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In today’s digital world, a master’s in communications can lead to several rewarding career paths, including dynamic roles in media, business, healthcare, and more. In particular, marketing and public relations managers are expected to be in significant demand over the next decade, offering median salaries that regularly reach six figures.As with any degree, it’s essential to consider the financial investment. The average cost of these online programs was $19,749 for the 2020-2021 academic year. While completion times vary, many students achieve their degrees within 18 months to two years.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Communications Degree Program

Choose your area of study

When choosing an area of study for your graduate degree in communications, it’s essential to consider your interests, strengths, and career goals. Prioritizing your passions can lead to a more fulfilling academic experience and professional journey. However, aligning your specialization with an in-demand sector such as healthcare, advertising, or human resources is important. These areas are known for lucrative job opportunities and growth potential, projected to remain consistent over the next ten years. On the other hand, fields like broadcast reporting and correspondents are experiencing declining demand, making it essential to consider current industry trends carefully while making this decision.

Research schools and programs

Once you’ve chosen a specialization, conducting thorough research into schools and programs is essential. Verifying accreditation status is crucial, ensuring the program meets recognized educational standards and will be respected by employers.

To guide your research further, consider asking the following questions:

  • What is the program’s curriculum structure and course flexibility?
  • Are there opportunities for networking or internships?
  • What are the faculty credentials and experience in the field?
  • How is student support provided in the online learning environment?
  • What technological platforms are used for course delivery?

Most programs make this information readily available on their website, but you can also attend virtual open houses or speak with an admissions counselor for more information.

Prepare for tests and applications

Now that you have a list of preferred schools, prioritizing preparation for applications and tests is essential.

Begin by requesting transcripts and securing strong letters of recommendation from mentors who can speak to your strengths and aptitude for graduate-level coursework. Next, focus on standardized test preparation, enrolling in a test prep program if necessary to help boost your scores. Simultaneously, draft your personal statement, highlighting your academic and professional goals. If required, you may need to revise your resume to illustrate relevant experience and achievements.

Select your program

When acceptance letters arrive, you have a big decision to make. Now is an excellent time to revisit some initial factors from your research — such as curriculum relevance, faculty credentials, and the quality of support for online learners. Assess the program’s alignment with your academic and career goals. Additionally, weigh tuition costs against available financial aid options to ensure a feasible financial investment.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

For many students, the cost of attaining higher education can make it seem unattainable. However, it’s important to remember that there are many financial aid resources to help you achieve your academic goals without incurring a substantial debt burden.

Begin by exploring scholarships and grants, which don’t require repayment and are often merit or need-based. Next, consider federal loans, offering lower interest rates and more flexible repayment options for eligible students than private loans.

Work-study programs provide an opportunity to earn income while gaining experience related to your field. If you’re currently employed, ask your employer if they offer a tuition reimbursement program — which can cover some or all of your tuition if you meet specific requirements.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Communications Degree Programs

Best Online Master’s in Communications Degree

Johns Hopkins University

Columbia University School of Professional Studies

USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

American University

UF College of Journalism and Communications

University of Pennsylvania

Northeastern University

California State University at Fullerton

Queens University of Charlotte

Villanova University

Seton Hall University

University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

Washington State University

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Lasell University

George Washington University

University of Wisconsin at Madison

San Diego State University

Boston University

Florida International University

University of Minnesota

Webster University

University of Miami

Texas Christian University

La Salle University

University of South Florida

Baylor University

New York University

University of Colorado Boulder

DePaul University

The University of Texas at El Paso

University of Georgia

Emerson College

The University of Texas at San Antonio

UW Professional & Continuing Education

Illinois State University

California State University at Northridge

Marquette University

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

This list features some of the best online master’s in communications programs at top colleges nationwide. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. The programs on our list have been accredited by reputable organizations, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, that assess the objectives, quality, and overall effectiveness of colleges and universities.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and the student resources provided for online students. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online master’s in communications programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can You Expect From an Online Master’s in Communications Program

Through an online master’s degree in communications, you’ll develop a comprehensive understanding of contemporary communication theories, practices, and strategies. Students delve into strategic communication, digital media, public relations, and organizational communication during these programs. Emerging trends — like social media analytics, crisis communication, and global communication strategies — are often featured in curriculums.

Most coursework in most programs is available entirely online, though many include hands-on projects, virtual simulations, and real-world case studies that bridge theory with practical application. The flexible online format is especially excellent for working professionals or those with other significant responsibilities, as it allows students to balance their commitments with their academic pursuits more easily.

Completing an online graduate degree in communications requires 18 months to two years of full-time study, though some programs offer accelerated options.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in communications program

  • Digital Media Strategies: This course focuses on the principles and practices of digital media in a communication context. Students explore content creation, social media management, and digital storytelling, equipping them with skills to craft compelling digital communication and campaigns in today’s digital landscape.
  • Strategic Communication Planning: In this course, students develop comprehensive communication strategies tailored to organizational objectives. They delve into audience analysis, message framing, and campaign evaluation, gaining expertise in creating impactful communication plans for diverse audiences and platforms.
  • Global Communication Trends: This course examines the evolving trends and challenges in global communication. Students explore cultural nuances, international media systems, and global public relations practices, enabling them to navigate cross-cultural communication scenarios and develop strategies for global outreach.
  • Media Ethics and Law: In this course, students explore the ethical and legal considerations shaping communication practices. They examine topics such as freedom of expression, privacy laws, and ethical decision-making in media contexts, ensuring they navigate communication challenges responsibly and ethically.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Communications Degree?

Career outlook

An online master’s in communications can significantly enhance career prospects by providing a deep understanding of strategic communication, media management, and digital marketing. Graduates are well-equipped for positions such as public relations specialist, a role that is expected to expand by six percent over the next decade, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median salary for this job is $67,440 a year.

The versatility of skills acquired, including content creation and media relations, aligns with the evolving demands of the digital age. As businesses and organizations prioritize communication strategies, the career outlook for those with an online master’s in communications is promising.

Career paths

A master’s degree in communications opens diverse career paths in today’s dynamic professional landscape. These professionals find opportunities in various industries, including corporate communications, public relations, media, marketing, healthcare, government, and nonprofit organizations. Their versatile skills in strategic communication and media management make them valuable assets in professional settings.

Here are some possible positions that may require individuals with a master’s degree in communications:

  • Media relations specialists cultivate relationships with the press, coordinate interviews, and manage communication between an organization and the media.
  • Social media managers develop and execute social media strategies, creating engaging content and managing online presence to enhance brand visibility.
  • Event planner: organize and execute events to promote organizations, products, or causes, managing logistics and ensuring successful communication during events.
  • Healthcare communications specialists develop communication strategies for healthcare organizations, ensuring effective communication with patients, staff, and the public.
  • Government affairs specialists manage communication between organizations and government entities, influencing public policies and advocating for organizational interests.

Public Relations Manager

Earning Potential: $106,217-$139,271 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in communications, public relations or a related field

A public relations manager is responsible for shaping and maintaining a positive public image for an organization or individual. They develop communication strategies, craft press releases, and manage relationships with the media. Public relations managers coordinate interviews, events, and promotional activities to enhance visibility and reputation. Crisis management is a crucial aspect of their role, addressing negative publicity and mitigating damage. They work closely with executives to align messaging with organizational goals, ensuring consistency across all communication channels. Using strategic planning and effective communication, public relations managers play a pivotal role in building and safeguarding the public perception of the entity they represent.

Content Strategist

Earning Potential: $51,978-$65,202 annually
Education Required: Bachelor’s or master’s degree in communications, writing, public relations, or a related field

A content strategist develops and executes plans to create, curate, and distribute compelling content that aligns with an organization’s goals. They analyze target audiences, market trends, and competitors to inform content decisions. Content strategists ensure consistent messaging across various platforms, optimizing content for engagement and search engine visibility. Collaborating with cross-functional teams, they play a pivotal role in building brand identity, enhancing user experience, and achieving marketing objectives. Constantly adapting to evolving trends, content strategists blend creativity with data-driven insights to deliver impactful content that resonates with audiences and supports the overall communication and marketing strategies of the organization.

Corporate Communication Director

Earning Potential: $165,612-$211,976 annually
Education Required: master’s degree in communications, public relations, or a related field

A corporate communication director oversees the development and implementation of communication strategies within an organization. They manage internal and external communication to ensure a consistent and positive corporate image. Corporate communication directors collaborate with leadership to align messaging with business objectives and values. Responsibilities include crafting press releases, managing crisis communication, and overseeing employee communication. They play a crucial role in fostering positive relationships with stakeholders, including employees, investors, and the public. With a strategic focus on reputation management, corporate communication directors contribute to building and maintaining trust and achieving organizational goals through effective communication strategies.

Online Master’s in Communications Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in communications degree program?

To apply for an online master’s in communication degree program, you must submit specific documents and meet particular criteria — which may vary depending on the institution. Standard admissions requirements include:

  • A completed undergraduate degree from an accredited institution
  • Official transcripts from all previously attended institutions
  • A statement of purpose or personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation from academic or professional references
  • A resume detailing relevant work experience
  • Standardized test scores

Before applying, it’s essential to consult with an admissions counselor. They can provide valuable insights into program specifics, help tailor your application, and address any concerns.

How much does an online master’s in communications degree cost?

For the 2020-2021 academic year, tuition for an online master’s in communications averaged $12,394 at public colleges and $26,621 at private institutions. However, this figure can vary significantly depending on the institution.

It’s important to note that online students often encounter specific costs like technology fees, online course materials, and virtual proctoring fees. While these expenses can accumulate, it’s essential to remember that online students often save money on commuting, housing, and campus-related costs compared to in-person programs.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s in communications degree?

For full-time students, earning an online master’s in communications takes 18 months to two years. However, completion times can differ from on-campus programs due to factors like part-time enrollment, which is popular among online students, balancing other commitments. Additionally, the number of required credits can vary between online and traditional programs, impacting the length of study. While the flexibility of online learning allows for varying pacing, factors such as course availability and personal scheduling preferences can influence the overall time to degree completion.

Is an online master's in communications degree worth it?

An online master’s in communications can be a worthwhile investment, offering a range of benefits. The program provides advanced knowledge in strategic communication, media management, and digital marketing.

Graduates may find a robust job market, as many positions in the communications field are growing faster than the economy in general. For example, the need for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers is expected to grow by six percent in the next decade. Professionals in this area earn a median salary of $138,730 a year.

The flexibility of an online format allows professionals to enhance their expertise without disrupting their careers. Many programs offer asynchronous courses, which can be taken at a time that’s convenient for the student in any location that offers wi-fi access. The networking opportunities provided in these programs facilitate connections with industry experts and peers globally.