Online Master's Programs in Journalism

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Updated on: 01/07/2019

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers related to journalism, such as reporters and correspondents may experience a decrease before 2026. Candidates who earn a master's in journalism online stand out among competition and may enhance their chances of earning one of these positions. Students can explore further information on job growth and careers in later portions of this page, as well as details on professional resources, typical journalism curriculum, and the importance of accreditation.

An advanced degree can also increase a salary by thousands of dollars per year. For instance, the Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) reports that the 25th percentile of journalists with a bachelor's earn $39,000 per year, while the 25th percentile of candidates with a graduate degree earn $48,000.

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

Master's degrees require one or two years to complete, and earning a master's in journalism typically calls for 30-36 credits. During a program, students grow as writers, editors, researchers, and investigators, while honing critical thinking skills. Additionally, candidates analyze data, build communication skills for interviewing, and determine the credibility of sources. Curriculum may explore print, television, and online forms of publication, as well as different types of writing, such as news and feature writing.

Departments often require identical or similar classes for online and on-campus students, but distance learners may discover other program differences. For instance, learning online may prevent degree seekers from using on-campus services, and some colleges or universities charge online students less for tuition. Online programs surpass on-campus options regarding scheduling flexibility which is ideal for working professionals, and future employers accept both online and on-campus degrees from prestigious schools. Both learning methods deliver benefits, and students must decide which delivery method best suits their needs.

What Common Courses are Offered in a Master's in Journalism Program?

Coursework for a master's in journalism differs by school, particularly if departments offer concentrations. Journalism as a general discipline involves standard concepts, regardless of specialization, that surface in curriculum. Students can expect to explore the following topics while earning degrees.

Communication Law

These classes examine laws related to communication and media, and how these restrictions affect the presentation of information across platforms. Courses cover the First Amendment, copyrights, and privacy, as well as legal complications that developed with the evolution of technology. Students in an online journalism master's program apply these theories and regulations when drafting their own articles.

Feature Writing

Students explore how to find story topics, research, and format different types of feature stories, including how-to pieces and profiles. Degree seekers also learn to interview people connected to stories, identify credible sources, and determine viable publication avenues. Feature writing also often introduces students to the Associated Press (AP) style of writing, as journalism careers generally involve writing in AP style.

Global Journalism

Candidates study the complications of global reporting, such as diversity issues and the potential dangers of reporting in other countries. Additionally, coursework may cover the influence of corporations in media, as well as the impact of global reporting on politics.

Media Research

Media research courses introduce degree seekers to research strategies and ethical concerns, as well as how technology impacts research. Concepts such as surveys, interviews, and data analysis may arise in coursework. Candidates also gain familiarity with the research process and learn to determine the credibility of sources.

Ethics in Journalism

Students examine the application of ethics when writing journalistic pieces and how to interpret information found through the media. For instance, corporate goals can lead to misleading publications, so journalists must critically assess sources for biased information and understand how to report information without bias.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

To earn a master's in journalism online, students often complete a final capstone project. Project types vary by school, but may be a portfolio on current news topics or an internship at a local organization. Capstone projects may also require journalistic pieces that combine written word, video, audio, and photography.

Other journalism departments may require a final thesis or exam. Students should refer to program outlines, which are often found on school websites, to determine their final requirements for graduation.

What Specializations are Available in a Master's in Journalism Program?

Schools offer journalism specializations that relate to particular careers. For instance, a media focus prepares learners for digital journalism professions. Students can determine focus options by exploring their program's website or asking their advisors.

Photojournalism

This specialization trains candidates to tell stories through photographs, videos, and audio recordings. Coursework covers how to determine newsworthy moments, guidance on necessary technology, and insights for journalistic editing and writing. Since many candidates publish pieces online, departments may require coursework on media ethics and online journalism.

Sports Journalism

This concentration prepares learners to become sports reporters by requiring courses such as sports reporting and sports communication. Coursework also trains students to use photography and videos when reporting for print or television. Advertising tactics related to sports reporting may also be covered.

News Reporting

Students explore the basics of news writing, including legal concerns and editing strategies. This foundational information helps learners determine newsworthy stories, collect credible sources, and find the right publication paths. Learners also encounter tips for online writing, photojournalism, and graphic communication.

What Can I Do With a Master's in Journalism Degree?

A journalism degree can lead to a variety of careers, given the field's diversity. Graduates from a master's in journalism online may contribute to an online magazine, write speeches for public figures, report live from disaster areas, or create scripts for television.

Students acquire skills when earning a master's in journalism online that also relate to careers outside of journalism. Candidates learn effective research techniques, for instance, and these abilities can help graduates transition into careers as paralegals and historians.

The following list explains potential professions for journalism graduates. Earning a master's does not guarantee a specific position, as some professions may require additional education or a license.

Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts

These writers pitch article ideas concerning current trends and news to editors, but may also take on provided topics. To research these topics, workers conduct interviews, analyze data, and must proofread the completed articles before they surface on television, blogs, websites, magazines, or newspapers. Many organizations only require a bachelor's for these positions, but holding an advanced degree indicates in-depth understanding of the field for higher employment chances.

Editors

Editors examine documents for grammatical errors, awkward wording, and incorrect information, making changes as needed and providing feedback to writers. Other responsibilities include choosing what assignments writers undertake, updating publication policies, and planning publication sequences and spacing. Magazines, websites, newspapers, and book publishers need editors to ensure a high level of quality for each piece. Editing careers include copy editors, managing editors, publication assistants, assistant editors, and executive editors.

Writers and Authors

These employees may produce content for movies, advertisements, or blogs. Writers can also self-publish books, blogs, or poetry. Authors explore fiction or nonfiction themes for works, research ideas related to their topics, and make revisions based on editorial comments. A master's degree is not required for these positions, but verifies significant field knowledge for employers.

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

Managers develop marketing plans that include competitions, giveaways, and billboard promotions. This planning involves determining the value of possible strategies, considering budget limitations, directing company employees, and communicating with clients concerning their needs. These managers can also assist in website design. Advertisement and marketing managers may only need a bachelor's in journalism; however, a master's in the field indicates more in-depth experience with research and writing.

Public Relations Specialists

Companies hire these specialists to create and maintain positive public images. This process allows consumers to feel more comfortable with organizations, which leads to public engagement and higher overall sales. Career responsibilities include creating press releases, writing public speeches, and assessing promotional options to determine how they complement company goals. These specialists may set up interviews and pursue media sources to promote the organization's public appearance. Candidates need at least a bachelor's degree in journalism or a related field for these positions.

Journalism Associations and Organizations

Professional journalism organizations deliver conferences that allow journalism students and professionals alike to network with one another. Additionally, these groups often provide training programs and supply career services, such as job listings. Journalism organizations for professionals boost field knowledge and heighten employment chances.

Society of Professional Journalists

This group advocates for the press rights of journalists and encourages its definition of ethics. Candidates can review resources on topics such as international journalism through the site, and may participate in training opportunities. Additionally, the society connects site viewers to job listings in journalism.

Online News Association

The Online News Association focuses on digital journalism through the annual Journalism 360 Unconference. The group also delivers programs on immersive writing, women in journalism, and diversity in the field of journalism.

Committee to Protect Journalists

This organization reports on violence against press members, and uses the hashtag, "#FreethePress," to highlight the problem. Specifically, the site highlights incidents in Afghanistan and at country borders. The committee also hosts events and maintains a blog.

Association of Health Care Journalists

Healthcare journalists gain information on topics, such as technology and Medicaid, through the association's blog. Other information on the site involves aging, diseases, oral health, and insurance. Members can also use the site's job list and participate in the group's training opportunities.

Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication

This association connects site viewers to teaching and researching resources, and also hosts events, including a winter meeting. Members can subscribe to the group's journals for free, explore job opportunities, and attend the group's yearly conference.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Journalism?

After obtaining a master's in journalism online, candidates earn various salaries, depending on a number of factors. For instance, graduates in high-cost living areas can earn more than employees in low-cost locations for the same position. Candidates looking at a particular job should only use reported national wages as guidelines and note that a degree does not guarantee employment.

Graduates from a master's in journalism program meet the education requirements for the following positions.

Job Title Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts Less than $26,510 for broadcast news analysts; Less than $22,970 for reporters and correspondents $40,910 More than $195,520 for broadcast news analysts; More than $90,540 for reporters and correspondents -9%
Editors Less than $30,830 $58,770 More than $114,460 -1%
Writers and Authors Less than $30,520 $61,820 More than $118,760 +8%
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers Less than $48,150 for advertising and promotions managers; Less than $68,490 for marketing managers $129,380 More than $208,000 for advertising and promotions managers; More than $208,000 for marketing managers +10%
Public Relations Specialists Less than $32,840 $59,300 More than $112,260 +9%

Source: BLS 2018

The BLS projects that some professions related to journalism will undergo a decrease in job availability in the upcoming years. Other careers project an increase in availability, including public relations opportunities. Students should be open to various options since traditional journalism careers may prove harder to find, including positions as reporters and correspondents.

Salary expectations for these careers may increase, based on degree level. Specifically for journalism, the CEW reports that bachelor's level graduates earn a median salary of $56,000, with the 75th percentile obtaining $86,000 per year. Graduate-level workers, however, earn a median salary of $71,000, and $107,000 per year for the 75th percentile. A master's degree benefits candidates, even if they enter careers that only require a bachelor's.

Online Master's in Journalism Program Accreditation

Accrediting agencies review schools to determine their academic quality. If a college or university meets the agency's criteria, that school earns accreditation. Students should choose accredited schools since future employers may not accept degrees from unaccredited institutions, and some forms of financial aid extend only to students attending accredited schools. For future employment and current finances, then, accreditation matters.

Schools can receive national or regional accreditation, and both types come with benefits. National accreditation extends across the country and often endorses vocational programs. Regional accreditation, though limited to particular areas within the U.S., provides easier credit transfers between schools. Furthermore, programmatic accreditation means that a particular program within a school boasts approval from an agency related to the program's content.

For journalism, look for programmatic accreditation through the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC). ACEJMC began in 1945 as the American Council on Education in Journalism, and today, the agency accredits over 100 programs.

How to Pay for a Master's in Journalism Degree

Earning a master's in journalism online can prove expensive, especially since graduate students usually pay higher tuition than undergraduate learners. Students may also encounter educational fees and costly textbooks. To manage these expenses, candidates can explore financial aid by looking toward federal, private, and employer assistance methods.

  • Federal Financial Aid

    Federal financial aid for graduate students includes federal loans and work study positions. For journalism majors, work study holds particular value since learners can earn money for their education while gaining field experience. Most students qualify for assistance, so all students should fill out a free application for federal student aid (FAFSA) online.

  • Tuition Reimbursement

    Some employers take care of a percentage of tuition for employees, whether by paying at the beginning of a semester or reimbursing students afterward. Learners should ask their employers about available plans and submit an application if a program is available. Candidates may need to maintain a certain GPA to continue to receive funds.

  • Scholarships

    Scholarships assist students, without requiring repayment. Schools and external organizations may offer this funding. For example, students pursuing an online master's in journalism at Columbia University may apply for scholarships from the Columbia Journalism School, and also outside scholarships, such as the Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship. Students can receive scholarships based on academic merit, extracurricular accomplishments, and financial need.

  • Loans

    Students may also take out privates loans through companies such as Wells Fargo and Discover. Private loans do not come with the benefits of federal loans, such as low interest rates and grace periods after graduation. Since private loans may not specify an academic field, learners in journalism master's programs can pursue these options if they cannot attain additional federal aid.