Media communications graduates work in public relations, advertising, and marketing. The degree's versatility also allows graduates to work in publishing, broadcasting, and the nonprofit sector. These professionals help organizations communicate with the public, design communications strategies, and oversee strategic communications plans.
Earning an online master of arts in mass communication prepares graduates for lucrative roles, such as public relations manager and advertising manager. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that public relations and advertising managers earn average annual salaries over $110,000.
An online media communications program offers flexibility and accessibility. Working professionals can earn their master's degree online without pausing their career. Online programs also let students attend some of the top programs in the country without relocating.
The degree combines theoretical and practical knowledge to prepare graduates for careers in diverse fields. Many programs offer concentrations to customize the degree, including options like public relations, digital media, strategic communications, and advertising. This article introduces the top master's in media communications programs along with information on how to choose an appropriate program, potential career paths, and professional associations.
Master's in Media Communications Degree Online Ranking Guidelines
We selected these programs based on quality, curricula, awards, rankings, and reputation.
The Best Online Master's in Media Communications Degree Programs
1. University of Florida
Located in sunny Gainesville, The University of Florida offers one of the preeminent online media and communications master's in the country. UF's online master of arts in mass communication with a concentration in digital strategy is an accelerated degree path that allows students to graduate in just one year of full-time study, taking 12 credits per semester for a total of 36 credits. The University of Florida offers three semesters per academic year.
Students can watch recorded lectures at their own pace, while meeting weekly objectives and assignments for the class. UF faculty and active professionals in mass communications teach an expansive curriculum. Coursework includes lead generation and marketing, user experience, and inbound strategy. All professors maintain live office hours, making it easy for busy distance learners to discuss projects or concepts if they need a little extra assistance.
Students have three different start times per academic year to choose from for added flexibility in scheduling the next step in your education. Applications are due November 1 (Spring), April 1 (Summer), and July 1 (Fall).
The University of Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
2. Texas Tech University
Texas Tech University in Lubbock is dedicated to ensuring every student has the chance to complete one of its degrees, including distance learners undertaking an online master's in strategic communication and innovation. The 30-credit program prepares graduates to compete for senior-level roles at national and international agencies. This program targets communications professionals whose careers stand to benefit from continued education.
Degree seekers complete 21 hours of required courses, including studies in research methods, mass communication theory, and an applied research project capstone. You choose which electives fill your remaining nine credit hours; options include multimedia storytelling, audience/data analysis and reporting, and advanced social media practice.
Students can complete courses asynchronously and log in at any time. Applicants must submit a 300-500 word personal statement, resume, writing samples, references, and undergraduate transcripts with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above. Once admitted, distance learners can begin the program during the fall or spring, or either of the two summer sessions.
Texas Tech University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
3. Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan
One of the Big Ten schools, Michigan State University in East Lansing offers students an exceptional education, on- or off-campus. MSU's reputation for excellence extends to its online master's in strategic communication. Most applicants are experienced communications professionals.
Composed of nine courses totaling 30 credits (plus a capstone project), students enrolled full-time can finish in less than two years. This master's degree in media and communication is the newest online degree at MSU.
Digital communications continue to evolve, and the courses for MSU's master's in strategic communication reflect the dynamic nature of the field. Courses are available in crisis communication, persuasion techniques for working professionals, and ethical concerns and controversies for emerging thinkers.
The department maintains an active digital footprint, with regularly updated blogs, student stories, and faculty profiles. Interested distance learners can attend one of the school's regularly scheduled informational webinars. According to recent data, 95% of graduates find work or move into an advanced degree directly after leaving school.
Michigan State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
4. Washington State University
Ten percent of Washington State University's 30,000 students are distance learners. WSU's online master's in strategic communications welcomes veterans and newcomers alike who want to work in communications.
In addition to learning about theories and methodologies behind successful strategic communications, WSU students are also provided with hands-on teaching about the latest platforms, tools, and applications being deployed in the field. This online media and communications master's program includes 12 professional core credits, 15 credits in strategic communication, a three-credit capstone project, portfolio, and comprehensive presentation.
Standout classes include professional digital content promotion and professional marketing communication management and campaigns. The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication consistently ranks well for its graduate degrees. Students work closely with industry professionals and Ph.D. faculty scholars. Applicants must provide a written statement of purpose and an official transcript that shows an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. Students can start during the summer, fall, or spring semesters.
Washington State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
5. University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa
The University of Iowa's cutting-edge distance education program allows distance learners to seek an online master's degree in strategic communication from anywhere in the country.
For current professionals and those with no experience in communications, UI's curriculum supports learners aiming for a variety of careers. Graduates have gone on to meaningful roles in event planning, political campaigns, crisis communications, writing, health communications, and public affairs.
Initial courses work to instill foundational professional skills in students. From there, classes transition into a nuanced study of advanced communication strategy and development. In addition to required classes, degree seekers can also choose from a number of electives – either from within the program or from a complementary department in the university.
Unlike other online master's of communication in digital media programs, UI's degree is not taught asynchronously. Classes meet online once per week in the early evening. Some electives may also require occasional classroom sessions in Iowa, so students who live far away may want to speak with an advisor before committing. Because many enrollees are working while studying, UI offers two-, three-, and four-year graduation plans. You can also take up to two courses in the program as a “non-degree seeking” student before admission to the master's degree program, allowing you to make sure the program is a good fit for you.
Applicants do not need to complete the GRE, but must have a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and submit a statement of purpose, writing samples, resume, and three letters of recommendation.
The University of Iowa is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
6. Florida International University
Florida International University in Miami offers an online master's of science in mass communications with an emphasis in global strategic communications, a focused degree program preparing graduates to take on advanced, international roles at some of the world's top corporate, nonprofit, and governmental organizations. This accelerated program can be completed in just one year of full-time study and costs $25,000 regardless of where you live.
Offered in partnership with the school's Center for Labor Research and Studies, degree seekers may also earn a graduate certificate in conflict resolution and consensus building while enrolled in the master's program. This is an especially exciting option for individuals looking to set themselves apart from other job applicants following graduation. The 30-credit program covers communication management and digital communication. Students complete four classes (the equivalent of 12 credits) each semester. Notable courses include global strategic communication management, communication for change management, and mediation techniques.
To be considered for admission, prospective students must submit a completed application, transcripts with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher, proof of degree, two recommendation letters, an essay, and a resume. If the applicant has a demonstrable history of professional accomplishment or already has a master's degree, they may petition for a waiver of the GRE requirement.
Florida International University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
7. Webster University
Webster Groves, Missouri
Webster University in St. Louis, MO, recognizes that individuals interested in completing an online master's degree in mass communication media studies hail from many different backgrounds. Regardless of the unique calling of each learner, the university's online master's in media communications examines how communication impacts many sectors of life and explores rapidly evolving technology, culture, and digital platforms.
Created to address the needs of communications professionals, the curriculum avoids covering foundational topics and instead dives into a nuanced study of advanced areas of the field. Core classes required in this two-year degree include media organization and regulations, media production management, and international communications. Degree seekers choose one three-hour elective to help further focus their education.
Although all courses are available online, students can also take classes at one of the school's multiple campuses across the globe, from Bangkok to Louisville. Applicants need a completed application, social security number, official transcripts, anticipated entry date, any college transfer credits, and employment history.
Webster University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
8. The New School
New York, New York
A leader in innovative educational opportunities, The New School in New York City continues to evolve with the needs of students and industries.
The school's 39-credit online media studies master's degree features a rigorous curriculum that includes two core courses (media theory and media design), two production courses (practice and project), and one course in research methods. Unlike other online master's in media and communications with a mandatory capstone project, presentation, or portfolio, The New School's students choose either a thesis or non-thesis route.
With so few required courses, The New School encourages students to create a plan of study that suits their academic interests and professional ambitions. Many students focus in an area of study created within the School of Media Studies, such as media analytics, documentary studies, digital cinema production, and transmedia and digital storytelling.
Online students complete program requirements in an asynchronous format and are welcomed to the school and department through a digital version of the new student orientation. During the first semester course Understanding Media Studies, you can get to know your fellow distance learners in special online discussion sections. Online degree seekers are also allowed to earn up to six credits by completing approved internships or assistantships.
The New School is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
9. South Dakota State University
Brookings, South Dakota
Located in the flourishing town of Brookings, South Dakota State University offers a stellar online master's of mass communication for individuals who are already working in the field and want to expand their mastery of the discipline. The program is accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Students choose between a 32 or 36 credit path to graduation; the former program requires a professional project and the latter a professional portfolio. Rather than following a traditional semester-based schedule, learners complete accelerated eight-week sessions to move through the coursework quickly. Online students who complete two consecutive eight-week classes (and one per summer) can finish the program in less than two years.
Online courses at SDSU average about 15 students. In addition to required classes, students can also pick from a wide range of electives, including opinion writing, health campaigns, and social marketing for health and behavioral change. All classes are available asynchronously and include a 24/7 virtual classroom where learners can access all the materials needed to complete assignments and projects.
South Dakota State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
10. Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire
Southern New Hampshire University began offering online education programs more than two decades ago and continues to be a nationally recognized leader in the field. The school has a vast array of online degree programs available, including a master's in communication with a specialization in new media and marketing.
For people with experience in digital strategy and those who are new to the field alike, this affordable and accelerated degree is a great option for students of all ages. The curriculum requires 36 credits and includes seven core classes, four electives, and a capstone. Course topics include knowledge and new media, identity and personal brands, and digital tools and teams. Classes are taught on rotating 10-week terms, allowing students to finish the degree in as little as 15 months.
Classes are taught asynchronously, so you can watch lectures at your convenience. Rolling admissions decisions allow degree seekers to begin their studies during any of SNHU's five start dates. SNHU also boasts an expansive global alumni network that can be useful in finding a job after graduation. SNHU does not require applicants to submit GMAT or GRE scores.
Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (NEASC-CIHE).
11. Austin Peay State University
Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee offers two specializations and two concentrations for an online master of arts in communication arts degree. Students can specialize in corporate or general communication and concentrate in either marketing communication or media management. Regardless of concentration or specialization, all distance learners can graduate after completing 34 credits.
Each of the concentrations and specializations requires a unique set of classes, research requirements, and electives. For instance, the corporate communication specialization covers topics ranging from integrated corporate communication and applied communication theory. The media management concentration covers topics like economics of mass media and communication research methods. All specializations also require a research paper.
Classes are taught online in eight-week sessions and students can take up to two courses per session. Applicants aren't required to have any previous academic or professional experience in communications, making it easy for career changers or those with unrelated bachelor's degrees to flourish.
To be considered for admissions, students need to have at least a 2.5 cumulative undergraduate GPA and submit scores from the verbal and quantitative sections of the GRE. No GRE score is required for students with an undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or greater.
Austin Peay also offers graduate assistantships; degree seekers need to have a 2.75 undergraduate GPA and submit three letters of recommendation outlining why the student is likely to experience success in the role.
Austin Peay State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
12. National University
La Jolla, California
Established in 1971, La Jolla, California-based National University offers affordable online degree programs for adult learners, including an MA in strategic communications.
NU's curriculum focuses on both theoretical and practical studies in communications. Students graduate with sophisticated knowledge of the latest technologies and methodologies for interacting with audiences. Rather than following standard academic hours, NU is set up on a quarter hour system and mandates that students take 45 quarter units to graduate. The nine required courses run the gamut of communications and include topics in integrated marketing communication, campaign and program management, persuasion, and research methods. The degree concludes with an extensive capstone project.
NU is an excellent option for students who want to graduate quickly, as most classes are only four weeks long. Classes at National are taught synchronously and require students to watch streaming videos, participate in real-time discussions, and interact with professors and classmates throughout the program.
National University is regionally accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
13. Clarion University of Pennsylvania
Clarion University of Pennsylvania offers a master's of science in mass media arts and journalism, the first graduate-level degree offered fully online by the school. Developed to suit professionals who are looking to improve their career prospects, this 36-credit degree begins with a theoretical foundation before moving into a range of professional experiences designed to enhance real-world success.
All classes and assignments are available 24/7 and students can catch up on lectures and class discussions whenever they wish. The program is also offered on an accelerated basis, where students can graduate in just 18 months. Required coursework includes courses in mass communication research, management of the communication process, and advanced public relations writing.
Students also get to pick two electives and complete a thesis or expanded research project in an approved area of communications to graduate. With careful planning, students can also earn a certificate in public relations while completing their master's degree. To be considered for this online master's in media and communications, students must submit official transcripts, a resume, letters of recommendation, writing samples, and a personal statement. GRE scores are not required.
Clarion University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
14. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
Named after Edinburgh, Scotland, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania is a great choice for students seeking a comprehensive and engaging online master's of arts in communication studies. This program is primarily designed for professionals with experience in digital strategy or public relations who want to advance their knowledge and their careers.
Once accepted to the program, degree seekers select from either a 36-credit non-internship track or 30-33-credit internship track that gives students hands-on experience at an approved company or organization. You may also earn a certificate in conflict management while completing the degree.
Regardless, all students must select from three options to complete their final three credits: a comprehensive examination and portfolio, written thesis, or a practicum. Professionals already working in communications often follow the practicum track, which allows them to undertake an audit or analysis of the current communication strategies and policies at their workplace and report back their findings.
Some of the classes required include technology of communication, intercultural conflict and communication, and criticism of mass media. Distance learners need to submit either MAT or GRE scores, have at least a 2.8 GPA, provide two letters of reference, and a statement of purpose.
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
15. University of Valley Forge
A Pennsylvania-based school that champions both Christianity and academia, the University of Valley Forge offers a fully online master of digital media communications. Newly admitted students typically finish all degree requirements in approximately two years. The program requires students to complete 33 credits, including a six-credit directed project.
As a Christian institution, UVF asks students to develop a personal theology of leadership and service within the framework of their studies while completing the master's degree in digital media communications. Students also advance their critical thinking skills and research the latest trends within digital media.
Applicants must have a bachelor's degree in digital media or related topic with a GPA of 2.75 or higher. They also need to submit official transcripts, apply for credit transfer, provide a letter of reference, complete an interview with a member of the faculty, and submit a digital portfolio of relevant work in digital media.
If you're looking for an online master's degree in digital media communications taught from a Christ-centered perspective, UVF could be the perfect fit.
The University of Valley Forge is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
The Advantages of a Master's in Media Communications Education
An online master of arts in mass communication prepares graduates for lucrative and diverse career paths. While a bachelor's in communications leads to careers as a public relations specialist or advertising specialist, a master's degree provides opportunities for management-level roles, like public relations manager and advertising manager.
Professionals often earn more with a higher degree. For example, according to the BLS, a public relations specialist earns an average salary of $60,000 per year, while a public relations manager earns nearly $115,000 a year, on average.
Media Communications Degree Salary Information
While a bachelor's degree is the minimum education requirement for many jobs in public relations, marketing, broadcasting, and publishing, employers increasingly prefer an advanced degree, particularly for senior positions. Below are some common employment opportunities for media communications graduates.
- Public Relations Specialist: Public relations specialists promote their organization to maintain a favorable public image. They create media releases, develop social media programs, and design awareness campaigns.
- Writer: Writers create written content for advertisements, books, scripts, and magazines. With a background in media communications, writers can work in copywriting, advertising, and business writing.
- Public Relations Manager: Public relations managers design campaigns and programs to enhance the public image of their client. They oversee public relations specialists and craft communications strategies for their organization. A master's degree helps PR managers stand out in the job market.
- Reporter: Reporters research and investigate news stories to report them to the public. They work in broadcast, print, and online media, communicating information to viewers and readers.
- Advertising Manager: Advertising managers create campaigns that promote a product or service for their clients, often managing a team of advertising specialists. A master's degree helps advertising professionals advance to management positions.
Salary by Experience for Media Communications Careers
|Public Relations Specialist||$39,000||$44,000||$55,000||$61,000|
|Public Relations Manager||$41,000||$54,000||$69,000||$76,000|
Choosing an Online Media Communications Degree Program
The master's program that students choose can shape their career, so prospective students should carefully consider which programs best fit their interests and goals. Students looking for an affordable option may consider in-state public schools, which typically charge the lowest tuition rates. Other factors, such as transfer policies, program size, and program length can help students narrow down their options.
- Program Cost: The cost of a master's in communication online varies by program. Generally, public in-state institutions offer the lowest tuition rates, though many out-of-state public schools charge the same rate for online students regardless of residency. Private schools may offer scholarships or financial aid to lower the cost of a degree. In addition to tuition, prospective students should consider technology fees, books, and other expenses.
- Transfer Policies: Some master's programs accept a limited number of transfer credits toward a communications degree, typically around 10. Students with transfer credits should research transfer policies and request a transcript review to potentially save time and money on the degree.
- School Size and Type: The size and type of communications programs factor into finding the right fit for students. Some students may prefer smaller class sizes to promote individualized attention, while others may prefer to join a larger cohort of fellow students.
- Program Length: While a master's in communications typically takes two years to complete, program length varies by enrollment status. Some programs offer part-time schedules to help students balance school with work or family obligations, which lengthens the time to completion, while others offer accelerated schedules to expedite graduation.
- On-Campus Requirements: Online programs may incorporate on-campus requirements, such as orientations or residencies. Students who can't meet on-campus requirements should seek fully online programs.
Accreditation for Online Media Communications Degrees
Students considering a master's degree in media communications should always choose an accredited program. Attending an accredited institution benefits students in several ways. Accredited degrees meet the requirements for more professional licenses and certifications and credits from an accredited institution are more likely to transfer to other institutions. Students at accredited institutions also qualify for more financial aid opportunities.
To earn accreditation, colleges and universities voluntarily undergo a review from an independent accrediting agency. The accrediting agency assesses the institution based on factors like graduation rates, learning outcomes, and faculty qualifications. After earning accreditation, institutions must undergo periodic reviews to maintain their status.
There are two types of institutional accreditation: regional and national. For liberal arts and research institutions, including those that offer communications master's programs, regional accreditation remains the highest standard. In addition to regional accreditation, some programs within an institution pursue programmatic accreditation, a specialized review of the program's standards and methods.
The Department of Education (ED) and Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee the accreditation process, certifying accrediting agencies to ensure they offer authoritative reviews of institutions. Prospective students can review the ED accreditation list or CHEA accreditation list to find out whether their potential school holds accreditation.
Media Communications Concentrations
Students earning an online master of arts in mass communication or media communications can choose a concentration to specialize their degree, such as public relations, digital media, or advertising. Prospective students should research each potential program's concentrations to find one that matches their interests and career goals.
A public relations concentration emphasizes the theoretical and practical components of PR careers. Students learn how to design PR campaigns, create research-based PR strategies, and strengthen brand identities through public relations. The concentration prepares graduates to manage PR campaigns, act as spokespeople for companies, and perform media outreach.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Public relations specialist; public relations manager
Digital media concentrations cover online communications, including how to create persuasive content for different online platforms. Students may take courses in social media, online advertising, and digital media outreach. The concentration prepares graduates for careers in digital media communications.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Digital media specialist
An advertising concentration teaches students how to design advertising campaigns, create media outreach strategies, and implement advertising strategies. Students may also study copywriting, marketing, and strategic communications. The concentration prepares graduates for leadership roles in advertising.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Advertising specialist; advertising management
A journalism concentration covers the intersection between communications and journalism, often emphasizing broadcast journalism as a form of mass communication. Students study journalism methods and ethics, preparing for media outreach and journalism careers.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Journalist; reporter; news analyst
Social media concentrations emphasize social media as an avenue for marketing, public relations, and advertising. Students study social media environments, online content strategies, and community outreach on digital platforms. The concentration prepares students for social media communications roles.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Social media specialist
How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Media Communications?
Earning an online master of arts in mass communication typically requires two years of full-time study. Students complete 30-36 credits of coursework, including classes in strategic communications, public relations, and media relations. Several factors affect the length of a master's degree, including program structure, enrollment status, and transfer credit.
For example, media communications programs may offer an internship option, which can add time to the degree. Students can also choose a part-time schedule, which lengthens the program, or an accelerated option to expedite graduation. Programs may also accept transfer credit toward the master's in media communications, which can shorten the time to graduation.
Courses in an Online Master's in Media Communications Program
Students in online master's in media communications programs gain expertise in written and verbal communication, interpersonal relations, and technology. Most programs also offer a variety of concentrations and electives to allow students to customize the curriculum to their goals and interests.
Schools generally offer concentrations that correlate with career prospects. For example, students planning to pursue a career in public relations might choose a concentration in public and media relations, while students seeking a nonprofit career might pursue an advocacy and social impact concentration. Most online media and communications master's programs conclude with a capstone project or presentation. The following list outlines common courses in master's in media communications programs.
Media communications classes examine media communication scholarship, debates, and trends. The course may also cover the influence of media communications on society, analytical strategies to assess media communications, and best practices in communications.
Courses on media management prepare graduate students to lead media communications campaigns. Students learn how to design, pitch, and execute campaigns. They also study the relationship between communications branches like marketing, advertising, and public relations.
Learners in this class study the relationship between economics and media, including media ownership patterns and the evolution of media economics. The class examines public and private media companies, media ownership regulations, and the recent concentration of ownership in a smaller number of corporations.
Graduate courses on strategic communications examine the role that communication plays within an organization. Students study topics like direct and indirect communications, internal communications, and marketing communications. The class prepares graduates for communications management positions.
Media literacy classes examine the transmission of information, including media consumption and the absorption of communication materials. Students study research on media literacy, the role of technology in media literacy, and the relationship between social media platforms and media literacy.
- Public Relations Society of America: A professional organization for public relations and communications professionals, PRSA provides professional development resources, including conferences, workshops, and webinars. The society also offers a career center, resume tips, a networking guide, and interview advice for job seekers.
- National Communication Association: NCA advocates for communication professionals and scholars, providing professional resources such as relevant data and a career center. The association also publishes journals and offers resources on doctoral programs in communications.
- Public Relations Student Society of America: A group within PRSA dedicated to students, PRSSA hosts events and offers career resources for public relations and communications students. The society provides internship listings, scholarship opportunities, and a membership directory.
- Alliance for Women in Media: A professional organization dedicated to women working in the media, AWM offers membership benefits like access to professional development resources, academic papers, and a job board.
- Broadcast Education Association: BEA represents media educators, professionals, and students. The association offers publications, an annual convention, web-based programs, and regional activities. Students can apply for BEA scholarships to fund their education.