 credit hours must be completed to graduate. The program usually takes about a year to finish. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 2.5 to be eligible for the program.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Marist College offers an online program for a Master of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communication.
Applicants need to submit 3 letters of recommendation and transcripts to apply. Both part-time and full-time study options are available in spring and fall semesters. While summer courses are 6 weeks long, all other terms are 8 weeks long. A total of 30 credits are needed to graduate.
Marist College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Michigan State University offers an online program for a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication.
Students must complete 30 credits, including a capstone project. Students must also attend three workplace training programs to graduate. Applicants must submit 3 letters of recommendation, a resume, a personal statement, and an academic statement.
MSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Mississippi College offers a Master’s in Communication. Students may choose one of three concentrations: Healthcare Communication, Integrated Communication, or Strategic Communication.
A total of 32 credit hours are needed to graduate. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 2.5 and need to submit scores from a standardized test.
Mississippi College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Northwestern University offers a Master of Science in Communication. Students may choose between the custom leadership program, which offers a customized curriculum, and the hybrid leadership program, which has students taking one course at a time.
Applicants must submit 2 letters of recommendation and transcripts and need to complete an interview with the admission committee.
Northwestern University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Purdue University offers online programs for a Master of Communication and a Master of Science in Corporate Training and Communication.
Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to be eligible. Both programs require 30 credits hours to graduate. The Master of Communication offers 5 different concentrations for students to choose from.
Purdue University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Queens University of Charlotte offers an online Masters of Communication program. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to be eligible.
Students choose between one of two concentrations: Strategic Communication or Organizational Communication. A total of 30 credits are needed to graduate, and it usually only takes 18 months to complete. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0.
The Queens University of Charlotte is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Sam Houston State University offers an online Master of Arts in Communication program. Students must complete 36 credit hours to graduate and have the option to transfer in up to 8 qualifying credits. To be eligible for the program, applicants must submit official transcripts, GRE test scores, a resume, 3 letters of recommendation, and a letter of interest.
SHSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
South Dakota State University offers an online Masters of Mass Communication program. The program offers cohort-based courses that are 8 weeks long.
Students may choose to either complete a research project and 32 credits or to finish 36 credits and a portfolio to graduate. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0.
South Dakota State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Spring Arbor University offers an online program for a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership.
It can usually be completed in 18 months and offers a mentorship program. Courses can last anywhere from 6 to 15 weeks. There are roughly 15 students in each class. Admissions advisors can help those interested in the program after they complete an online form.
Spring Arbor University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Syracuse University offers a Master of Science in Communication. Students must choose one of four specializations: Public Relations, Advertising, Journalism Innovation, or Media Management.
Each program requires 33 credits to graduate. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and 3 letters of recommendation and complete an online video interview.
Syracuse University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The University of Denver offers a Master of Marketing Communication. Each term lasts for 10 weeks, and the program can typically be completed within 18 months. Students must complete 48 credit hours to graduate. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 2.5 or higher.
The University of Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Florida offers an online Master of Global Strategic Communication program. A total of 37 credits are required to graduate. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher and need to submit 3 letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a resume.
The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Illinois—Urbana Champaign offers an online Master’s in Strategic Brand Communications program. It requires 32 credit hours to graduate and can usually be completed within 16 months. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, an essay, and 3 letters of recommendation.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Iowa offers an online program for a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication.
To graduate, students must complete 30 credit hours, with 15 credits left open for electives. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0. When applying, they need to submit letters of reference and official transcripts from previously attended post-secondary institutions.
The University of Iowa is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Louisiana—Monroe offers an online program for a Master of Arts in Communication with a concentration in Strategic Communication. Students must complete 30 credit hours and either a final project or a thesis to graduate. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.5 and have to submit their GRE test scores to the school.
The University of Louisiana Monroe is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Missouri offers an online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication program. Students must complete 37 credit hours to graduate. While the program can be taken online, a single visit to campus is required. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and 3 years of relative work experience.
The University of Missouri is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Nebraska—Lincoln offers a Master of Arts in Communication Studies. Students may choose one of three specializations for their degree: Ethnic Studies, Great Plains Studies, or Woman and Genders Studies. Applicants must submit GRE scores and 3 letters of recommendation to be eligible for the program.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill offers an online Master of Arts in Communication program. Students must complete 30 credit hours and can usually finish the program in 2 years with one summer semester. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and 3 years of work experience.
UNC-Chapel Hill is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Southern California offers a Master of Communication Management.
Students may pursue 3 areas of focus: Marketing Communication, Strategic and Organizational Communication, or Market Research and Analytics. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree, two letters of recommendation, a writing sample, and a statement of purpose.
USC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Senior College and University Commission.
Webster University offers an online Communications Management program. To graduate, students must finish 36 credit hours, with 15 credits dedicated to electives. Applicants are considered on a rolling basis and must have a minimum GPA of 2.5. If the applicant has a lower GPA, they may receive conditional acceptance into the program.
Webster University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Earning Your Masters in Communications Online
If you’re committed to growing as a professional in business, politics, social advocacy, or education, then earning a masters in communications could be a strategic next step. This degree can be particularly beneficial if your career centers around marketing communications, public relations, or digital media.
For graduate studies that fit into your busy life, you may consider enrolling in an online communications degree program. This can include either an online master’s or a PhD in Communications online. You can earn a reputable, accredited degree online with coursework that’s comparable to what you’d experience in an on-campus program.
You can start exploring online communications masters degree programs to see what courses, concentrations, and opportunities stand out to you.