The Best Online Master’s in Communication

by TBS Staff
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Online Communicaton Master's Programs

An online master's in communication program covers topics like fundraising and political campaigns, marketing, political advocacy, and public relations.

Graduates of master's in communication online 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 communications careers, including advertising, promotions, and marketing managers; public relations and fundraising managers; and postsecondary education administrators.

Featured Online Master's in Communication Programs

The Best Online Master’s in Communication Programs

  1. Northwestern University
    Location

    Evanston, IL

    Northwestern's master of science in communication program helps ambitious and inspired professionals gain more effective leadership. The curriculum integrates theory with practical applications, providing students with a competitive advantage in the workplace.

    The program, delivered in a hybrid format, combines distance learning with four in-resident seminars focused on crisis communication and leading collaboration. Courses include information design, data-driven decisions, and strategic communication management. The MSC capstone integrates coursework and practical experience.

    Applicants must submit transcripts, two recommendations, a resume, and an essay. Admission also requires an interview.

  2. Johns Hopkins University
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    Johns Hopkins' 30-credit master of arts in communication teaches students theoretical knowledge about communications, allowing them to produce effective messages and strategies.

    Participants select the strategic planning or communication research track. Coursework includes research and writing methods, changing behavior through communication, and introduction to the digital age. Students may also select concentrations in political communication, health communication, or digital communication.

    Admission requires a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution (3.0 minimum GPA), official transcripts, a purpose statement, and a writing sample.

  3. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    The master of communication management program offered through USC helps new and experienced professionals learn communication theory and applied research and apply it to real-world business situations.

    The curriculum, taught by a top-tier faculty, includes communication management and research, strategic corporate communication, and a capstone focused on research or communication attitudes, values, and behavior. Full-time students can complete the program in 16 months.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit transcripts, a writing sample, a statement of purpose, and two recommendation letters.

  4. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Location

    Champaign, IL

    Tuition

    $15829

    U of I's master of science in strategic brand communication helps working professionals learn to better manage and develop the brand communication process. The degree can take as few as 16 months.

    The 32-credit program focuses on business and advertising, such as media management, consumer insights, and strategic analytics. A capstone project applies learnings to industry challenges. Participants may also opt for strategic brand certification in consumer insights, media and analytics, and strategic brand communication essentials.

    Admission requirements include an undergraduate degree, transcripts, an essay, and recommendation letters.

  5. University of Louisiana at Monroe
    Location

    Monroe, LA

    Tuition

    $9455

    The ULM Online's master of arts in communication with a concentration in strategic communication program focuses on communication studies and mass communication, emphasizing communication science, medical studies, and rhetorical overviews.

    Courses for the 33-credit degree include qualitative and quantitative research methods, communication theory, public relations practices, and public opinion and propaganda.

    Successful applicants need to meet two of the following criteria: a minimum 2.5 GPA, a minimum GRE of 284 (combined), or a minimum formula score of 710 (GRE and GPA).

  6. Purdue University-Main Campus
    Location

    West Lafayette, IN

    Tuition

    $11898

    Purdue's master of science in communication program teaches participants to develop strategic messages that reach targeted audiences. Designed for working professionals, the 30-credit can wrap within 12 to 20 months.

    The curriculum includes communication and ethics, research methods, and leadership and global strategic communication. Students may select concentrations in public relations, integrated communication and advertising, or healthcare communication.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution (minimum 3.0 GPA). Submission requirements include transcripts, a resume, a personal statement, and recommendation letters.

  7. Mississippi College
    Location

    Clinton, MS

    MC offers a master of science in communication. It emphasizes graduate marketability and preparing for doctoral programs. Students learn communication theory and practice while developing practical application skills.

    Courses for the 31-credit degree include listening, negotiation, intercultural communication, and strategic crisis communication. Students also select a focus, such as generalist, health services, sports, or journalism.

    Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution (minimum 2.5 GPA), official transcripts, standardized test scores, and business school prerequisites.

  8. Sam Houston State University
    Location

    Huntsville, TX

    Tuition

    $12516

    SHSU's master of arts in communication studies targets aspiring doctoral students and professionals interested in career advancement. Topics include interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, and persuasion.

    Class requirements for the 36-credit program include communication studies methods and research, advanced family communications, and advanced communication theory. Major-specific electives round out the degree.

    Program applicants must hold a bachelor's degree (3.0 minimum GPA). GRE or MAT scores are required for applicants without a graduate degree. Other submission materials include transcripts, a resume, a letter of interest, and three recommendation letters.

  9. Marist College
    Location

    Poughkeepsie, NY

    Marist's master of arts in integrated marketing communication focuses on modern-day digital interactive marketing and strategic communication tactics. Working professionals learn to create strategic marketing plans to support an organization's brand values, products, and mission.

    Studies focus on consumer insights, public relations management, decision-making tools, and advertising management. A capstone completes the degree.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit transcripts from previously attended institutions. Marist also recommends a personal statement, a current resume, and three recommendation letters.

  10. East Carolina University
    Location

    Greenville, NC

    Tuition

    $13746

    ECU's 30-hour master of arts in communication offers concentrations in health communication and strategic communication, each delivering overall communication theory and practice.

    Both concentrations require core classes in communication theory, research methods, an applied communication capstone, and an optional thesis. Elective courses differentiate the programs. Health communication emphasizes interpersonal communications (patient-doctor), while strategic communication focuses on public relations and organizational communications.

    Applicants must submit a statement of purpose, official transcripts from previously attended schools, a resume, and two recommendation letters.

Best Online Programs - Master's in Communications

Online Master's in Communication 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.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

What Is a Master's in Communication Degree?

Communication master's degree programs explore advanced topics such as branding, strategic communication management, persuasion, political communication, and multimedia writing. Most communications programs also include writing courses in areas such as 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.

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 Communication 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 communication 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, plan accordingly.

The Advantages of a Master's Degree in Communication

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 communication 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 communication 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 below.

Average Salary by Degree Level

$62,140
Bachelor of Arts in Communication

$65,430
Master of Arts in Communication

Source: Payscale

Choosing an Online Communications Graduate Degree Program

When choosing an online master's in communication program, take your time. Being selective 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 criteria you value in a school, including program cost, transfer policies, and school size and type. Keep these criteria in mind during your search.

Accreditation for Online Communication Master's Degrees

For students pursuing a communication master's online, accreditation should be a top consideration. If a school is accredited, it means it's regularly evaluated by an accrediting agency to ensure high educational standards. Although the U.S. Department of Education 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.

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 communication. 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 Communication 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.

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 Communication 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 consists of 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 communication. 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.

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

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 communication have these skills and can secure these positions.

Marketing Director $90,752

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.

Public Relations Director $89,646

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.

Social Media Director $75,745

Social media directors use online platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, to communicate with target audiences. These professionals often work 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.

Communications Manager $66,468

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

Managing Editor $64,349

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. They also have the final say on whether or not a story gets published.

Common Questions About Master's in Communication Degrees

Is a Master's in Communication Worth It?

A master's in communication can lead to fulfilling careers that earn above average salaries. According to Payscale, the average salary of individuals with a master's degree in communications is over $65,000.

What Can I Do With a Master's in Communication?

Graduates with a master's degree in communication can work in marketing, public relations, and advertising, and administration.

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Master's Degree in Communications?

GA master's degree in communications typically takes two years to complete, though students in part-time or accelerated programs may take more or less time.

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