Online Master’s Degrees in Communications

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Master’s in communications programs prepare graduates for leadership roles in diverse industries. Graduates can pursue roles like public relations manager, advertising manager, and internal communications manager. Many media and communication jobs offer above-average salaries and strong job growth potential.

Our list ranks the top online master’s in communications programs for 2021. Prospective students can use the rankings to find the best fit for their career goals and budget. This article also introduces salary data for communications jobs, common courses, and scholarships for communications graduate students.

Frequently Asked Questions: Master's in Communication


  • What can you do with a master's in communications?

    Graduates with a master’s in communications can work as public relations managers, internal communications managers, marketing executives, and content creators.


  • How long does it take to get a master's in communications?

    Earning a master’s in communications typically takes two years for full-time students. Accelerated programs may offer a faster route to the degree.


  • Does a communication degree pay well?

    Graduates with a master’s in communications can pursue lucrative roles, like public relations manager and advertising manager. Both public relations managers and advertising managers make median annual salaries above $115,000.


  • Are communications majors in demand?

    Multiple communications career paths offer strong projected job growth, including roles in public relations, marketing, and advertising.


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Why Get a Degree in Communications?

A graduate degree in communications trains students in advanced communication strategies, communication management, and communication leadership. Many master’s in communications programs offer concentrations in areas like public relations, journalism, advertising, and business communications.

A master’s degree helps graduates advance their career and increase their earning potential.

After earning their degree, graduates can pursue roles as public relations managers, lead writers, corporate communications managers, and marketing managers.

Many top-ranked, accredited universities offer online master’s programs in communication. The online learning format often gives students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.

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How Much Does a Communications Degree Cost?

Tuition rates vary by factors like school, location, and delivery format. In general, public universities charge lower tuition rates than private schools. For example, Arizona State University, a public school, charges $707 per credit for its online master’s in communications program, while Gonzaga University, a private school, charges $1,000 per credit for its online master’s in communication and leadership.

Graduate students who choose an online learning format may benefit from tuition discounts and savings. Some public universities offer a flat tuition rate to fully online students regardless of where they live, which can save out-of-state students a significant amount. Online learners also save on the commuting costs that many on-campus students incur.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree

The ACO affordability calculator factors in monthly income, expenses, and expected financial aid to help prospective students determine how much they can afford to pay for a degree.

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How Much Do Communications Majors Make?

Communications professionals can work in several fields, including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, and corporate communications. Graduates with a master’s in communications can also pursue opportunities as writers and editors. Salaries vary widely by factors like job title, experience, and location. For example, writers and editors make median annual salaries of $63,000-$67,000 per year, while reporters and journalists make around $49,000 per year.

Management-level roles, such as public relations manager, often offer higher earning potential. For instance, public relations managers earn a median annual pay of over $118,000. Similarly, advertising managers report median salaries of nearly $142,000 per year.

Courses in Communications

Communications master’s degrees build strong analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills. Students learn how to design public relations plans, write compelling stories, and communicate effectively in different environments.

Many programs incorporate hands-on assignments or an internship to give students professional experience. Master’s students may also culminate the program with a master’s thesis, project, or comprehensive exam.

While each communications program sets its own curriculum and course descriptions, the following list outlines several courses commonly found in master’s in communications programs.


  • Strategic Communication

    Strategic communication involves crisis communication, strategic planning, and integrated communication plans. In the course, students learn how to communicate an organization’s brand, design communications campaigns, and implement media relations strategies. Students also explore social media strategies and effective crisis communication. The class prepares graduates for roles in corporate communications and public relations.


  • Organizational Communication

    Corporate and organizational communication courses train graduate students in strategic communication, internal communication, and communication technology. The course covers organizational communication in large and small businesses, nonprofits, and private associations. Learners read recent research on corporate culture, global corporations, and communication theory. The course prepares graduates for careers in organizational communication.


  • Storytelling in Digital Environments

    Learners in this course explore storytelling with digital media tools. Coursework examines narrative styles in digital formats and communication strategies for the digital age. Other topics include social media sharing and digital audiences. Communications professionals in journalism, writing, editing, and public relations often draw on digital storytelling skills.


Certifications and Licensure for Communications

Communications professionals can pursue voluntary certifications to demonstrate specialized skills and move into advanced roles. Certified professionals typically must complete continuing education requirements to maintain their credential. The following list outlines several certifications for communications professionals.

Communication Management Professional


The Global Communication Certification Council (GCCC) offers this credential to management-level communications professionals. A master’s in communications from an accredited university meets the educational requirement for the credential. Candidates must also pass an exam. International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) members receive a discount on the certification.

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Strategic Communication Management Professional


GCCC offers the SCMP credential for business communicators with leadership experience in strategic communications. Candidates must submit evidence of their education, experience, and training, plus a reference letter. They must also pass an exam. IABC members receive a discount on the certification.

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Accreditation in Public Relations


The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) offers the APR credential, which demonstrates public relations proficiency. Candidates must complete a panel presentation and pass a computer-based exam. PRSA members receive a discount on the exam fee. APR holders must regularly renew their credential by completing continuing education requirements.

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Scholarships for Communications

Master’s in communications students can take advantage of scholarship opportunities to help lower the cost of their degree. Unlike loans, scholarships do not require repayment, making them ideal forms of financial aid. In addition to the following opportunities, degree-seekers can research scholarships based on factors like their school, state, and career goals.


  • ACES Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: The American Copy Editors Society offers multiple scholarships for graduate students, including the Bill Walsh Scholarship and the ACES Aubespin Scholarship. Recipients must be enrolled in graduate school during the award period.

    Amount: Up to $3,500

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  • Ford Emerging Voices Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation partners with the Ford Motor Company to offer scholarships to women pursuing careers in media. Applicants must submit an essay.

    Amount: $4,000

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  • Advancement of Women in Sports & Entertainment Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The Floyd Mayweather Jr. Foundation offers scholarships for women enrolled in graduate-level programs with the goal of working in the sports and entertainment field. Applicants must hold a minimum 2.75 GPA and enroll full time at an accredited school.

    Amount: $1,000

    Explore Here


Online Master’s Degrees in Communications

  1. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    As one of the top communication schools in the country, USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism also boasts the best online master’s program, Master of Communication Management. The program is designed for mid-career professionals and acknowledges the broad scope of communications careers through its six areas of focus: marketing communication, media and entertainment management, health and social change communication, international and intercultural communication, new communication technologies and organizational and strategic corporate communication. The curriculum is incredibly flexible with only three required courses of eight total. The remaining five courses can be fulfilled by taking any course within the communication management program, two of which can be taken outside the School of Communication. This flexibility allows students to concentrate in their desired area, but also build crucial skills outside their immediate concentration that would help them advance in their field. For example, while a student may concentrate in health and social change communication, they could also take courses related to new communication technologies in order to build important digital communication skills relevant to the health field. Because the program is self-paced, students can take from one to four years to complete it (with a maximum of three courses per term).

    “Data-driven strategy” and “real-world application” are central to the communication management program. The program strives to teach students to understand and analyze data deeply as a foundation for making important decisions. The program emphasizes experiential learning as most students work while they’re in school and can apply those newfound skills in real time that can lead almost immediately to career advancement. 100 percent of 2016 online communication management graduates found employment within one year of graduating as senior account executives, market research analysts and media directors, to name just a few examples.

  2. Purdue University
    Location

    West Lafayette, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Purdue’s Brian Lamb School of Communication’s online M.S. in Communication program is designed for communications professionals wishing to advance their career and, to ultimately, earn higher salaries. Courses are taught by a faculty of practitioners who are experts – and currently working – in the fields which they teach about. These experienced faculty offer insight and knowledge that students can apply to real world settings immediately.

    The program has two concentrations – strategic communication/public relations and integrated communication and advertising – making it an excellent match for prospective students working in public relations, advertising, marketing or corporate communication or those interested in transitioning into one of these areas. The program highlights communication with a global audience, ethical principles underlying communications and social media engagement which is becoming an increasingly important aspect of the field.

    This 30-credit, 10 course online program can be completed in about 20 months. There is a general track where students take three core courses and seven electives. In the concentration track, students take the three core courses, then three courses from their chosen concentration (strategic communication/public relations or integrated communication & advertising) and four elective courses. The elective course list has an array of options that are specific to public relations, marketing and organizational development, but it also offers courses in strategic communication and social media and healthcare communications.

    The student body itself offers a great deal of opportunity for building professional relationships. Graduates that have gone through the program work at organizations and companies such as UNICEF, NCAA and Coca-Cola. By joining the student body, a student joins a strong and connected alumni network of communications professionals.

  3. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Location

    Champaign, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s M.S. in Health Communications program is designed specifically for people in the health communications field. Current students can come from healthcare operations, marketing and public relations or even social work. This is a theory-focused program designed to give health communicators insight into the latest research in health communications and the tools to apply those theories in their profession. The areas of study explore the relationship between communications and health in interpersonal relationships (e.g. doctor-patient, social networks, familial networks), in healthcare organizations and mediated contexts (e.g. health campaigns or behavior change methods).

    This two-year program (full-time, part-time is an option) requires 32 hours of coursework (28 hours completed within the Department of Communication) taken 100% online in asynchronous courses. The required courses include “Health Communication Research Methods 1 and 2” and the final capstone project. The rest of the program is entirely up to the student and their professional interests from the areas of exploration previously mentioned. The capstone would conclude the student’s work in the program by giving them the opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge to their healthcare issue of choice. This could come in the form of a literature review, creating a webinar series, the design of an organizational intervention, designing a media campaign or implementing a project the student designs that would apply what they learned in the program.

    Strong advantages of this program are its small cohorts and close interaction with faculty. While most interactions occur through the online courses, the program maintains those close connections to ensure professional networking and growth takes place among the cohort members and with faculty.

  4. Quinnipiac University
    Location

    Hamden, CT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Quinnipiac’s online M.S. in Interactive Media and Communications is an excellent fit for working professionals who want to move into a career in digital media or for students who would like to update their knowledge and apply their new skills to their existing career. Digital media is essential in today’s communications marketplace and this program brings digital storytelling to the forefront by not only preparing students to be “creative thinkers” and “visual leaders,” but also to help students establish the almost-requisite digital presence with an online portfolio of work through the capstone project. The diverse set of fields from which the student body comes helps bring myriad perspectives to the coursework. Students may be studying alongside others from various career backgrounds, such as musicians, fine artists, designers, computer programmers, journalists or public relations professionals.

    Through coursework, students explore a variety of aspects of digital media including web design, social media analytics and digital audio, video and graphics. The flexible program structure allows students to work through the program in a way that is most useful to them and their career. To graduate, students need 30 credits. This includes the nine-credit core (“Foundations in Graduate Studies,” “Writing for Interactive,” and a master’s capstone) and seven elective courses. Elective offerings vary but can focus on visual storytelling, social media, understanding audience, and audio and visual design among many others that would be relevant to a career in digital media. To further advance their careers and appeal to prospective employers or help advocate for a promotion, students have the option to pursue two graduate certificates in social media and user experience design which can be integrated into the program.

    Because the program is so focused on high quality digital media, students can be confident that program faculty will use the most advanced online learning technology. Students can take all of the coursework online, but there are available courses on Quinnipiac’s Connecticut campus for those interested in participating in person for a portion of the program. And finally, the practice-based capstone is unique in that, instead of one project at the end of the program, it is a portfolio showcasing the student’s accumulated work. For many jobs in digital media, a web presence is required in order to be even considered for the position. This capstone allows students to graduate with a high-quality, web-based portfolio that they can immediately take into the job market.

  5. Northeastern University
    Location

    Boston, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Northeastern’s M.S. in Corporate and Organizational Communication is an excellent fit for almost anyone wishing to advance or start their career in communications, but might appeal even more to professionals in the fields of public relations, corporate communications, human resources or non-profit communications especially in an international context. The program prides itself on basing coursework on the latest research and communication trends, providing interactive learning formats and offering experiential learning opportunities. Course offerings are diverse and flexible with eight concentrations: social media and online communities, public relations, human resource management, usability/user experience, project management, leadership, cross-cultural communication, and leading communication strategy and development. Faculty teaching these courses are communications practitioners skilled in bringing their real-world knowledge from the non-profit sectors to the online classroom.

    The program also emphasizes its unique experiential learning opportunities which are essential to online learning. Those opportunities include a choice of two 12-week capstone courses. One they describe as an online “co-op at work” experience which is a project designed around the student’s current workplace. The other opportunity is excellent for those new to communications – a virtual consulting project. Another elective course offered that falls within the experiential learning category is the international field study experience. This would appeal to a student who could travel internationally (or who is already based at an international location) to conduct a field-based research project.

    The 15-course degree can be earned through full- or part-time enrollment, which would take about two to three years to complete. Applicants do not need communications experience as the curriculum includes core courses to bring those students into the field quickly. A unique feature to the program is the recognition of prior certifications in the pubic relations and human resources field through credit transfers. Students with accreditation in public relations, or APR, receive a credit transfer of nine quarter hours (a 20% savings) and must complete only 12 of the 15 required courses. Human resources professionals with SHRM-CP certification receive three quarter hour credits (6% savings) and must take 14 courses and students with SHRM-SCP save six quarter hours (13% savings) and must take 13 courses.

  6. Loyola University Maryland
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Loyola of Maryland’s M.A. in Emerging Media program does what the program title suggests – it focuses on how the media and communications landscape evolves and develops. While much of the program touches upon the important areas of most communications programs (e.g. strategic thinking and best practices in communications), it also provides an important opportunity to focus on the social responsibility of a communications professional and understand how that applies to one’s area of work within the context of modern media. For example, there is coursework to think critically about how to use social media effectively and how race, class, gender and ethnicity impact an audience’s access to mediums of communication including technology (an example course offering is “Social, Political, Economic, and Cultural Issues in Emerging Media”) and legal, ethical and regulatory issues relevant to new media (e.g. copyright and piracy, net neutrality, free speech and privacy).

    Students will need 33 credit hours (nine three-credit courses and a six-credit capstone project) to graduate. Full-time students can complete the program within 12 months and part-time students taking one course at a time can complete in 44 months. For students who wish to visit Loyola’s Baltimore campus, there is an optional two-week summer residency course with the first week focusing on content creation and the second focusing on ethics in emerging media. This residency includes hands-on learning opportunities, field trips around Baltimore and nearby Washington, DC and expert panels.

    Another unique offering from this school is its health communication certificate program that would be ideal for communications professional working in the health field (note: the program is currently pending MHEC approval because it is a new program). This program requires five three-credit courses that could be completed in just under a year. Many students continue on to complete the full master’s program (just six more courses) upon successful completion of the certificate.

  7. University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    UF has an incredibly comprehensive M.A. in mass communication program with seven, highly focused specializations. Boasting graduate degrees “for the digital age,” it offers a track for almost any communications professional. Available specializations include audience analytics for market analysts and researchers, political communication for communications professionals working in politics or public affairs, web design for digital media professionals or graphic designers, digital strategy for digital marketing professionals, public relations for market analysts and public relations professionals, global strategic communication for international development professionals or communications directors working for global corporations and social media for professionals in any communications field wishing to gain new skills in the medium.

    While credit requirements are different within each specialization, students need between 33 and 38 credit hours to graduate, typically taking two to three courses per 12- to 16-week term. Each program is taught by industry professionals who also serve as the curriculum advisory board for each specialization. Some specializations have more core requirements than others, but elective courses often overlap. For the global strategic communication specialization, which has a strong component of cross-cultural communication, students can also choose another concentration to dive deeper into a specific area.

    A unique element to the social media specialization is that students receive Hootsuite certification. The public relations program has an educational and mentoring partnership with APCO Worldwide, a global communications consultancy. Students in this specialization will learn from and work on APCO Worldwide projects and have connections to the company's top executives throughout the world.

  8. Ithaca College
    Location

    Ithaca, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    8Ithaca CollegeSCORE: 97.42COST: $27,776.00

    According to Ithaca College’s Roy H. Park School of Communication, its M.S. in communications innovation is designed for “high-potential professionals” who have “mastered their craft” and “want to design its future.” This 24-month executive-style program is structured almost like a successful collaborative corporate environment where up to 10 students per cohort participate in their learning as they would a think tank. The program thrives on a student body from diverse professional backgrounds that strengthens both the learning and the teaching in the program. Students who have graduated from the program have gone on to become teachers, corporate vice presidents, television producers, organizational development managers, communications directors, cross-cultural communications experts and sustainability managers among a variety of other professional backgrounds.

    The focus on innovation is highly intentional. In 2015, the Park School commissioned a communications innovation study where 148 senior executives from the communications field were surveyed. The study found that 82% said that innovation plays a significant role in driving their business forward. Many of those surveyed also expressed concern about keeping up with the ever-changing dynamic of technology in communications and wanted to gain more insight into leadership, social media, analytics, running international teams and developing personal public relations through speaking engagements. The communications innovation program strives to ensure their students graduate with a solid foundation in all of the above.

    This 24-month full-time hybrid program requires 32 credit hours of online, asynchronous courses and five long-weekend intensive courses at different sites. Past intensives were held in Austin, TX with the SXSW education conference, in Portland, OR for social networking and in Burbank and Anaheim, CA for an environmental storytelling intensive. One other unique aspect of the program is that students graduate with credentials to teach college-level courses.

  9. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Liberty University has two master’s communications programs with distinct focuses: M.A. in strategic communications and M.A. in communications. The strategic communications program is designed for marketing, public relations, social media and promotions professionals who want to gain a stronger foothold in effective media outreach. The master’s in communications is designed for professionals interested in developing their leadership, management and professional communications skills for their business, non-profit or public service roles. Both programs require 36 total credit hours. Previously earned, approved program hours (up to 50%) may be transferred. All online courses are eight weeks long.

    Through the strategic communications program, students will gain the skills to create action-oriented messaging for their business’ audience. There is a strong focus on the latest digital media and outreach methods through hands-on projects that blend theory and practice. The program concludes with either a final “Challenge Examination” or a capstone project.

    The master’s in communication program focuses on building skills in research, writing and presenting to train students to be effective communicators. The marketable skills and knowledge will give students an excellent advantage for promotions into external-facing roles at their organizations. This program is an excellent fit for those in public service or ministry roles that require an understanding of cross-cultural engagement, as well as anyone working in crisis communications or politics. Example courses include “Conflict Analysis and Resolution,” “Communication in Nonprofit and Christian Ministry” and “International and Intercultural Communication.” Students who complete the master’s in communication will also be prepared for doctoral studies or K-12 and college-level teaching.

  10. University of Missouri
    Location

    Columbia, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    University of Missouri’s online M.A. in communication program is a great fit for professionals with at least three years of journalism- or communications-related work experience who want to take their career to the next level. Online master’s students may choose from four areas of study: health communication, interactive media, media management and strategic communication. Each of these programs are designed to give communications professionals the skills and knowledge to succeed in leadership roles in print media, broadcasting, corporate communications and public relations among a variety of other roles. Graduates of the program immediately become a part of a vast network of industry executives and innovators. Faculty are also practicing journalists and communications professionals who provide valuable insights into career advancement in the field.

    Each area of study requires 37 credit hours. While courses are all online, the small group projects allow students to gain valuable insights from their colleagues. The health communication focus is a great fit for communications professionals in the health fields wanting to advance in their field and take their organization to the next level. The interactive media study area not only provides valuable skills in digital messaging, but also goes in-depth on the psychological, social, ethical and legal issues regarding the roles and effects of digital news, advertising and public relations on society. For students who have significant professional experience and want to delve into management in publishing or advertising, the media management focus would be ideal. Finally, the strategic communication study area is excellent for those who have a great deal of practical communications knowledge, but want to delve deeper into theory and research through these five principles: strategic planning, technology, relationship building, global/multicultural communications and building a communications portfolio.

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