In today's fast-paced world - of business, of academia, health, government policy, and more, we need up-to-the-minute communication. Technology has added an extra layer and increased the demands of the audience.
However, we don't just need more communication; we need higher quality and rapid delivery of those messages. We must also ensure messages are targeted at the right audience at the right time, and in the right way.
A master's degree in communication is the ideal graduate program to help you enter a career in communications. In an era where people increasingly work from home, and flexibility is becoming standard, such a program is ideal for learning how to communicate with people with broad and diverse needs and experiences.
A master's degree in communication will set you on the right path for career development, and of course, higher salaries on average, and broaden the number of careers open to you.
Are you ready to begin your search for the best master’s in communication for you and your career? We have all the information you need to find the ideal school and program for you, organized locally and nationwide. Consider an online master’s in communication program. We’ve ranked the 2024 best online master’s in communication programs as well. Take a look!
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A master's degree is a graduate program (also known as a post-graduate degree) that students who have completed a relevant bachelor's degree undertake. The primary purpose is further study, skills development, and knowledge acquisition. Graduate degree programs are open to most students with a bachelor's, typically those who have a minimum grade for their first degree. This minimum entry requirement, however, may vary between institutions.
Master's in communications degrees may be a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS / MSc). However, there are also MComm degrees in the communications field.
Most of your choices at present are MA or MS.
Which type you study will depend on what and how you study and influence your career options:
- MA degrees in communication will cover the art of comms such as journalism, media, and social media outreach
- MS degrees are for those wishing to study the mechanics, research, and theory behind communications
- The MComm mixes elements of both the MA and MS. As stated above, these are not yet common, and most students still prefer the traditional choice of MA or MS
Students pursuing any communication master's or related will take their studies, skills, and tools to the next level. They learn advanced techniques and, in most cases, psychological theory behind communication methods. They also help students enhance niche areas and engage in practical projects for professional skills to take into their intended career areas.
Students may enter a master's degree straight after completing a relevant bachelor's degree or re-enter study and commence a graduate program after many years in a profession.
Further details on the types and subjects under Communications Master's Degrees are below. For now, it is essential that candidates understand that while there are a variety of masters covering specific areas, in most cases you will cover the most important aspects of methodology, practice, and theory.
With a wide variety of master's in communications programs, students can find one tailored to their interests and future career goals. Some of the program options available to aspiring master's students include:
Communication & Media Studies: For those interested in any aspect of media, from broadcast news and magazine journalism to documentary filmmaking and social media management, the master's degree in media communications is a slam dunk. Typically completed within two years, students enrolled in the program learn about communication technology, media tools, and strategy and are prepared for leadership roles within the media arm of communications. Find an online master’s in media communication.
Communication Management: A master's in communication management is a broad-scope degree designed to give students the tools to tackle complex communications issues within organizations. Graduates of this program go on to management positions in such industries as non-profit, marketing, international business, public relations, and more. The master's in communication management program typically takes 1-2 years. Find an online master’s in communication management.
Communication Studies: A master's in communication studies is a graduate degree pathway for those interested in learning advanced concepts in communication theories. This degree choice is popular among those seeking teaching or research positions. Other careers suited for this degree include consultancy, sales, publishing, and more. Find an online master’s in communication studies.
Emerging Media: Also referred to as a master's in digital media communications, an emerging media program teaches students the most effective ways to use online and social media platforms and research emerging media and issues in online and offline consumer behaviors.
Global Communication: Those interested in communications and international business are the target audience for the master’s degree in global communications. This program weaves concepts in cross-cultural communications, business, public diplomacy, global public relations, and more. Graduates of this degree pathway can enter careers as foreign news reporters, international business spokespersons, and content managers/webmasters for international firms. Find an online master's in global communication.
Health Communication: Those looking to apply communications and public relations to the healthcare industry can look no further than a master's degree in health communication. This rewarding career path can lead to jobs in hospitals, insurance or pharmaceutical companies, or even specialized medical public relations. Students enrolled in a graduate-level health communication program take courses in medical topics and communications, paving the way to be the intermediary between healthcare administrations and the public. Find an online master’s in health communication.
Marketing Communications: For those interested in blending marketing with niche communications specialties, such as public relations, social media, and more, an online Master's in Marketing Communications is the pathway of choice. This degree type blends several aspects of integrated marketing and communications, training students in both traditional and digital modalities to create cohesive business strategies. Graduates of this program go on to careers as digital marketing managers, directors of marketing, and many more. Find an online master’s in marketing communications.
Mass Communication: Those interested in communications and international business are the target audience for the master’s degree in global communications. This program weaves concepts in cross-cultural communications, business, public diplomacy, global public relations, and more. Graduates of this degree pathway can enter careers as foreign news reporters, international business spokespersons, and content managers/webmasters for multinational firms. Find an online master’s in mass communication.
Organizational Communication: Earning a master's in organizational communications will put you on the path to improving internal and external communications for companies, non-profits, government agencies, and more. Organizational communications professionals utilize persuasion, negotiation, and awareness to analyze and overcome communication barriers to manage and resolve crises and challenges. This degree may lead to careers in HR, media/public relations, marketing, and labor relations. Find an online master’s in organizational communication.
A master's degree in political communication is ideal for those interested in government, politics, and media. This program teaches fundamentals in political campaigning, engagement, and media strategy, including digital and social media. With a graduate degree in political communication, career opportunities such as campaign communications director, political correspondent, public affairs strategist, and more will be available. Find an online master’s in political communication.
The master's in strategic communications prepares students for various PR/marketing-related careers where strategy and organization across multimedia platforms are utilized to solve challenges. Grads of this degree pathway become communications directors, PR account executives, and information officers. Find an online master’s in strategic communication.
A master's degree in technical communications is ideal for those looking to advance to careers in technical writing and editing, design, management, and other tech areas. Students enrolled in this type of program hone their skills in many visual communication styles and techniques to present data and concepts clearly and understandably. Find an online master’s in technical communication.
Similar Degrees of Interest
- Online Master’s in Communication Disorders including Speech Pathology
- Online Master’s in Journalism
- Online Master’s in Marketing
- Online Marketing MBA
- Online Master’s in Public Relations
- Online Master’s in Social Media
Undergraduate Degrees of Interest
You are likely considering applying for an MA or MS in communications for one of three reasons.
In the first case, further development, promotions, or other career advancement is not currently open to you without such a qualification due to the skills and tools they provide.
Second, you might need certification or membership in a professional body to advance - both of which may require a minimum qualification of a master's degree.
Third, you might be looking for a career change - to a new department or industry for which you have only partial skills to leap. Such skills and background may not otherwise be available as on-the-job training anywhere. The best or only way to attain them is to take a relevant graduate program, ideally in the niche you want to join.
The complete list of admission requirements will depend on several things and vary by university. In some cases, the more prestigious the individual department, the more competition there is and the higher the entry requirements.
Your regional state university, for example, will have lower entry requirements than an Ivy League institution. However, if your state university department is considered a top performer, it may have requirements similar to those of your most eligible Ivy League University.
- An accredited bachelor's degree in a relevant subject like Communications, Media, or Journalism
- The minimum GPA varies between universities. A typical range is from 2.5 at the lowest to 3.5 at the highest. Most are around 3.0
- Letters of recommendation or references from past faculty. If you are applying to the same university, they may waive this element of the application. In cases where you completed your bachelor's degree many years ago, employer references are acceptable and usually required. Two or three letters are typical
- Submit a personal statement along with your application, usually five hundred words
- Some colleges may ask you to attend a mandatory orientation day which will usually include an interview to determine whether you are a suitable fit for them beyond academic achievements
- An essay or essays answering questions about the industry that you should be able to answer either from work experience studying for your bachelor's degree or relating to your personal career development goals. Things like "how will this master's degree help you pursue a career?"
- Academic writing, such as essays and research projects, may be required to ascertain academic performance and suitability for master's level study
- Master's in communication programs that concern skills development (like public relations and corporate communication) may require a resume with an extensive list of work experience
- Some programs may ask for a minimum amount of work experience to apply, typically 2-3 years
- Non-native English speaker? You will need to submit TOEFL certification or equivalent. 90 if taken online, 233 on computer, and 577 for a paper test. You will also need to provide formal proof of English communication if English is not your first language. Other suitable programs include IELTS and PTEA. Others may accept ELS112 or DuoLingo
This is a typical list of requirements. No matter where you apply, check the school's website for any additional expectations.
What are the Admissions Requirements for Entry to a Master's In Communication Program?
Admissions requirements vary from school to school, but applicants to a master's in communications program must have completed a four-year bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of at least 3.0 on all undergraduate work. Applicants may also need to submit scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and an up-to-date resume, letters of recommendation, and relevant writing samples with their admissions application. Find a No GRE master’s in communication program.
Communication is a broad field with applications right across the spectrum. It's vital in business (for marketing, corporate outreach, PR, media), government policy (election campaigning, policy development, public awareness of laws and regulations), health, charity, and many other areas.
To help take your career into your chosen area, universities around the US offer communications master's in various niches (as discussed above). However, your choices do not end there. They also offer many ways to study to help you enter this type of career. You may work in a traditional classroom with a mix of lectures, seminars, workshops, and labs, through distance learning where everything takes place entirely online, or mix the two methods for the best of both worlds.
Traditional Campus-Based Programs
On-campus study takes place in the classroom environment at the university, with information communicated in person from professor to student - much like a bachelor's program. You may study full-time or part-time, typically over 2-3 years.
There are many advantages here, including vital social interaction, group work, and access to campus resources such as the library, computer rooms, and workshop areas. There is only so much the virtual world enables, and it's still the major preferred method.
Advantages to schools that offer campus study include more opportunities for internships. However, there is a lower degree of flexibility, so some people prefer fully online or hybrid programs.
Also known as "distance learning," fully online programs allow you to study a master’s in communication over the internet using a combination of video lectures, interactive programs, gamification, and online submission of papers and other assessments used to measure progress.
You may work from home, public libraries, or any other remote location, including online access to the university’s resources, such as an online library, JSTOR, and others. However, you may or may not be able to use the brick & mortar library. Check each university for further details. You may complete the program the same length as a campus-based program or spread study over several more years.
Further flexibility is available; students may be offered flexible deadlines or some input on deciding assessment dates and course structure to help them work around other commitments.
This method is ideally suited to those who live too far away from a state university or who do not have ready access to transportation to get there – it also serves parents, part-time employees, and those with caring responsibilities.
Hybrid Master's in Communication Study
Hybrid programs are exactly what they sound like - a mix of online and virtual learning. Many students prefer to have the best of both worlds when studying for a master’s in communication. Most of the study, coursework, lectures, and other classroom studies occur online.
However, there are program elements that the student must attend the campus. These may be workshops for direct experience using specialist equipment, or seminars. These small discussion groups in a classroom setting can work online but can also be set with problems.
Your in-person contact depends on the university, the department, and the course makeup. Some programs require more face-to-face interaction, while others may keep it to a minimum. This study method is perfect for those students desiring flexible distance learning but who also need the social interaction of university life.
Ordinarily, most master’s students can expect to complete their studies in two years. That is the standard length of time for traditional on-campus study at a full-time pace. However, that is not universal. Some programs take less than two years while others take longer. Part-time, online study, flexible learning and other methods designed to help students move at a suitable pace can all contribute to the time commitment.
- On-campus full-time: Typically taking two years, the traditional study method which is still the preferred way to earn a graduate degree
- On-campus part-time: Typically, three years but can be spread out to five years. The full-time on-campus study is not suitable, but this type of student prefers a traditional university learning experience
- Fully online: Typically takes two years, but sometimes shorter and sometimes longer. They can be completed in as little as one year on an accelerated program or up to five years. Full-time and part-time options are available in line with the on-campus options listed above
- Hybrid: They take anything between two and five years, depending on the preferred pace as you are expected to attend campus for seminars, workshops, and practical skills such as specialist software
- Accelerated programs: Take just one year. However, if part of a 4+1 program, the student completes the bachelor's degree before heading straight into the master's
In the USA, degrees are comprised of courses. Not all courses are equal - the time taken to complete just one course determines how many credit hours (and therefore credits) will decide that it is complete.
Typically, in an undergraduate degree, courses tend to be 1-2 credits. For a master's degree, it is 3-4 credits. This is because a course at master's level has more work, assessment, and contact hours. One academic year will usually comprise up to 30 credit hours for bachelor's and master's degrees. Therefore, your master's will be 30-64 credit hours.
It is important to note that the cost of tuition is based on a per-credit basis. It will also determine how much you might get in grants, bursaries, and scholarships.
You must pass enough classes and attain the minimum number of credits to complete your master's degree in communication and graduate.
Note for international students: The credits attained from your home country's bachelor's degree are not automatically transferred and must be converted to the USA credit system. Check your country's academic resources to work out how to do this.
Much like your undergraduate degree, you will pay for your program per credit. That means how much you will pay for your master's in communication will depend on a variety of factors:
- Location: The state the university is in and the cost of living there
- Your state residence: Out-of-state students will usually pay more than those applying to universities in their state of residence as well international students
- University prestige: Ivy League and high-performing institutions and departments are subject to higher demand from potential students. Due to their excellent resources and access to faculty, they will be more expensive
Over 390 universities are currently offering Communications Master's Degrees, including all subniches and variations on the title. The average tuition for the academic year 2021-22 was $10,602 per year for in-state students. Out of state cost for the same year was $19,729. However, the lowest cost programs are $4,000 per year in the region.
In Relevant Employment? Would Your Employer Help?
It is unlikely to pay for the full tuition for your master's degree in communications unless they have cast iron guarantees that they, too, will gain from your education. Some businesses have philanthropy schemes for employees to help them improve their skills and progress throughout the company.
- Bursaries, grants, or other funding, typically limited to people with strict criteria (low income, women, disabled, and other under-represented groups)
- Loans as an alternative to traditional lenders offering lower interest rates
- Some offer something called a "tuition reimbursement plan" for graduate study
Even if a company does not advertise such a scheme, it is worth enquiring about.
There may also be stipulations that seek assurances from the employee. For example, they will only reimburse your tuition if you maintain a minimum GPA. It will also need to be related to your current job and relevant to your advancement within the company.
Often, such funding may only be available to full-time employees. You may also be contractually obliged to remain in their employment for a certain number of years after completion. If you leave, they are legally entitled to claw that money back.
What Are Your Funding Options for Master's Degrees in Communications?
Much like your bachelor's degree, you have multiple funding options. Always talk to the university finance department about your loan options and what financial aid you might be entitled to. Interest rates may vary, so always check this and seek external advice.
- Help secure Federal loans and help you understand eligibility for grants and bursaries
- Details about payment plans to help spread the cost of tuition. They typically have arrangements with financial providers
Scholarships, bursaries, and grants are also available. These are subject to strict criteria. Scholarships are available based on academic achievement, while grants are allocated on economic need. Some are available purely to demographic identifiers (disability, LGBT+, BIPOC, religious minorities, etc.)
You may also be eligible for a fully funded master's degree in communications. However, these are highly competitive and consider several important factors. This includes an annual stipend as well as grants to cover the tuition. The most important criterion is that you will eventually teach in this field. As far as communications careers are concerned, this limits your career choice to academia.
A master's in communications is a jumping-off point to many potential career paths across many industries, including journalism, marketing, advertising, public relations, government and public affairs, business administration, education, and law. From Corporate Communications Manager to Chief Marketing Officer to News Director, there is a wealth of possible job titles for masters in communication graduates. Read on to learn more about potential career paths for master's in communication graduates.
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