Communications is a versatile and multidisciplinary field that centers on how humans communicate with one another. With the rise in digital communication, businesses have sought out communications professionals to improve interactions with customers. After all, the understanding of language, history, and psychology professionals provide is invaluable in terms of connecting with and engaging people.
To develop this understanding, many professionals consider obtaining a master’s degree. These programs offer advanced courses in marketing, mass media, public relations, and writing to give students the tools they need to be on the forefront of the industry. In addition, students can choose to focus in areas such as law, education, and technology to become voices of authority in specialized fields. This specialized expertise often grants degree holders better chances of employment in leadership positions.
But aside from greater career opportunities, a graduate program in communication allows students to dive deep into the methods and tools humans use to communicate. The ability to understand and target communicative tendencies opens opportunities to improve education, nonprofit outreach, and other beneficial institutions. In short, professionals in the field ensure that people learn to communicate and connect effectively and responsibly.
What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Communication Program?
An online master’s degree in communications can open doors to exciting careers with international media outlets, multinational corporations, retail brands, nonprofits or government agencies. This unique discipline draws upon a diverse set of skills ranging from marketing and public relations to video production and psychology. Thanks to 21st century technology, you can earn an advanced degree without leaving your home. Online courses give you the freedom to enroll full-time or part-time and to learn at your own pace. They provide the same quality curriculum taught at leading communications schools, but in most cases, they’re substantially more affordable. If you’re interested in earning your master’s degree online, here are a few things to consider.
Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Communication
|CONCENTRATION||DESCRIPTION||POSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR|
|Mass Media and Journalism||Students learn the many skills needed to prepare, present and disseminate information through mass media outlets. Courses emphasize research techniques, media ethics, writing skills and communications strategies.||Reporter, journalist, columnist, technical writer, TV/radio announcer, news analyst|
|Digital Media/Technology||Focuses on technical aspects of working in the media with an emphasis on electronic technologies. In addition to covering research and reporting techniques, students learn technical skills, such as video editing and audio production.||Production assistant, broadcast technician, producer, director, editor|
|Public Relations||A communications degree with a concentration in public relations is a good fit for students who are interested in business. This curriculum focuses on strategic communications and marketing techniques that apply to print and digital channels.||PR specialist, marketing manager, advertising manager, press secretary, director of investor relations|
|Leadership/Organizational Communication||Leadership specializations delve further into the world of business communications. Students learn strategies for planning and managing internal and external communications and for directing activities that affect how organizations interact with and are perceived by the public.||Director of marketing and communications, chief information officer, chief communications officer|
|Health Communications||Explores methods for distributing information to health care providers, administrators and the public. It also involves psychological strategies for educating, influencing and convincing audiences.||Public health educator, communications director, director of health informatics|
Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Communication
There are significant differences in course requirements depending on whether you select a general mass media degree or a niche specialization. Although courses vary between schools, you’ll likely encounter the following subjects in your studies.
Core Courses: A significant portion of your coursework (approximately 40 percent) will focus on essential communications skills, including strategy, theory, research, writing and fact checking. You may also be required to complete a capstone project or assemble a digital portfolio.
Electives: Differences in specializations are most evident in the electives. For example, you may choose courses related to organizational development, politics, international relations, grassroots advocacy, media law or video production.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Communication?
In most cases, it takes two years to earn an online master of communication degree. This schedule requires students to enroll in two or three courses per term. Most students can manage this schedule while working full-time. If that creates too much pressure or if you want to take the summers off, you can earn your degree in three years by enrolling part-time. However, this may affect your eligibility for some scholarships. The duration also depends on whether the program requires a fellowship, internship or thesis. Most programs require a minimum of 30 credit hours.
Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Communication Prepares For
|Global Communication Certification Council||This international certification is designed for communications professionals who work in the private sector. Applicants must meet education, experience and training requirements and pass a three-hour multiple-question exam to become a Communication Management Professional or Strategic Communication Management Professional.|
|Accreditation in Public Relations||The Universal Accreditation Board certifies recent graduates, experienced PR professionals and military communications experts. Graduate students may apply for a Certificate in Principles of Public Relations to kick-start their careers.|
|Interactive Advertising Bureau||This certification system was created especially for digital communications professionals. The organization offers four specialized certifications for professionals who develop and manage digital marketing and advertising campaigns. Professionals must have at least one year of experience and pass a two-hour, 100-question exam.|
Accreditation for Online Master’s in Communication Degrees
While you should always select a regionally accredited college or university to ensure your credits transfer, you should also consider programs that have been certified by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. This optional accreditation shows that the curriculum and faculty meet exacting quality standards established by the industry. Graduating from an ACEJMC-accredited program may set you apart from other candidates during your job search. Nationally, more than 100 communications departments have been accredited through this organization.
Employment Outlook for Master’s in Communication Graduates
Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for media and communications professionals is projected to increase by 6 percent between 2016 and 2026, with the industry adding some 43,000 new jobs. Compared to average earnings for all occupations, professionals in this industry earn $18,650 more per year. Additionally, master of communication graduates have the freedom to work in a variety of industries depending on their skills and interests.
While many careers in communications require only a bachelor’s degree, you have the potential to earn substantially more as a master of communication. According to the Social Security Administration, men with graduate degrees earn $600,000 more over the course of their careers compared to those with bachelor’s degrees, and women with equivalent credentials earn $470,000 more. As a master of mass communications, you can expect your salary to fall in the upper end of the pay scale for most positions.
|Job Title||Salary Range|
|Health Informatics Specialist||$41,000-$92,000|
|Digital Marketing Manager||$44,000-$93,000|
|Marketing Communications Manager||$48,000-$108,000|
|Director of Communications||$51,000-$123,000|
|Investor Relations Manager||$53,000-$133,000|
|Vice President of Marketing||$96,000-$213,000|
Professionals who have earned master’s degrees typically earn more because they advance to managerial and executive-level positions. Average earnings vary depending on your specialization and geographic location as well as your experience. The size of the company also affects average earnings according to data from 900 MMC graduates.
Average Earnings of MMC Graduates Based on Employer Size
Master of communication graduates are employed in a diverse array of industries. You might work for a major TV network, a Fortune 500 company or a humanitarian aid group. Take a look at some of these popular communications careers to see which options appeal to you.
|JOB TITLE||JOB DESCRIPTION||MEDIAN SALARY||PROJECTED GROWTH RATE|
|Public Relations Specialist||Also called communications specialists or media specialists, these professionals prepare press releases, speeches and public opinion polls. They develop strategies for assessing and improving their organization’s public image. PR specialists also function as press secretaries within government agencies.||$59,300 per year||28%|
|Social Service or Community Service Manager||Large nonprofits and small community-based organizations employ community service managers who are responsible for overseeing programs, developing operating strategies and raising awareness. Communications graduates who have strong analytic and marketing skills can excel in this rewarding career.||$64,100 per year||18%|
|Technical Writer or Communicator||Technical communicators work in publishing as well as the IT and engineering industries, where they serve as a link between product designers and end users. These professionals select appropriate communications channels, prepare technical documentation and standardize content across platforms.||$70,930 per year||11%|
|Public Relations Manager/Fundraising Manager||As the manager of a PR team, communications professionals coordinate content development strategies to protect or enhance the reputation of their employer or their employer’s clients. In nonprofits, communications professionals may direct fundraising activities and develop strategies for reaching donors and mobilizing supporters.||$111,280 per year||10%|
|Advertising or Marketing Manager||Communications graduates work in major advertising firms and in-house departments. They coordinate all aspects of the marketing process, such as identifying target audiences, completing research and developing effective ad campaigns. They serve as a link between the organization’s creative and financial departments.||$129,380 per year||10%|
Professional membership associations can be your ally before and after graduation. These groups provide resources for earning certifications, advancing your credentials and networking with peers. Because communications graduates work in many fields, they frequently join niche groups for professionals in business administration, marketing, public relations, journalism and mass media. If you haven’t selected a specialization or if you’re interested in general resources, these industry associations can help.
National Communication Association: This membership group provides academic and practical resources for teachers, scholars and professionals who work in all areas of the media and communication industries. The NCA manages a career center, publishes academic journals, funds research and supports free speech advocacy.
International Association of Business Communicators: The IABC offers a wealth of resources to global professionals who specialize in PR, marketing, investor relations, social responsibility and related disciplines. Its resources help communications experts advance their careers, network with peers, develop new skills and solve day-to-day business challenges.
Public Relations Society of America: This 30,000-strong organization ensures that communications professionals are smarter, more efficient and better connected through all stages of their careers. The association establishes best practices, offers professional development resources and promotes innovation across the industry. It also operates the Public Relations Student Society of America.
Social Media Association: Created for members of the digital media community, this industry group provides career assistance, job postings and educational resources. It also organizes industry summits and in-person events led by inspirational speakers and thought leaders.
Financing Your Online Master’s in Communication
As a current or prospective student, the cost of a college education is probably one of your top concerns. Generally, online master’s degrees are significantly more affordable than on-campus classes. Plus, they give you the freedom to enter the workforce faster or to study part-time while you work. You may also qualify for scholarships and federal grants that can further reduce the cost of tuition, textbooks and related expenses. To see which resources are available, start by completing your online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Individual colleges and regional nonprofits also offer financial assistance. Review the resources below to find other programs that can make an advanced degree more affordable.