Best Online Master’s in Journalism Programs

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Badge (Online) with 2-Line TitleMaster’sin Journalism2017
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In a fast-paced, changing world, journalists research and write news reports to tell the stories of current events. The industry has grown significantly since the early days of newspapers, as journalism is now delivered via television, digital, and social media platforms. There are also countless options for qualified journalists to branch into international roles, or into freelance positions that allow them to work with a variety of news outlets. If you’re passionate about uncovering facts, interacting with many different types of people, or being the voice of your community or nation, a career in journalism could be right for you.

WILL THIS PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

Yes! An online master’s degree in journalism can open new professional avenues, reinvigorate stagnant journalism careers, and teach new and valuable skills for the changing landscape of the field. Because today’s advanced journalism degrees place a special emphasis on digital media, those with previous journalism experience will be introduced to a cutting-edge, contemporary genre of news-gathering and storytelling.

DO I NEED PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE TO GET IN?

This traditionally depends on the kind of program to which you apply. While Columbia University’s journalism school requires applicants to the online master’s degree in journalism program to have between three and 15 years of experience, the University of Wisconsin at Madison does not expect prospective students to have backgrounds in journalism, communications, or mass media.

CAN I WORK WHILE I COMPLETE MY ONLINE MASTER’S IN JOURNALISM?

Yes! One of the primary benefits of an online education is the flexibility it offers. However, the self-directed nature of online courses may be an issue for students who lack the determination and focus to balance professional, personal, and academic responsibilities. On average, distance learners spend between 10 and 15 hours per week on their studies, per class taken.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES TO EARNING MY MASTER’S IN JOURNALISM ONLINE?

Earning a master’s degree in journalism online offers the same job mobility and salary potential as completing an identical program on campus. Completing a degree online often means students never need to visit campus, can complete coursework from anywhere, and can log-in to complete assignments at times that fit their schedule.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Location Description
1 Harvard University 90.25 Cambridge, MA

Harvard offers a master's of liberal arts in journalism that is ideal for students who want to become the best journalists in the field. This program teaches students how to master the art of reporting and writing in a variety of formats, conduct incisive interviews, and to develop a keen focus on legal and ethical requirements in the field. This program can be completed entirely online, although most students enroll in at least four credits of on-campus courses.

The curriculum includes courses on a variety of topics, such as feature writing, the Constitution and the media, and news reporting for the web, print, and other platforms. Additional course requirements include a proseminar, three journalism electives, and four general electives. This online master's degree in journalism concludes with a capstone project, in which students complete a comprehensive project under the guidance of a professional journalist. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree and complete two prerequisite courses with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to be considered.

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2 University of Nebraska-Lincoln 54.30 Lincoln, NE

UNL offers an online MA in journalism and mass communications (professional journalism) that is perfect for working journalists who want to enhance their professional knowledge and leadership skills. This 36-credit program is delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. The professional journalism specialization includes courses on a variety of topics, such as multi-platform journalism, mass-media issues and ethics, and media management. Students can also enroll in a wide variety of electives to customize their degree, including politics and the media, broadcast documentary, and advanced production.

Distance learners at UNL have access to the same resource and services as on-campus students, including academic advising and career assistance. Applicants into this master's degree in journalism program must have a bachelor's in journalism, mass communications, or a related field with a minimum GPA of 2.5 GPA to be considered. They must also submit current GRE scores and a portfolio of work. UNL is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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3 Quinnipiac University 53.18 Hamden, CT

Quinnipiac offers a MS in journalism program that teaches students how to create engaging stories across many platforms while maintaining journalistic ethics and professionalism. This 36-credit online master's degree in journalism includes courses on a variety of topics, such as digital reporting, TV reporting, media, law, and ethics, video production, and a newsroom clinical. Students must also complete a master's project or write a thesis as a culminating experience.

The school boasts that students enjoy a 10-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, allowing for personalized one-on-one instruction. Graduates enjoy a 90% job placement rate at companies such as CBS, ESPN, Fox, and the Hartford Courant. This program offers one start-date per year in the fall and has a rolling application deadline. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and submit a portfolio of work to be considered. Quinnipiac is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

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4 University of Missouri-Columbia 52.35 Columbia, MO

Mizzou founded the world's first formal journalism school in 1908. Today, the school offers an online MA in journalism that is ideal for professional journalists with three or more years of experience who want to advance their careers. Students must choose one of four areas of emphasis: health communication, media management, strategic communication, or interactive media. This 37-credit program can be completed in two years of full-time study and includes study of core journalism topics like mass media, media ethics, quantitative research methods, and a professional seminar. Students must also complete a culminating capstone project or develop an independent research study thesis to conclude the program.

Online journalism students at Mizzou have access to several resources, including the Reynolds Journalism Institute and the journalism career center. Applicants to this master's degree in journalism must have a bachelor's degree and submit three application essays and GRE scores to be considered. Mizzou is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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5 University of Memphis 50.54 Memphis, TN

UofM offers a MA in journalism and strategic media through the school's Department of Journalism and Strategic Media that prepares students to pursue a variety of different careers in the field. This 33-credit program includes a 15-credit core of study on media theory, media research methods, media writing, and a proseminar. Students also take 18 credits in one of four areas of emphases: integrated strategic media, news and storytelling, visual media, or research. Each student is required to complete a capstone project, a practicum, or a thesis to graduate.

Distance learners have access to a variety of learning support, technical assistance, and career services. Applicants to this master's in journalism online must have a bachelor's degree and submit GRE or MAT scores to be considered. UofM is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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Online master’s degree in journalism programs are an increasingly popular option, and there are a variety of programs available to fit your personal and professional needs. Despite the differences in a program’s faculty, emphases, and rigor, many offer similar coursework. The following is a cross-section of courses you may find during your research.

CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER’S DEGREE IN JOURNALISM

Curriculum will vary from school to school, but the courses below are found in most master’s in journalism programs.

  • Digital Fluency: This 21st century course develops the skills to incorporate digital platforms into journalism. Special emphasis is given to engaging with readers, determining the best digital mediums, and maintaining journalism standards.
  • Feature Reporting: This course explores in-depth reporting, long-form journalism, and other types of journalism that require critical evaluation of evidence and a devotion to factual reporting.
  • Social Justice Journalism: Aside from daily news and features, journalists are often called upon to take a closer look at broader cultural or social shifts. This exploratory course introduces degree seekers to topics such as gender inequality, racism, homophobia, and immigration, all within a journalistic context.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN JOURNALISM?

Prospective students should consider a few variables when determining a timeline for degree completion. For example, most programs require a culminating thesis, which a student finishes at their own pace.

Some programs also allow students to progress through coursework as an independent learner, while others require them to join a cohort of peers and complete program requirements together. Distance learners looking to complete their degree more quickly will want to find a self-paced learning option.

Program’s range from 30 to 36 credits, meaning full-time students enrolled in an accelerated curriculum can complete the program in as little as one year, while most students spend two years completing their degree.

CERTIFICATIONS AND LICENSES A MASTER’S IN JOURNALISM PREPARES FOR

  • Certified Journalism Educator: The Journalism Education Association provides a certificate for journalists who want to move into the world of teaching and learning. Options are available for individuals to teach high school, college, or professional development courses.
  • Postsecondary Certificates: Many colleges and universities, such as UMass Amherst, offer a range of journalism certificates to students who would like to specialize in specific areas of journalism. Options include reporting, strategic communications, business journalism, advertising, and interactive multimedia.

Schools can hold accreditation in three different ways: national, regional, or program-specific. Regional and national accreditation agencies assess the school as a whole, while program-specific accredits only a degree path or specific department. Regional accreditation is often considered more rigorous than national accreditation, and students who attend a school with the latter can encounter troubles when trying to transfer credits, applying for licensure, or seeking other higher education opportunities. The good news, however, is that 85% of all nonprofit colleges and universities currently maintain regional accreditation.

Program-specific accreditation isn’t available for every field, but within the world of online master’s in journalism degree programs, students should look for accreditation by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.

Prospective students interested in learning more about the function and purpose of accrediting agencies can visit the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) websites. These two governing bodies oversee higher education and accreditation procedures throughout the United States, and ensure both schools and the agencies providing accreditation are held to the highest standards.

JOB PLACEMENT

Bachelor’s degrees are excellent preparation for your first entry-level job offer, but journalists who seek advanced, managerial roles can be promoted more quickly with an online master’s in journalism. A recent report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) found that journalists with a graduate degree make annual salaries nearly 27% higher than peers with bachelor’s degrees.

Education Specialty Median Salary with Bachelor’s Degree Median Salary with Master’s Degree
Advertising & Public Relations $54,000 $65,000
Communications & Mass Media $54,000 $67,000
Journalism $56,000 $71,000

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW)

MASTER’S IN JOURNALISM SALARY

The factors determining individual salaries vary, including years of experience, size of workplace, and level of education. The table below features data from Payscale that demonstrates salary growth for those holding journalism degrees.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20 years)
Journalist $39,684 $35,000 $43,000 $54,000
Communications Manager $61,609 $51,000 $64,000 $79,000
News Producer $41,583 $35,000 $48,000 $80,000
Reporter $39,875 $33,000 $44,000 $50,000
Senior Editor $66,962 $58,000 $64,000 $78,000

Source: PayScale

MASTER’S IN JOURNALISM CAREERS

Online master’s in journalism programs prepare graduates with highly transferrable skills, in turn providing them with countless professional opportunities. The ability to research accurately, write concisely, and tell stories that interest audiences are highly prized, and possessing these skills will open many careers paths. Whether working for a newspaper, a publishing house, or as a freelancer, journalists enjoy flexible hours, unique workdays, and the opportunity to learn about many different topics.

Writer

While many writers focus on fictional poetry, short stories, thrillers, or novels, others prefer nonfiction reporting, biographies, memoirs, or even technical writing. Writers tend to set their own schedules and enjoy lots of flexibility, but they must also be disciplined and self-motivated.

Median Annual Salary – $61,250
Projected Growth Rate – 2%

Public Relations Manager

PR Managers oversee the written and design materials used to convey a business, individual, or organization to the public. They also enhance public image, coordinate campaigns, and train employees on talking points.

Median Annual Salary – $107,320
Projected Growth Rate – 7%

Technical Writer

Also referred to as technical communicators, technical writers develop instructional guides, how-to manuals/videos, and other documents that translate complex ideas or information to a general audience. A master’s degree isn’t required, but it helps applicants stand out in the job search, and often means a higher salary.

Median Annual Salary – $69,850
Projected Growth Rate – 10%

Meteorologist

Working alongside other broadcasting professionals, television meteorologists review weather patterns and convey information about atmospheric movements to the general public. Entry level positions require a bachelor’s degree, but competition in the field makes those with a master’s degree more attractive candidates.

Median Annual Salary – $92,460
Projected Growth Rate – 9%

Public Relations Specialist

Working under the guidance of public relations managers, PR specialists develop and maintain favorable public images for the individuals, organizations, and agencies they serve. They may operate as a consultant for multiple clients, or as an in-house specialist for one company. PR specialists with master’s degrees are well-placed for career advancement.

Median Annual Salary – $58,020
Projected Growth Rate – 6%

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Whether working for a small-town newspaper or as a foreign correspondent for a major news network, journalists are a tight-knit group of professionals who support one another and defend their rights to inform the public. A large number of journalist associations bring these professionals together to ensure their individual and collective success.

Online master’s degrees in journalism can be a worthwhile financial investment for those who aspire to the highest positions in the field. However, paying for an advanced degree can be a challenge. Before resigning themselves to endless debt, students should first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to learn about government scholarships, grants, loans, and workstudy programs. It’s also valuable to check with nonprofit organizations, foundations, and university departments to learn about scholarships and grants awarded on the basis of need and/or merit.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.