Professionals from news organizations, marketing agencies, and businesses need to understand how to effectively communicate with their readers and share meaningful, useful messages using the newest tools available.
A media and communication master's degree prepares you to take on leadership roles within news organizations and lead efforts to transform the industry with both traditional media and online publication development. Marketing professionals gain valuable skills in content development and data analytics that inform and improve efforts to reach potential clients and customers. Managers within the fields of advertising, promotions, and marketing can expect steady growth in employment through 2026 and a median salary between $106,130 and $132,230, depending on the industry and management role.
Should I Get a Master's in Media Communications?
Earning a media and communication master's degree offers you an opportunity to enter an exciting field that capitalizes on creative and analytical skills. If you didn't study communications or a related field at the undergraduate level, a graduate degree might fill the gaps in your skills and knowledge, enabling you to move up to management-level positions within the industry.
You can also gain experience with new techniques and tools, such as the use of analytics to guide marketing plans and how to integrate multimedia storytelling with traditional news reporting. Universities offer a variety of options for a master's degree in mass communication media studies, including on-campus or online course delivery and thesis or professional project options. Students looking to change careers or planning to continue working while pursuing a master's degree may prefer the convenience and flexibility of an online program, while students progressing from their undergraduate study may want to take advantage of on-campus opportunities, like internships or practicums.
The field of mass communication and media offers multiple opportunities for specialization, such as research and analytics or strategic communication. Many schools provide a holistic approach to the curriculum, encouraging students to complete elective courses in business, the humanities, and the sciences, along with practical learning opportunities. Students not only learn how to complete the tasks necessary to succeed in their field, but also to understand the theory behind those tasks, ensuring they'll be able to adapt to future changes in the industry. Internships and mentoring opportunities help connect you with professionals in the field, learn about potential job openings, and promote continued professional development.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Media Communications?
The skills gained in a media and communication master's program prepares you to take a leadership role in many careers and industries. The curriculum improves verbal, written, and visual communication skills, and the research components help you learn how to gather and interpret quality data. Career possibilities include positions in journalism, public relations, and film and video editing and production. The increased role of the internet in information sharing and dissemination led to the creation of digital media specialties with roles for social media producers, online community managers, and inbound marketers.
- Public Relations Specialists
Public relations specialists work to protect and improve the image of their organization through a variety of channels. They write and send press releases to members of the media and serve as a spokesperson or media liaison. They draft statements for company leaders and manage social media networks.
Median Annual Salary: $59,300*
- Marketing Analysts
Analysts monitor and interpret a variety of data related to marketing activities, such as the reach of a social media post or how many hits a website garnered. They look at information on customer demographics, buying habits, and individual needs, and may develop surveys, focus groups, or customer questionnaires to gather in-depth data. Analysts need strong communication skills and the ability to convey complicated information to clients or business executives.
Median Annual Salary: $63,230*
- Marketing Managers
Marketing managers may work in a dedicated marketing firm or the marketing department of a large corporation. They plan overall advertising and public relations communications plans, such as content marketing, press conferences, or television commercials. Managers often oversee a staff that includes researchers, writers, producers, and designers; they take responsibility for ensuring the team completes all elements of a project.
Median Annual Salary: $129,380*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Master's Program in Media Communications
Most media and communication master's programs require about 30 credits and a capstone project or thesis, and some programs require you to complete an internship. Many students complete the coursework in two years, though if you're attending part-time, you may need additional time to complete the requirements.
Courses tend to offer practical experience, like writing or reporting on a variety of analytics. You'll also learn about media law, such as libel, privacy, and copyrights. Master's programs also delve into theories and research to better evaluate communication methods for differing populations and purposes. Because communications encompass multiple disciplines, the exact requirements vary according to your area of concentration and the type of degree you seek.
If you're considering an online program, look at the course delivery and how long each semester lasts. Some online classes may require you to be online at scheduled times, while others use asynchronous course delivery for greater flexibility. When considering on-campus programs, look at relationships the school has with employers in the area, such as internship arrangements or alumni networks. You'll also want to consider resources such as student organizations and media productions to gain additional experience.
Accreditation for Master's Programs in Media Communications
Employers and other schools look for accreditation to ensure that students have taken rigorous and relevant courses. Look for regional accreditation when possible -- many schools won't accept transfer credits from schools that aren't regionally accredited.
In addition to institutional accreditation, some schools go a step further and seek specialized accreditation for individual programs. Schools offering a master's degree in mass communication media studies may seek accreditation through the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Schools with a public relations track may boast accreditation from the Certification in Education for Public Relations. These organizations rely on professionals in their respective fields to develop curriculum standards that ensure graduates are competent and set up for success in their field of study.
Master's in Media Communications Program Admissions
To be considered for admission to a media and communication master's program, you'll need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Your undergraduate degree doesn't have to be in communications; many schools accept students with related degrees, such as English, business, or journalism. Many schools will accept students straight out of their undergraduate degree, but having professional experience may provide hands-on, practical knowledge.
Schools often require you to take the GRE, though specific score requirements vary. Schools may also want to see samples of your work, especially for writing-intensive specialities. Be prepared to discuss your educational and career goals, either through an essay or an interview with faculty members.
- Bachelor's Degree: You must complete an undergraduate degree before applying to graduate school. Schools look for students who have graduated from accredited institutions and programs with a degree in communications, social sciences, or literature. You'll need a background in writing and some courses in statistics or business.
- Professional Experience: You may not need professional experience to qualify for on-campus graduate programs, but many online programs require you to have one or two years working in the field. Your experience ensures that you understand the fundamentals of communications before undertaking the advanced curriculum of a master's degree.
- Minimum GPA: Schools may require applicants to have a minimum GPA during their undergraduate studies or consider only the last two years of coursework when making admission decisions. Often, your GPA in your major bears more weight than unrelated courses.
- Application: The application summarizes your academic and professional history, providing a snapshot of what you've done and why you want to pursue a master's in this field. Many schools use online applications. Make sure to allow yourself plenty of time to complete the application before any deadlines.
- Transcripts: Transcripts list all classes you attempted, the grades you earned, and the credits awarded. You'll need to request these from each school you attended and have them submitted to the schools you are applying to.
- Letters of Recommendation: Ask former teachers, mentors, and supervisors if they're willing to write letters of recommendation on your behalf. Be sure to give them ample time to complete the letter ahead of the application deadline. Most schools require these letters be sent directly to the admissions department.
- Test Scores: The most common test requirement for graduate school is the GRE. Individual score requirements vary by school, and some schools may waive the test requirement if you have professional experience.
- Application Fee: This fee is usually between $25 to $100 and covers the cost of evaluating your application, transcripts, and references. Schools may waive the fee if a students demonstrates financial need.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master's Program in Media Communications?
A media and communications master's covers a variety of specialties and career paths. Many schools offer opportunities to focus on a specific area of communications through elective offerings, interdisciplinary degree programs, and degree concentrations. With a concentration, you can choose a path that best reflects your career goals and prepares you to take on leadership roles within your organization.
|Digital Media||A concentration in digital media explores written and visual communication utilizing multimedia delivery. Students gain an understanding of data analytics; how to design effective online marketing campaigns; and practical experience in creating videos, animations, and images. The curriculum incorporates elements of computer science, design, art, music, and psychology.||Social media director, content marketing manager, user experience manager|
|Journalism||Journalists gain skills in reporting, writing, and multimedia storytelling that they can then apply to traditional print journalism or digital publications. Advanced reporting courses help students improve interviewing skills and write compelling articles. The coursework also covers legal responsibilities and ethical journalism. Many students use elective courses to gain a deeper understanding of a specialty reporting area, such as healthcare or environmental policy.||Reporter, producer, editor, publisher|
|Marketing||This specialization combines the business skills of marketing with the creative skills necessary to create effective marketing plans. Students gain hands-on experience designing comprehensive marketing plans while learning how to measure return on investment and market share. The program provides a comprehensive understanding of all elements of promotional marketing, including packaging and pricing and brand management.||Marketing manager, advertising manager|
|Strategic Communications||This specialization emphasizes communication, persuasion, leadership, and the development of professional presentations. Writing and speaking comprise the foundation of the program. Coursework calls on students to lead collaborative projects and apply research to organizational communication plans. Students learn how to produce and manage multichannel campaigns with an eye on schedules and budgets.||Communications director, marketing director|
|Film and Media Studies||Students gain practical, hands-on knowledge of video and film production, editing, and postproduction, as well as an understanding of the cultural impact of film and elements of critical film theory. Many programs also expand into emerging fields of game design or discuss film and video financing and distribution. Intellectual property law, psychology, and computer science provide a robust curriculum that prepares graduates for their field.||Producer, director, editor|
Courses in a Master's in Media Communications Program
The curriculum for a media and communication master's degree covers the basics of communication theory and principles of qualitative and quantitative research. These courses act as the building blocks for specialized electives, which will vary based on your career goals. You may also complete a capstone project, such as a thesis or a professional project that demonstrates your comprehensive understanding of the coursework.
- Social Data Analysis
Web companies track who visits a site and sees a social media post to understand which messages provide the greatest reach and spur customers to action. Analytics includes specifics on demographics, how those individuals found your content, and how long they engaged with your site or social media platform. All these metrics inform future decisions for marketing and advertising.
- Writing for Digital Media
How people read and interpret content on a screen may differ from how they read it in print. Often, paragraphs must be shorter, and authors have to consider not only the words they write but how they present those words. This course may also cover content management systems for websites and the use of keywords to improve search rank.
- Media Law and Ethics
This course covers landmark court decisions in areas of libel, invasion of privacy, and intellectual property protection. Students also learn how to access public records and documents through state or federal agencies by using the Freedom of Information Act. The course also looks at ethical questions, such as publication of a photo of a fatal accident or granting anonymity to a news source, and helps students make difficult decisions on deadline.
- Persuasion and Advocacy
This course looks at developing objectives and goals for persuasive writing, such as opinion pieces or marketing copy, and the psychological theory underpinning persuasive appeals. Students learn to recognize persuasive attempts via advertising, news media, politics, and pop culture.
- Public Relations Management
Students will learn about the elements of an effective public relations plan, such as events, press releases, and media relations. Other topics include specialized elements such as crisis management or brand management, with case studies exploring specific responses. Students may organize and promote events and develop an integrated communications plan.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Media Communications?
Expect to spend about two years working on your media and communication master's -- perhaps longer if you're only able to attend school part time. Full-time students can expect to take about nine credits per semester. If you're able to take an extra class every semester, you may save on tuition costs. Some schools offer accelerated classes and shorter semesters.
Your capstone experience -- such as a thesis, professional project, or internship -- may require your full attention in the final semester. Many schools limit how long you have to complete your degree before you lose your credits. This helps ensure students continue to make progress toward graduation and the skills they've gained remain relevant in the field. Consider this when determining how much time you'll need to graduate.
How Much Is a Master's in Media Communications?
The average tuition and fees for full-time graduate students ranged from $11,100 for public, in-state universities to $25,160 for private, nonprofit schools during the 2015-2016 school year. If you're attending school part time, expect to pay by the credit or by the class. Many schools provide lump sum pricing for full-time students.
In addition to the tuition costs for your media and communication master's, you'll need to consider the cost of books and other instructional materials, subscriptions to software services, the cost of commuting to classes, high-speed internet access, and living expenses.
You may reduce your costs by seeking financial aid and funding, such as tuition reimbursement from your employer, private scholarships, or student loans. Many state and federal financial aid programs don't include benefits for students seeking a master's degree, but schools may offer tuition waivers for teaching assistants or fellowship participants. These opportunities help attract applicants to the school and can enhance your resume after graduation.
Resources for Graduate Media Communications Students
A project of the University of Southern California, OJR presents news and case studies on digital journalism initiatives from across the country. The information offers real-world experience using best practices, new technology and tools, and ethical decision making in a digital environment.
Boston University's CRC examines communication research, innovation, and science. Areas of research include political communication, emerging media, media effects, and communication law. The site includes journal articles and other publications.
The Google Trends tool tracks what people search for in real time and makes the data free for marketers, journalists, and analysts.
Harvard's Nieman Lab promotes journalism leadership and explores effective use of digital journalism. The site offers research on best practices in business models, reporting and production, social networks, and apps. While geared toward the needs of journalists, the data applies to other communication fields such as content marketing and public relations.
This subscription-based service provides access to Associated Press style guidelines, which are updated throughout the year. Users can search entries for questions on grammar, punctuation, or style conundrums. The subscription also includes media law briefings and updates.
Professional Organizations in Media Communications
Membership in a professional organization enables you to meet others working in your field and build a professional network. Your network offers career development support, mentorship, and access to employment opportunities. Many organizations host workshops and conferences to help members stay up to date on best practices, emerging trends, and new technology. They also provide access to job listings, specialized industry certifications, and continuing education opportunities. Some organizations also promote standards of professional ethics or advocate for legislation.
Members enjoy access to webinars and other professional education materials as well as subscriptions to newsletters, newspapers, and journals. In addition to an annual international conference, PRSA members also gain access to conferences dedicated to their specialty.
Founded in 1922, the ASNE promotes journalism and advocates on First Amendment issues. Members must be editors, producers, or directors. They can take advantage of the membership directory and access a members-only Facebook group and job board. The organization provides discounts to membership conventions and ongoing professional development webinars.
This virtual professional organization promotes the sharing of research and criticism related to all forms of human communications. The ACA publishes a peer-reviewed journal and an online textbook for public speaking.
The association develops training and certification programs, standardized terminology, and advocates for legislation that impacts the industry. Members gain access to career resources, networking opportunities, and professional development.
The AMA harbors more than 30,000 members across all marketing disciplines. They have four membership categories: marketer, academic, student, and group. Members can access a toolkit of templates and resources, on-demand webcasts and podcasts, and industry newsletters. More than 70 chapters in North America offer networking and learning opportunities.