Best Online Master’s in Media Communications 2021
| TBS Staff
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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.
|#1||University of Florida Gainesville, FL|
|#2||University of Georgia Athens, GA|
|#3||Florida International University Miami, FL|
|#4||Arizona State University-Tempe Tempe, AZ|
|#5||American University Washington, DC|
Featured Online Colleges
The 15 Best Online Master's in Media Communications Programs
UF currently serves almost 58,000 students across 16 schools and colleges. Students can choose from 30 offered certificate programs, 100 undergraduate majors, and 200 graduate programs.
UF's College of Journalism and Communications Online provides master of arts in communication degrees in eight specializations: audience analytics, digital strategy, global strategic communication, political communication, public relations, public interest communication, social media, and web design. Prospective graduate students will submit proof of bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA, a statement of purpose, current resume, and three letters of recommendation as part of the application process.
Founded in 1785 as the first public institution of higher education in the country, UGA now houses 17 schools and colleges and serves almost 40,000 students annually.
UGA's online learning center offers a master of arts in journalism and mass communication - emerging media degree requiring 33 credits over 11 courses for completion. Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with minimum 3.0 GPA, three letters of recommendation, official transcripts, resume, and statement of purpose.
FIU currently offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees to almost 54,000 students annually.
Students can earn a master of science in global strategic communications degree through FIU's College of Communication, Architecture + the Arts Online. The 12-month, fully online program requires 30 credits for completion. Prospective graduate students will submit official transcripts proving baccalaureate education with minimum 3.0 GPA, resume, statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation for admission decisions.
U.S. News & World Report ranked ASU as the nation's most innovative school. Nearly 120,000 students attend ASU annually.
ASU Cronkite School's fully online master of science in digital audience strategy requires 30 credits for completion and focuses on social media application, digital analytics, media entrepreneurship, and media law. Coursework prepares students for careers as a marketing director, production manager, public relations supervisor, or communications manager.
Application requirements include an online graduate application and fee, bachelor's degree with minimum 3.0 GPA, official transcripts, resume, and personal statement of interest.
Chartered by Congress in 1893, the private school in Washington, DC supports more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate, and law students annually.
AU's completely online master of arts in strategic communications degree requires 30 credits for completion over 10 courses. Students can choose one of two offered concentrations: social change and digital communication strategies and analytics. Program curriculum includes 15 credits of required coursework and 15 credits of electives. Prospective students will submit official transcripts, statement of purpose, current resume, and letters of recommendation.
Online Master's in Media Communications Programs Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
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.
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.
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 and 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 and 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 and 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
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.
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 specialists promote their organization to maintain a favorable public image. They create media releases, develop social media programs, and design awareness campaigns.
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 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.
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 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.
Media Communications Membership Associations
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.
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