What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Communication Program?

Thanks to 21st-century technology, you can earn an advanced degree without leaving home. Online college programs allow you to enroll full-time or part-time and learn independently. They provide the same quality curriculum taught at leading on-campus programs, but in most cases, they’re substantially more affordable. If you want to earn your master’s degree online, this guide covers everything you need to consider.

Available concentrations

Communication is a broad field that offers many different roles and work environments. If you’re primarily interested in a particular niche of the communication industry, you should look for a program that allows you to focus on that specialty. Some of the most common concentration options for a master’s in communication include:

  • Mass Media and Journalism: Students learn how to prepare, present, and disseminate information through mass media outlets. Courses emphasize research techniques, media ethics, writing skills, and communication strategies. You can become qualified for various media roles, including reporter, journalist, columnist, technical writer, TV/radio announcer, and news analyst.
  • Digital Media/Technology: Learn about the technical aspects of working in the media with an emphasis on electronic technologies. In addition to covering research and reporting techniques, students learn skills such as video editing and audio production. Potential career outcomes include production assistant, broadcast technician, producer, editor, and director.
  • Public Relations: The curriculum for this concentration focuses on strategic communication and marketing techniques that apply to print and digital channels, preparing you for occupations such as PR specialist, marketing manager, advertising manager, press secretary, and director of investor relations.
  • Leadership/Organizational Communication: Students learn strategies for managing internal and external communications and directing activities that affect how organizations interact with and are perceived by the public. The career possibilities with this concentration include director of marketing and communication, chief information officer, and chief communications officer.
  • Health Communication: Explore methods for distributing information to healthcare providers, administrators, and the public. This concentration also covers psychological strategies for educating and influencing audiences. Public health educator, communications director, and director of health informatics are among the potential career outcomes.

Common degree curriculum

There are significant differences in course requirements depending on whether you select a general mass media degree or a niche specialization. Even within the same discipline, program details can also vary between schools.

That said, most online master’s in communication programs have the same general curriculum structure:

  • Core Courses: A significant portion of your coursework (approximately 40%) will focus on essential communication skills, including strategy, theory, research, writing, and fact-checking. You may also be required to complete a capstone project or assemble a digital portfolio.
  • Electives: Differences in specializations are most evident in the electives. For example, you may choose courses related to organizational development, politics, international relations, grassroots advocacy, media law, video production, or other topics.

Certification and license preparation

After completing a master’s in communication program, you should consider continuing your education and earning additional certifications and licenses, which can help you access more employment opportunities and advance your career.

For example, the Global Communication Certification Council offers certification for communication professionals who work in the private sector. Applicants must meet education, experience, and training requirements and pass a three-hour multiple-question exam to become an official Communication Management Professional or Strategic Communication Management Professional.

Also, the Public Relations Society of America certifies recent graduates, experienced PR professionals, and military communications experts. Graduate students may apply for a Certificate in Principles of Public Relations to kick-start their careers.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau offers four specialized certifications for those who develop and manage digital marketing and advertising campaigns. Professionals must have at least one year of experience and pass a two-hour, 100-question exam.

Program accreditation

You should only apply to schools approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, as this ensures your credits will transfer. Also, you should strongly consider attending a program certified by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC). This optional accreditation shows that the curriculum and faculty meet exacting quality standards established by the industry. Graduating from an ACEJMC-accredited program may help you stand out from other candidates during your job search, get hired more quickly, and advance to higher-paying positions. Nationally, more than 100 communications departments have been accredited through this organization.

Program completion timeframe

It usually takes two years to earn an online master of communication degree. This schedule requires students to enroll in two or three courses per term. Most students can manage this schedule while working full-time — if that creates too much pressure or you want to take the summers off, you can earn your degree in three years by enrolling in just one or two classes per term. However, this may affect your eligibility for some scholarships. The time it takes to earn your degree also depends on whether the program requires a fellowship, internship, or thesis.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Communication Graduates

The employment outlook is bright for master’s in communication graduates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the total number of jobs in the United States is projected to grow by 3% over the next decade, and most occupations in the communication field are expected to grow by at least double that rate.

The BLS data also shows that communication jobs tend to offer substantially higher pay than the average salary for all occupations combined. You will likely earn at least $65,000 per year in this field, and many communication professionals make six figures.

Master of communication graduates are employed in a diverse array of industries. You might work for a major TV network, a Fortune 500 company, or a humanitarian aid group. See some popular communication careers listed below to determine which options appeal to you.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate (2022 – 2032)
Public Relations Specialist Also called communications specialists or media specialists, these professionals prepare press releases, speeches, and public opinion polls. They develop strategies for assessing and improving their organization’s public image. PR specialists also function as press secretaries within government agencies. $67,440 6%
Technical Writer Technical communicators work in publishing as well as the IT and engineering industries, where they serve as a link between product designers and end users. These professionals select appropriate communication channels, prepare technical documentation, and standardize content across platforms. $79,960 7%
Public Relations Manager PR managers coordinate content development strategies to protect or enhance their employer’s or client’s reputation. While only a bachelor’s degree is typically required for this role, many employers prefer to hire candidates with a master’s. $129,430 6%

Professional organizations

Professional membership associations can be your ally before and after graduation. These groups provide resources for learning new skills, advancing your credentials, and networking with peers.

  • National Communication Association: This membership group provides academic and practical resources for teachers, scholars, and professionals working in all media and communication industry areas. The NCA manages a career center, publishes scholarly journals, funds research, and supports free speech advocacy.
  • International Association of Business Communicators: The IABC offers a wealth of resources to global professionals specializing in PR, marketing, investor relations, social responsibility, and related disciplines. Its resources help communication experts network with peers, develop new skills, and solve day-to-day business challenges.
  • Public Relations Society of America: This 30,000-strong organization ensures that communication professionals are more innovative, efficient, and better connected through all stages of their careers. The association establishes best practices, offers professional development resources, and promotes innovation across the industry. It also operates the Public Relations Student Society of America.
  • Social Media Association: Created for members of the digital media community, this industry group provides career assistance, job postings, and educational resources. It also organizes industry summits and in-person events led by inspirational speakers and thought leaders.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Communication Degree

As a current or prospective student, the cost of a college education is likely one of your top concerns. Online master’s degrees are generally more affordable than on-campus degrees, but you still may need financial assistance. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility for federally funded grants and loans. Individual colleges and regional nonprofits also offer financial assistance.

Student Finance Resources and Guides

After filling out the FAFSA, the next step to reducing the cost of your master’s in communication degree is researching all the financial aid opportunities that may be available to you. The following resources will help you figure out what your options are:

Online Master’s Degree Scholarship Database

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Interested in a degree?

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