Communications professionals help organizations maintain and enhance their desired image and contribute to the advertisement of products and services. Demand for qualified communications professionals is growing; the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that positions in marketing management will increase 10% by 2026.
Senior communications professionals are often team leaders, but they must also demonstrate the ability to work independently.
Choosing a Program
Communications master's degree programs explore advanced topics, such as branding, strategic communication management, persuasion, political communication, and multimedia authoring. Most communications curricula also include focused writing courses in areas such as writing for public relations, speeches, opinion writing, and promotional writing. Programs emphasize digital media to prepare students to manage online sales and social media.
Communications curricula vary widely by program, with notable differences in requirements and available electives. Consider your specific interests and career goals before selecting a program. Research requirements 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 preparation for a thesis. An alternative to a thesis program is one that involves a hands-on practicum.
For career information, skip down:
Online Master's in Communications Degree Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
The Best Online Master's in Communications Programs
1 University of Florida
Gainesville's University of Florida offers an online communication master's degree with seven specializations: audience analytics, digital strategy, global strategic communication, political communication, public relations and communication management, social media, and web design and online communication. The number of required credits in the master of arts in mass communication degree ranges from 33 to 39 credits. Professors deliver coursework asynchronously, and students must meet weekly assignment deadlines. Students take courses in 12-week-long semesters, or 16-week-long semesters if enrolled in the web design specialization. With full-time study, each specialization takes less than two years to complete.
Each program teaches cutting-edge techniques for maximum job placement potential, and students learn by watching recorded lectures and reading course material. To facilitate interaction and ease of learning, faculty members schedule live online office hours. Program structures vary, with some allowing for a wide range of electives and others requiring a preset course sequence. Each program concludes with a three-credit capstone course.
Applicants must submit official transcripts from all attended accredited undergraduate institutions and have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. UF also requires GRE scores, a statement of purpose, a professional resume, and three letters of reference. There are three start dates per year, one per semester, with three admissions deadlines to match. In-state and out-of-state online master's in communication students pay the same tuition rate.
University of Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
2 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois' online master's in communication combines academic coursework with hands-on internship training. Students pursue the master of arts in communication with a thesis or non-thesis option. Both options consist of at least 32 semester units, but the course distribution varies. The thesis curriculum includes eight semester units of research courses with fewer electives. Whether they opt into or out of the thesis, every student must complete a comprehensive examination in order to graduate.
The typical curriculum explores rhetoric, persuasion, argument, politics of the media, campaigning, and family communication. All students may take up to eight semester hours of electives outside the communications department. The curriculum also includes at least one six-unit internship. An internship coordinator works with students to help them find placement.
While not a prerequisite, ideal applicants possess 16 semester hours of undergraduate-level communications courses. Additionally, the admissions office requires some students to submit an oral examination. Strict application requirements include the submission of official transcripts with a GPA of at least 3.0 for 60 credit hours or 90 quarter hours of undergraduate course work. Additional application requirements include GRE scores, a personal statement, and a writing sample. Admissions requires applicants to send all materials by December 15th. Master's in communications online Illinois residents pay discounted tuition.
The University of Illinois is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
3 Marist College
Poughkeepsie, New York
Marist College designed its master's in communication online for the full-time working student. Its master of arts in communication takes one year of full-time or two 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 full-time program complete four courses per semester, and students who take the program part-time take two courses per semester. As part of the program's graduation requirements, students choose between writing a thesis and taking a comprehensive exam.
The 30-credit curriculum consists of nine courses, with a culminating seminar or thesis writing class. Students focus on interpersonal and organizational communications, persuasion, and media relations. One class in research strategies and methods prepares students for detailed research and analysis.
Prospective students must submit an online application form along with official transcripts from all undergraduates and graduate institutions. Marist College also requires a personal essay, professional resume, and three letters of recommendation as part of the application package. The admissions office requires GRE scores from some applicants. Applicants may submit their applications year round, but classes begin only one time a year in August. Students pay the same tuition rates irrespective of state residency. Online students who submit the FAFSA in time may qualify for financial aid.
Marist College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE).
4 Northeastern University
Located in Boston, MA, Northeastern University's online communications master's degree offers rigorous academics and many opportunities for hands-on learning. The master of science in corporate and organizational communication curriculum consists of 45 quarter-hours focused on core courses and concentrations.
Core classes such as ethical issues and strategic communication management introduce students to key communications concepts and teach them how to implement successful communications strategies. After completing the 18- to-22 quarter-hours of core classes, students choose from one of five concentrations: human resource management, leadership, project management, public relations, and social media. Each 15- to-18-quarter-hour concentration teaches workplace skills that align with the student's professional goals. The curriculum also includes up to nine quarter-hours of electives and concludes with a capstone course.
To reinforce skills learned in the classroom, Northeastern offers a number of hands-on learning opportunities. Students who reside in Boston may pursue a co-op placement at a location in the surrounding area. Students who live outside of Boston can find similar placement through an online co-op program that asks them to design a communications program in their workplace. Students use this online co-op to meet the capstone course requirement.
Applicants must complete the online application form and submit official transcripts from their undergraduate institution. Complete applications also require a 500- to-1,000-word personal statement that outlines educational goals, two letters of recommendation, and a professional resume. All students pay the same per-credit tuition rate irrespective of where they reside.
Northeastern University is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE).
5 Arizona State University–ASU Online
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.
Arizona State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
6 Webster University
Webster Groves, Missouri
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.
Webster University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
7 Liberty University
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.
Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
8 South Dakota State University
Brookings, South Dakota
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.
South Dakota State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
9 American University
Washington, District of Columbia
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.
American University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE).
10 California Baptist University
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, and provide the admissions office with two letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and a current resume. Prospective students with undergraduate GPAs of 2.75 or higher typically receive admission. 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.
California Baptist University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
11 West Virginia University
Morgantown, West Virginia
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.
West Virginia University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
12 Western New England University
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.
Western New England University is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE).
13 Queens University of Charlotte
Charlotte, North Carolina
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 totalling 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.
Queens University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
14 Austin Peay State University
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.
Austin Peay State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
15 National University
La Jolla, California
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.
National University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
Online Master's in Communications Careers
Graduates with an online master's in communications secure top-level marketing and advertising positions. Senior positions often require supervisory skills, critical and creative thinking, and the ability to coordinate departments.
Marketing Manager: Marketing managers evaluate the public's demand for goods and services. They assess potential markets and set prices for products based on demand. Marketing managers coordinate efforts with sales, advertising, public relations, purchasing, and product development departments.
- Median Annual Salary: $131,180
- Projected Growth Rate: 10%
Promotions Manager: Promotions managers create programs to incentivize purchasing. They design targeted advertisements that offer clients a benefit for purchasing a product or service. Promotions managers work with the art department, financial staff, a sales agents.
- Median Annual Salary: $127,560
- Projected Growth Rate: 9%
Public Relations Manager: Public relations managers produce materials that enhance an organization's public image and may also create fundraising campaigns. These managers prepare press releases, help clients improve their communications, and supervise staff. Most employers strongly prefer public relations managers applicants hold a master's degree.
- Median Annual Salary: $107,320
- Projected Growth Rate: 10%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics