Best Online Master’s Degrees in Communications

Updated February 4, 2022 | Staff Writers

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Discover Different Focus Areas in Communication

The way people communicate is continually changing, and this affects the daily experiences of everyone around you. Those who study communication seek to understand why this is and how communication strategy can be implemented in a variety of ways.

For many, this means earning a degree in communications and then applying it through advertising and public relations, employment of both of which is supposed to grow by 10% between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 2018 median for both advertising, promotions, and marketing managers, and public relations and fundraising managers was over $100,000.

For students who have already earned their bachelor’s degree, they can grow their skills and experience in communication while working full-time through an online master’s program in communications. The subfields of communications are numerous, and so students should think about whether they wish to study communication more generally or if they wish to complete a program that already focuses on one specific area of communication.

Students should also consider which concentrations are offered and whether they can work full-time while in the program. Additionally, the time to completion varies by school, and students should find the pace that works best for them.

Featured Online Schools


Top Masters in Communication Programs

#10. COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
NEW YORK, NY
EXECUTIVE MASTER OF SCIENCE IN STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION
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Score: 91.1

Columbia University has a 36-point Executive Master of Science in Strategic Communication. This program takes a ‘scholar-practitioner’ approach in which students draw their knowledge from research and then can apply it through a variety of simulations during the program. The program typically takes 16 months in length with a combination of online courses and periodic weekend on-campus sessions. The program culminates in a capstone project in which students work with a real communication issue, having to draw from research to come up with a solution. Other courses include Industry Insider, The Strategic Storyteller, The Power of Opinion, and Communication and Global Brands.
Net Price: 22,824


#9 AMERICAN UNIVERSITY
WASHINGTON, D.C.
MASTER OF ARTS IN STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION
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Score: 91.1

American University offers a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication. Students can start classes in August, January, or May, typically finishing in about 20 months. For students, they take one course every eight weeks. These courses are completed asynchronously, meaning that students can do the coursework based on their schedule. They can also choose to complete an Advocacy & Social Impact concentration. Ninety-six percent of graduates from this program are working in the field or graduate school within six months. Alumni have gone on to work at companies like NPR, Fox News, Microsoft, Reuters, and the United States State Department. Additionally, students are eligible for specific online merit scholarships.
Net Price: $32,732


#8 NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY
CHICAGO, IL
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN COMMUNICATION
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Score: 91.6

Northwestern University brings innovation to the field of communications through its Master of Science in Communication program. This degree is offered in a hybrid format, in which students take courses online, but they must also complete four in-residence seminars. These seminars are designed to build a community between students, many of whom can draw from professional management experience. Students also work with a career course to advance in their professional lives as well. The program typically takes one year to complete, and students take 11 classes, each of which is five weeks in length. Students also complete a capstone project.
Net Price: $26,099


#7 ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY
TEMPE, AZ
MASTER OF ARTS IN COMMUNICATION
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Score: 92.4

U.S. News and World Report ranked Arizona State University as No. 1 on its Most Innovative Schools list, and the university continues its tradition of innovation through its Master of Arts in Communication program. Ideal for professionals who want to learn more about leadership, strategic planning, and communication, this degree requires 30 credit hours of coursework. This is completed through 10 classes, each of is seven and a half weeks in length. Students can also complement their degree with a certificate in Conflict Management, or Civil Dialogue. Many of the faculty have won awards, and students can benefit from ASU’s Center for Strategic Communication.
Net Price: $12,947


#6 UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA
CHAPEL HILL, NC
MASTER OF ARTS IN DIGITAL COMMUNICATION
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Score: 92.7

The University of North Carolina seeks to educate its students on the ever-changing digital world through its Master of Arts in Digital Communication. This 30-credit program teaches students how to apply research in their careers. Because students usually finish two courses per semester,  it takes two years to finish, including one summer, to complete, and the degree culminates in a thesis project. UNC also requires that students complete two on-campus residency experiences, one of which is an orientation at the start of the program and the other a residency the next May. Courses in this program include New Media and Society, Usability and Multimedia Design, and Leadership in Digital Media Economics.
Net Price: $11,100


#5 NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
BOSTON, MA
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN CORPORATE AND ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION
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Score: 92.8

The Master of Science in Corporate and Organization Communication at Northeastern University provides an exciting degree with concentrations such as Public Relations, Human Resource Management, Project Management, Leadership, Cross-Cultural Communication, or Leading Communication Strategy and Development. The coursework is completed through 15 courses. However, Northeastern offers unique opportunities for those with an Accreditation in Public Relations, reducing the number of courses needed to 12. Additionally, students who have earned certifications from the Society of Human Resource Management can also reduce the number of classes needed, depending on the credential earned.
Net Price: $30,784


#4 UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
ANNENBERG, CA
MASTER OF COMMUNICATION MANAGEMENT
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Score: 95.0

The University of Southern California teaches students about both communications and the psychology behind it through its Master of Communication Management. In this program, students complete 32 credit hours of coursework, divided into eight classes. Examples of these classes include Communication in Work Settings, Uses of Communication Research, and Audience Analysis. This program approaches communication from an upper-level perspective, as students learn how to create and utilize a corporate communication plan. Graduates go on to work at companies such as State Farm, Kaiser Permanente, the City of Las Vegas, or the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Net Price: $32,892


#3 JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY
WASHINGTON, D.C.
MASTER OF ARTS IN COMMUNICATION
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Score: 95.0

Johns Hopkins University awards a Master of Arts in Communication where students gain experience with real communication issues, grow as professionals, and develop an outstanding professional portfolio. Students of JHU can study within concentrations such as Public and Media Relations, Political Communication, Health Communication, Digital Communication, Corporate/Non-Profit Communication, and Applied Research in Communication. They must also choose from, either, a Strategic Planning or a Research track. Students can begin the program at any time, but they must complete ten courses to graduate. The program is flexible, so if students want to complete semesters on-campus and others online, they can.
Net Price: $29,066


#2 PURDUE UNIVERSITY
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN COMMUNICATION
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Score: 96.8

Purdue University brings together communication professionals who wish to build their experience in its Master of Science in Communication program. This degree requires 30 credit hours to complete, and it typically takes students 20 months to finish. There is no residency required, nor is a GRE needed for admission.
Additionally, students can choose a concentration within Strategic Communication/Public Relations or Integrated Communication and Advertising concentration. The majority of students work full-time while finishing their degree Purdue, although MSC students can also study abroad during the program. Finally, many graduates have been employed by companies like Boeing, Coca-Cola, UNICEF, and the NCAA.
Net Price: $12,117


#1 UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA - CHAMPAIGN
CHAMPAIGN, IL
MASTER OF SCIENCE IN STRATEGIC BRAND COMMUNICATION
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Score: 100.0

At the top of this list is the Master of Science in Strategic Brand Communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This program draws from both the university's business and its advertising departments to form the 32 credit degree. It is geared toward working professionals, and it can be completed in 15 months. The university also hosts optional weekly live sessions that allow students to connect with faculty members. Additionally, courses include Consumer Insights, Promotional Strategy, and the Essentials of Business Management. The degree culminates with a professional capstone project, where students can apply what they’ve learned from their classes through a strategic plan before operationalizing and evaluating it.
Net Price: $16,638

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