Best Online Master’s in Journalism Programs

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By The BestColleges Rankings Team

Published on January 28, 2021

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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.

In addition to teaching learners how to report hard news, journalism degrees focus on research, writing, and digital skills that apply to many careers. Read on to learn more about the best online master’s in journalism programs.

What Are the Best Online Master's in Journalism Programs? Here Are Our Top Five:

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#1 Harvard University Cambridge, MA
#2 Emerson College Boston, MA
#3 University of Missouri Columbia, MO
#4 University of Iowa Iowa City, IA
#5 University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL
#6 University of Nebraska Lincoln Lincoln, NE
#7 University of South Florida St. Petersburg St. Petersburg, FL
#8 Ball State University Muncie, IN
#9 Regent University Virginia Beach, VA
#10 National University La Jolla, CA

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Best Accredited Online Master's in Journalism Programs

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Harvard University View School Profile Cambridge, MA

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.

Emerson College View School Profile Boston, MA

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 Missouri View School Profile Columbia, MO

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 Iowa View School Profile Iowa City, IA

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 Alabama View School Profile Tuscaloosa, AL

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 Lincoln View School Profile Lincoln, NE

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. Petersburg View School Profile St. Petersburg, FL

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 University View School Profile Muncie, IN

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.

Regent University View School Profile Virginia Beach, VA

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.

National University View School Profile La Jolla, CA

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.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Journalism Program?

Graduates with a master’s in journalism can take on countless roles in a rapidly evolving media landscape.

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.

Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Journalism Programs

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.

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.

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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.

Feature Writing

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 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.

true Journalist

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.

Editor

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.

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.

Reporter microphone

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.

Writer/Author

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.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Journalism Programs

Is a master's in journalism worth it?

As with any craft, more experience and expertise lead to better career opportunities and earning potential. As careers in journalism and writing are competitive, additional academic credentials can help applicants secure job opportunities. An online master’s in journalism also allows students to focus on specific areas and augment their skills.

What can I do with a master's in journalism?

Graduates can find work as news editors, reporters, public relations managers, or communications directors. Journalism students hone the communication and technical skills needed to enter a modernizing media landscape and find success in diverse professional roles.

Is it hard to become a journalist?

While traditional print journalism is shrinking in readership and hemorrhaging jobs, career opportunities that use journalistic methods and skills are everywhere. Yes, becoming a journalist at the New York Times is exceedingly difficult, but as the number of written digital outlets grows, so too do the job opportunities in that area.

How much money can I make with a master's in journalism?

Salary potential depends on experience and skills. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), traditional journalists earn a median annual salary of $46,270, but other professionals, such as public relations managers, make significantly more.

What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in journalism?

If you plan to enter journalism or a related field, a six-figure salary probably is not your main priority. However, some jobs pay exceedingly well. For instance, public relations managers earn a median annual salary of $116,180.

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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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