The Best Online Master’s in Communications Programs

Studying communications opens doors to many fields and occupations. Communications professionals have strong writing skills, understand business strategy, use social media effectively, and have a solid grasp on emerging communication channels and technologies. A master's degree in communications will help you develop your analytical and critical thinking abilities and hone writing skills. While a bachelor's degree is enough for entry-level positions, a master's degree will help you earn leadership roles and managerial positions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs in this field will grow about 9% from 2016 to 2026. The median annual pay for public relations specialist in 2018 was $60,000, which is higher than the median annual wage for all jobs by almost $20,000, according to BLS data. 

After earning a master's, career choices include brand strategist, communications director, media supervisor, public relations manager, content strategist, digital strategist, web producer, writer, editor, or digital marketing coordinator. However, any job that requires powerful writing, shrewd analysis, or marketing and advertising expertise is a great fit for someone with an advanced degree in communications.

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost Address & Contact Info School Links Acclaim for Online Programs School Description
1University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel Hill$$$$$103 South Bldg Cb 9100
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
(919) 962-2211

Founded in 1789, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) is one of the first public universities in the nation. UNC-Chapel Hill offers a master's in digital communication designed for working professionals.

This 30-credit master's program contains nine courses scheduled over two years and one summer. There are two courses per semester and one course in the summer. Each student must complete a thesis project in their final semester, and the curriculum is meant to be taken in a specific order. Classes include writing for digital media, digital data and analytics, strategic communication, and media law for the digital age.

There are two required on-campus experiences and a two-day orientation at the beginning of the program. UNC admits up to 20 professionals a year, and all enrolled students must attend a five-day summer residency in May. Admission requirements include three years of professional communications experience, an undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, and GRE scores in the 55th percentile, unless the applicant has a waiver.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

2Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimore$$$$$525 North Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD 21205
(410) 955-4766

Based in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins University specializes in research and offers a master of arts in communication that can be taken on site or online. The master's program helps students develop communication skills, study real-life communications issues, and build a strong portfolio.

Students can take all their courses online or use a mix of online and on-campus classes. Online classes are accessible 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Core courses include interactive marketing and advertising, web writing and content strategy, advanced social media management, and public relations writing.

Earning the master's requires at least ten courses. Students with outside commitments can enroll part time and take fewer classes per semester than a full-time student. On average, the degree takes two years, but part-time students can take up to five years. All students must write a thesis and may choose a concentration in the following areas: Applied research in communication; public and media relations; political communication; health communication; digital communication; and corporate and nonprofit communication.

Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

3American UniversityWashington$$$$$4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016-8001
(202) 885-1000

Based in Washington, D.C., American University (AU) is a research university that focuses on its students. AU offers an online master's degree in strategic communication, which helps students optimize their skills in marketing strategy.

A 30-credit program, the master's at AU requires students to take ten eight-week courses. Students also complete a capstone project at the end of the program. Classes include principles of strategic communication, grassroots digital advocacy, political communication, and social media strategy and tactics. The university provides select students with an online merit scholarship of $3,000, $5,000, or $10,000.

This program offers concentrations in social change and digital communication strategies. AU offers a network of professionals and educators for students to connect with inside and outside the classroom. According to UA, 95% of graduates from this program work in the field, or go on to Ph.D. programs within six months of graduation.

American University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

4University of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles$$$$$University Park
Los Angeles, CA 90089
(213) 740-2311

Founded in 1880, the University of Southern California (USC) has over 44,000 students on its campus in Los Angeles, California. USC has an online master of communication management led by faculty with both academic and professional experience. Students learn problem-solving techniques and common language tools used to create practical marketing strategies.

This 32-credit master's brings together theory and practical application in real-world settings over the course of its eight classes. Students must complete a capstone project to graduate. Course topics include managing communication, uses of communication research, communication in work settings, and strategic corporate communication.

Classes for this degree are all online. USC requires applicants to submit a writing sample, two letters of recommendation, GRE or GMAT scores, a resume detailing all internships and paid employment, and official transcripts from an undergraduate university or college.

The University of Southern California is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

5Webster UniversitySaint Louis$$$$$470 E Lockwood Ave.
Saint Louis, MO 63119-3194
(314) 961-2660

Founded in 1915, Webster University was one of the first Catholic women's colleges west of the Mississippi River. Webster offers an online master's in communications management for students in any communications field who wish to hone their managerial skills. All applicants must consult with a Webster School of Communications academic advisor before registration.

There are 21 credits of core courses for this program. Classes include media communications, organizational communications, media organization and regulations, and strategic communications. Students also choose 15 credits of elective courses, all from different business and management disciplines, though they may request to take elective courses outside the school of communications.

Webster requires that all applicants have a strong background in a communications-related field, either academically or professionally. Some students may need to enroll in six hours of undergraduate coursework to meet all program prerequisites.

Webster University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

6Mississippi CollegeClinton$$$$$200 South Capitol Street
Clinton, MS 39058
(601) 925-3000

Founded in 1826, Mississippi College (MC) is the oldest institution of higher education in the state of Mississippi. The online master of science degree in communications at Mississippi College is versatile, preparing students for many different careers. Potential jobs for graduates include announcers, editors, public relations specialists, and reporters.

MC's communications program offers several specializations, including journalism, theater, mass media, and public communications. Students learn communications theory, develop concrete skills through practical application, and create portfolios for graduation. The program also covers the history of media to help students understand the foundations of communications and marketing. This degree prepares students for the professional world or for pursuing a doctoral degree.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree in a communications-related field from a regionally accredited college or university with a minimum 2.5 GPA and GRE test scores.

Mississippi College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

7Purdue UniversityWest Lafayette$$$$$Hovde Hall of Administration
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2040
(765) 494-4600

Based in Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue University is a public university dedicated to free and open speech. Purdue's online master of science in communication helps working professionals advance their careers through lessons in strategic communications.

The program requires 30 credits and takes about 20 months. All coursework is online. Purdue offers two specializations: A strategic communication and public relations concentration, and an integrated communication and advertising concentration. The former focuses on facilitating relationships with stakeholders and managing crises while the latter teaches messaging strategies, branding, and persuasion theory.

This program does not require applicants to submit GRE scores, but they do need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students do not need to be Indiana residents to enroll in this program; there are also opportunities to study abroad.

Purdue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission

8Liberty UniversityLynchburg$$$$$1971 University Blvd
Lynchburg, VA 24515
(800) 434-9595

Liberty University is a Baptist, liberal arts institution founded in 1976. Liberty offers an online master of arts in communication for professionals working in business, nonprofit, and public service positions. In this program, students develop the critical skills they need to advance their careers.

This online degree combines theory with practical skills to create well-rounded communications graduates. The eight-week courses cover effective social media, conflict analysis and resolution, and intercultural communication. After graduation, Liberty's communications degree holders find careers as business marketing specialists, public relations consultants, and advertising directors.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited university or college with a minimum 2.5 GPA. There are tuition discounts available for both active and inactive military students.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

9University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaign$$$$$601 E John Street
Champaign, IL 61820-5711
(217) 333-1000

Founded in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I) is a public university serving more than 47,000 students. The online master of science in strategic brand communication at the university is an interdisciplinary degree administered jointly by the Department of Business Administration in the College of Business and the Department of Advertising in the College of Media.

This 32-credit program is fully online and can be completed in a little over a year. Enrolled students learn to create brand messaging, use new and emerging technologies, develop leadership and management skills, and hone analytical thinking.

Students may also enroll in individual courses or earn three-course strategic brand communication certificates in essentials, media and analytics, or insights. Certificate classes are fully online. Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission

10Northeastern University - Global NetworkBoston$$$$$360 Huntington Ave
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 373-2000

Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Northeastern University emphasizes experiential learning, combining academic scholarship with professional practice. Its online master of science in corporate and organizational communication combines case method, research, and interactive learning to prepare students for the job market.

Students can enroll full-time or part-time in this fully online program, which offers six concentrations, including public and media relations, cross-cultural communication, and social media. For the final capstone project, students choose between an online co-op or a virtual consulting project with a sponsor and faculty advisor. Students must also create a portfolio that captures their personal and professional brands.

Applicants need a statement of purpose, a professional resume, undergraduate transcripts, and several letters of recommendation. Students and graduates at Northeastern gain access to the university's Global Network of more than 3,000 employer partners and 255,000 alumni.

Northeastern University is accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education

11Concordia University - Saint PaulSaint Paul$$$$$1282 Concordia Ave
Saint Paul, MN 55104-5494
(651) 641-8278

Founded in 1893 in Minnesota, Concordia University - Saint Paul (CSP) is a private, Christian institution of higher education. Concordia University's master of arts in strategic communication management is an online program designed for working students who need flexible class schedules.

CSP offers this 36-credit master's in communication management program both on campus and fully online. Each course lasts seven weeks. Students learn strategic and analytical thinking, leadership skills, and intercultural communication, and they have 24-hour access to library resources. This program targets students with professional experience who wish to pursue careers in corporate communication, public relations, and strategic planning.

Ninety-five percent of CSP graduates receive job offers within one year of graduation. Tuition rates vary by program and degree. Scholarships are available to online students, and there are tuition discounts for active military students.

Concordia University - Saint Paul is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

12Florida International UniversityMiami$$$$$11200 S. W. 8 Street
Miami, FL 33199
(305) 348-2000

Florida International University (FIU) is Miami's first public research university. FIU offers an online master of science in global strategic communications geared toward helping professionals advance their communications careers in the international marketplace. The program focuses on communication management and digital communication.

This degree is fully online and takes about one year to complete. The program covers advertising, public relations, and integrated communications over six eight-week terms, with students enrolling in four courses per semester. Core courses include ethics and social responsibility, theories of mass communication, and global strategic communication management.

Applicants need a four-year bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. FIU also requires GRE test scores, two letters of recommendation, an essay, and a resume. The online program costs the same for in-state and out-of-state students.

Florida International University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

13Arizona State University - SkysongScottsdale$$$$$1475 N Scottsdale Road - Ste 200
Scottsdale, AZ 85257
(480) 884-1860

Arizona State University (ASU) is a research-driven university based in Tempe, Arizona. The university offers an online master of science in technical communication that focuses on the creation and management of print and digital text. This degree prepares students for careers in writing, editing, design, and research.

The 36-credit program spans 12 classes. Students must complete either a thesis, an applied project, or a capstone project in order to graduate. Required courses include applied rhetoric and research in technical communication. Students without relevant prior experience may be required to take a course on the fundamentals of technical communication.

Applicants need a bachelor's or master's degree in any field from a regionally accredited university with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Possible careers for graduates include grant writer, information developer, web interface designer, or user experience designer.

Arizona State University - Online is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

14Texas Tech UniversityLubbock$$$$$Broadway and University Avenue
Lubbock, TX 79409-5005
(806) 742-2011

Based in Lubbock, Texas Tech University (TTU) is a public institution founded in 1923. TTU's online master of arts in strategic communication and invocation is part of its College of Media and Communication. This program prepares students for senior-level communications positions and careers.

The strategic communication and invocation degree requires a minimum of 30 credits, including seven required courses and three electives. This program meets exclusively online and scheduling is flexible to allow working students to choose when to take their classes. Students can also choose how many classes to take per semester, depending on their own availability.

Applicants must send a personal statement, resume, writing samples, references, and have a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. If applicants do not meet the minimum GPA, they should send GRE scores with their application.

Texas Tech University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

15Gonzaga UniversitySpokane$$$$$E 502 Boone Ave
Spokane, WA 99258-0001
(509) 328-4220

Based in Spokane, Washington, Gonzaga University is a Jesuit institution founded in 1887. The online master in communication and leadership studies teaches students audience analysis, message impact, data interpretation, negotiation, and problem solving. Graduates of this program achieve careers in corporate communications, public relations, journalism, human resources, and marketing.

This program requires 30 credits, and most students finish in two years. It includes optional concentrations in change leadership, college teaching, digital media strategies, global leadership, strategic and organizational communication, and servant leadership. These concentrations allow students to specialize their skills. All students in this program must take a 3-day immersion course in content creation and strategy on campus, but all other on-campus immersion courses are optional.

Gonzaga also offers study abroad opportunities in Belgium, Colombia, the Czech Republic, and Italy. To apply, students must submit official transcripts showing a 3.0 minimum GPA, a letter of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a resume.

Gonzaga University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

16National UniversityLa Jolla$$$$$11255 North Torrey Pines Road
La Jolla, CA 92037-1011
(800) 628-8648

National University (NU) is a private, nonprofit university based in San Diego that is designed for working professionals and returning students. NU offers a master of arts in strategic communication to develop leaders in communications. This program trains students in both traditional mediums and emerging channels like social media, podcasts, and blogs.

This program focuses on practical applications, requiring students to apply research to develop campaigns and messages, deliver communication presentations, and manage multi-channel campaigns. Students work in groups to demonstrate their ability to work on a team as both a leader and a team member.

All courses for this degree are online. Students must complete 45 credits, with at least 40.5 credits at NU. The program spans 10 classes, including emerging interactive media, research methods, crisis communications, legal and ethical issues, and a capstone project.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree with at least a 2.5 undergraduate GPA, or at least a 2.75 GPA in the last 90 credits of undergraduate coursework. Students with lower grade points can supplement with a satisfactory GMAT, GRE, or a Miller Analogies test score.

National University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

17Spring Arbor UniversitySpring Arbor$$$$$106 E. Main St
Spring Arbor, MI 49283-9799
(517) 750-1200

Founded in 1873, Spring Arbor University (SAU) is a Christian, liberal arts institution. The university offers a master of arts in strategic communication and leadership designed to help students advance careers in communication.

This communication master's takes about 18 months to complete and uses a practical approach to education. The program pairs each student with a mentor who understands communications in a professional capacity. These "industry influencers" guide their students with development tips, intensive discussions of class materials, and personalized support throughout the program. Featured classes include communication as a calling, communication theory, and digital media strategy.

Applicants are not required to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Classes are fully online and all students graduate with an ePortfolio that can be used to pursue careers.

Spring Arbor University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

18The New SchoolNew York$$$$$66 W 12th Street
New York, NY 10011-8603
(212) 229-5600

Based in New York City, the New School is a melting pot of scholars, artists, and designers. This institution offers a master of professional studies in communications design with an optional concentration in digital product design. The degree is offered through the School of Art, Media, and Technology.

This program targets designers who want to increase their digital skills. Classes incorporate the full design cycle, including generating ideas, prototyping, editing and refinements, and business strategy. The degree requires 30 credits and takes about one year to complete. Courses have four components: instruction, practical application, external partnerships, and studio time.

Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA in order to graduate. All applicants must submit a visual portfolio using SlideRoom, which can include sketches, photography, websites, video clips, or research outcomes. The New School may ask some applicants to sit for a phone or in-person interview before making an admissions decision.

The New School is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education

19Regent UniversityVirginia Beach$$$$$1000 Regent University Dr
Virginia Beach, VA 23464
(757) 352-4127

Regent University is a Christian institution based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with a 14% enrollment growth rate over the past two years. Regent offers a master of arts in communication that combines theory with practical application. The program helps students shape narratives through strategic messaging and earn leadership roles in their professional careers.

This 33-credit degree is fully online and each session lasts eight weeks. Sample classes include multiplatform writing, social media and internet marketing, leadership theory, and crisis communication. All students must complete a thesis or directed project during the course of their studies. This program prepares students for careers in media, business marketing, communications, advertising, and public relations.

Credit cost is the same for both in-state and out-of-state students, though there is an additional services fee for online students and a one-time library fee. Financial aid is available to students who need it, with 88% of Regent students receiving some kind of aid. 

Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

20California Baptist UniversityRiverside$$$$$8432 Magnolia Ave
Riverside, CA 92504-3297
(951) 689-5771

Based in Riverside, California Baptist University (CBU) is a private, Christian college with over 10,000 students. CBU offers a master of arts in strategic communication that explores the historical, cultural, social, and political aspects of communication. CBU asks its students to integrate biblical thought into modern cultural concepts.

This 30-credit program takes about one year to complete. CBU helps students network with professionals, earn practical experience in the field of communication, and apply theory to practical problems. Core courses include communication research, media effects on communication behavior, social influence and persuasion, and communication management. Students must also complete a capstone project.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree in communications or a related field, such as journalism, education, public administration, or public policy, with a minimum 2.5 GPA for conditional admission and 2.75 for unconditional admission consideration.

California Baptist University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

21Syracuse UniversitySyracuse$$$$$900 South Crouse Ave.
Syracuse, NY 13244
(315) 443-1870

Syracuse University is a private, research-focused institution based in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse offers an online master's in communications with specializations in advertising, public relations, and journalism innovation. This program evolves with the times, blending new technology with traditional media.

This degree has five core courses that provide a foundation in digital communications: media law, digital communications, multimedia storytelling, social media for public communicators, and digital communications systems. Each student also chooses a specialization to tailor their education to their career goals. Syracuse requires students to attend two in-person immersions and complete a capstone project that focuses on digital communications innovation. This degree can be completed in just over a year.

Each specialization has its own courses. Students who pursue public relations take classes in public relations theory, campaign planning and execution, and public relations management. Students in advertising focus on strategic principles and practices, communications planning, and digital branding. Journalism innovation teaches web and mobile story production, emerging media platforms, and applied media research.

Syracuse University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

22University of MiamiCoral Gables$$$$$University of Miami
Coral Gables, FL 33146
(305) 284-2211

The University of Miami (UM) is a private university with more than 17,000 students. Its master of arts in communications studies programs provide students with an interdisciplinary education in the field of communications. There are two programs: the thesis program and the non-thesis program. The 30-credit thesis program emphasizes research under a faculty advisor while the 36-credit non-thesis program focuses on applied communications theory.

These programs offer four specializations: communications studies, health communication, intercultural communication, and organizational communication. Students can choose to pursue the thesis or non-thesis options in each track. Featured courses include communication research methods, organizational communication audit procedures, and theories of communication.

Applicants must submit undergraduate transcripts, GRE scores, and a personal statement. Students can apply for financial aid and scholarships as needed.

University of Miami is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

23Michigan State UniversityEast Lansing$$$$$
East Lansing, MI 48824-1046
(517) 355-1855

Founded in 1855, Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing has over 10,000 graduate and professional students. Its master of arts in strategic communication program targets communications professionals. MSU also offers an online graduate certificate program in communications.

The master's program focuses on strategic thinking skills applied across all digital communications fields, including advertising, public relations, and media. MSU requires 30 credits over nine courses, plus a capstone project. All courses are online and students graduate in 1-3 years. Class topics include persuasion techniques, digital content creation, and crisis communication.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited university with a minimum 3.0 GPA. MSU requires a minimum of three years of professional experience before applying to its graduate program, but students do not need to submit GRE or GMAT scores.

Michigan State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

24Colorado State University - Fort CollinsFort Collins$$$$$102 Administration Building
Fort Collins, CO 80523-0100
(970) 491-1101

Based in Fort Collins, Colorado State University (CSU) has a hybrid online degree program that utilizes video and audio recorded lectures. The master of communications and media management is offered through its Department of Journalism and Media Communication and blends online learning with on-site classes. Students attend weekly classes with instructors in CSU's Denver learning center.

This 30-credit program takes two years to complete. CSU teaches both traditional media strategies and modern digital tools. The degree focuses on digital communications strategies, including analytics, real-time feedback, media production, and effective research tools. Core courses cover topics like digital media writing, technologies of public communication, strategic digital communication, and organizational media production.

Financial aid is available to online students and determined on an individual basis. Graduates pursue careers in communications-related fields like public relations, promotions, public affairs, marketing, advertising, and web operations.

Colorado State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission

25Drexel UniversityPhiladelphia$$$$$3141 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 895-2000

Drexel University is a private university based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Drexel offers an online master of science in communication that focuses on rigorous academic coursework and professional networking. Students can put the skills they learn in this master's program to use in their professional careers.

This program has two areas of specialization: technical communication and public communication. The technical communication specialization develops technical writing skills and offers training in computer documentation. The public communication specialization readies students for careers in journalism and public relations. Drexel also requires students to complete a professional portfolio of completed coursework that has been reviewed by faculty members and outside professionals.

All classes in this program are available online, and courses are highly interactive. Students must also complete a six-month internship during their studies. Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.