Master’s in Communication Degree Programs

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by Emily Gillespie-Lord

Updated July 25, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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With good communication skills you can spread information, influence people, and drive change. Earning a master's in communication degree can be a big step toward a career where your voice matters. This degree appeals to people with a variety of professional goals. If you are pursuing or advancing a career in media, public relations, marketing, or a similar field, read on to see how this degree can help you accomplish your goals.

Opportunities for communications professionals are growing. Graduates with this degree can earn a salary well above $100,000 per year in areas like advertising, promotions, and marketing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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Ready to start your journey?

Most students can graduate with their master's in two years from an online or on-campus program. Accelerated and part-time options are also available. Use this guide to learn what to expect from a communication program, explore careers you can pursue, and discover top online schools offering a master's in communication degree.

Master's in Communication Specializations

The curriculum of a communication degree is broad and can be applied to many industries. Choosing a concentration for an MA or MS in communication allows students to graduate as experts in their field. Some programs are more academic, focusing on theories and preparing graduates for further study. Alternatively, some pathways take a more applied approach and feature practical, hands-on experiences.

The concentration you choose is dependent on your personal career goals. For example, if you hope to work in business, consider an advertising or leadership concentration. Different concentrations can help prepare graduates for careers in business, advertising, healthcare, and even professional writing.

Specializations

What Programs Are Similar to Communication?

Communication Degree Curriculum

Communication programs cover a variety of topics, including writing, media studies, public imaging, and pop culture. Depending on your chosen program, you may or may not be required to complete a thesis project in your final term.

A successful thesis project shows that you can apply what you've learned in the classroom by conducting new research and producing scholarly materials.

Courses

Admission Requirements

The admission requirements for a master's in communication program are similar to many other graduate programs. Common requirements include:

How Do I Pay for a Master's Degree in Communication?

How to Choose a Program

Online vs. On Campus

You can earn your master's in communication degree on campus or online. The quality of the curriculum should be comparable for both program types. When comparing the costs of online and on-campus programs, distance learners may be able to save on some expenses, such as those related to commuting or parking on campus.

A degree in communications depends heavily on interactions between students and their professors. For this reason, on-campus learning is an attractive option for many learners. However, with new technological capabilities, online courses can also support many of these interactions.

Online learning may feature synchronous or asynchronous courses. Synchronous classes have a set schedule with live lectures and discussions. In contrast, asynchronous classes allow students to complete lessons and coursework at their own pace by viewing recorded lectures. Some programs also allow students to choose between full-time and part-time enrollment options.

Accreditation

Students should only consider schools that hold institutional accreditation to ensure their degree will be high quality and recognized by future employers. The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) also accredits many top communication programs.

ACEJMC ensures that programs are worth the time and effort students spend on them. If you attend an unaccredited school or program, you may struggle to transfer credits to another program or qualify for certain positions after graduation. Many online programs are accredited and just as legitimate as their on-campus counterparts.

What Can I Do With a Communication Degree?

This degree can open several doors for graduates, including advanced positions with higher pay and expanded job responsibilities. While it is possible to work up to many senior-level roles with a bachelor's degree and ample experience, an advanced qualification signals a graduate's seriousness about career development to potential employers.

The BLS projects that jobs for communication graduates will expand in the coming years. Roles for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers are projected to grow by 10% between 2020-2030, which would lead to nearly 32,000 new positions. Because so many companies and industries rely on communications professionals, graduates can find jobs in various fields working for corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies.

See where a master's degree in communication can take you. Check out communications careers.

Popular Communication Careers
Career Responsibilities Salary and Job Outlook
Advertising, Promotions, or Marketing Manager
  • Develop and deploy promotional campaigns
  • Conduct market research
  • Strategize and budget with the sales department

Median Annual Salary (2021): $133,380

Job Outlook (2020-30): 10%

Writer or Author
  • Work in freelance or in-house positions
  • Develop content for websites and media campaigns
  • Follow style guides to match brand tone

Median Annual Salary (2021): $69,510

Job Outlook (2020-30): 9%

Technical Writer
  • Write instruction manuals, documents, and how-to guides
  • Work with engineers and product designers to ensure written materials communicate technical information clearly

Median Annual Salary (2021): $78,060

Job Outlook (2020-30): 12%

Editor
  • Correct issues around spelling and punctuation, conduct fact-checking, and make suggestions to writers
  • Sharpen content and ensure grammatical correctness

Median Annual Salary (2021): $63,350

Job Outlook (2020-30): 5%

Public Relations or Fundraising Manager
  • Enhance companies' images and look for innovative ways to raise funds
  • Train employees on public and crisis communications
  • Develop press materials and fundraising plans
  • Plan events and interact with donors

Median Annual Salary (2021): $119,860

Job Outlook (2020-30): 13%

Source: BLS

Communication Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Benefits of a Master's Degree in Communication


Competitive Salary

Communication is a large field containing many different career options with competitive salaries. According to Payscale, workers who hold an MA in communication earned an average of $67,000 per year as of July 2022. The BLS reports that public relations and fundraising managers earned $119,860 annually as of May 2021. In another example, Payscale data shows that creative directors earned $91,500 per year (July 2022).


Express Your Creativity

Earning a master's in communication allows creative students to use their skills professionally. Communication coursework involves a great deal of writing and finding new ways to communicate with people of all backgrounds. Employers need creative workers with strong communication skills.


High Demand

The communications field is growing and many related jobs are in high demand. The BLS projects that careers in media and communications will grow by 14% from 2020-30 — almost twice as fast as the average for all industries. Certain communication specializations are expected to grow even faster. For example, broadcast, sound, and video technician positions are projected to grow by 21% over the same timeframe (BLS).

Professional Organizations

Much like joining a club, joining a professional organization can help you meet and network with others who study communication and work in the field. Students can practice networking during their studies by joining these organizations to meet experienced professionals.

Networking often plays a big role in job hunting after graduation. Students can search for local chapters of the organizations listed above or check with their university to learn about on-campus organizations.

Best Online Master's in Communication Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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Our Top Pick

University of Southern California - Los Angeles, California

Why It's #1: The University of Southern California (USC) is the top-ranked school on our Best Online Master's in Communication Degree Programs list. While this institution is competitive with an acceptance rate of only 11%, USC has a high graduation rate of 92% and a student-to-faculty ratio of nine-to-one. Graduate students pay an estimated $63,470 in tuition per year. While this is more expensive than average, 69% of students receive financial aid. Nearly 17% of students are enrolled in online classes, including students pursuing an online master of communication management, making USC a good option for distance learners.

#1

University of Southern California

School Information
Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 92%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $2,040
Out of State | $2,040

Credits to Graduate
32

USC's online master's in communication management offers a generalist curriculum and three optional focus areas: marketing communication, market research and analytics, and strategic and organizational communication. By taking two courses per semester, full-time students can graduate in just 16 months.

Graduates join a global network of more than 15,000 USC Anneberg alumni. Program admission requires a completed bachelor's degree, a resume, a statement of purpose, a writing sample, and two letters of recommendation.

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#2

Johns Hopkins University

School Information
Location Baltimore, Maryland
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 93%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Semester
In State | $29,360
Out of State | $29,360

Credits to Graduate
30

The Johns Hopkins online master's in communication teaches students to critically interpret theory, evaluate scientific communication research, and develop effective content. Six optional concentrations cover topics, such as corporate and nonprofit communication, health communication, and applied research in communication.

No in-person components are required, but learners can complete a local practicum if desired. Prospective students need a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Program-specific admission requirements include a statement of purpose and a brief writing sample.

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#3

University of Florida

School Information
Location Gainesville, Florida
Admission Rate 37%
Graduation Rate 88%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $490-$890
Out of State | $490-$890

Credits to Graduate
33-37

UF's online master's in global strategic communication offers eight concentrations, such as audience analytics, political communication, digital strategy, and web design. Requiring between 33-37 credits, this graduate degree focuses on building competitive career skills.

An advisory board of industry leaders works to ensure the program meets the current needs and evolving challenges of global strategic communication. Admission requires a completed bachelor's degree, a 3.0 GPA, a statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation.

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#4

Florida International University

School Information
Location Miami, Florida
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 63%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost for Program
In State | $25,000
Out of State | $25,000

Credits to Graduate
30

FIU online offers a fully remote master's in mass communication with a global strategic communication track. The program trains globally minded and socially responsible communication leaders for roles at the highest levels of the corporate, government, and nonprofit industries.

The 30-credit curriculum offers completion times as brief as 12 months. Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree and submit GRE scores, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and a professional goals essay. 

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#5

Purdue University

School Information
Location West Lafayette, Indiana
Admission Rate 60%
Graduation Rate 82%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $520
Out of State | $820

Credits to Graduate
30

Taught by award-winning industry experts, Purdue's online master's in communication teaches students to develop branding and messaging strategies across local, national, and international platforms. The highly customizable curriculum requires just three core courses.

Available concentration tracks include strategic communication/public relations, integrated communication and advertising, communication and leadership, and health communication. Admission requires a completed bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA, industry experience, resume, a statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation.

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#6

Northeastern University

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 52% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $790
Out of State | $790

Credits to Graduate
45

Learners can pursue Northeastern's online master's in corporate and organizational communication on a part- or full-time basis, graduating in 12-18 months. The program offers six concentrations, including cross-cultural communication, leadership, social media, and project management.

This degree integrates experiential learning opportunities in the student's own workplace or through a faculty-supervised, virtual consulting project. Admission requirements include a completed bachelor's degree, a statement of purpose, a resume, and two letters of recommendation.

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#7

American University

School Information
Location Washington, District of Columbia
Admission Rate 36%
Graduation Rate 79%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,810
Out of State | $1,810

Credits to Graduate
30

AU's online master's in strategic communication offers specialization tracks in two areas: advocacy and social impact or digital communication strategies and analytics. The program's final capstone requires designing, developing, and completing a research study on a communication issue of the student's choice.

This full-time degree allows for completion in 20 months. Prospective students need a completed bachelor's degree in any discipline. AU recommends a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA for admission.

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#8

University of Georgia

School Information
Location Athens, Georgia
Admission Rate 45%
Graduation Rate 87%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $630
Out of State | $630

Credits to Graduate
33

UGA's online master's in journalism and mass communication accommodates students from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds. The emerging media concentration focuses on development, design, and project management of the latest interactive digital media formats.

All students complete an emerging media capstone project, such as product development, design research publication, or a client-based project. Program admission requires a completed bachelor's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, a resume, a statement of purpose and goals, and three letters of recommendation.

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#9

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

School Information
Location Champaign, Illinois
Admission Rate 59%
Graduation Rate 85%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $920
Out of State | $920

Credits to Graduate
32

The online master's in strategic brand communication at Illinois offers an interdisciplinary education through the Gies College of Business and the Sandage Department of Advertising. Graduates understand how to grow an organization's revenue through the latest marketing techniques and strategies.

Each student completes a professional capstone project, involving research, analysis, and campaign evaluation. Admission requires a completed bachelor's degree. Illinois evaluates prospective students based on work and educational experience, GPA, statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation.

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#10

Syracuse University

School Information
Location Syracuse, New York
Admission Rate 44%
Graduation Rate 83%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Semester
In State | $11,780
Out of State | $11,780

Credits to Graduate
33

Syracuse's online master's in communications offers concentrations in public relations, advertising, journalism innovation, and media management. While courses take place entirely online, students must attend two in-person, weekend-long immersions scheduled throughout the program.

Admission requires a completed bachelor's degree, a resume, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. Syracuse also requires participation in an online video interview. Graduates can access the Newhouse Network alumni database, which boasts over 5,800 communications industry contacts.

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How We Rank Schools

In order to create the Best Online Master's in Communication ranking, the BestColleges Rankings Team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics.

We identified 79 schools that qualify for our ranking list, and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (50%), affordability (25%), and the availability and popularity of online programs (25%).

Popular Online Master's in Communication Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Communication Programs

How long does it take to complete a master's in communication degree?

The amount of time it takes to complete a master's in communication degree depends on the school and the program. Students who enroll on a part-time basis should expect to take longer to finish, while those enrolled in accelerated or degree-completion programs can finish their studies more quickly.

Many master's degree programs feature 30-40 credits and take 18-24 months to complete. USC's master of communication management program can be completed in as little as 16 months.

What do communication majors get their master's degree in?

Motivated students who graduate with a bachelor's in communication can earn a master's degree in just about any field, though many choose to earn a master's in communication. Within the field of communication, some graduate programs offer more specialized training, such as a master's in media communication.

Other popular options for communication degree-holders are a master of business administration (MBA), master's in journalism, and master's in human resources.

What is an MS in communication?

A master of science (MS) in communication is a graduate degree focusing on the scientific aspects of communication. Students may complete courses such as strategic communication and marketing communication. This degree option may be a good choice for communication students interested in business, healthcare, or political careers.

Though similar, the curriculum of a master of arts (MA) program may focus more on the creative side of communication. An MA degree is often a good choice for students interested in careers in education or philosophy.

Can a communication major get an MBA?

Many MBA programs admit students with a bachelor's degree in any field, meaning a communication major can earn an MBA after completing their bachelor's. Many undergraduate communication programs offer specializations in advertising and business communication, preparing graduates for MBA coursework.

Aspiring graduate students may opt to apply to both MBA and master's in communication programs before ultimately selecting the option that best aligns with their goals. The application requirements for these programs tend to be similar and may include submitting standardized test scores, writing a personal statement, and forwarding transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Feature Image: Alistair Berg / DigitalVision / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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