The Online Master’s in Communications Programs Guide

An online master of communications degree can be your gateway to a remarkably wide variety of careers. They range from jobs in broadcast journalism, corporate communications and digital marketing to leadership roles in public advocacy, publishing and political campaigns.

Advance Your Career With an Online Master’s in Communications with the Newhouse School

The world-renowned S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University offers an online M.S. in Communications.

  • Choose from four specializations: Advertising, Public Relations, Journalism Innovation, and Media Management 
  • Features live online classes, dynamic course content and in-person immersion experiences in cities around the world


What Is Communications?

At its core, communications is the art of persuasion. The ancient Greeks regarded the ability to influence others through rhetoric to be a foundational skill for civilized society. What does a communications degree cover? Today, it covers a vast array of fields, some of which share little in common except for their demand for strategic thinking and incisive writing.

The right online communications degree can help launch you into a new profession or further your existing career, whether it is in advertising, public relations, social media, politics or nonprofit foundations.

Can You Earn Your Master’s in Communications Online?

Dozens of schools offer online master’s in communications degree programs in all parts of the country. They include large public universities, top-tier private institutions, and smaller colleges. Many are 100% online, while others combine online communications study and on-campus learning.

Some master’s in communications programs target newly minted college graduates. Others are tailored for working professionals, with options for part-time enrollment and asynchronous classes that you can attend on your own schedule. So you can earn a communications degree online.

Online Master’s in Communications Accreditation

Some universities offer accredited online communications master’s programs that are approved by by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC), a nonprofit group whose mission is to promote excellence in this discipline. But other schools, including some communications programs with stellar reputations, have chosen not to pursue designation from AEJMC. So the lack of accreditation doesn’t necessarily mean a program lacks quality.

Online Master of Communications Admissions Requirements

Usually, you can apply to a master’s program in communications with any bachelor’s degree. But some programs are tailored for midcareer applicants.

Not all schools specify a minimum GPA. For those that do, a transcript showing an undergraduate GPA of 2.75 or higher is a typical requirement.

Many schools do not require Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). But others do ask for recent GRE or GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) scores. A sample range of GRE scores for admissions is 156 for verbal and 146 for quantitative. Some programs allow you to substitute professional work experience for a GRE test.

Almost all programs ask for three or more letters of recommendation from people who can speak to both your academic qualifications and professional qualities. The letters can come from professors, co-workers, supervisors and others who have insights about your prospects for success in the graduate program.

Finally, you’ll most likely need to submit a personal statement explaining your career objectives. You can make the case for why the specific program you’re applying for best fits your academic and professional goals. These essays are typically one or two pages (400-700 words). The statements also are a chance for you to showcase your writing ability.

Online Communications Degree Programs That Don’t Require the GRE

Some online master’s programs don’t require the GRE or GMAT. Or they waive it if you have enough professional experience, typically three years.

These programs include:

Online Master’s Degree in Communications Curriculum

Unlike a professional degree in, say, law or architecture, the core curriculum for a master’s degree in communications can vary greatly depending on the program and on your particular concentration. It’s in your best interest to review the course catalogue closely to ensure that the program you seek to attend offers the training that aligns with your career aims.

Some programs require a capstone course, which may include presenting a final project. You can decide if a capstone fits with your professional or academic objectives.

Examples of common core and elective courses for online master’s degree in communications include:

  • Social media. Hands-on introduction to digital and social media platforms. Analyze how readers and consumer engage with online content.
  • Digital storytelling. Learn how to use different types of digital media tools. Explore internet privacy and governance, ethics and diversity.
  • Strategic communication. This may include crisis communications and strategies for shaping effective messages to different stakeholders.
  • Digital marketing. Learn the tenets of selling successfully online, including consumer targeting and audience analytics.
  • Business communication. Focus on effective communication skills for leaders, and how corporations can foster collaboration and defuse conflicts through clear messaging.

Online Master’s in Communication Specializations and Concentrations

Once you’ve settled on a school, your next pivotal decision may include selecting a concentration or specialization. A well-chosen area of focus can boost the value of your master’s degree by allowing you to gain a deeper understanding of communication issues that are most relevant to your career aspirations.

Which Online Communications Specialization Is Right for You?

You might have a general idea about which communication discipline most interests you. That might be journalism or advertising. Or your niche may be very particular, like international diplomacy.

Public Relations Specialization

PR is about more than just spin. Public relations is the art of gaining attention and conveying accurate and effective messages. With PR training, you may hold different titles, including spokesperson, media manager or corporate relations specialist.

Advertising Specialization

Advertising is about crafting persuasive and creative marketing campaigns for different media, including print, broadcast and digital. You might work for advertising agencies, manufacturers, corporations and anyone with an idea, service or product to sell.

Journalism Specialization

Journalism focuses on the ethical and unbiased reporting of news in different formats. You may be able to further specialize in broadcast journalism, online media, data reporting, photojournalism and more.

Political Communication Specialization

Political communication focuses on public policy and advocacy. This concentration can prepare you to serve in government, nonprofit work, political consulting, and social change initiatives.

Corporate Communication Specialization

Corporate communication is the application of communication practices in a corporate context. This concentration may lead to roles in financial reporting, crisis messaging, business ethics, strategic marketing and more. Your employers may be global corporations or small businesses. Or you may work as a corporate communications consultant.

General Online Communications Degree Programs

Many master’s programs offer foundational knowledge of general communication concepts, with emphasis on clear writing and critical thinking.


Is a Communications Degree Worth It?

Earning a master’s degree in communication is an investment in your future. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019 data, the growing demand for communications professionals is about 4%, which is average compared to other professions. Learn more about salary and career outlook below. Total tuition costs can range widely, from just over $22,000 to three times that. State institutions tend to charge lower rates than private universities.

How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Master of Communications Degree?

Many programs require about two years to earn a degree. Some accelerated communications master’s programs can be completed in as little as 15 or 16 months. Programs geared for working professionals attending part time may take up to five years to finish.

What Kind of Jobs Can You Get With an Online Communications Master’s Degree?

With a communications master’s degree, you can qualify for many diverse jobs. Potential titles include: Director of Communications; Social Media Manager; Publication Editor; Multimedia Journalist; Public Relations Director; SEO Manager; Photojournalist; News Anchor; Blogger; Creative Director; Political Consultant; Social Media Influencer; Brand Manager.

What Is the Master’s in Communications Salary and Career Outlook?

Media and communications jobs on average pay about 50% more than all jobs in the U.S. Half of all employees in this sector earned more than $59,230 in 2019, compared with a median annual income of $39,810 for the workforce as a whole, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Salaries tend to be higher for specialty niche jobs, like technical writing, or for management positions, like editing. The BLS projects 4% job growth for media and communication occupations between 2018 and 2028, a gain of 27,600 workers. That’s about the average for all jobs.

Why Get an Online Master’s Degree in Communications?

Online education offers the flexibility to learn on your own schedule and at your own pace. Online learning also opens up more choices of potential schools. Look for an online program that offers a combination of opportunities to learn, listen, discuss, and network. It is also important to consider if accreditation is a decision-making factor to you. A program that is accredited by The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) meets the highest standards for communication and journalism education.

An online master’s degree in communications may be one way to gain a competitive edge to stay relevant in your chosen industry without compromising your career or giving up your other obligations.

Advance Your Career With an Online Master’s in Communications with the Newhouse School

The world-renowned S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University offers an online M.S. in Communications.

  • Choose from four specializations: Advertising, Public Relations, Journalism Innovation, and Media Management 
  • Features live online classes, dynamic course content and in-person immersion experiences in cities around the world


Last Updated June 2020