United States Online Masters in Communication Studies Programs

Masters in Communication Studies Online programs could help students develop a grasp of how persons receive and transmit messages through both in-person and digital channels. The broad nature of the communications field is reflected in the diverse degree programs to choose from.

Why earn a masters degree in Communication Studies Online?

Some online programs might focus on the application of communication theory to various contexts. These might include areas such as public relations, marketing, management, health care and politics. Other programs might explore communication studies through a more technical lens. These online masters in communications programs could examine how messages are distributed and involve the study of technology, data, and media.

Earning Your Masters in Communication Studies Online

For some students, earning an online masters degree in communication studies could be more convenient than relocation or a daily commute. Some programs are structured, but at the same time allow students the freedom to fit coursework around their schedules. Although there are usually fixed deadlines, students might engage with pre-recorded course material at a time that works for them. Visit the virtual classroom morning, noon, or night.

You might also find online courses or programs that use real-time instruction for lectures, presentations and Q & A sessions with faculty. This might mean you log in through video conference at set times and could encourage more direct interactions.

Either way, masters in communication studies online programs generally require access to a computer, the internet and an email account. These are the primary means of delivery for coursework and access to online libraries, daily announcements and discussion boards. If you are unsure what an online program requires from you, contact schools to ask for more information.

Online Masters in Communication Studies Programs: Possible Coursework

Typically, masters in communication studies online programs entail about 36 credits. The curriculum might require core courses, electives, a choice of emphasis, and a final project, thesis or fieldwork. You could expect courses to vary between school and to be tied to the type of concentration you choose. That said, most programs involve a mix of theory and practical methods. These could help students to implement some of the principles they study both ethically and professionally. To give you an idea of topics you might explore, review the general examples below.

  • Ethics
  • Issues in Communication
  • Rhetorical Theory and Criticism
  • Communication Theory

Online Masters in Communication Studies Degrees: Possible Concentrations

A concentration is an area of emphasis, beyond the core courses, that may allow students to further customize their online masters in communication studies program. The emphasis courses could help students learn about and research topics that matter to them, in terms of current or future careers and academic goals.

In some universities, to work towards an emphasis within a masters in communication studies online program, students might need to take a foundational required course. Then add two more courses on an approved list for that theme. Other schools may require more courses within a given track or provide more freedom. The types of emphases and courses associated with a masters in communication studies online program varies. It's also important to note that online students may have to make sure that enough of the courses for an emphasis could be earned online. Contact individual schools to learn more.

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Below are some examples of the types of program emphases that might be available in either an MS or MA program in Communications Studies.

Managerial and Leadership Communication: A focus in managerial and leadership communication might speak to issues such as how to manage conflict, and communicate within organizations or in public relations contexts. Students could learn how to manage diverse groups as they potentially build skills in mediation and resolution.

Integrated Marketing Communication: A focus in integrated marketing communication could provide insight into consumer behavior, advertising, public relations and organizations. Students might study crisis communication and various technologies used to transmit messages. They might also learn to construct persuasive public images and texts through different mediums.

Intercultural and International Communication: A focus in intercultural and international communication could discuss issues such as how to negotiate or solve conflicts across borders and cultures. Students could learn theory and methods to help them communicate with different groups, genders and cultures. At the same time, they might boost their linguistic skills and develop a sense of how to problem solve.

Public Communication: A program with a focus on public communication could explore topics such as a criticism of mass media, rhetorical theory and persuasion. These might help students develop the ability to think critically and analytically. Other courses could cover political communication and computer-based communication technology, which might lead to an enhanced sense of how to communicate with clients, customers and colleagues.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for schools with masters in communication studies online programs varies. Most schools want to see transcripts that show your education history, and look for a minimum of a bachelors degree. These often must be earned at an accredited college or university, with a possible minimum GPA. Other required material could include scores for the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) or the general part of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Also, graduate schools generally ask for letters of reference, resumes and statements of purpose. The details are usually visible on a school’s website along with their admission deadlines.

Types of Online Masters Degree in Communication Studies Programs

A Masters in Communication Studies online program may lead either a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) degree. The type of program you choose is personal, reflective of your goals and interests. Each path could have unique features and approaches to subject matter.

Below are some common characteristics of each track. However, you should refer to individual schools for more information. Degree requirements, program lengths, and coursework are all variables from one school to the next.

Master of Arts in Communication Online Programs

A master of arts in communication online program might draw content from the social sciences. Students could study things such as language and human behavior or rhetoric. Thought of sometimes as broad in scope, the degree requirements of a MA program could include more elective courses. And, by the time final year comes around, MA students might have the option to complete a thesis, a smaller project with less research (e.g. critical analysis) or fieldwork. For some students as well, the MA might be a terminal degree rather than a platform to continued education.

Potential Courses and Concentrations (MA)

An online MA in communication studies program's curriculum might blend theory with practical (e.g. writing and research methods) and applied knowledge. This usually means translating research into specific contexts. Students could learn to conduct research and analysis while they study some of the practices used for digital and interpersonal communication. While by no means a complete list, below are some general examples of the types of courses you might find in a master of arts in communication online program.

  • Communication in the Digital Age
  • Theory of Mass Communication Practices
  • Persuasion
  • Analytic Techniques

Elective courses also vary between schools, and could make the degree you work to achieve more reflective of your personal interests. Below are some samples of possible elective topics.

  • Web Writing and Content Strategy
  • Interactive Marketing
  • Social Media Management
  • Emergency Communication

Students who pursue an online master of arts in communication may not be required to specify a concentration. However, should you choose to pursue one, you might consider some of the possible emphases listed below.

Applied Research: A focus in applied research might prepare students to assess the research needs for communication campaigns. For instance, students could learn how to design and conduct studies to gain insight into a target audience’s preferences. Courses could draw from multiple content areas, such as behavior theory and analytic and qualitative techniques.

Public and Media Relations: A focus in public and media relations could draw content from public relations, media relations, crisis communication, and strategic leadership. Students might find courses in topics such as speech writing, media literacy and law for communications professionals.

Digital Communication: A focus in digital communication could address things like how to use the Web and social media to reach audiences. Students could learn how to mix digital with traditional communication campaigns. Course might cover topics such as branding and strategy.

Corporate and Non-profit Communication: A focus in corporate and non-profit communication could explore how managers communicate with staff and how businesses and non-profits communicate with the media. Coursework could include topics such as branding, advertising, integrated marketing communication and campaign strategy.

Political Communication: A focus in political communication could help students grasp the ins and outs of communication within the context of the American government. Studentsmight learn about political theory, social marketing, and crisis management.

Strategic Communication: A focus in strategic communication could help students develop their grasp of how people process and understand stories, visual communication, entertainment, news and advertising. Courses could also cover production theory, business principles and techniques for digital media.

Media and Arts Management: A focus on media and arts management and promotion could explore a blend of business, law, leadership and communication course topics. Students might study techniques such as data mining, polling, focus groups and branding as they explore areas such as social media and internet marketing.

Courses and areas of emphases for an online master of arts in communication program are likely to vary, so read through school descriptions.

Master of Science in Communication Online Programs

A master of science in communication online program might explore more scientific or applied science topics, which require technical skills (e.g. data science). As a result, courses could explore the uses and techniques of the area you choose to study. For example, you might study how to use data to break down markets into segments that can be targeted to support specific goals. The MS program often also includes courses on research and the methods associated with it.

At the end of their program, students might be required to complete a final thesis or project. This thesis is sometimes the precursor to a doctoral dissertation, so the MS is not necessarily a terminal degree. However, not all schools require a thesis, so if your goal is to work towards a PhD, make sure to ask for more information from any school on your list.

Potential Courses and Concentrations (MS)

Schools that offer an online master of science in communication program are likely to have different courses and emphases. That said, in most MS programs, students study communication theory and then explore ways to apply it to solving different organizational problems. For instance, they could study how to communicate in a crisis to manage a company’s reputation. Some of the potential course topics that students who work towards their MS in communication might study are listed below.

  • Social Media Engagement
  • Survey Design and Survey Analysis
  • Media Relations
  • Focus Groups
  • Leadership and Persuasion
  • Communication Ethics
  • Negotiation and Conflict Resolution

Likewise, areas of emphasis for a MS in communication vary by schools. In programs that require fewer credits (e.g. 30) you may not have a thesis or concentration requirement. However, you may be exposed to areas such as integrated marketing communications and health communications through a general overview course.

In programs with concentration options, you might choose among some of the areas listed below. Contact individual programs for details.

Health Communication: A focus in health communication could help students develop a grasp of how to design and create media support for health communication campaigns, institutions (e.g. hospitals), and health media productions. In their courses, students might study techniques such as branding health services, and could learn how to plan, research, implement and evaluate health promotions and campaigns.

Public Relations: A focus on public relations could help students write and craft messages that consider client needs, target audiences and various platforms (e.g. press releases, speeches, etc.) Students might also take courses that address how to respond in a crisis and explore some of the issues and challenges that PR professionals face.

Data Marketing Communications: A focus in data marketing could help students integrate data and quantitative processes, like brand data collection, into decisions related to communications. Coursework could help learners develop a grasp of media and web analytics, metrics, and user experience.

Take the Next Step

A masters in communication studies online program could be a flexible way to schedule study into your busy life. Scroll through programs on this site to look for an online masters degree in communication studies that could support your aims. Then, easily contact schools with the on-page menu. Take the next step now!


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