Top Communication Graduate Degree Programs
What is a Communications Graduate Program?
A communications graduate program studies how to tell stories. It then applies these concepts to areas like marketing, digital media and PR.
Public relations graduate programs take their lead from communications theories. Then apply these concepts to manage the flow of information to the public.
Most grad degrees in communications and public relations lead to a masters or PhD. Masters in communications programs usually deal with strategy and how to manage campaigns. PR, which is a sub-section often touches on managing the reputation of a brand or person.
written by Rana Waxman
What can you do with a Communications Graduate Degree?
A communications graduate degree might open the door to managerial roles. Graduates may use their degree to advance a career in marketing, PR, corporate communications, media production and beyond.
Communications managers are essential in small nonprofits and large corporations. They play a vital role in how the public views an organization’s brand. There is currently a high demand for marketing and PR managers given the speed at which news travels online. Per BLS.gov, the following areas will see a 10 % growth in job opportunity to 2026: PR and Communications Managers Communications Directors Advertising Manager Account Executives Public Affairs Directors Development Directors
What are the common specializations in Communications Graduate Programs
Public relations (PR) is one of many areas of emphasis in communications graduate programs. One can also study mass media, marketing, strategic communications and global affairs.
Some people who study communications are creatives. They use their skills to build on ideas and write compelling messages for target groups. Others tap into a strategic mindset to lead digital media marketing campaigns.
If you have a bachelor’s degree, you might choose a master’s in communication that lines up with career goals. For instance, do you want to focus on communications within the corporate setting? Do you have a background or interest in sports, broadcast TV, or healthcare? One can apply skills to many areas. Here are ten common grad-level concentrations in communications to contemplate.
- Strategic Communications
- Marketing Communications Management
- New Media Journalism
- Strategic Public Relations
- Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)
- Health Communications
- Media Studies
- Sports Journalism
- Mass Communications
How Communications and Public Relations Graduate Programs give you an edge:
My master of science in public relations from Boston University is really what immersed me in the industry and had me fall in love once again with my career as a publicist. From being concise in communication, to the elements of a successful persuasion strategy; to the dynamics of client service and the importance of networking; my degree was way more than a M.S. to my name, it was the tool box that I was looking in order to grow as a person and as a professional. I can honestly say, the job I have today is fully the result from my master’s degree in public relations.
What is the difference between public relations and communications?
Public Relations and Communications overlap. The key difference is that PR is one channel within the larger context of communications.
Communications speaks to messaging, writing and presentation. It includes the study of face-to-face and mediated communication. PR is about using strategy to choose how and what messages to convey to an audience or public. Should we use social media, print, TV etc.? What should we do to reinforce our brand message?
At the graduate level, many programs link the two under strategic communication. Strategic communication is about managing information in a purposeful way. This takes a certain level of analytical thinking. As such, you may find tracks to learn how to manage PR for companies, people, non-profits, sports and more.
What is the difference between marketing and communications?
Marketing relates to the business tactics that communicate a brand or service. Communication relates to what channels you use to meet this goal.
Some of the key features of marketing include understanding the marketing mix, or 4 P’s. Price, Product, Promotion, and Place. This helps managers craft a strategy and collaborate with communications teams.
Communications tactics execute marketing research by crafting messages and stories. The skill here lies beyond obvious writing and editing. One has to know how to match a message with a channel. For instance, PR strategy might make use of an event with live speaking. Someone could live tweet the event, then turn it into a multi-media blog tied into a website. All to bolster the marketing plan which sprung from market research.
Can I get a graduate degree public relations or communication online?
You can pursue a PR or communications grad degree online at many traditional and online schools. Many people in the workforce who want to advance their career prefer it. There’s no cost to relocate or commute, so you may save on time and tuition.
Often, pursuing a degree online is interactive, engaging and convenient. Instead of rushing to class, you could use the time to study at your own pace. While you can definitely pursue a graduate degree online if you feel you need the energy of a live classroom, there are programs in available to you as well.
Salaries for Jobs with a Graduate Degree in Communications
Marketing Communications Manager
Public Relations Managers
Public Relations Specialist
Media and Communications Professionals
Top States for Employment for people with Communications Graduate Degrees
Annual Mean Wage
District of Columbia
Top Metro Areas for Employment with a Communications Graduate Degree
There are PR and Fundraising managers in nearly every industry. Some work as consultants or have corporate jobs Others work for small and large businesses, schools, hospitals, government and religious organizations.
Top Communications Graduate Programs
Communications degrees are reported by the National Center for Education Statistics under the category of Communication and communications technologies
In fact, in the most recent update of the data (2013), across the U.S, there were 495 Communications degrees awarded to graduate students. The majority <99 %> of these graduate programs were at the
Masters in Communication vs MBA?
If you are a marketer by trade, you might wonder whether to pursue a master’s in communication or an MBA. At first glance, they both touch on marketing, strategy and business analytics. Yet there are some key differences between the two, and reasons why you might choose one over the other.
Masters in Communications
First, there are several types of master’s in communication programs. Some may suit students who want to advance a career in the business world. These may focus on applied, strategic or corporate communications (not theory/research). In some light, this makes them akin to the MBA.
Such a program often looks at business through the lens of how people communicate. With others, technology, brands etc. This involves understanding communication theory. Plus, how to apply it as a problem solver.
A master’s in integrated marketing communications is another option. IMC focuses on marketing and the tactics and channels used to spread messages. It often touches on social media, direct marketing, digital marketing and more. This type of program is sometimes likened with an MBA in Marketing.
MBA programs focus on developing an analytical mindset to make effective business decisions. You might choose a concentration in communications, PR or marketing. No matter, there are core courses to do first that guide you in learning corporate skills..
These cover all the functional areas of business through the lens of a manager and all s/he does during the day. Operations, overseeing staff and projects, setting goals, using data to inform strategy. Other core topics often span marketing, economics, finance and accounting.
The concentration you select fills in your curriculum with a handful of courses in that area. No matter whether this is PR or IMC, you still need to take the required courses first. In other terms, it may be less holistic than the masters in PR or IMC if this is what you want to study foremost.
Communications and Public Relations Graduate Program Guide
Master’s in Communication (MComm)
Masters in Business Administration (MBA)
|MBA- Marketing Concentration|
|Length of Program: 20 months||Length of Program: 12 months (fast-track)|
|This program focuses both on crafting compelling messages and using strategy to connect with your audiences. It discusses these themes with an eye on today’s digital media platforms. You can tailor studies with a concentration in Advocacy and Social Impact or Digital Communication Strategies and Analytics||This program offers a well-rounded business core. In the marketing concentration, one may learn to analyze market research data and apply findings to make integrated marketing decisions. Other topics focus on strategic brand management and global marketing.|
Take away? If you want to manage people and operations or focus on another area in business, an MBA may be your go-to. A MS in communications may suit one who wants to understand messaging and planning. In either case, make sure the courses prepare you for the career you want to have. Or, look for a dual MA in Communication/MBA program.
What Classes Are Needed for a Graduate Program in Communication?
In core communications courses, you may conduct and read primary research. This forms the basis to creating usable messages and effective campaigns. Some programs also touch on tactics and writing for digital platforms. The following are sample topics from a typical MA in Communication program.
- Research and Multimedia Writing Methods
- Changing Behavior Through Communication
- Theory of Mass Communication Practices
- Analytic Methods in Communication Research
- Organizational Communication
What Classes Are Needed for a Graduate Degree in Public Relations?
In core public relations courses, you may study classic and contemporary social tools. In learning about communications channels, you may study key elements of a PR plan. This often entails understanding consumer and marketing research. The following are sample topics from a typical MA in Public Relations program.
- Public Relations in a Digital World
- Media Relations
- Social Media Metrics and ROI
- Legal Aspects of Media
- Reputation Management
- Writing for Interactive Media
What types of Classes Will I Take?
A typical masters in communication course plan includes core topics, electives, a final thesis or capstone. Below are some common classes and concentrations to help you get a clearer picture.
Professional Writing and Editing
This type of class often covers writing methods for academic, professional and workplace settings. It is a key feature of most curricula. Through it, one might refine tone, clarity and styling.
Crisis Management and Public Relations
This type of class may expose you to PR crisis of all kinds. Corporate, nonprofit, government and beyond. It often focuses on tactics to protect reputation – whether of a person or enterprise. This involves knowing how to prepare a crisis plan and put into place reactive measures.
Communication for Leadership
This course covers the ways that effective leaders communicate. It may look at corporate culture, roles and group theory. One may adopt a systems-thinking mindset while honing personal leadership skills.
Strategic communications look at the planning and managerial side of PR. It often deals with principles, platforms and practices of information delivery. Side topics may cover specific tactics for managing brand voice or reputation.
Journalism is one of the key areas of communications. As an emphasis it often draws people who want to write, report and produce. As such the core topics touch on digital production, reporting, storytelling and ethics.
Integrated Marketing Communications
IMC takes a holistic view of communications. It often covers advertising, PR, buyer behavior and insights. Other topics help students understand corporate strategy and how to develop brands.
This area touches on issues in public health, public policy and corporate health communications. It is often for those who want to manage communications within healthcare. Side topics often cover branding and media relations.
This area revolves around promotional plans for the sports industry. It reaches into areas like sports publishing, team and league media relations. As such, you might learn the finer points of sports writing, marketing and advertising.
Is there anything I should know about Accreditation with Communication Graduate Degrees?
Many schools with regional accreditation offer communications graduate programs. Choosing one may allow you to transfer credits and pursue financial aid.
There are six regions and agencies who review these schools. Each one checks the school who submits to their process. They verify whether it meets standards for a given period.
Some programs within these schools may undergo a similar process. This is with other outside agencies, known in their profession, who also set standards. Since it is voluntary, not all programs have it. Those that do must undergo another review to renew their status. In doing so, they commit to improve with time. This means offering relevant material as the industry evolves.
One of these accrediting agencies is the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Media (ACEJMC). The ACEJMC oversees journalism and mass communications programs. The goal of their review process is to set the bar for practitioners in the media. Such programs may be available through a liberal arts, education or social sciences department.
Yet other communications programs stem from business schools. You can check accreditation status on the databases of the following agencies.
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- International Assembly for Collegiate Education (IACBE)
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
How long does it take to earn a Communication Graduate Degree?
Masters in communication programs may take from one to two years full time to complete. Yet there are many factors that impact program length. Among them, your choice of school, concentration, delivery (online vs. campus) and capstone. Studying part-time may add a year or more, depending on school policy.
# of Credits Required
Starts Per Year
Minimum Months to Complete
How Much Do Communication Graduate Programs Cost?
The average cost of a graduate degree from a public institution is $11,617 per year. This means you will be able to find programs both more affordable and more expensive than the average.
To give specific examples, this visualization shows graduate tuition costs of 4 institutions with Communication Graduate Programs as reported by the NCES. We have then compared those costs to the typically most affordable and most expensive college options, also as reported by NCES.
Instate/Out Of State Tuition
What are the Costs per Credit for a Communication Graduate Program?
Many Communications and public relations graduate programs entail 30 to 36 credits. This translates to about 10 to 12 courses of three credits each. You may need to take a certain number of courses per term to qualify as a full-time student. Sometimes full or part-time load impacts the cost per credit of your degree.
Cost per credit of course is different at every College or University. State Universities are also likely to have in state costs vs out of state costs. Below are a few examples of the cost per credit as reported by each one of these institutions
# of Credits Required
Cost Per Credit
Total Tuition Cost
Find 38 Top Communication Graduate Programs Here
Queens University of Charlotte
University of Delaware
Full Sail University
Grand Canyon University
Liberty University Online
New School, The
Pennsylvania State University
Fairleigh Dickinson University
California Baptist University
University of Southern California
University of the Southwest