Communications Master’s Degree Guide
While a bachelor’s degree in communications can lead to various entry-level positions, earning a master’s degree in the field can lead to the managerial and supervisory roles that comes with significantly expanded earning potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that public relations managers earn a median annual salary exceeding $118,000 while projecting 13% job growth over the next decade.
For the working parent, earning a master’s degree may feel like a daunting task, even when facing the possibility of enhanced career options. But as the availability of quality online degrees continues to expand, these academic options become accessible to even the busiest working parent.
In this guide, we explore the following:
- Ins and outs of online communication master’s programs
- List and highlights of standout schools
- What students can expect during their academic experience
- The different types of communications programs
- What students can expect when leveraging their master’s diploma into a communications career
What Is An Online Communications Master’s Degree?
Whether you’re a communications professional working in the field or simply interested in pursuing a new career, an online master’s degree in communications allows students to enhance career options and increase earning potential.
Different from an undergraduate communications degree, a master’s program will enable learners to narrow their academic focus toward areas like corporate, marketing, and strategic communications.
Usually requiring around 30-credits to graduate, online students typically have the flexibility to complete academic requirements while keeping up with personal and professional obligations. Upon graduation, students have access to various careers, from public relations managers to marketing communications managers. Continue reading as we spotlight some of the best online Master’s in Communications.
Outstanding Schools With Online Master’s in Communications Degrees in U.S.
When considering which online master’s programs to highlight, Universities.com takes an objective, data-driven approach. Some of the metrics we consider include admission statistics, retention and graduation rates, and various financial resources. You can learn more about our ranking methodology here.
Continue reading as we highlight five top-performing online Master’s in Communications programs.
1. National University
National University is a San Diego-based institution that offers a relatively deep catalog of online degrees. Among their distance-learning options is a flexible, online Master’s in Strategic Communication that prepares students with the practical and analytical skills required for effective communication in various professional settings.
An especially convenient option for working students, this 45-credit master of arts includes core requirements, including emerging interactive media, communication in a global environment, and integrated marketing communication. Before graduation, students also complete a semester-long capstone project.
Prospective students must meet the following requirements:
- Hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university
- Complete an admissions interview
- Submit official transcripts with a minimum 2.5 GPA (Students falling short of GPA requirements can gain admission through satisfactory standardized test scores)
- GRE/GMAT scores are not required for applicants with a GPA greater than 2.5
2. Westminster College
Based in Salt Lake City, Westminster College offers an online Master’s in Strategic Communication that full-time students can complete in just five semesters. This collaborative program finds students working alongside their cohort through projects like integrated marketing plans, crisis communication evaluations, and branding strategies. In addition to standard online coursework, degree-seekers have the opportunity to take an international trip with their cohort.
Throughout this 18-month, project-based program, students engage with a unique set of learning objectives each semester. Required courses include topics such as organization and communication strategy, integrated marketing theory and research, and visual communication and brand strategy. During their final semester, students dedicate their efforts to a degree-culminating capstone project.
Prospective students must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution, and most applicants usually have some professional experience in the field. Applicants should feel comfortable in a self-directed learning environment while simultaneously working collaboratively with other students.
3. Penn State-World Campus
Whether working as a content manager or seeking a role as a market research analyst, Penn State’s World Campus offers a flexible online master’s in strategic communication that allows working students to expand career options and increase earning potential. During this master’s program, students tackle essential topics, including research methods, media analytics, and content implementation.
Core academic requirements for this online program include research methods in strategic communications, digital media analytics, and ethics and decision-making in strategic communications. Throughout this 30-credit academic track, students develop theoretical and practical knowledge widely applicable to current and future professional roles.
Applicants to the program must have the following:
- A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institutio
- A completed application
- Official transcripts
- Three letters of recommendation
- A writing sample
- A two to three page statement of purpose outlining academic and career goals
- Standardized test scores are not required for admission
4. Saint Peter’s University
New Jersey’s Saint Peter’s University plays home to an online Master’s in Communication and Public Relations. The program is 33 credits, and students complete online coursework both synchronously and asynchronously, allowing them the flexibility to complete academic requirements while keeping up with personal and professional obligations.
Students gain significant expertise when utilizing various media platforms to enhance client communication throughout their time at Saint Peter’s. Core academic requirements include the following courses:
- Introduction to the new media society
- Social networking and new media
- Marketing communication and branding
Along with a degree-culminating capstone project, degree-seekers have the chance to gain hands-on experience through an internship at an approved location.
Alongside a completed application, prospective master’s students must submit the following:
- Official undergraduate transcripts
- Two letters of recommendation
- A personal statement outlining professional goals
- A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited school with a minimum cumulative 3.0 cumulative GPA
5. Stephen F. Austin State University
Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) is a Texas-based institution that offers a flexible online Master’s in Mass Communication. In addition to core degree requirements, students choose between three academic specializations:
- Advertising and public relations
This program’s 100% online format makes it a practical choice for working students as they balance professional responsibilities and the expectations from this 30-credit master’s track.
Core academic requirements include topics such as media theory, media research methods, and media law and ethics. Alongside degree requirements, students choose between thesis, non-thesis, and media project options. The thesis option is a practical choice for students interested in pursuing additional graduate-level work.
Students interested in applying should have or submit these items:
- A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university
- A completed application
- Letters of recommendation
- Official transcripts
- GRE/GMAT scores
- A minimum 2.5 cumulative undergraduate GPA
If you’re looking for other schools that offer Master’s in Communications, check out the Find Your Perfect “U” tool. You can search over 6,000 colleges and universities with 11 different filters to find the perfect school for you!
What Can I Do With A Master’s Degree in Communications?
Graduates with an online master’s in communications are uniquely positioned to tackle various careers in an equally broad set of professional settings. Whether utilizing public speaking skills or demonstrating a nuanced understanding of organizational communication, communications grads gain the skills needed to convey ideas and craft messaging that can benefit careers spanning from marketing to public relations.
Continue reading as we take a closer look at specific elements of communications careers.
Communications Master’s Degree Salaries
Salaries for communications-related careers can vary significantly. That said, while professional experience can go a long way in determining annual earnings, earning a master’s degree in communications can expand career options and often leads to increased earning potential. Additionally, a graduate degree allows learners to further specialize their knowledge while often preparing them for managerial and supervisory positions.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), public relations managers earn a median salary of $118,430—but that only tells part of the story. While the lowest 10% of earners pull in about $67,000 annually, the top 10% earn over $200,000 per year. When you combine experience, specialized knowledge, and managerial skills, graduates can expect to earn more in the long run. Additionally, advertising, promotions, and marketing managers earn a median salary exceeding $141,000 per year.
Communications Master’s Degree Job Projections
In addition to above-average salaries, graduates from a Master’s in Communications program often enter careers that the BLS projects will grow over the next decade. Public relations and marketing managers can anticipate their field to increase by 10% between 2020 and 2030. Further, market research analyst roles are projected to expand by 22% over the next decade—this translates to a growth of over 163,000 jobs.
Communications Master’s Degree Career Paths
Career paths for communications grads can vary pretty wildly. Whether they find a home in public, private, or non-profit sectors, these professionals rely on carefully honed skills utilized pretty much everywhere. In the graphic below, we highlight several communications-based careers along with their median annual salaries and projected job growth.
- Median Salary: $62,810
- Career Outlook: +11% (2020-2030)
Public relations specialists handle various tasks when assisting clients with their communication needs. These workers tackle responsibilities spanning from drafting speeches to evaluating promotional and advertising initiatives.
- Median Salary: $65,810
- Career Outlook: +22% (2020-2030)
These professionals examine market conditions, forecast marketing trends, and compile and present complex data in an understandable way.
- Median Salary: $141,490
- Career Outlook: +10% (2020-2030)
These professionals oversee various staff and the production of communications plans and other media. Alongside supervisory responsibilities, these managers manage client relationships, negotiate contracts, and oversee promotional and advertising campaigns.
- Median Salary: $118,430
- Career Outlook: +13% (2020-2030)
These communications professionals develop client image and brand, oversee promotional initiatives, and help their clients communicate effectively.
Earning an Online Master’s Degree in Communications
The specifics of a Master’s in Communications can vary pretty significantly between programs. When searching for a master’s program, students should consider all of these factors:
- Academic specializations
- Faculty expertise
Additionally, students should evaluate whether or not an online degree is a good fit. Keep reading as we explore the nuts and bolts of communications master’s programs.
Types of Online Master’s in Communications Degrees
Specific academic requirements within a Master’s in Communication can vary between programs, and academic concentrations add another consideration for students when deciding which degree is right for them. Standard communication master’s programs cover topics like:
- Mass communication
- Strategic communication
- Communication and public relations
We highlight some academic concentrations later on this page.
How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Master’s in Communications Degree?
The time it takes you to earn a Master’s in Communications is determined by various factors. In general, a Master’s in Communications requires you to complete 30 credits of coursework, and full-time students traditionally complete this academic track in 15-24 months. Enrolling as a part-time learner can significantly increase the amount of time you’ll spend in grad school.
Undergraduate students who are confident in their desire to earn a Master’s in Communications can sometimes enroll in an accelerated program where bachelor’s and master’s requirements can be completed in just five years.
Online Master’s in Communications Degree Specializations
As opposed to an undergraduate degree where students gain foundational knowledge in communications, master’s programs allow degree-seekers the opportunity to narrow their focus. The following section highlights some common academic specializations, what they cover, and common careers associated with each concentration.
- Degree: Master’s in Digital Communication
- Courses and skills studied: Emphasizes digital communication or strategy to offer students the theoretical and practical knowledge needed for online marketing and communication. Students also cover topics spanning from branding to web development.
- Potential career paths: Professional roles within various online media providers
- Degree: Master’s in Marketing Communication
- Courses and skills studied: Theoretical topics and practical tools that assist students in developing effective marketing campaigns. Students also gain leadership skills, like organization communication and brand management, that prepare them for various roles.
- Potential career paths: Marketing manager and public relations managers
- Degree: Master’s in Political Communication
- Courses and skills studies: Effective communication, political strategy, digital media, and speech writing
- Potential career paths: Campaign communications directors, strategists, and media consultants
- Degree: Master’s in Public Relations
- Courses and skills studies: Personal and business branding, crisis communication, and strategic writing
- Potential career paths: Public relations managers, public relations specialists, and brand representatives
Online vs. On-Campus Master’s in Communications Degrees
For the working student, the increased availability of online programs has dramatically expanded the accessibility of higher education. In the past, attending school full-time while also working on a career full-time was nearly impossible.
Even if it led to promotions or pay raises, it just often wasn’t a manageable combo. But today, online programs allow students to complete academic requirements while simultaneously managing personal and professional obligations.
Earning a master’s degree online comes with a significant list of practical benefits. Many programs utilize an asynchronous delivery, meaning that you complete course requirements at your own pace. This is especially handy for working students.
Additionally, completing classes online allows students to save money on travel expenses and campus-related fees. Online graduates earn the same degree, often from the same instructors, and gain the same expertise as on-campus learners.
Still, some students may feel more comfortable with a traditional on-campus experience. For some, the social component and accountability of in-person learning are essential to their academic experience and performance. If you’re concerned about navigating a primarily self-guided degree, be sure to reach out to an admissions counselor to see if an online program is right for you.
Should I Complete Courses Online?
For the student armed with the necessary self-discipline to manage an online degree, the flexibility and accessibility inherent to online programs can seem too good to be true. As a result, online programs often get viewed with some skepticism.
But let’s be clear: your online diploma is no different from one earned on-campus. Additionally, online programs typically offer the same content, with the same instructors as in-person options.
How Long do Online Courses Take to Complete?
The length of online courses varies between programs, but generally, online classes last around eight or nine weeks. That said, more intensive courses may allow students to complete coursework in just five weeks. Before enrolling, students should review academic and scheduling requirements to ensure that they can manage the course load.
When narrowing down your list of prospective master’s programs, one key element to consider is a school’s accreditation. Schools boasting regional accreditation meet rigorous standards regarding academics, financial aid, facilities, and student services. Essentially, regional accreditation is a peer-reviewed stamp of approval that means you’re getting your money’s worth. Check out the U.S. Department of Education accreditation database to review potential schools.
Master’s in Communications Degree FAQ
Is communications a good master’s degree?
- For students interested in honing the theoretical and practical skills essential for effective communications, a Master’s in Communications is an excellent choice. Especially relevant for individuals interested in pursuing leadership roles in advertising, media, and public relations, an online Master’s in Communications allows them to hone the skills necessary for career advancement.
What are the best communications master’s programs?
- While we’ve highlighted several top-performing communications master’s from schools like Penn State and Saint Peter’s University, the best program is the one that fits the specific needs of the student. As online deliveries, cost, and academic content vary between programs, prospective students should evaluate various schools and reach out to admissions officials to see if a program is right for them.
What are the subjects in a Master’s in Communication program?
- Academic requirements can vary significantly between communications master’s programs. That said, common academic requirements include topics such as theory of communication, communications research methods, and digital storytelling. Before graduation, students generally complete a degree-culminating capstone project or thesis.
Can I get an MBA with a communications degree?
- Students interested in pursuing an MBA can often specialize in communications or a communications-related topic. MBA specializations can include topics like marketing, communications, social media, and media management.
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