Best Online Master’s in Journalism Programs

by TBS Staff

Updated October 19, 2022

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Master's in journalism programs provide hands-on experience, build your portfolio, and teach you skills in reporting, multimedia storytelling, and news anchoring.

Journalists do the important job of informing the public about current, historical, and cultural events. They often value truth, curiosity, and community, and they must possess key skills in news reporting and qualitative research. Students earning a master's in journalism specialize their degrees, gain work experience, and create portfolios that can help them start an impactful career in the field.

This guide ranks some of the best online journalism master's programs in 2022. Learn about the expectations of a typical journalism program, available concentrations, and career paths.

The Best Online Journalism Master's Programs

#1 Best Online Master’s in Journalism Programs

University of Georgia

  • Athens, GA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Located in Athens, the University of Georgia enrolls master's students in its top-ranked online journalism program. The builds specialized skills for advanced practice, preparing graduates for leadership positions with increased salary potential. A master's degree allows candidates to move up the career ladder or pursue a new career path.

The master's curriculum emphasizes research methods and analytical skills. Learners specialize the program by choosing from a variety of electives. The master's program recommends a background in journalism for applicants.

Online enrollees complete internship programs in their local area to gain hands-on experience. Graduate students also build professional connections by attending networking events.

University of Georgia at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 45%

Total Online Master's Programs: 16

Program Name: Master of arts in journalism and mass communication - emerging media

Graduate Tuition In State: $8,878

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $25,186

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,790
Out-of-state
$28,830
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
45%
Students Enrolled
38,920
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 Best Online Master’s in Journalism Programs

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

  • Lincoln, NE
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The master's in journalism degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln uses a flexible distance learning format. The MA in journalism and mass communications program emphasizes advanced practice skills, training graduates for leadership roles with increased earning potential. Earning a master's degree can also help candidates pursue new career opportunities.

The master's curriculum emphasizes both practical and theoretical approaches to journalism. Learners choose electives and concentrations to prepare for focused career paths. The master's program recommends a background in journalism or a related field when applying.

Online enrollees work with the program to arrange professional internships at approved locations in their local area. The program encourages professional development activities, including networking events, so graduate students can expand their professional connections.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 78%

Total Online Master's Programs: 11

Program Name: MA in journalism and mass communications

Graduate Tuition In State: $5,976

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $17,280

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,560
Out-of-state
$24,000
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
78%
Students Enrolled
25,390
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 Best Online Master’s in Journalism Programs

University of South Florida St. Petersburg

  • St. Petersburg, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The master's in journalism program at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg offers a flexible online format. The digital journalism and design program strengthens industry-specific skills, preparing graduates for leadership responsibilities. After earning a master's degree, candidates may also pursue careers in new industries.

The master's curriculum emphasizes research methods and analytical skills. Learners choose electives or a specialization to gain focused career training. The master's program recommends a background in journalism or a related field for those applying.

Online enrollees meet any in-person requirements, such as internships, at approved sites in their local area. The program encourages graduate students to attend networking events to expand their professional connections.

University of South Florida St. Petersburg at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 27%

Total Online Master's Programs: 2

Program Name: Digital journalism and design MA

Graduate Tuition In State: $8,350

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $19,048

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,206
Out-of-state
$15,121
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
27%
Students Enrolled
4,448
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
66% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 Best Online Master’s in Journalism Programs

American University

  • Washington, DC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The master of arts in journalism and public affairs program at American University, located in Washington, offers a flexible online format. The journalism program strengthens industry-specific skills, preparing graduates for leadership responsibilities. Earning a master's degree can also help candidates pursue new career opportunities.

The master's curriculum covers methodological and research perspectives on journalism. Learners take electives and other specialized courses to gain career-specific training. The program encourages applicants to gain experience in journalism before applying.

Online enrollees work with the program to identify internship opportunities at approved sites in their local community. Internships and other practicum activities build both hands-on experience and professional connections.

American University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private, nonprofit, four-year

Admission Rate: 36%

Total Online Master's Programs: 16

Program Name: Master of arts in journalism and public affairs

Graduate Tuition In State: $30,351

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $30,351

Average Tuition
In-state
$49,070
Out-of-state
$49,070
Retention Rate
87%
Admission Rate
36%
Students Enrolled
14,318
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#5 Best Online Master’s in Journalism Programs

University of Missouri

  • Columbia, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Missouri, located in Columbia, offers a flexible online master's in journalism. The master of science in strategic communications and data journalism program builds specialized skills for leadership roles in the journalism field and related industries. A master's degree can also lead candidates to new career paths.

The master's curriculum blends theory and practice to provide an advanced understanding of journalism. Learners prepare for the job market by choosing a specialty through electives. The master's program recommends a background in journalism or a related field for those applying.

Online enrollees participate in internship programs at approved locations in their local area. Internships and other practicum activities also provide professional networking opportunities.

University of Missouri at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 81%

Total Online Master's Programs: 21

Program Name: Master of science in strategic communications and data journalism

Graduate Tuition In State: $9,264

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $25,363

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,120
Out-of-state
$26,991
Retention Rate
88%
Admission Rate
81%
Students Enrolled
30,014
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
Best Online Master's

Online Master's in Journalism Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

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.

Featured Online Master's in Journalism Programs

What Is an Online Master's in Journalism?

A journalism master's degree typically takes two years to complete. While most programs deliver similar outcomes, like excellent communication skills and hands-on journalism experience, they often differ in curricula.

For instance, some master's in journalism programs focus on theory and investigative research, while others help students develop a portfolio with writing, audio, or video samples. Consider which curriculum meets your needs before applying to a master's-level journalism degree.

Regardless of program, individuals with a master's in journalism graduate with the following hard and soft skills:

SOFT SKILLS

  • Project management
  • Written and oral communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Time management
  • Cultural awareness and inclusivity

HARD SKILLS

  • Qualitative/quantitative research
  • Fact-checking
  • Data analysis
  • Marketing
  • Public relations

Who Should Pursue a Journalism Master's?

Many entry-level positions in journalism require just a bachelor's degree, so a journalism master's isn't necessary for employment. Most employers value work experience and focus more on your portfolio and past internships.

Aspiring professionals with degrees in other fields can benefit from earning a master's in journalism, as they will learn the reporting and analytical skills necessary to become a journalist. A degree in this field also helps enrollees create a solid portfolio that highlights their qualifications and experience.

Experienced journalists who wish to add a new skill set or concentration to their portfolio can also benefit from a master's degree in journalism.

What Can I Expect in Pursuing a Master's in Journalism Online?

Online master's in journalism programs include the same courses as in-person programs, covering research, writing, and media studies. Prospective journalism students can choose a specialization that, in addition to refining their writing and reporting abilities, equips them with experience relevant to their career goals.

Journalism Master's Concentrations

Documentary Journalism

This concentration trains aspiring documentarians by building visual storytelling skills. Coursework includes technical topics, such as videography and data analysis for visual media, and reporting fundamentals. Each enrollee typically learns about the business side of film and completes a capstone documentary.

Multimedia Storytelling

For students interested in the intersection of graphic design and journalism, this specialization teaches how to convey information via a combination of text, images, and video. Enrollees learn to visualize data points and tell compelling, interactive stories.

Investigative Reporting

Aspiring investigative reporters dig into complex and nuanced topics such as crime, international relations, and local politics. The coursework builds core competencies in data mining, reliable sourcing, and freedom of information laws. Students learn to convey information to audiences in a detailed and captivating way.

News Reporting

Learners interested in pursuing careers as reporters or news analysts will benefit from this concentration, which explores how to use journalism conventions when reporting newsworthy material at the local, state, and national levels.

Media Ethics

This specialization prepares students with knowledge about ethical norms and codes of conduct that media professionals uphold. Students examine the value of journalistic integrity and study how the media affects law and governance. They also learn about journalists' responsibility to inform the public with accuracy and transparency.

Feature and Magazine Writing

These programs extend beyond standard news reporting and train learners to craft long-form content for magazines, such as in-depth profiles of public figures or lifestyle and special interest features. Graduates will learn to offer insightful narrative analysis and refine their points of view.

What's the Difference Between a Master of Arts in Journalism and Master of Science in Journalism?

Master of arts (MA) and master of science (MS) degrees in journalism both provide advanced qualifications in writing, reporting, and storytelling. However, these programs differ in the type of students they attract and the work they prepare you for.

MA IN JOURNALISM

Example Concentrations:

  • Business and economics
  • Arts and culture

Best for:

Seasoned journalists who want to develop expertise in a specialized subject. This path assumes some familiarity with the conventions of journalism.

MS IN JOURNALISM

Example Concentrations:

  • Investigative reporting
  • Documentary journalism
Best for:

Individuals looking to change careers, new students, and early-stage professionals interested in building a portfolio. This path builds applied journalism skills for those with little to no experience.

Choosing an Online Master's in Journalism Program

Accreditation, cost, learning format, and specialization options are all important to consider when selecting your ideal program. Choose a program with a curriculum that supports your professional goals and gives you the skills you need to advance your career. If you plan on pursuing a career in news media, for example, consider programs with concentrations in investigative or news reporting.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Journalism Degrees

Accreditation is an independent quality assurance measure that verifies high levels of excellence and rigor. Every school should hold some form of institutional accreditation, and candidates should always verify a prospective school's regional accreditation status before pursuing a master's in journalism.

Beyond the institutional accreditation, some programs also receive accreditation that is specific to their fields or industries. The Accreditation Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications accredits media-related programs.

Journalism Careers

The following list details several career paths for journalists. In most cases, entry-level work does not require a master's in journalism, but having one can help you hone your expertise and give you a competitive edge in the job market. For example, if you're interested in public relations (PR), a master's degree in journalism with a PR emphasis could make you a more appealing job candidate.

Radio and Television Broadcasters

Radio and television broadcasters provide insightful news analysis and inform the public on current events. They research relevant topics, investigate stories, and convey key information through audio-visual media.

Median Salary: $49,300

Editors

Editors typically manage a group of writers and ensure uniformity in the style, tone, and messaging of their organization. They also plan and revise content to make sure that the material appeals to their target audience.

Median Salary: Editors

Public Relations Specialists

Public relations specialists manage their clients' public images and communicate with the media on their behalf by developing position papers, writing speeches, and crafting press releases.

Median Salary: $118,430

Newspaper Publishers

Newspaper publishers research articles and write stories specific to their assigned area of responsibility, which is often referred to as their "beat." This can include topics such as sports, local politics, or entertainment. They must be available to cover breaking news and often work under strict deadlines.

Median Salary: $37,900

Writers and Authors

Writers and authors develop content for blogs, websites, magazines, books, scripts, and advertisements. Most professionals focus on subjects within their expertise and work with editors and clients to set goals and deadlines.

Median Salary: $67,120

Journalism Professional Organizations

Since 1975, this organization has supported Black journalists and media professionals throughout the U.S. NABJ maintains regional chapters, hosts an annual conference, and provides financial aid and a career center for its members. Established in 1984, NAHJ supports Latinos/as through professional development initiatives and training events. Current members and recent graduates can use its career and resource centers to find new opportunities in the industry. AAJA promotes diversity in journalism and the accurate, equitable coverage of people of color. This organization offers resource guides and sponsors professional development events for its over 1,500 members around the world. API promotes innovation and sustainability in the news industry. It focuses on understanding new and potential audiences, supporting organizational change, and advancing accountability in journalism. With roots dating back to 1909, SPJ is the oldest professional journalism organization in the U.S. It empowers journalists by promoting ethical standards and supporting diversity and inclusion efforts within the industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Should I Get a Master's in Journalism?

A journalism master's degree can help aspiring professionals from unrelated fields enter the industry. It can also provide career advancement opportunities and hands-on experience for recent graduates and early-career professionals.

Can I Be a Journalist With a Communications Degree?

Yes. Journalism and media are two of the most common career paths for graduates with communications degrees. Most journalism jobs require training in communications or other related fields.

How Do I Start a Career in Media?

Start by obtaining a formal education and gaining work experience. Landing a media internship can serve as a stepping stone to future employment in the field.


Header Image Credit: | Getty Images


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