Media communications professionals work in public relations, digital media, advertising, and broadcast media to communicate an organization's mission to the public. Earning an online media and communication master's degree qualifies graduates for management-level positions in their field, including public relations manager and advertising manager. Graduates also work as copywriters, social media specialists, reporters, and political communications specialists. Within media communications, graduate students can specialize their degree by pursuing a concentration, such as a master's of communication in digital media.
Media communications, a versatile degree with multiple career paths, appeals to professionals who want to increase their job opportunities and salary potential. This article introduces the best online master's programs in media communications, the career outlooks for graduates with a master's degree, and scholarship opportunities for media communications students.
During an online media and communication master's program, graduate students build strengths in digital communications, media literacy, strategic communications, and communication campaign strategy. Most programs require 30-36 credits to complete the degree, which typically takes two years for students enrolled full time. Students complete coursework requirements, build experience through a capstone project, and demonstrate their advanced communications skills. The degree prepares graduates for careers in public relations, advertising, digital media, and other communications fields.
Online programs offer flexibility and accessibility that appeals to students balancing school with work or family obligations. Depending on the program, online students may complete coursework at their own pace or with their cohort. In an accredited online media communications program, students collaborate in virtual teams, communicate with faculty advisers, and meet the same standards as an accredited on-campus program.
Media communications programs offer courses in all areas of communications, including media literacy and media production management. While the specific courses may vary depending on the program and the student's specialization, the following common courses introduce prospective students to the curriculum for an online media and communication master's degree.
Students apply knowledge gained in media literacy classes to a digital environment. The course may examine interactive media, and video games, as well as voice and video transmissions. The course covers the ways that digital technology shapes content and how digital media influences individuals and society. Graduate students also build strategies to analyze digital media.
Courses in media literacy study the transmission of information through mass communication. The course may cover research on media consumption and its influence on behavior, the relationship between media literacy and technology, and how to create effective messages for media outlets.
Media economics classes examine media ownership patterns and their influence on the economics of media. The course may cover the connections between public and private media companies, the recent concentration of media ownership, and the role of regulations in media economics. Students may also study issues of gender and diversity in media ownership.
In strategic communications classes, graduate students study the role of a communications manager, as well as materials for internal and external audiences. Learners also examine how to manage direct and indirect communications in the field of marketing.
This course explores production management within media communications to understand how communications campaigns operate, including the design, research, and planning processes for a strategic communications campaign; the relationship between branches of communications such as public relations, advertising, and marketing; and using media productions to achieve an organization's objectives.
Graduate students enrolled in a media communications program pursue a variety of specializations, depending on their interests and desired career path. Programs may offer specializations in marketing, digital media, public relations, advertising, and social media. Prospective students should research their potential program's available specializations.
A digital media specialization emphasizes online content, social media, and digital platforms. Students learn about communicating in a modern media environment, examine digital community outreach, and prepare for careers in online content strategy.
With a public relations specialization, media communications students learn how to research and design PR campaigns, as well as build strong relationships with the public. Specialists in media public relations may also take courses in acting as a spokesperson and media outreach.
An advertising specialization trains communications professionals on designing advertising campaigns, writing copy for advertisements, and media outreach strategy. Advertising and marketing offer growing opportunities for communications specialists with a master's degree, who work as advertising managers, senior copywriters, and senior copy editors.
Each program designs its own exams and projects, but typically, master's students complete a final project or exam before graduating. During their coursework, media communication students write research papers and take examinations.
Many programs that offer an online master's degree in mass communication and media studies require a capstone project, which integrates the program's coursework with real-world knowledge and builds skills that translate into the workforce. For example, students may complete a digital media communications campaign or design a public relations strategy. Depending on the program, graduate students may also take a master's exam.
With so many options for online media and communication master's programs, prospective students may worry about how to make an informed choice. Checking accreditation status remains one of the best ways to identify institutions with quality media communications programs. Accreditation acts as a marker of academic excellence, indicating that a university follows the best practices in higher education. Independent, nonprofit accrediting agencies evaluate universities on several factors, including faculty qualifications, graduation requirements and rates, and student learning outcomes. Students who attend a regionally accredited institution also qualify for federal financial aid.
In addition to accreditation status, prospective students need to research each program's graduate placement record, requirements, and curriculum. An admission adviser can provide valuable information about the percentage of graduates working in their field a list of employers. Researching programs provides valuable information to ensure that prospective students find the right program for their career goals and interests.
A master's degree in media and communication prepares graduates for job opportunities in a variety of growing fields. With strong communication skills, media communications students pursue careers in public relations, advertising, producing, and writing. With a background in digital media, graduates can also work as social media advertisers or PR specialists in digital media.
Many of these careers offer lucrative salaries for professionals with a master's degree. For example, PR managers and advertising managers earn six-figure salaries. While a media communications degree does not guarantee eligibility for every job opportunity, it can help professionals advance their careers in high-demand fields.
Public relations managers create plans to enhance the public image of their client. They may design a strategy for public relations specialists to carry out, prepare material for the media, and act as an information source for media inquiries. PR managers help clients communicate with the public, which requires strong skills in communication, writing, and speaking. Many employers prefer to hire PR managers with a master's degree.
Reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts research and investigate the news. They may pitch story ideas to editors, research assigned stories from an editor or news director, and interview people to gather information. Professionals who work in news careers may also write articles for print or write scripts for television or radio broadcasts. Reporters must have strong analytical, interpretive, and communication skills to increase their audiences' understanding of current events.
Producers create movies, television shows, commercials, radio programs, and other forms of broadcast media. They make business decisions for the production, oversee the production process, and promote finished works. Many producers hold a degree in communications or a related field. Producers must have strong communication skills to work with people involved in projects and promote finished products.
Advertising managers design ad campaigns, promote their clients, and sell advertising time. They oversee a team of advertising specialists who carry out the manager's plans. Within advertising management, media directors explore how to reach their customers, while account executives manage a client's account. Some employers prefer to hire advertising managers with a master's degree.
Writers produce written content for different media sources, including books, magazines, scripts, and advertisements. They may work with an editor or producer to develop fictional or nonfictional material that may require research and work with clients to create a polished finished product. Copywriters create advertising copy for broadcasts, newspapers, magazines, and the internet.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2018
The BLS projects that job openings for advertising managers and PR managers, both fields with above-average salaries, will increase 10% by 2026. As the digital media market continues to post growing revenues, job opportunities for social media specialists and positions in digital media may also grow. A master's in media and communication positions graduates to take advantage of career growth opportunities in several different sectors.
Professional organizations help media communications specialists develop their skills, identify job opportunities, and connect with other professionals in their field. Many organizations offer support for students in the form of organizations, student resources, and scholarship opportunities. These organizations may also provide career services support in the form of job boards.
PRSA, the largest organization for public relations and communications professionals, provides professional development resources, a code of ethics, and a career center to identify job opportunities.
BEA supports media educators, students, and professionals through publications, an annual convention, online programs, and events. The association also offers scholarships for students.
AWM prides itself as an organization that supports women working in all areas of media and offers professional development resources, academic papers, and access to a network of professional women working in media. Members also benefit from the AWM job board.
PRSSA dates back to 1967 as a branch of the Public Relations Society of America and devotes itself to students and supports students planning careers in public relations and communications. Members benefit from internship listings, publications, and scholarship opportunities.
NCA promotes communication practitioners through research, professional resources, and conferences. The association also runs student organizations to support those studying communications.
Students earning an online media communication master's degree pay for their program through a mix of savings, loans, and scholarships. Online programs offer the flexibility to allow some students to continue working while completing their degree, which can help to cover costs. Media communications students also qualify for several scholarship opportunities.
Master's students qualify for federal financial aid, including grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. To receive federal financial aid, students need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year, which calculates a student's expected financial contribution and eligibility for aid.
Graduate students qualify for several scholarship opportunities through the Broadcast Education Association, including the PILOT Media Technology and Innovation Scholarship, which grants ten $5,000 scholarships each year to students studying any area of media technology or innovation.
Communications graduate students can apply for several Alliance for Women in Media scholarship opportunities, including the Loreen Arbus Foundation Scholarship, which grants $2,500 to a female student studying media or communications. Applicants may need to submit an essay, depending on the scholarship requirements.
The Public Relations Student Society of America offers multiple scholarship opportunities, with awards ranging from $1,000-$5,000. The Chester Burger Scholarship for Excellence in Public Relations awards $1,000 to graduate students planning careers in corporate public relations. Some scholarships require PRSSA membership to apply.