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.
The Best Online Master's in Journalism Programs of 2019
|Cambridge, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 96%||
Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University frequently earns a spot among the nation's best and most prestigious colleges. In recent years, the Ivy League university began to make some of its pre-professional programs more accessible to a wider population through the Harvard Extension School. HES maintains more relaxed admission standards and caters more to working professionals than most of Harvard's programs.
As a result, Harvard now offers a master's in journalism online. The program allows students to "earn their way" into admission by earning a minimum 3.0 GPA in two open enrollment courses: a journalism proseminar and a course in feature writing. Students can begin the program in the fall, spring, or summer terms. The program runs on a hybrid model, with students completing at least one class in the 12-course, 36-credit curriculum on campus in Cambridge.
During their final semester in the program, each student must complete a significant capstone project under the supervision of a professional journalist. Learners also benefit from the option of completing an internship for credit. Other notable courses in the curriculum include personal essays, the Constitution and the media, and first-person journalism. Harvard delivers the online portion of the program asynchronously.
As a private university, Harvard does not distinguish between out-of-state online students and Massachusetts residents, charging all students in the program the same, flat tuition rate.
University of Missouri-Columbia
|Columbia, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 68%||
A public university based in Columbia, the University of Missouri styles itself as the Show Me State's flagship school. MU also opened what it claims was the first journalism school in the nation in 1908. The journalism school now boasts several in-house opportunities for students to practice their craft, including a university-owned television station, a newspaper, and a magazine, all of which hold their own against other local media outlets.
MU now offers its master's degree in journalism online and without any in-person requirements. Students in the online version of the program can choose a concentration in health communication, interactive media, media management, or strategic communication. The program's curriculum consists of 37 credits, and students typically graduate in 3-4 years of part-time study while continuing to work full time.
Keeping those working professionals in mind, the master's in journalism delivers all of its coursework asynchronously. The program culminates in either a thesis or a professional project as a capstone experience depending on students' preferences.
The program does not list a minimum undergraduate GPA threshold for admission. However, all applicants must submit GRE scores. Even though MU prides itself on its state school status, the university allows out-of-state online learners in the journalism master's program to pay the same tuition as Missouri residents.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
|Lincoln, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 68%||
Based in the eponymous city of Lincoln, UNL often earns nationwide renown for its Cornhuskers football teams, which won national championships in the 1990s. In recent years, UNL expanded its national profile by beginning to offer several of its stronger programs through distance learning. As a result, UNL now offers one of the best online journalism master's degree programs in the nation.
The online master's in professional journalism at UNL requires students to complete a 36-credit curriculum before graduating. Most students graduate within 18-24 months of full-time study, although others continue to work full time while earning their degrees and take 3-4 years to finish. Students can choose between thesis and non-thesis curriculum tracks.
Notable courses in the curriculum include mass media issues and ethics, multi-platform journalism, and media management. Students also complete a professional project in the journalism field that can help them create a body of work to show employers. Catering primarily to working professionals, the program delivers all of its coursework asynchronously and never requires students to visit campus in Lincoln.
Each applicant to the program must submit evidence of a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA in addition to a portfolio of their previous writing. UNL does not currently require applicants to the program to submit standardized test scores.
The University of Alabama
|Tuscaloosa, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 68%||
Located in Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama earns perhaps the most recognition nationwide for its perennial powerhouse Crimson Tide football teams and its rallying cry of "roll tide!" In recent years, the university expanded far beyond the borders of the Yellowhammer State by making several of its strongest programs available through distance learning. As a result, students can now enroll in one of the South's strongest journalism master's programs online at UA.
The master of arts in journalism program at UA requires students to complete 31 credits before graduating. Most full-time students graduate in 18-24 months, while part-time students often take 3-4 years. The program's curriculum combines foundational journalism coursework with electives including courses such as digital media and information; writing and reporting; and entrepreneurialism and management.
As many students who enroll in the program continue to work while earning their degree, UA delivers all of the program's coursework asynchronously and never expects students to visit campus.
Despite UA's status as a state school, the university allows all students in the online journalism program to pay in-state tuition regardless of where they live. Each applicant must submit standardized test scores and earn a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0. The program accepts applications on a rolling basis.
|Boston, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 81%||
A small community of fewer than 5,000 students based in downtown Boston, Massachusetts, Emerson College also operates campuses in the Netherlands and Los Angeles. Originally opening as an oratory college, Emerson frequently earns renown for its specialized programs, including particularly strong degrees in theatre, film, and journalism. The school expanded its distance learning offerings in recent years and now features an online master's in journalism and mass communication.
The journalism program at Emerson focuses on getting students out of the classroom and into the real world. Students practice reporting real stories through internships with professional organizations. In addition, the program includes a distinct focus on contemporary multimedia journalism, as students work on stories in audio, video, and print formats. The program's hybrid format allows students to graduate in 13 months.
All students begin the program in asynchronous online courses before spending two semesters taking on-campus courses in Boston. The program's 12-week summer capstone course and internship do not require campus residency.
The program's curriculum consists of 40 credits and includes courses such as critical perspectives; reporting and writing; and visual storytelling and reporting. The program only admits students for the summer term. Prospective students do not need to meet a minimum undergraduate GPA threshold or submit standardized test scores; however, all applicants must submit portfolios of their previous writing.
University of South Florida-St Petersburg
|St. Petersburg, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 36%||
Opening its doors in the 1960s in the eponymous city of St. Petersburg, USFSP originally served as a satellite campus for the University of South Florida. USFSP became an autonomous institution in the mid-2000s. Around then, the university began to offer several of its stronger programs online. That slate of distance learning offerings includes one of the South's strongest online journalism master's programs.
USFSP's online master's program in digital journalism and design requires students to complete 33-39 credits in the curriculum before graduating. Most full-time enrollees complete the program in approximately two years. Noteworthy courses include multimedia reporting, digital media technology, web publishing, social media, and digital media and democracy.
All students also complete final online projects in which they apply the reporting and digital skills they learn throughout the program. Mindful of the commitments of working professionals, the program delivers all of its coursework asynchronously and never requires students to visit campus for any reason.
USFSP's journalism school differentiates itself from its peers as the only school in the region to offer both undergraduate and graduate programs accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. Each applicant must submit evidence of a minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0. The program does not require that applicants submit standardized test scores.
Ball State University
|Muncie, IN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 62%||
Located in Muncie, Indiana, Ball State University frequently competes with Indiana University and Indiana State University for top billing in the Hoosier State. Ball State frequently earns nationwide acclaim for its original research and doctoral programs. In recent years, the state school poured its significant resources into expanding its slate of distance learning, which now includes a master's in journalism online.
Differentiating itself from its peers, the online journalism program at Ball State allows students to choose between two delivery methods: online and asynchronous coursework without in-person requirements or through blended learning with some on-campus coursework. In both cases, all students in the program must complete 36 credits before graduating. Most students earn their degrees within two years of full-time study.
All students can choose a concentration in either media analytics and management or reporting and storytelling. In both cases, core coursework includes media audiences and content strategy, journalistic judgments and sociology of news, and studies in journalism and communication theory. All students also complete a capstone, which takes the form of either a thesis or a creative project.
All applicants must earn a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75. The program does not require applicants to submit standardized test scores. As a proud state school, Ball State provides discounted tuition to Indiana residents who enroll in the program compared with out-of-state online students.
|Virginia Beach, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 61%||
A private, Evangelical Christian-affiliated university based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Regent University opened its doors in the 1970s. Originally founded by media mogul Pat Robertson, the university focuses on educating the next generation of Christian leaders. Distance learning also makes up a huge portion of Regent's identity, as the school now offers many of its strongest programs online, including an online master's in journalism and mass communication.
The journalism program at Regent requires students to complete a 33-credit curriculum. Most students earn their degrees in approximately two years of full-time study. Interesting courses in the curriculum include communication/journalism technology tools; social media and internet marketing; issues in media law and ethics; and feature writing and specialty reporting.
During their final semester at Regent, all students in the program complete culminating projects that typically involve creating content of publishable quality. As the program primarily caters to working professionals, it does not include any in-person requirements and delivers all coursework asynchronously.
Regent does not list any admission requirements beyond a bachelor's degree. As a private university, Regent does not distinguish between in-state and out-of-state students and charges everyone the same per-credit tuition rate. The program offers eight different start dates throughout the academic year, with students required to apply, earn admission, and pay two weeks before each start date.
|La Jolla, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 42%||
Located within San Diego city limits in the community of La Jolla, California, National University originally opened in the 1970s to provide different career-focused programs to working professionals. Though the school expanded its disciplinary offerings over the years, NU never wavered from that mission and continues to focus on professional education. Distance learning provides a natural extension to that mission, and NU now offers several degrees online, including a master's in journalism online.
The online journalism program at NU requires students to complete 63 quarter units, as the university runs on the quarter system. Nevertheless, despite the different units, most students earn their degrees in the standard two years of full-time study. The curriculum includes noteworthy courses such as advanced nonfiction writing, professional editing, online publishing, and computer-assisted research. The program focuses specifically on digital journalism, preparing students to create work for online outlets. The curriculum does not include a thesis or capstone requirement.
Aiming for maximum flexibility, the program eliminates all in-person requirements and delivers all of its coursework asynchronously. Nevertheless, students interested in blended learning or more face-to-face opportunities can also choose to complete some of their required coursework on campus in La Jolla. NU does not list any minimum GPA requirements or standardized test requirements for admission, although all applicants must hold an undergraduate degree.
Kent State University at Kent
|Kent, OH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
Based in the eponymous city of Kent, Ohio, KSU also operates several satellite campuses throughout the region and primarily focuses on research; however, the school offers programs across a variety of disciplines, including aeronautics, history, nursing, business, and journalism. As the public school now offers several of its programs through distance learning, students can now complete a master's in journalism online at KSU.
KSU's online program in journalism education differs from its peers in that it prepares graduates to teach other journalists in addition to practicing as professional journalists themselves. As such, core coursework differs from other programs, including requirements such as advising student media and teaching journalism ethics. Elective courses continue on this trend, with options like teaching opinion writing, teaching photo editing, teaching news design, advising yearbook, and teaching news literacy.
All students must complete 33 credits to graduate. Most learners graduate within two years of full-time study, with many go on to teach journalism at the high school level. Aiming primarily for flexibility, KSU's journalism program delivers all of its coursework asynchronously and never requires students to visit campus for any reason.
Out-of-state online students in the journalism program at KSU can pay in-state tuition. All applicants must submit GRE scores and evidence of a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0.
Choosing a Program
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.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Journalism Program?
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.
Accreditation for Online Master's in Journalism Degrees
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.
Employment Outlook for Master's in Journalism Graduates
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|
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)|
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.
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%
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%
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.
Financing Your Online Master's in Journalism Program
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.
- Best Online Master's in Journalism Programs of 2018
Ranking School Location 1 Harvard University Cambridge, MA 2 University of Nebraska-Lincoln Lincoln, NE 3 University of Missouri-Columbia Columbia, MO 4 University of Memphis Memphis, TN 5 University of South Florida-St Petersburg St. Petersburg, FL