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It is not uncommon for bachelor’s degree students to consider taking up a communication studies program. Online masters in communication programs prepare graduates for leadership roles in the diverse communications field. In a communication program, prospective students learn communication theory and communication research methods and develop excellent communication skills to work in a plethora of roles and settings, such as crisis communication, strategic communications, integrated marketing communications, public relations, health communication, mass communication, organizational communication, marketing communications, journalism, academia, advertising, social media, etc. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nationwide employment in media and communications occupations is projected to grow 6%, from 2016 to 2026, generating 43,200 new jobs.
This comprehensive guide provides a detailed overview of the types of masters in communication programs, current school admission requirements, industry job projections, recent salaries, and more.
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A good online master is hard to find because there are hundreds of programs to choose from. The best-rated online master’s in communication programs deliver a top-notch, 100 percent online education with specializations in the field. The factors that go into determining which communication degree is the best, include – the program’s flexibility, online support, length of the program, accreditation, experience of faculty members, and tuition. Considering all these factors, here are the best online master’s in communication programs in the United States:
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Tuition for an online master can vary dramatically based on whether the university is a public or private institution, and whether grad students attend classes on a full or part-time basis. Tuition and fees for a communication program are generally lower for in-state students than for those from out of state. All things considered, however, an affordable communication program should be cost-effective and not require the student to reach out for too much financial aid. Here are the most affordable online master’s in communication programs in the United States:
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Understanding the Online Master’s in Communication Program
Before applying and getting admitted into an online master’s in communication program, it is essential to understand the communication program in depth. To begin with, online programs are almost entirely off-campus and require students to pursue their master’s degree in an online learning environment. In a communications program, online students engage themselves in diverse topics, ranging from strategic communications and communication theory to organizational communication and health communication.
The following sections shed more light on communications programs, what this online master entails, details on specializations and accreditation, and more.
Specializations in an Online Master’s in Communication Program
Master’s in communication programs offer several specializations in key focus areas of the subject. While in most cases, core courses tend to be largely common, electives and concentrations make for a point of specialization, through which students can open many more career paths for themselves. Here are some of the most popular concentration areas and specializations in master’s in communication programs:
Audience Analytics Audience Analytics provides students with a thorough understanding of consumer and audience research methods and analytics. They learn how to use various analytical tools and methodological underpinnings to assess and analyze audience-related datasets and determine how to use such data to make informed decisions. The University of Florida offers an online Master of Arts in Mass Communication with a concentration in Audience Analytics.
Global Strategic Communication The global strategic communication concentration educates students on how to effectively communicate across cultures and geographic borders in order to propose answers to global issues such as climate change, immigration, poverty, human rights, business ethics, education, and more. Students learn how to address problems on a global scale by employing strategic interpersonal communication skills while taking cultural factors into account. This focus provides students with the tools and abilities they need to use intelligent and strategic communication to take on some of the world’s most challenging issues.
Political Communication With a focus on digital political communication, students can learn about the most cutting-edge methods of online participation and campaign monitoring. To increase political participation and effect change, students use the current campaigning instruments at their disposal. An important part of the course is learning the ability to use cutting-edge political technology and paid communication to impact change and rally people, as well as the ability to maximize political engagement using digital tools.
Public Interest Communication A focus on public interest communication has grown in popularity as a multidisciplinary, systems-level study with strategic implications that extend beyond an organization’s communications function. Students who choose this emphasis will gain the skills, methods, concepts, and techniques necessary to create movements and drive positive social change through strategic communication. This multidisciplinary program relies on practice and scholarship in public relations, journalism, advertising, psychology, sociology, political science, anthropology, and neuroscience and incorporates both academic and practical work.
Social Media Students who major in social media marketing learn how to handle its entire process, including writing, video production, and brand promotion, among others. Students learn how to use research to guide content development, construct effective advertising and public relations campaigns, and use new and emerging technologies to reach out to their target audience. They will also learn how to put all these skills together to create distinctive narratives that appeal to and engage their target audience in meaningful ways. Graduates will be able to apply best practices across all major social media platforms, as well as schedule and manage social media accounts for their clients.
Digital Strategy The concentration in digital strategy is intended to enable students to create effective messaging that will boost conversions and build long-term brand loyalty among their target consumers. Students in digital strategy classes learn everything from online ad buying to inbound marketing, including lead creation and management, engagement, conversions, and more. The curriculum teaches students how to generate leads using creative and strategic messaging, how to create meaningful branding that resonates with customers, how to write compelling copy for any digital channel, including websites, email marketing, and social media, and how to use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools to improve business outcomes.
Timeline for Online Communication Master’s Programs
Most graduate programs take an average of two years to complete, and communication degree programs also require about the same time. However, the exact length and duration of the communications program vary by college, specialization, and coursework, and whether or not the online program is being pursued full-time or part-time. Part-time communication studies usually require at least three years to culminate in a master’s degree.
Accreditation for Communications Programs
Accreditation is very important when choosing a master’s degree. It becomes even more important for an online master’s in communication program. With so many online programs available, the quality of the program becomes a huge determinant? Prospective students can be confident about the quality of the communication program is accredited by independent organizations such as The American Communication Association (ACA), or Accrediting Council of Education in Journal, and Mass Communication (ACEJMC). Many online master’s programs are accredited by national accrediting associations or regional accrediting bodies. A regionally accredited institution or accredited online program guarantees quality faculty members and easier access to financial aid and endorses the overall quality of the degree program as well. More information on accreditation is in the Best Accreditation Guide.
The admission requirements for an online master’s in communications degree program vary by university. The requirements also depend on the applicant’s background, bachelor’s degree, professional experience, etc. But some common admission requirements include:
Completion of a bachelor’s degree
Professional communications experience.
Two to three letters of recommendation from professors, employers, or coworkers.
It is important to know that a lot of the above requirements may not apply to many online master’s and/or can be waived depending on the school that is offering the program.
Curriculum & Skills Gained from Master’s in Communication Programs
The curriculum and courses of a communication online master are an extension of those found in a bachelor’s degree. However, they largely depend upon the school and the chosen specialization of the communication program. But most universities divide their master’s in communication program into three areas – 1) Core Courses, 2) Elective Courses, and 3) Capstone Courses. Here are some core courses and topics one can expect in an online masters in communication program:
Strategic Communication Management
Leadership in Communication
Internet Impact and Policy
Digital Communication Techniques
Ethics in Communication
Visual Data Communication
Professional Social Media
Media Production Management
Communication Skills & Professional Writing
Qualitative Research Methods
Quantitative Research Methods
Social Media Marketing
Digital Media Strategies
Organizational Development & Organizational Communications
Advanced Communication Theory
Integrated Marketing Communications
Public and Media Relations
Online Masters in Communication No GRE
In general, most online programs at the graduate level require a standardized test score, such as that of the GRE, to be an admission requirement. Fortunately for some, a few universities will allow online students to apply to a communications program, without the need for the GRE score. Here are some online masters in communication no GRE programs:
How to Pay for Online Master’s In Communication Programs?
An online program is, more often than not, an expensive pursuit. In the United States, an online master’s tuition costs in a communication program can run into thousands of dollars. Fortunately, there are loans, grants, and scholarships for graduate students, from the federal or state government, communications associations and employers, that can help fund communications studies. In addition, many universities and communication departments offer institutional grants, scholarships, and tuition waivers. Typically, financial aid may be based on the student’s financial need, academic excellence, or a combination of both. Universities offering online communications master’s programs require aid aspirants to begin their application for aid at the Department of Education’s online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Read more about FAFSA and financial aid for graduate online programs on the Best Financial Guide.
Scholarships for graduate students in communications?
With online programs costing a fair amount of money, it is prudent for students to explore the scholarship route to fund their online master. Here are some communication scholarships grad students can apply for:
FAQs about Online Master’s in Communication Programs
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there specialized jobs available to communication programs graduates?
Yes, an online master’s in communications graduate can expect jobs in specialized settings, such as in strategic communication, health communication, public relations, interpersonal communication, corporate communication, and more. In addition to these communications specialists can be well-suited for roles in print, broadcast, and digital journalism as well. Additionally, and depending upon the specialization of the communications program, there are jobs in public diplomacy, communications consulting, translation, corporate event planning, brand managers, and human resource experts.
What is an online master’s in communication program?
An online master in communication is a graduate-level degree that prepares students for leadership roles in the areas of public relations, marketing, media relations, branding, integrated marketing communication, political communication, strategic communication, etc.
Should I do an online master’s in communication program?
If one wants to take advantage of lucrative career opportunities in the field of communication, then yes, one should certainly take up an online program in communication. Graduates will qualify for many career titles and upward mobility opportunities, with masters in communication degree. However, it is important to note that a communications program should always be done in a regionally accredited institution or one in which the program is directly accredited.
Is an online master’s in communication program worth it?
Yes, a masters in communications is worth it. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), communication professionals working as public relations specialists can expect a median annual wage of $61,150, and the job outlook is 7%, which is higher than average. So conclusively, to qualify and stand out for such roles, an online master’s in communications helps.
Careers And Salaries for Online Master’s in Communication Graduates
Online programs and communication studies, prepare graduates to take on diverse roles in the world of communications, and work in various settings. Here are a few examples:
Public & Media Relations
Integrated Marketing Communications
Unlike individuals who hold only a bachelor’s degree, graduates of an online master’s in communications can also take on college teaching jobs, or leadership positions in their field. The following are some career-field options, along with annual median pay as reported by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), communication studies graduates are qualified for:
Certifications and Licensing for Online Master’s in Communication Students
Graduating from a communications program will certainly enhance careers. But when coupled with certifications and some licenses, it will most certainly open up several more career paths, and place one ahead of the competition. Certifications help students learn and acquire more knowledge and gain better communication skills in a specific area of the communications field. The following are some certifications and licensing options for graduates of online programs in communication to consider:
The Global Communication Certification Council (GCCC), a team of communication professionals assembled by IABC’s international executive board, has developed two certifications: The Communication Management Professional (CMP) certification and the Strategic Communication Management Professional (SCMP) certification.
IABC offers two forms of certification in business communications: Communication Management Professional Certification, and Communication Management Professional (CMP), for generalists, specialists, and other business communicators established in their careers as managers and looking to demonstrate their competence.
The Certified Journalist Institute and the Global Academy of Finance and Management awards certifications that can boost qualifications for employment. The institute offers certifications including the CPS Certified Political Scientist, CPJ Certified in Political Journalism, CIR Certified Investigative Reporter, the CFR Certified Financial Reporter, and the CTJ Certified Technology Journalist.
The Medical Writing Certification Commission (MWCC), in collaboration with the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), has developed the Medical Writer Certified (MWC) credential that defines the scope of medical writing practice and distinguishes individuals in the field. The MWC credentialing program is a rigorous, exam-based professional certification. Professionals who hold this credential have demonstrated their understanding of medical writing core competencies.
Additional Resources Online Masters in Communication Students
Communications master’s students benefit from memberships in professional organizations and associations. Members of these associations find opportunities for aiding their communication studies program, exploring careers, and networking with industry professionals. While one online learning consortium may focus on academic resources, another may host conferences, offer scholarships, career certifications, and advanced training across disciplines. Here are a few additional resources for students and working professionals to tap into:
Social Media Association(SMA) In this era of ever-advancing communication options, the SMA helps its members to update their skills and take advantage of best practices in social media. Members participate in association events and have access to a contemporary blog of social media news.
American Communications Association(ACA) The ACA is a not-for-profit virtual professional association with an actual presence in the world of communication scholars and practitioners. ACA is committed to enabling the effective use of new and evolving technologies to facilitate communication instruction, research, and criticism, and to offering a technologically supportive venue for all who study how humans communicate. While the association is based in the U.S, it is a virtual organization that welcomes participation from academics and professionals throughout the world.
Society for Editing Members of this society include editing professionals, educators, and post-secondary students. It establishes standards of editorial excellence and networking opportunities for editors employed in journalism, business, and government.
National School Public Relations Association(NSPRA) The NSPRA works to assure that university degree programs provide students with the necessary career skills in the planning and execution of public relations initiatives.
Association for Women in Communications(AWC) All disciplines in communication are supported by this national network for women professionals who work in communications. AWC provides scholarships and supports educational research.
Public Relations Society of America(PRSA) The world’s largest society of public relations professionals, the PRSA assists its members in professional development. More than 10,000 members are affiliated with universities.
International Association of Business Communicators(IABC) IABC membership is open to professionals who work in the business communication field. It offers its members access to educational resources, a business communications library certification, and an online journal.
The American Marketing Association(AMA) The American Marketing Association offers members access to resources for developing best marketing practices along with cutting-edge initiatives. The group pairs academic members with professional marketers to provide continuing education in integrated marketing communication.
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