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Online learning gives students the flexibility to balance their studies with professional and personal responsibilities. An online master's in communication program covers topics like fundraising and political campaigns, marketing, political advocacy, and public relations.

Graduates of online communication master's degree programs can work in fields like advertising, administration, and public relations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects faster-than-average job growth for many of these careers, including advertising, promotions, and marketing managers; public relations and fundraising managers; and postsecondary education administrators.

Top Ten Online Master's in Communications Programs

The Best Online Master’s in Communications Degree Programs

1
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4

American University 

Washington DC

About this school

Located in Washington D.C., American University offers an online master’s in strategic communication that helps students take advantage of the world’s largest media hub. The curriculum consists of 30 credit hours that students complete in 10 months of full-time or 20 months of part-time study. Part-time students take just two courses per semester, making this option ideal for working professionals.

The first 15-credit hours cover five core courses in principles of strategic commutation, writing, communication theory, research, and a capstone. The remaining 15-credit hours span electives that include sports communication, speech writing, political advertising, international communications, and dynamic content. In total, American University offers 26 electives to communications students.

Applicants need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a GPA of at least 3.0 for the last 60 credits. Admissions does not require prior academic or professional experience, but applicants must demonstrate their commitment to communications through a 1,000-word essay outlining their goals. The university reserves the right to ask candidates to undergo an admissions interview. Classes for both the full-time and part-time options begin in the fall, and students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency.

5

Webster University 

Webster Groves , MO

About this school

Webster University’s master of arts in communications management serves as a double pathway to career advancement. Though designed for educators, the curriculum also trains students for professions that require lots of interpersonal and group communications.

Students pursuing the 33-credit online program complete five core courses in oral, visual, written, and interpersonal communication; curriculum design; and teaching writing. Students complete these courses prior to focusing on the 12-credit communication arts emphasis. Students tailor the communication arts emphasis curriculum around their needs with the help of a dedicated advisor, and coursework typically includes a number of smaller projects that facilitate concept reinforcement and skills training. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and petition for graduation at least one semester prior to their intended graduation date.

Candidates must submit an online application along with official transcripts from their undergraduate institution. Applicants must also submit a personal essay addressing their interest in the communications master’s degree. Admissions does not require pre-graduate test scores like the GRE for entrance into the program. Though located in St. Louis, Missouri, Webster offers the same tuition rate to all students irrespective of their state residency.

6

Marist College 

Poughkeepsie, NY

About this school

Marist College designed its online master of arts in integrated marketing communications for full-time, working students. Its master of arts in communication takes two years of full-time study or three years of part-time study to complete. Students take classes entirely online in eight-week-long accelerated sessions with no on-campus requirements. Students who take the master’s in communication full-time program complete four courses per semester, while students who take the program part-time take two courses per semester.

The 30-credit curriculum includes courses in topics, such as:

  • Advertising Management
  • Brand Management
  • Global Consumer Insights
  • Marketing Foundations
  • Marketing Research
  • Social Media Strategies and Tactics

Students earning this online master’s in communication must also complete a capstone course. Altogether, students develop the necessary strong set of advanced knowledge and skills for success in leadership roles in business communications.

Prospective students must submit an online application form along with official transcripts from all undergraduates and graduate institutions. Marist College also requires applicants to submit a personal essay, professional resume, and three letters of recommendation. The admissions office requires GRE scores from some applicants. Applicants may submit their applications year round, but classes begin only in August. Students pay the same tuition rates regardless of state residency. Online students who submit the FAFSA in time may qualify for financial aid.

7

Arizona State University - ASU Online 

Tempe , AZ

About this school

ASU’s master’s in communication online combines innovative instruction with proven traditional strategies, resulting in graduates who work effectively with both print and digital media. Students take the 12-class, 36-credit online master of science in technical communication in one year. The accelerated 7.5-week format leads to the completion of nine credits per semester.

The curriculum consists of two core courses, one in rhetoric and the other in research. Students spend another 24 credits taking restricted electives in social media, content management, and intellectual property and copyright in a digital age. The program concludes with a six-credit culminating experience. Students choose to write a thesis or complete an applied project.

ASU welcomes applications from students with a bachelor’s or master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution and a GPA of at least 3.0. Prospective students must also submit official transcripts, a statement of purpose, professional portfolio, and three letters of reference. The portfolio needs to include between 15 and 30 pages of writing samples that an admissions committee evaluates for clarity, focus, purpose, and technical proficiency. Students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency, and financial aid is also available.

8

West Virginia University 

Morgantown , WV

About this school

West Virginia University offers students a 36-credit master of arts in corporate and organizational communication focused on digital and print media. Part-time students take two courses per semester over three years, enabling them to maintain both their professional and private lives while earning a degree.

The curriculum explores persuasion in print and digital media and covers leadership, diversity, corporate environments, and managing conflicts. Students work on two research components, one in the second semester and the other in the final semester. The final research course explores real-world case studies. The program requires students neither write a thesis nor take any elective courses.

Graduates work in various fields in business and education as public relations specialists, professional writers, general managers, communications professors, and education administrators, among other positions. West Virginia University receives its accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

Ideal applicants possess an undergraduate GPA of 2.75 or higher. The university does, however, admit students with a lower score on the condition that they complete two graduate-level courses with a B grade or higher outside of the communications department. Applications include a submitted online application form and official transcripts from all prior institutions attended. The program begins in the fall and spring, and the school offers the same tuition rates to students living in-state and out-of-state.

9

Liberty University Online 

Lynchburg, VA

About this school

Liberty University offers its communications master’s degree entirely online. The 36-credit master of arts in communication curriculum combines academic theory with professional practice to enable students to develop successful business campaigns. After completing four core courses in leadership, rhetoric, praxis, and research, students select communications electives that align with their professional goals and interests. Notable choices include problem solving and collaborative communication, conflict analysis and resolution, event planning and donor relations, and professional communications and nonprofit development. The curriculum also includes one non-communications elective.

The core research course teaches students how to think critically and research, tools thesis students will find useful. In place of the thesis option, students may take a comprehensive exam.

Students must maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 in order to graduate, with no more than two C grades. Taking three courses per semester in eight-week-long sessions guarantees graduation in four semesters.

Though based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University charges all online students the same tuition rate regardless of which state they call home. Prospective students must submit an application either online or by mail, along with their official transcripts or self-certification forms. Liberty University also asks candidates to apply for financial aid by filling out the FAFSA form. Applicants typically receive full admission, but some enter the university under academic caution status. These students must complete an additional three-unit course in their first semester.

10

California Baptist University - CBU Online 

Riverside , CA

About this school

On average, CBU’s 30-credit master of arts in communication takes 12 months to complete. The program teaches students analytic and strategic communication in combination with coursework focused on a biblical worldview. Students take 10 core courses that examine media effects on communication behavior, risk communication, communication ethics, and communication in the digital age. A 25-page research paper serves as the program’s culminating project. Students must incorporate at least four course concepts learned over the course of the degree within their paper and defend their position in front of a panel of three professors.

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree, write a 500-word essay, official transcripts, and a current resume. Prospective students with undergraduate GPAs of at least 2.75 recieve unconditional admission, while applicants with undergraduate GPAs between 2.5 and 2.75 receive conditional admission consideration.

The university requires a FAFSA form to be filed shortly after submitting the online application form. Financial aid is available to online students in the form of grants, scholarships, loans, veterans’ benefits, and employer tuition assistance.

11

South Dakota State University 

Brookings, SD

About this school

From its home base in the city of Brookings, South Dakota State University offers print and digital journalists a master of mass communication degree that equips graduates for public relations in print and digital media. Both the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the Higher Learning Commission offer this particular program accreditation status.

The 32-credit asynchronous curricula takes students through five core courses, including cross-platform storytelling and media law, as well as skills-based electives like opinion writing, health journalism, international media, mass communication teaching methods, and social marketing for health and behavioral change. Because at least half of students’ coursework must be skills-based, the curriculum includes one-to-three credits of optional internships and one-to-three credits of optional independent study. Students may pursue an additional four credits—totaling 36 credits—of master’s research and projects. The non-project option excludes a thesis or culminating capstone course.

Candidates for this online master’s in communication must submit the online application and provide official transcripts from a bachelor’s degree-granting institution. SD State also requires proof of immunization, a personal goal statement, a resume, letters of recommendation, and GRE scores. All students pay the same tuition rate irrespective of state residency.

12

Western New England University 

Springfield , MA

About this school

Located Springfield, Massachusetts, Western New England University offers an online master of arts in communications with a public relations concentration to students residing in all 50 states at the same cost. This communications master’s degree program differs from others by emphasizing digital media over print media. Nevertheless, the 30-credit curriculum includes courses in writing and campaign management that apply to both traditional and modern platforms.

The curriculum incorporates a mix of core and elective courses that take approximately 15 months to complete. Students take courses like principles and practices of public relations and crisis management before moving onto electives such as public relations strategies for social and digital media and strategic approaches to public relations. Electives also include variable credit courses that enable students to complete the program faster through hands-on independent study and thesis options.

The university accepts applications on a rolling basis. To apply, prospective students must submit official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions previously attended. Applications also include a 500-word personal essay and three letters of recommendation sent directly to the university’s admissions office. The program does not require pre-graduate test scores.

13

Queens University of Charlotte 

Charlotte, NC

About this school

Queens University offers an online master of arts in communication with six focus areas: strategic design, multimedia writing, audience engagement, community orientation, entrepreneurship, and digital savvy.

The curriculum consists of 12 required courses totaling 36 credits. Students may pursue an optional concentration in digital strategy, which increases the course load to 13 and 39 credits. The main course sequence explores topics such as the social creation of organizing, the management of meaning, and the mediated self and changing relationships—a study of the effects of digital media. The digital strategy concentration’s four-course sequence builds on these concepts and teaches students advanced methods in managing comprehensive plans for digital communication.

Applicants must submit official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions. Ideal candidates possess a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. The university welcomes applicants with lower GPAs, but they need to submit GRE scores. Applicants with more than five years of work experience may appeal the GRE requirement. Complete applications also include a professional resume, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

14

Austin Peay State University 

Clarksville, TN

About this school

Austin Peay State University offers a master’s in communication with two specializations—corporate communication and general communication—and two concentrations—marking communication and media management. Awarded as a master of arts in communication, this degree prepares communications professionals for rewarding careers.

Each program’s curricula consists of 34 credits. In the corporate communication specialization students take courses in advertising, broadcast journalism, e-commerce and social media, marketing, and writing. The general communication curriculum provides students with more flexibility and allows students to work with an advisor to select electives that meet their professional goals.

Concentrations work similarly to specializations, only with a more tailored focus. The marketing concentration offers advanced training in management positions in the communication industry, and the curriculum strives to build leaders in Tennessee, specifically Clarksville. The concentration in media management provides cable and broadcast professionals with opportunities to advance to executive management positions. Students in the general communication concentration may pursue an optional six-credit thesis in place of the three-credit research paper. Media management students take two courses per eight-week session for a total of four courses per semester.

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5. Applicants with cumulative GPAs of 3.5 or higher are exempt from the university’s GRE requirement.

15

National University 

La Jolla, CA

About this school

National University’s master of arts in strategic communications program consists of 45 quarter-units. The curriculum includes nine core courses focused on global communications, marketing communications, campaign and program management and evaluation, persuasion, and legality. Students graduate knowing how to negotiate issues of copyright and intellectual property. In addition to the core courses, students take one elective in any department. The course sequence enables students to effectively manage a communications campaign for a large organization. The program concludes with a capstone project focused on the creation of a digital portfolio. Graduates use this portfolio in their job search.

National University makes a quality communications graduate education accessible to everyone by charging the same low tuition rate irrespective of state residency. Candidates should have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, and ideal candidates possess a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 or a GPA of at least 2.75 for the last 90 semester hours completed.

Candidates with GPAs between 2.0 and 2.49 are also welcome to apply, but must submit GMAT, GRE, or MAT scores along with their application. Unlike other communications master’s degree programs, National University accepts 4.5 quarter-units of transfer credit from another institution on the condition that those credits do not count toward the fulfillment of requirements of an earned degree.

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Ranking Methodology

Online Master's in Communications Programs Ranking Guidelines

We selected the programs based on the quality of the program, the types of courses offered, the faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the school's reputation for effectively providing online degree programs.

What is a Master's in Communications Degree?

Communications master's degree programs explore advanced topics, including branding, strategic communication management, persuasion, political communication, and multimedia authoring. Most communications curricula also include focused writing courses in specialty areas, like writing for public relations, speeches, opinion writing, and promotional writing. Many programs emphasize digital media, which prepares students to manage online marketing and social media accounts.

Most communications curricula also include focused writing courses in specialty areas, like writing for public relations, speeches, opinion writing, and promotional writing.

Communications curricula vary widely by program, especially when it comes to concentrations and electives. When selecting a program, consider your specific interests and career goals. Research requirements can also vary by program; while advanced research topics are part of nearly every master's in communication online program, some programs require additional research in the form of a thesis or practicum.

Online Master's in Communications Programs

Online classes meet the same standards as traditional classes but offer much more freedom and flexibility. Students submit homework, take tests, and engage in class discussions online. Some online programs move in a synchronous format, meaning students must log on at a set time each day to watch live lectures or chat with peers. Asynchronous programs allow students to complete classwork and participate in discussion boards on their own time as long as they meet a set deadline.

Organized, self-motivated students thrive in online communications master's programs, which prepare graduates to work under minimum supervision; however, some online programs do have in-person components, like monitored exams or annual three-day seminars. Pay attention to in-person requirements when researching programs and keep in mind that most colleges don't pay for transportation costs. If you attend an online school in California but live in Missouri, budget accordingly.

The Advantages of a Master's Degree in Communications

Graduates with a bachelor's degree in communication tend to find jobs as communication coordinators or specialists. While these entry-level jobs are a valuable career starting point, earning an online communications master's degree means more opportunities. Even if you work your way up within a company, some companies set salary limits for employees without master's degrees.

Meanwhile, graduates with master's degrees in communications earn jobs as managers or directors, or work in the higher education sector as college professors, where they can teach the next generation and enjoy a flexible schedule. If you're unsure about whether you should continue your education, consider the average salary differences between professionals with bachelor's and master's degrees in the table below:

Average Salary by Degree Level

What Can You Do With a Master's Degree in Communications?

Senior positions in marketing and advertising often require supervisory skills, critical and creative thinking, and the ability to coordinate departments. Graduates with an online master's in communications have these skills and can secure these positions.

Communications Manager

These professionals oversee an entire communication department. They evaluate public messages, manage crisis communications, maintain relationships with the media, and organize internal communication. Communication managers must have excellent public speaking and interpersonal skills; the ability to multitask is also essential.

Entry Level

$46,000

Mid-Career

$68,000

Experienced

$77,000

Late Career

$76,000

Marketing Director

Marketing directors manage all marketing efforts within an organization, overseeing the planning, execution, and evaluation of marketing campaigns. These professionals usually work as supervisors, designing and delegating tasks for SEO specialists, social media coordinators, graphic designers, writers, photographers, and advertising coordinators.

Entry Level

$45,000

Mid-Career

$82,000

Experienced

$102,000

Late Career

$109,000

Public Relations Director

These professionals help organizations and corporations cultivate positive public images and maintain relationships with important stakeholders. They do this by responding to social media inquiries, hosting events, creating marketing campaigns, and working with media professionals to obtain media coverage. PR directors often juggle several projects simultaneously.

Entry Level

$54,000

Mid-Career

$82,000

Experienced

$95,000

Late Career

$96,000

Managing Editor

Individuals who love to write often find higher-paying positions as managing editors. These editors collaborate with other editors and journalists to produce publications. They handle big-picture issues, like how stories complement one another or conflict with adjacent advertisements, and they have the final say on whether or not a story gets published.

Entry Level

$46,000

Mid-Career

$61,000

Experienced

$70,000

Late Career

$75,000

Social Media Director

Social media directors use online platforms and blogs, like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, to communicate with target audiences, often working with photographers, videographers, copywriters, and graphic designers to produce content. Social media directors work closely with public relations directors to ensure that the company's social media presence matches its brand.

Entry Level

$45,000

Mid-Career

$83,000

Experienced

$100,000

Late Career

$112,000

Choosing an Online Communications Graduate Degree Program

When choosing an online master's in strategic communications program, take your time. Being picky at the outset saves you trouble in the long run. With so many quality online programs to choose from, you can definitely find one that fits your needs and budget. Make a list of what you value in a school, including criteria like program cost, transfer policies, and school size and type, and keep these criteria in mind during your search.

Program Cost

For many students, program cost is the top consideration. You can save money by attending an online school based in your home state, since many colleges offer local discounts. Some schools offer in-state tuition to all online students. However, if a school costs significantly less than others, it might be because it's not a legitimate program, so make sure to compare tuition prices.

Transfer Policies

Whether or not you have transfer credits from another institution, make sure to read your school's transfer policies. You might decide to transfer to a different school midway through your degree, or enroll in a supplemental program elsewhere, and attending a school with regional accreditation makes transfers easier.

School Size and Type

The main difference between public and private universities is cost. Public schools tend to charge less for tuition and offer more financial aid than private schools; however, private schools usually enroll fewer students, which means attendees receive more one-on-one attention from professors.

Program Length

Before choosing a school, you should decide whether you want to study full time or part time. Some schools have minimum or maximum credit requirements, so you should be careful to choose a program that matches your study plans.

On-campus Requirements

Even if a school advertises its communication program as online, double check its on-campus requirements. Some programs require in-person components, like supervised tests, presentations, or seminars, which can become an issue if you decide to attend an online college in a different state.

Thesis, Fellowship, and Work Requirements

Most programs have additional requirements as well as the usual classwork. These requirements might include a thesis or capstone project, a fellowship, an internship, or a work requirement. Usually learners can complete these requirements locally, but students with full-time jobs might have a difficult time balancing these additional requirements with their schedules.

Accreditation for Online Communications Master's Degrees

For students pursuing an integrated marketing communications master's online, accreditation should be a top consideration. If a school is accredited, it means it's regularly evaluated by an accrediting agency. Although the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) don't grant accreditation, they do oversee accrediting agencies. You can visit CHEA's accreditation agencies database to verify accreditation for individual schools.

If a school is accredited, it means it's regularly evaluated by an accrediting agency.

There are three types of accreditation: national, regional, and programmatic. Schools with national accreditation are usually vocational or trade schools, and the agencies that oversee them work nationally. These universities are generally considered less prestigious than regionally accredited schools, which tend to offer more traditional liberal arts curricula. Schools with regional accreditation also have more transferable credits.

Universities can also receive programmatic accreditation in communications. The American Communication Association grants accreditation to specific programs rather than a school. Watch out for online programs that don't hold national, regional, or programmatic accreditation, as these programs lack outside oversight and likely don't meet educational standards.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Master in Communications Degree Program?

Both private and public universities typically require about 60 credits for a master's degree. When researching online programs, pay attention to whether a school uses an asynchronous or synchronous format. Asynchronous programs allow students to complete work at their own pace, while synchronous formats have specific time requirements, like live discussions and lectures. Synchronous formats are ideal for students who need structure to keep them on pace.

When researching online programs, pay attention to whether a school uses an asynchronous or synchronous format.

Most universities set minimum and maximum credit standards for both part-time and full-time students, meaning those enrolled are limited in their course load options. If you want to finish in less than two years, you should look for an accelerated program, where the maximum credit load allows you to double up. If you must balance a full-time job with your studies, look for part-time options. Full-time students usually complete their degrees within two years while part-time students take 4-5 years.

Courses in an Online Master's in Communications Program

Advanced Public Speaking

Regardless of your specialization is, public speaking is an important component in any communication program. Online public speaking classes often require students to record and submit speeches, sometimes given in front of an audience. Typically, the audience is just family members and friends.

Interpersonal Communication

Communication directors and managers must have excellent communication skills in order to manage employees. It's also important to communicate well in one-on-one conversations with important company stakeholders. This class teaches those interpersonal communication skills, helping students improve their listening as well as their speaking.

Organizational Communication

Often, communication professionals must oversee organization-wide communications. In an organizational communication course, individuals learn to enhance interdepartmental and employee communication through internal newsletters and company events. For example, students learn to ensure that employees receive notifications about important company changes before presenting those changes to the general public.

Ethics and Legal Issues in Communication

In courses like this one, students examine case studies and learn about laws and regulations that affect communication professionals. Learners also get the chance to develop their own ethical frameworks and learn how to make educated ethical decisions on behalf of an organization.

Communication Theory

In this class, students examine popular communication theories and learn how to apply them in practical situations. This course typically includes a term paper that requires students to choose a theory and explain how it relates to a communications-related current event. Communication theory courses encourage students to take a stance on each theory and incorporate their favorites into their professional practices.

Communications Membership Associations

The American Communication Association

The ACA helps members stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in communication fields. The organization provides members with a discussion board and a peer-reviewed journal, and membership is free. The ACA also grants programmatic accreditation for communication programs. Although the ACA membership is primarily American, it encourages people from all around the world to join.

International Communication Association

Although ICA is headquartered in Washington, D.C., it connects communication professionals across the world. ICA hosts conferences and provides its members with educational publications, including a newsletter, a scholarly journal, and annual reports. The organization maintains several divisions that focus on specific topics, like health communication and public relations.

National Communication Association

NCA supports communication professionals through research and education. Members benefit from exclusive journals, regional and national networking events, educational conferences, and communication research data. NCA also provides scholarships to aspiring students and advocates for public policy that supports communication professionals.

Public Relations Society of America

PRSA aims to advance the public relations field and encourage ethical communication practices within the United States. Members benefit from educational webinars, email newsletters, regional and national conferences, and an exclusive job board. Regional chapters also host monthly or quarterly meetings where members can network with one another.

Association for Women in Communications

AWC invites women working in any communications-related field to take advantage of its networking and educational opportunities. AWC maintains an online membership directory and offers annual awards to outstanding professionals. Members also receive discounts on partner products and services and access to an exclusive job board.

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