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.

What are the best journalism programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
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

The Best Online Master's in Journalism Programs of 2020

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Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 98%

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.

2

Emerson College

Boston, MA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 79%

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.

3

University of Missouri

Columbia, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 69%

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.

4

University of Iowa

Iowa City, IA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 73%

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.

5

University of Alabama

Tuscaloosa, AL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 72%

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.

6

University of Nebraska Lincoln

Lincoln, NE Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 69%

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.

7

University of South Florida St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 34%

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.

8

Ball State University

Muncie, IN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 63%

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.

9

Regent University

Virginia Beach, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

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.

10

National University

La Jolla, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 36%

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.

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

JOB PLACEMENT

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
Journalism $56,000 $71,000

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW)

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)
Journalist $39,684 $35,000 $43,000 $54,000
Communications Manager $61,609 $51,000 $64,000 $79,000
News Producer $41,583 $35,000 $48,000 $80,000
Reporter $39,875 $33,000 $44,000 $50,000
Senior Editor $66,962 $58,000 $64,000 $78,000

Source: PayScale

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.

Writer

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%

Meteorologist

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%

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

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.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.