Best Online Master’s in Journalism Programs
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While journalism may evoke images from films like "All the President’s Men" and "Spotlight," along with thoughts of a profession edging toward extinction, the reality is that master’s degrees in journalism offer access to a modernizing, evolving discipline as vital today as it was during Watergate.
Online master’s in journalism programs teach the nuts and bolts of hardscrabble journalism and dive deep into the modern and rapidly changing mass media landscape. Today’s journalism mirrors the news and media consumption habits of the culture writ large.
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In addition to teaching learners how to report hard news, journalism degrees focus on research, writing, and digital skills that apply to many careers. Most master's in journalism programs can be completed in two years and offer graduates an average base salary of $68,000 per year, according to Payscale data from July 2022. Read on to learn more about the best online master’s in journalism programs.
What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Journalism Program?
An online master’s in journalism not only prepares students for careers in journalism, but also opens up many professional opportunities that prioritize communication, research, and writing. These master's programs take a modernized approach to journalism, spotlighting digital media and introducing learners to cutting-edge storytelling techniques.
These mostly self-directed online programs provide a flexible academic format for working professionals, allowing learners to complete their studies at their own pace while still working closely with peers and instructors. Most of these programs require approximately 30 credits and take under two years to complete. Before graduation, students typically complete a capstone journalism project.
In addition to more traditional coursework, many online programs use workshop-style peer review, where students present original work to their cohort and analyze and critique submissions as a group. Most online master’s in journalism programs boast faculty rosters filled with experienced journalists. While these degrees are rooted in traditional, written journalism, students also have the opportunity to focus on digital media, photography, and film.
Graduates with a master’s in journalism can take on countless roles in a rapidly evolving media landscape. Read on to learn more about careers you can pursue after an online master’s in journalism program.
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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Journalism Program?
Master’s in journalism curricula vary from program to program. Some programs take a wider lens, focusing on mass communication as a societal function, while others delve deep into the practice of writing and investigation. Coursework covers diverse topics like digital storytelling and the legal elements of journalism.
News Reporting for the Web, Print, and Other Platforms
In an evolving media landscape, today’s journalists do not only write for print newspapers. The modern journalist is digitally adept and provides copy for various media platforms. This course digs into the fundamentals of news writing and how those techniques apply to platforms as diverse as Twitter and traditional publications.
Essential to journalistic storytelling, feature writing looks at the craft of reporting the news through various platforms. This writing workshop encourages students to develop story ideas and explore the craft of news writing composition. Students engage in critical discussion of peers’ work and analyze published material.
The Constitution and the Media
While freedom of the press is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, that does not mean it is without challenges and controversy. This course examines the history of free speech and free press and explores contentious legal challenges throughout history.
Exploring Digital Media
Rooted in photo and video journalism, this introductory course examines a wide spectrum of topics as they relate to contemporary media. The course provides learners with both technical photography skills and knowledge of topics like workflow and legal issues. Additional topics include audio recording and web design.
Essentials of Editing
Offering an overview of editing theory and practice, this course covers topics like line editing, copy editing, and common grammatical issues. Students learn to identify errors that regularly appear in professional writing. Additional topics include structure, word choice, clarity, and concision.
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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Journalism Program?
Admission requirements for an online master's in journalism program vary from school to school. Prospective students should expect to submit a completed application form, along with all corresponding fees. Applicants typically must submit official undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a resume outlining relevant experience.
Most online master's in journalism programs require candidates to submit applications online through their school portal. Specific questions and requirements vary across schools and programs.
Some schools require separate applications, while others allow students to use application systems like the Common App. Applicants must include basic information like their full name, mailing address, date of birth, and citizenship status.
While graduate programs typically require standardized test scores, many online master's in journalism programs do not require the GMAT or GRE. However, most programs look for a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0.
Letters of Recommendation
Schools ask for letters of recommendation to view candidates through the eyes of those who know them well. When asking for a letter of recommendation, applicants may reach out to current or former professors, supervisors, mentors, faith leaders, or others who can speak to the student's chance for success in a master's in journalism program.
Resume and Work Experience
Depending on the school, some master's in journalism programs may look for candidates with previous work experience — related or unrelated to journalism. Candidates should outline any paid or unpaid professional experience over the past five years when writing their college application resume
When writing a graduate school essay, learners should view this as an opportunity for the admissions panel to get to know them. Candidates can discuss why they want to earn a master's in journalism degree, how they plan to use their degree after graduating, and why they want to attend a particular school or program.
Transcripts serve many purposes in the admission process. In addition to confirming an applicant's GPA and academic ability, transcripts also identify potential transfer credits from previous college coursework.
What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Journalism Degree?
While a journalism degree may seem to provide narrowly defined career options, that could not be further from the truth. Journalistic skills apply to myriad occupations and fields. At their core, journalists are trained and effective writers, and writers enjoy many different opportunities across industries.
Graduates with journalism degrees work in a variety of environments, including advertising and public relations, communications management, and freelance writing. Additionally, the digital training of modern journalism programs provides a relevant and widely applicable set of skills.
See where a master’s in journalism degree can take you. Learn more about journalism careers here.
Journalists research and write. These professionals produce digital and print news articles for a variety of publications. Journalists conduct interviews, collect facts, and pursue investigative leads. They work closely with editors to generate new content and work in a variety of media, such as newspapers, radio stations, and online formats.
Median Annual Salary: $49,300
Editors have myriad responsibilities, depending on their role and workplace. They may engage in copyediting, layout aesthetics, and thematic content. Editors work in any environment that employs writers, including newspapers and online journals. They must possess strong communication skills, and many have knowledge of HTML and web page layout software.
Median Annual Salary: $63,400
Public Relations Manager
These communication specialists work for people and organizations within many industries. They maintain and improve public perceptions of their clients. PR managers create press releases, devise and execute marketing initiatives, and plan events such as conferences and parties.
Median Annual Salary: $118,430
Reporters investigate and write stories. They are often employed by news organizations and private companies. Some reporters work in a freelance capacity. These news professionals meet story deadlines, work closely with editors, and research and write leads. Many reporters have specialized knowledge regarding specific topics, including American politics, regional conflict, and entertainment.
Median Annual Salary: $49,300
Writers and authors create written content for a broad spectrum of media, including blogs, magazines, and advertisements. These professional writers boast clean prose and strong research. Many work as freelancers but maintain close relationships with editors and other organizations. With a background in journalism, these writers may work as bloggers, copywriters, and content writers.
Median Annual Salary: $67,120
Journalism Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.
Some master's in journalism graduates may decide they want to return to college to obtain a doctorate in journalism. Students taking this path typically want to teach in a higher education setting and complete research in the discipline. Some learners may also decide to take on post-grad certificates in specific areas, such as photojournalism or publishing, which take less time than doctorate programs.
How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Journalism Program?
The cost of a master's in journalism program can vary substantially, making it important for prospective students to understand the true program cost. Costs between online and campus-based degrees can vary significantly, as can expenses incurred at private vs. public colleges. Typically, in-state tuition at public universities offers students the most affordable option.
In online master's in journalism programs, students can choose between asynchronous and synchronous learning formats. Depending on scheduling needs, many schools offer both full-time and part-time options. Speak with an admissions counselor to figure out what option works best for you.
Although not as critical for online programs, location still matters. Online programs may have on-campus requirements like practicums Students who live near campus can take advantage of campus facilities. Students who find themselves wondering whether to go to school online or on-campus should consider commuting or travel expenses.
Before committing to any master's in journalism program, prospective students must ensure any option holds institutional accreditation. Graduate-level journalism programs can also hold programmatic accreditation from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.
Student support plays an important role in the success of any master's in journalism student. The best programs provide opportunities for mentorship and top-tier internships. Many online programs have support services specifically for online students, including virtual tutoring and networking opportunities.
Best Online Master's in Journalism Programs
Students at Harvard gain access to small class sizes that typically do not exceed a 6-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. The university's catalogue includes an online master's degree in journalism that prepares graduates for success in today's digital era.
This degree includes 12 courses. While students access most coursework online, they must complete at least one on-campus course. Classes include the U.S. Constitution and the media, feature writing, and a journalism capstone. Participants can focus their degree by earning a certificate in business communication, digital storytelling, or marketing management and digital strategy.
Interested students must complete two journalism courses and earn a minimum 3.0 GPA before submitting a formal application. Harvard holds regional accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Founded in 1880, Emerson values academic excellence, innovation, and accessible coursework. The college offers a variety of online degrees to increase accessibility.
Distance learners at Emerson can earn a master's in journalism. This degree requires 40 credits, and students typically graduate in 13 months. Notable courses include reporting and writing, long-form multimedia storytelling, law and public policy for journalists, and data visualization. This degree requires a culminating 12-week capstone course with an internship.
Students access online coursework through the Canvas learning management system, and courses typically follow an asynchronous format. Emerson holds regional accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.
University of MissouriLocation
Students at Mizzou can access more than 300 degree programs, including 97 undergraduate majors and 96 master's degrees.
Students at Mizzou can earn an online master's degree in journalism with no in-person requirements. This degree requires 37 credits. Mizzou allows students to tailor their degree by choosing a track in health communication, interactive media, media management, or strategic communication.
Online journalism graduate students pay in-state tuition rates, no matter their location. Most distance courses utilize an asynchronous format and follow an eight- or 16-week format. However, some courses may require live chat sessions and proctored quizzes or exams. Mizzou holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
University of IowaLocation
Iowa City, IATuition
UI oversees 11 colleges and offers over 200 majors, minors, and certificate programs. Its student body represents all 50 states and over 100 countries, providing learners with a diverse postsecondary experience.
Aspiring journalists at UI can earn an online master's degree in strategic communication. The curriculum of this program requires 30 credits, broken into 15 core credits and 15 elective credits. Courses include media management for strategic communication, copywriting for strategic communication, and foundations of strategic communication. A capstone course is required, and online courses meet synchronously once a week.
Admission into this program does not require GRE scores. UI holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
University of AlabamaLocation
Established in 1831, UA was the first public college in Alabama. The university emphasizes research, civic engagement, and student-centered learning. Its enrollment exceeds 38,000 students.
UA offers an online master's degree in journalism that requires 31 credits, including 13 core credits, 15 cognate elective credits, and three professional project credits. Students typically earn their degree in under two years. Courses explore contemporary issues in journalism, communication theory, entrepreneurial journalism, and digital media production tools.
The admissions department accepts applicants year round. Applicants must submit a statement of purpose, a professional resume, and three letters of recommendation; students may also submit samples of journalistic work. UA holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of Nebraska LincolnLocation
UNL values research, accessible coursework, and service. The school serves as a leader in distance education and has a graduate enrollment that exceeds 4,500 students.
Graduate learners at UNL can earn an online master of arts in journalism and mass communications that does not require in-person attendance. This degree requires 36 credits, including 12 core credits and 24 elective credits. Elective options include marketing and globalization, theories of organizational communication, intercultural communication, and strategic database marketing. Participants also complete an integrated media communications capstone.
Online courses follow an asynchronous format, allowing students to complete assignments when their schedule permits within deadline dates. Distance learners are matched with an academic advisor. UNL holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
University of South Florida St. PetersburgLocation
St. Petersburg, FLTuition
USFSP offers its students 27 undergraduate programs and 17 graduate programs, including an online master's in digital journalism and design.
This online journalism degree requires 33-39 credits, including 15-18 core credits and 15-18 elective credits. Students typically earn their degree in one year. Courses cover magazine design and production, virtual reality and alternative storytelling, neighborhood news bureau, and telling stories with data.
This program allows students to choose a culminating applied research project or a thesis. Online courses utilize an asynchronous format. Students engage in discussion forums and complete essays and exams. USFSP holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Ball State UniversityLocation
Ball State values immersive learning and affordability; in fact, the school offers the lowest tuition in the Mid-American Conference. Students at Ball State also benefit from a vast alumni network that includes over 197,000 members.
Distance learners can earn a master's degree in journalism that does not require in-person attendance. This program features 36 credits, including a capstone course. Learners can choose from two specializations: digital storytelling and media analytics and management. Core courses include studies in journalism and communication theory and media audiences and content strategy.
Online learning at Ball State follows an asynchronous format. Weekly assignments include discussion posts, essays, and exams. Ball State holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Virginia Beach, VATuition
Regent is a military-friendly, Christian institution. Its graduate enrollment includes over 4,000 students.
Regent offers an online master's degree in journalism presented through a Christian worldview. This program does not require in-person attendance. Courses include social media and internet marketing, feature writing and speciality reporting, multimedia reporting and mobile field production, and reporting on American government. This program also requires a research project.
Online courses follow an eight-week format. Transfer students from accredited institutions may apply. Regent holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
La Jolla, CATuition
Founded in 1971, NU prioritizes accessible programs. The university operates as a military-friendly school, and nontraditional students can access over 75 programs.
NU offers an entirely online master's in journalism. Covered topics include data journalism, international journalism, and enterprise reporting. Students develop a professional portfolio over the course of the program, and NU encourages students to engage in internship opportunities.
Distance learners focus on one course each month. Participants join a cohort, building meaningful relationships with their peers. Classes may utilize synchronous learning through live online meetings. Other coursework includes recordings, essays, exams, and projects. NU holds regional accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
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How We Rank Schools
Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Online Master's in Journalism ranking. In 2022, the 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 ten schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.
- Each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution.
- Must offer a Master's degree program in the given subject.
- Must submit an annual report to the National Center for Education Statistics.
To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking, 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 admissions rate, enrollment rate, full-time retention rate, and graduation rate. Review our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more about the standards we uphold.
Popular Online Journalism 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 Journalism Programs
Is a master's in journalism worth it?
After deciding whether an online degree best suits their academic and personal needs, learners must then figure out if a master's in journalism aligns with their professional aspirations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects journalism jobs to grow as fast as average between 2020-2030.
The BLS also projects positions for writers and authors to expand as fast as average in that same period, leading to the creation of more than 12,000 new jobs. Students seeking versatile career options often gravitate towards this degree.
What can I do with a master's in journalism?
While a master's in journalism does provide specialized training in news and media, it also offers learners a broad range of skills that are widely applicable in the job market. A master's in journalism lets graduates pursue careers in various industries and settings.
Whether working in-house or in a freelance capacity, individuals who can research effectively and write persuasively may always be in demand. Those who enjoy breaking news or working on reflective, long-form pieces have a place in journalism.
Are journalism graduates in demand?
The BLS projects that several jobs for master's in journalism graduates will expand in the coming years. Positions for public relations and fundraising managers are projected to grow by an impressive 13% between 2020-2030, leading to 11,300 new positions.
However, those interested in editorial roles can anticipate a projected job growth of 5%, which is slower than average. Demand for journalism jobs varies by career with public relations managers being highest in demand, followed by news reporters and journalists, and then editors.
How much money can I make with a master's in journalism?
Salaries for those with a master's in journalism can vary substantially, especially when considering factors such as location, experience level, employer, and job title. Because many writers and editors work as freelancers, salary also depends on the number of clients and a journalist's rates.
The BLS found that reporters and journalists earned median salaries of $48,370 in 2021, which is slightly above the median salary for all occupations. However, those in the top 10% of earners brought home salaries over $120,000.
What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in journalism?
After earning a master's in journalism and working in the field for several years, graduates can pursue jobs with higher pay and advancement opportunities. For instance, public relations and fundraising managers earned median salaries of $119,860 in 2021. The top 10% of these professionals made salaries in excess of $200,000 per year.
Because so many factors can affect actual earnings and potential, students should think carefully about the career path they choose – especially in regards to long-term salary projections.