What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Journalism Program?

Journalists research and write news reports for print, broadcast and digital media. An online master’s in journalism program can open up new professional career paths or revive a stagnant career. Students learn valuable journalistic skills with most advanced degree programs emphasizing the growing field of digital media, which veteran journalists may not have been previously exposed to. Besides an undergraduate degree, some online journalism graduate programs require applicants to have some professional experience in the field, but others don’t. For working journalists, one of the primary benefits of continuing your education online is the flexibility it offers. Professionals can continue working while enhancing their professional knowledge and leaderships skills by earning their master’s degree. Because programs vary greatly, compare curriculum, concentrations, format and cost to find the right program for your career goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Journalism

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION POSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
Investigative Journalism Covers the investigative process with an emphasis on the importance of documentary evidence and the traditional forms of investigative materials. Investigative print or broadcast reporter/journalist
Documentary Trains students in the craft of long-form visual storytelling and the business side of documentary production. Documentary writer, documentary producer, documentary filmmaker
Politics Learn how politics works, including social and political affairs and the formation of the nation state and political institutions. Political journalist, political correspondent, press secretary
Business and Economics An online master’s in journalism with a concentration in business and economics emphasizes the global marketplace, global economy, national economy, financial markets and corporate and individual economics. Investigative journalist, business and economics reporter, features writer
Arts and Culture Helps students develop historical knowledge and contextual understanding across a broad range of disciplines and examine the emotional force of the arts while finding news value and writing with authority without buying into this emotion. Cultural reporter, art critic
Science Focus on scientific fields with an emphasis on understanding the culture and practice of science, whether it involves hard sciences, health or technology a solid understanding of the fundamental tools of economic analysis. Investigative reporter, medical writer

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Journalism

Curriculum for online master’s degrees in journalism vary by school, but most programs have similar core courses and allow you to enroll in a wide variety of electives to customize your degree. Choosing a specific concentration helps meet your personal and professional needs and goals. Some programs are offered fully online, but some are hybrid programs offered partially online and on-campus. Many programs require a capstone project or thesis to conclude the program and finish your degree. Despite the differences, many programs offer similar coursework, which may include these courses.

COURSES DESCRIPTION
News Writing and Reporting Improve your reporting and news writing skills, including interviewing, researching and fact-checking.
Investigative Techniques Develop in-depth researching skills using multiple sources of information and the many ways to gather, verify and evaluate facts to create unique and accurate written materials.
Feature Writing Learn to balance informative reporting with an earnest narrative that gives issues the human touch while helping expand their interview skills and develop their writer’s voice.
Deadline Writing Focus on the techniques and ability needed to put together accurate, clearly-written stories on a deadline.
Journalism Ethics Explore the ethical issues that often arise in journalism, including the importance of verifying information and the relationship between personal values and journalistic decisions like the pressure of writing on a deadline.
Journalism Law Cover the protections and restrictions of the law as they apply to journalism, including significant court cases and legal rules and journalistic standards both domestically and internationally.
Business of Journalism Examine the historic challenges and changes in the journalism industry and business issues that affect journalism organizations.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Journalism?

The time it takes to complete your online master’s degree in journalism depends on many factors, including whether you enroll as a full-time or part-time student. Another big factor is whether the program allows you to work at your own pace or if it’s a cohort-based program that requires you to complete the program requirements along with your classmates. Whatever the format, programs typically range from 30 to 36 credits, and most students complete their degree in two years. However, accelerated programs may be completed in as little as one year.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Journalism Prepares For

CERTIFICATION DESCRIPTION
Certified Journalism Educator Completing your online master’s in journalism could help fulfill some of the requirements to apply for Certified Journalism Educator status from the Journalism Education Association.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Journalism

Accreditation assures students a school meets the basic standards of educational excellence when measured against national standards. Colleges and universities may be accredited in three ways, including national, regional or program-specific accreditation. Regional and national accreditation agencies are recognized by the Department of Education or Council for Higher Education Accreditation and assess the school as a whole. To ensure eligibility for federal and state financial aid and many private scholarships, always choose an accredited school.

Program-specific accreditation is less common and only assesses a specific department or degree path. While online programs have gained in popularity, it’s relatively new for them to receive accreditation. However, some distance learning programs, including some online master’s in journalism programs, are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Also, the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication is the agency responsible for the evaluation of professional journalism and mass communications programs in colleges and universities. Some schools have sought accreditation through this organization for their online journalism programs.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Journalism Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Earning your bachelor’s degree in journalism prepares you for many entry-level jobs; however, journalists seeking higher level positions, especially managerial roles, often find quicker promotion with a master’s degree. Besides quicker advancement, your advanced degree also sets you up for a higher salary. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, journalism professionals with bachelor’s degree earn a median salary of $56,000, but those with a master’s degree earn a median salary of $71,000. Earning your master’s degree in journalism online offers the same upward mobility and salary capacity as completing the same program through a traditional on-campus program.

Expected Salary

Besides the level of your education, your salary is dependent on the size of the company that employs you and your years of professional experience. For an idea of what various journalism-related professionals earn, consider the salary ranges of these popular careers.

Job Title Salary Range
Journalist $24,168–$72,409
Reporter $25,111–$69,800
Editor $33,253–$82,080
Communications Manager $40,707–$96,139
Editor in Chief $43,280–$134,272

Source: PayScale.com

The expected salary of journalists also varies greatly based on where they work. As demonstrated below, reporters and correspondents make much more in some states than others. This table illustrates the vast different between the top three paying states compared to the three states with the lowest expected salary for reporters and correspondents.

Annual Mean Wages for Reporters and Correspondents Based on Metropolitan Area

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Opportunities

Your online master’s in journalism program provides you with highly transferable skills that open up numerous professional opportunities. Your learned skills provide you with the ability to perform accurate research and write concise, entertaining stories of interest to a broad audience. This makes you a valuable asset whether you work for print, broadcast or digital media outlets. You also have the option to work freelance and cater to a variety of clients.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Writer or Author Writers and authors develop written content for various types of media, which may include fictional stories, novels, poetry or script or nonfiction reporting, blogs, advertising material, biographies or technical papers. $61,820 per year 8%
Editors Editors assign, review and revise content for print or online publication in newspapers, magazines, books, broadcast news, websites and other media. $58,770 per year -1%
Technical Writers Technical writers transform technical information into more easily digested material as they prepare journal articles, instruction manuals, technical guides and other supporting documents for distribution through various channels of communication. $70,930 per year 11%
Public Relations Specialist Public relations specialists use their writing skills to create and maintain a favorable public image for the individuals, companies or organizations they represent, which may include crafting print and/or online media releases and social media programs. If your online master’s in journalism program had a concentration in politics, you may work for government officials or agencies in a public relations capacity as a press secretary. $59,300 per year 9%

Professional Organizations

Journalists are part of a tight-knit group that offers support to other professionals in all types of workplaces, from small-town newspaper reporters to foreign correspondents working for major news networks. Joining professional organizations provides the support new journalists need to succeed with networking, training, mentoring, job leads and other members-only benefits. Some notable organizations for journalism professionals include:

Society of Professional Journalists: As one of the most broad-based journalism organizations in the nation, the SPJ strives to inspire and educate current and future journalists. SPJ membership offers numerous benefits, including national and regional conferences, numerous training programs, career support and job listings, industry insights, professional publications and advocacy in your chosen vocation.

National Press Club: Designed for journalism, communications and public relations professionals, the NPC is a vigorous advocate of freedom of press nationally and worldwide. It offers numerous career development, networking and social opportunities, including professional training and workshops, internal newsletters, conferences and other members-only benefits.

Online News Association: Intended especially for digital journalists, the ONA is a nonprofit organization that connects journalism and technology. Benefits include networking and training opportunities like volunteer-led local meetups, a premier journalism industry conference, a career center, online journalism awards and significant members-only discounts for events and workshops from partner organizations.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Journalism

While online master’s in journalism programs typically cost less than on-campus programs, paying for an advanced degree is still a financial investment some students have trouble affording. Online students have many of the same financial aid resources as traditional students. Start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to learn about scholarships, grants, loans and work-study programs offered through the federal government. Many states also use this form to see if you qualify for state aid, but some require a separate form. There are also numerous scholarships, fellowships and other financial assistance available from a variety of professional organizations, nonprofits and corporations, including some especially for online students. Review the following resources for more information on financial assistance.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

Bodie McDowell Scholarship

Award: $1,000-$5,000

Deadline: March

Eligibility: All college students from all communications and journalism disciplines at any school; degree program must have an outdoor communications emphasis.

Feldman Fellowship for Graduate Studies in Journalism

Award: $5,000

Deadline: May

Eligibility: Full-time or part-time graduate students enrolled in a journalism program.

Walter J. Travis Memorial Scholarship

Award: $1,000 (renewable)

Deadline: June

Eligibility: Full-time graduate students enrolled in a 2-year or 4-year accredited college, whose journalism program includes a concentration in sports journalism with a special interest in golf.