Best Online Master’s in Journalism 2021

by TBS Staff
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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 2021. Learn about the expectations of a typical journalism program, available concentrations, and career paths.

The Best Online Journalism Master's Programs

University of Georgia true View School Profile $$$ Athens, GA 86% 35% 12% The University of Georgia is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Established in 1785, UGA now offers courses and degrees fully online. UGA provides online students with individualized academic advising, tutorial help, and an alumni mentorship program.

The online master of arts in journalism and mass communication program at UGA offers an area of concentration in emerging media. This degree program requires students to complete 11 courses for a total of 33 credit hours.

Applicants must submit official transcripts, an updated resume, a statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation. UGA does not require GRE or MAT scores.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln true View School Profile $$$ Lincoln, NE 69% 41% 45% The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

With over 100 online programs offers by its four campuses, UNL provides high-quality, flexible distance education to its students. Nebraska also allows online students to fully access the university's library services, technical support, and academic resources.

UNL offers an online master of arts in journalism and mass communications degree program with a specialization in integrated media communications. Graduates of this program now work as marketing directors, account executives, SEO managers, digital marketing managers, and communications directors.

Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication or related area from an accredited institution.

University of South Florida-St Petersburg true View School Profile $$ St. Petersburg, FL 34% 40% 60% The University of South Florida-St. Petersburg is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1956, USFSP now serves more than 50,000 students every year. USFSP also ranks 30th among public U.S. institutions in the World University Ranking.

The university offers an online master of arts in digital journalism and design program for students wanting to assume advanced roles in digital journalism. USFSP allows students to take their courses entirely online or with a mix of online coursework and limited face-to-face classes.

USFSP requires applicants to submit all transcripts of records, three samples of professional visual work, three letters of recommendation, and a detailed letter of intent.

American University true View School Profile Washington, DC 80% 45% 7% American University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

A student-centered research institution, American University operates from a conveniently located campus in the residential district of Washington. Around 14,000 students attend AU every year.

AU offers an online master of arts in journalism and public affairs degree under the university's School of Communication. Students must complete 33 credits of coursework, including in-depth subjects in investigative and broadcast journalism.

For admission consideration, applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with at least a 3.0 GPA.

University of Missouri-Columbia true View School Profile $$$ Columbia, MO 69% 40% 31% The University of Missouri-Columbia is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Mizzou offers more than 260 life-shaping degree and certificate programs. The university also provides top-notch distance learning programs through its Missouri Online platform.

The online master of arts in journalism program at Mizzou also offers areas of concentration in health communication, interactive media, media management, and strategic communication. UM offers this program 100% online, with one on-campus seminar held in the fall.

Prospective students must accrue a minimum of three years of experience in journalism or a strategic communications-related field.

Stephen F Austin State University View School Profile Nacogdoches, TX 48% 57% 40% Stephen F. Austin State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Established in 1923, SFA provides structured education in over 120 majors and areas of study. Nearly 13,000 students enroll at SFA every year.

SFA's online master of arts in mass communication degree provides three specializations: advertising and public relations, broadcasting, and journalism. Students of this program complete their coursework online and choose between the thesis, nonthesis, and media project options of study.

All applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Applicants must also earn a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.

South Dakota State University View School Profile Brookings, SD 56% 54% 38% South Dakota State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

A land-grant heritage university, South Dakota State University remains the largest and most comprehensive higher-education institution in South Dakota.

SDSU offers an online master of mass communication degree designed for working journalists and professional communicators. This program integrates eight-week class sessions, and classwork is always available for asynchronous learning.

Applicants must complete the online application form and submit all official academic transcripts of records.

University of Iowa View School Profile Iowa City, IA 73% 43% 48% The University of Iowa is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1847, the University of Iowa ranks among the best public universities in the country. UI enrolls 31,370 students every year, including 6,170 graduate students.

The university's online master of arts in journalism degree requires students to complete 32 semester hours of graduate credit with a thesis. Students learn intensive courses in media communication, along with concentration area courses.

Interested applicants must submit official transcripts, letters of reference, and a statement about background and purpose.

Regent University View School Profile Virginia Beach, VA 59% 80% 91% Regent University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

A top-ranking Christian college in the state of Virginia, Regent University integrates small class sizes, characterized by its excellent 19:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

Regent offers an online master of arts in journalism degree that requires students to complete 33 coursework credits. Students of this program gain expertise and technical skills in both traditional and digital media applications.

All applicants must submit their unofficial college transcripts and pay the $50 nonrefundable application fee.

Marshall University View School Profile Huntington, WV 46% 56% 35% Marshall University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Established in 1837, Marshall University offers a total of 52 master's degree programs. About 12,800 students make up MU's population each year.

The online master's emphasis in new media studies program at MU teaches students about the design, development, and dissemination of information using emerging technology. New media studies students learn courses in-depth reporting, web design for mass media, new media cultures, and photojournalism.

All prospective students must attain a bachelor's degree with a minimum of 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate studies. Applicants must also send a completed admission form.

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.

true Radio and Television Broadcasters $49,300

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.

true Editors 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.

true Public Relations Specialists $118,430

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.

true Newspaper Publishers $37,900

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.

true Writers and Authors $67,120

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.

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

true 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? true

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? true

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.

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