Online Master's Programs in Journalism

Updated on: 12/13/2018

An online master's degree in journalism provides students with a thorough understanding of the complexities of narratives, advanced research methods, and the art of writing engaging and concise copy. Through core courses, specializations, and personal research, graduate students can take the next step from their undergraduate degree with journalism ethics, diversity and sensitivity training, and new media. Along with enhanced earning potential, many master's degrees in journalism offer students the chance to direct their future careers by focusing their studies in the fields they wish to work.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), above-average job growth is projected through 2026 for many careers available to journalism graduates. As new forms of media develop and employment preference is given to candidates with experience in them, the demand for recent journalism graduates will continue growing. Read on to discover what obtaining a master's in journalism online can do for you and what available programs might be best suited to your interests.

What to Know About Online Master's in Journalism Coursework

An online master's in journalism prepares graduates for the competitive, diverse world of media and communications. As students work toward their degree, they acquire in-depth training in facets of the profession like reporting, writing, and editing. Compared to undergraduate degrees, journalism master's degrees offer more rigorous and involved practical training, more advanced teachings, and more specialization options. Many schools require an internship, ensuring students get the necessary experience before graduation.

Along with obtaining skills necessary to work with most media and communications platforms, graduates acquire an understanding of the values, principles, and integrity required to work at the media industry's highest levels. Most journalism master's programs take one to two years to complete and require 30 credits. While online master's degrees in journalism typically do not differ from the on-campus programs, applicants should take note of any residency requirements.

What Common Courses are Offered in a Master's in Journalism Program?

The courses taken during an online master's degree in journalism may differ by school, but some appear as mainstays in many programs. Below is a sample curriculum highlighting courses students might find at the program they choose.

Online Journalism

This course explores media platforms seen in online journalism; students learn to use each digital platform to its full potential. Students also learn how to critique and analyze online media and look to the future of the medium.

Documentary Production

Documentary production helps students develop skills in documentary film and long-form report creation. The course looks at storytelling methods and uncovers new ways of producing captivating storylines. Students gain skills in story creation and script writing, as well as shooting and editing videos.

Investigative Reporting

Courses in investigative reporting provide students with the skills and techniques required for investigative journalism, but also highlight the history of that style of reporting and why it is necessary. These courses often teach students how to develop and maintain sources, as well as how to conduct research and create compelling stories.

Sports Journalism

Sports journalism courses offer students specialized training in sports reporting. Students learn how to write on a specialized platform and how to best address the target audience. They also gain knowledge in sports journalism ethics and learn how to approach and overcome challenges and storylines confronting the industry.

Narrative Writing

While writing is integral to many journalism courses, narrative writing focuses on the art of storytelling and how audiences engage with that artform. Narratives are embedded in nearly every text because they help in reader retention and comprehension. Narrative writing courses also teach students how to draw narratives from research and how to create reports that fuel narratives.

What Specializations are Available in a Master's in Journalism Program?

Degree specializations and concentrations allow students to fine-tune their degree into a specific field of their choosing. Each specialization features different requirements for completion, with some adding time to the overall degree. Depending on the school, available concentrations differ, but the list below highlights some of the more commonly offered options in master's degrees in journalism and mass communication degrees.

Cultural Reporting

Students learn how to report and analyze evolving cultural and social issues. They explore how these issues and many underrepresented cultures have been reported in the past. This course helps prepare graduates to approach cultural diversity in their professions and informs them how to do so with sensitivity.

Politics

A concentration in politics offers journalism graduate students a well-versed perspective, teaching them how to think about issues and how to report them more accurately. The interdisciplinary concentration combines journalism with approaches in political science and political theory. Students explore political institutions and issues like nationalism, as well as some of the larger social movements. Students uncover methods for reporting on these issues without bias and with sensitivity.

Business and Economics

This specialization helps students better understand the global marketplace, as well as the forces acting upon it and how businesses communicate within and about it. Students examine different economies, then explore and draw stories from this research. The concentration prepares graduates to work within the business and financial world.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Though programs differ, the most common final project in an online master's degree in journalism typically involves a paper, report, or video piece of publishable quality. While some programs require students to complete a research-heavy master's thesis or research project, the emphasis in most journalism programs is on the practical approach.

The type of capstone project required depends on the student's program and concentration. It might include a completed investigative report, news broadcast, or magazine article on a political situation. Students must take their learning from the program and incorporate it into the piece in a thoughtful way, demonstrating a control and understanding of the material and specific reporting method.

How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Journalism Program?

The most important thing to verify when picking a graduate program is an institution's regional accreditation. This can be checked online through the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. While there is no mandatory program accreditation for graduate journalism programs, the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications offers accreditation to programs meeting the highest industry standards.

Along with ensuring accreditation, students can look at the institution's faculty when researching quality in a program. A faculty's qualifications, publications, and awards received may provide some indication as to how they rank among their peers. For students interested in a specific concentration or specialization, identifying a staff with similar or complementary interests provides more potential support for their educational path. It's also important to know what degrees the institution confers. Some online graduate programs in journalism admit only students seeking doctoral degrees. If a master's degree is the end goal, verify that the school chosen allows it.

Career Opportunities With a Master's in Journalism Degree

While many students seek careers as journalists, this is not the only career path available. When seeking an online master's degree in journalism, a student's educational path helps determine what career options might be available after graduation. Along with strong communication skills gained, journalism students may take concentrations, specializations, or additional certifications that open other career opportunities.

Though the career options listed below highlight more common possibilities, a master's degree in journalism does not guarantee eligibility for any of the following positions. Some companies may require additional training, credentials, and/or experience from candidates.

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

Advertising managers make campaigns intended to create interest in a product or service. They identify key features needed and communicate those in the most appealing way to the target audience. While a bachelor's degree is the most common requirement, an advanced degree in journalism provides candidates with better opportunities, like management or positions in more desirable organizations. Some courses in business and/or marketing, as well as advertising internships, may be required.

Median Salary: $129,380 per year

Currently Employed: 249,600

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: +10%

Writers and Authors

Career options for writers and authors vary greatly, from writing creative content to website and/or product copy. The research and writing expertise gained from a graduate degree in journalism prepares candidates to satisfy the requirements for many writing positions. Graduates with specializations, concentrations, and/or work experience may benefit from even more writing opportunities.

Median Salary: $61,820 per year

Currently Employed: 131,200

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: +8%

Technical Writers

Tasked with creating clear and detailed instructive copy, like instruction manuals, technical writers take complex material and re-broadcast it in digestible formats for end users. While some technical writer positions require candidates with additional training in specific fields, most require a bachelor's degree in journalism or a related field. With a master's degree in journalism, however, candidates may be eligible for more advanced positions. The research experience gained in graduate programs helps these writers absorb the necessary information and relay it concisely.

Median Salary: $70,930 per year

Currently Employed: 52,400

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: +11%

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

Public relations managers manage and maintain the image of a product, person, and/or service. They typically act as the voice between the end user and the company, ensuring all communications come out clear and accurate. The emphasis on communication in a journalism degree makes it an ideal educational path to this career. Since candidates with a master's degree in journalism typically boast advanced research and communications training, they make strong public relations professionals. This advanced degree also provides students the opportunity to specialize in a field like public relations or fundraising.

Median Salary: $111,280 per year

Currently Employed: 73,500

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: +10%

Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts

Through various formats and mediums, reporters and correspondents relay information to their intended audience. This heavy communication requirement makes journalism one of the more typical education paths for the career. A graduate with a master's degree in journalism receives more advanced training and experience than an undergraduate, typically resulting in better job opportunities and higher pay. A graduate program also allows students to specialize in a certain field, creating even more opportunities after graduation.

Median Salary: $40,910 per year

Currently Employed: 50,400

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: -9%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

What's the Expected Job Growth for Journalism Careers?

The job growth for journalism careers looks strong through 2026, with writing, marketing, and public relations careers projected to grow at rates equal to or faster than the average career. Though traditional reporter and news correspondent positions are projected to decrease in growth, the average media and communication occupation is projected to grow on par with the national average career.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Journalism

Professional organizations provide members with a strong support system, access to industry resources, professional training, and educational opportunities. For new journalism professionals, the benefits from enlisting in these organizations can be vast. From accessing job boards and additional training programs to networking and industry events, professional organizations offer valuable opportunities to journalism professionals at any stage of their careers. Below are some of the biggest professional organizations for students in online master's in journalism programs.

  • National Writers Union

    The NWU is a labor union for freelance writers in every genre and format. The union also hosts a large member database assisting in promoting their services. Additionally, the NWU provides members with insurance and aids in workplace and/or contract grievances.

  • American Society of Journalists and Authors

    The ASJA represents independent nonfiction writers and freelancers. The organization strives to improve the industry standards and maintain the freedoms of writers. Along with professional development opportunities, ASJA provides market information and discount services to its members.

  • The Society of Professional Journalists

    The SPJ fights for journalist rights across the country and strives to protect the freedoms and practices of the industry. The society also provides professional development and scholarship opportunities to its members.

  • Public Relations Society of America

    The PRSA represents communications professionals in several ways, like providing professional development opportunities, voicing industry concerns, and advocating for better values and diversity in the field.

  • News Media Alliance

    The NMA is a multiplatform, multimedia organization advocating for better industry standards and opportunities for all media professionals. The organization is dedicated to improving public policy, as it relates to media, and looks to expand the opportunities available to its members.

How to Pay for a Master's in Journalism Degree

One of the primary concerns for students is funding. Thankfully, students in journalism master's programs benefit from several types of financial aid. Typically, the first step is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). After that, students should explore funding opportunities provided by their journalism program and professional journalism organizations. For graduate students, work-study programs, fellowships, and assistantships provide excellent funding potential, as well as experience.

Federal Financial Aid

The FAFSA is the most common type of funding for students in higher education. Federal aid provides opportunities for grant money and loans with low interest rates. The FAFSA is available to undergraduate and graduate students and the free application should encourage all students to explore it.

Program Scholarships

Depending on the program and school, students may benefit from scholarships available only to students within the journalism program. At some schools, like Boston University, the journalism department provides financial opportunities to graduate students enrolled in the master's program. Program scholarship eligibility may require applications and/or specific academic achievements.

Professional Organization Scholarships

Journalism students should also explore the various professional organizations in the industry. In an effort to stimulate growth in the field and encourage capable students to earn a master's degree in journalism, some organizations, like the Society of Professional Journalists, provide scholarships to graduate students in pursuit of a journalism degree.

Fellowships and Work-Study Programs

For graduate students, fellowships and work-study programs represent one of the most common funding methods. Graduate students in journalism may receive funding in return for teaching undergraduate classes, grading papers, or performing research within the department. New York University, for example, provides eligible graduate students with work-study options in various departments, as well as fellowship opportunities.