Rankings

Best Online Master's in Communication for 2018

An online master’s in communication provides students with sharpened critical thinking skills and communication strategies. These skills are critical in a wide variety of fields, including entertainment, journalism, marketing, and human resources. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment as a public relations specialist is projected to increase by 9% within the next decade and employment as a technical writer is projected to increase by 11%. If you enjoy writing and public speaking, now may be the time to consider getting an online communications master’s degree.

What are the Best Online Master's in Communications Programs?

1

University of Florida Gainesville, FL

ADMISSIONS RATE 48%
GRADUATION RATE 87%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 11%
RETENTION RATE 96%
DEFAULT RATE 3%

The University of Florida operates from a 2,000-acre campus in the city of Gainesville in northern Florida. Striving for environmental sustainability, the university houses the most LEED-certified buildings of any educational institution in the country. UF’s online master’s degree in mass communication offers eight different specializations: audience analytics, digital strategy, global strategic communications, political communication, public interest communication, public relations and communication management, social media, and web design and online communication. Each specialization requires 36 to 39 credit hours. Except for the specialization in web design and online communication—which has 16-week-long semesters—each semester lasts 12 weeks. Classes are asynchronous. Applicants for the master's in communication online must submit GRE test scores.

2

Marist College Poughkeepsie, NY

ADMISSIONS RATE 45%
GRADUATION RATE 78%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 10%
RETENTION RATE 91%
DEFAULT RATE 2%

Overlooking the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, New York, Marist College offers a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio, which provides learners with small classes and individualized attention. Students in the online master’s degree in communication will learn foundational topics such as persuasion, the role of communication in conflict resolution, and media relations. Distance learners can graduate in only one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study. Classes are eight weeks long. Graduation requirements include a comprehensive exam or thesis. Distance learners pay the same per-credit tuition regardless of residency. Applicants to the online communications master's degree must submit a personal essay, official transcripts, a current resume, official GRE or GMAT scores, and three letters of recommendation.

3

American University Washington, DC

ADMISSIONS RATE 35%
GRADUATION RATE 81%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 4%
RETENTION RATE 88%
DEFAULT RATE 4%

American University in Washington, DC has eight schools and more than 160 programs. AU’s online master’s degree in strategic communication combines theory with practical application. Full-time distance learners can complete the accelerated program in just 10 months, while part-time learners can finish in under two years. Each asynchronous course lasts only eight weeks. The online master’s in communication degree offers four optional concentrations: advocacy and social impact, digital strategies and analytics, corporate communication and reputation management, and public diplomacy and global affairs. Applicants to the master's in communication online must show proof of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 for the last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework.

4

Liberty University Lynchburg, VA

ADMISSIONS RATE 22%
GRADUATION RATE 47%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 82%
RETENTION RATE 75%
DEFAULT RATE 7%

Liberty University, a Christian institution located in Lynchburg, Virginia, offers more than 550 programs of study. The university began offering online education programs in 1985 and remains a pioneer in distance education. LU’s 100% online master’s degree in communication blends theory and practical application to prepare distance learners for the professional world. The school offers several unique courses, including communication in nonprofit and Christian ministry. The 36-hour online master's in communication requires a thesis defense. Classes are delivered through Blackboard. Virginia and out-of-state residents pay the same per-hour tuition for online programs. However, distance learners attending part time pay a higher tuition rate. To apply, distance learners must submit an online application and transcripts. LU accepts unofficial transcripts for a two-month period, but students must submit official transcripts after 60 days.

5

Webster University Saint Louis, MO

ADMISSIONS RATE 56%
GRADUATION RATE 62%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 25%
RETENTION RATE 78%
DEFAULT RATE 8%

Webster University offers programs through its main campus in Webster Groves, Missouri, educational centers throughout the world, and online. The university features four different online master’s degrees in communication: advertising and marketing communications; communications management; media communications; and public relations. Each online master's in communication requires 36 credit hours to complete. To be eligible, applicants must show proof of a bachelor’s degree and a minimum GPA of 2.5 from an accredited university or college. WU offers a discount for distance learners in the military. Distance learners pay the same tuition regardless of state residency.

6

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL

ADMISSIONS RATE 66%
GRADUATION RATE 85%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 4%
RETENTION RATE 93%
DEFAULT RATE 3%

A 150-year-old university, UI at Urbana-Champaign is located 140 miles south of Chicago. UI’s graduates include 28 Pulitzer Prize recipients. The university offers an online master’s degree in health communication and an online master’s in strategic brand communication. The degree in health communication is for those interested in public health, pharmaceuticals, administration, and patient advocacy. The strategic brand communication degree is for students who want to work in business, marketing, and media. Full-time distance learners can complete the degrees in two years. Classes are delivered in eight-week terms and four-week terms. Classes are asynchronous so that students can complete coursework whenever is most convenient.

7

California Baptist University Riverside, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE 65%
GRADUATION RATE 60%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 21%
RETENTION RATE 76%
DEFAULT RATE 8%

One of the top Christian schools in Southern California, California Baptist University has campuses in Riverside and San Bernardino. CBU’s online master’s degree in communications teaches students about the effects of media, global dimensions of communication, and historical aspects of communication. Students will also learn the environmental, behavioral, and social factors that impact communication. Students can complete the 30-unit online master's in communication in just one year. Applicants should possess an undergraduate degree in a field closely related to communications, including journalism, education, or public administration. Alternatively, applicants may hold a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field as long as they have prior managerial experience. CBU requires a minimum GPA of 2.75, official transcripts, two recommendation forms, a current resume, and a 500-word essay. Distance learners pay the same per-unit tuition rate regardless of state residency.

8

Queens University of Charlotte Charlotte, NC

ADMISSIONS RATE 67%
GRADUATION RATE 53%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 14%
RETENTION RATE 74%
DEFAULT RATE 7%

A small, private school, Queens University lies in the historic neighborhood of Myers Park, just minutes from Charlotte, North Carolina. Classes remain small with a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The university houses the well-known James L. Knight School of Communication. Queens’ online master’s degree in communication teaches students about the latest communications technologies, including social media. Students can complete an optional concentration in integrated digital strategy. Classes are delivered asynchronously through MyCourses. Distance learners can complete the online master's in communication in two years. Applicants must show proof of a bachelor’s degree and submit an application, official transcripts, a GRE score, a personal statement, two reference letters, and a resume. Queens waives the GRE requirement for learners with a GPA of 3.0 or five years of work experience.

9

South Dakota State University Brookings, SD

ADMISSIONS RATE 92%
GRADUATION RATE 54%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 10%
RETENTION RATE 76%
DEFAULT RATE 5%

South Dakota State University, located in Brookings, offers more than 200 academic programs, including 33 graduate degrees. SDSU’s online master’s degree in mass communication is focused on building hard skills; at least 50% of classes a student takes must be skills-based. The highly-regarded program won the 2014 University Professional & Continuing Education Association Central Region Innovative Program Award. Students complete at least two asynchronous classes each semester. Distance learners can complete the master's in communication online in three years. The program is 32 to 36 credits, depending on if the student chooses to complete a professional project. Applicants must submit official transcripts, an online application, and proof of immunization. Students working towards an undergraduate degree at the time of application may submit an incomplete transcript.

10

West Virginia University Morgantown, WV

ADMISSIONS RATE 86%
GRADUATION RATE 57%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 11%
RETENTION RATE 79%
DEFAULT RATE 9%

A public university located in Morgantown, West Virginia University offers an impressive 341 majors and more than 460 student organizations. The university also features a number of online programs, including the master’s degree in communication studies. Distance learners can complete the 36-credit hour online master's in communication in six semesters as long as they are enrolled in at least two courses per semester. The online communications master's degree costs the same for in-state and out-of-state residents. WVU requires a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75 from an accredited institution. The university accepts students with less than a 2.75 GPA on provisional status until they complete two graduate courses with a 3.0 GPA or higher.

11

Arizona State University-Tempe Tempe, AZ

ADMISSIONS RATE 83%
GRADUATION RATE 66%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 2%
RETENTION RATE 86%
DEFAULT RATE 7%

With more than 200 research-based programs, Arizona State University at Tempe ranks as the most innovative school in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 list. While ASU’s main campus is in Tempe, the university also operates several other campuses in Phoenix, Mesa, and Glendale. The university offers a 36-credit hour master’s degree in technical communication which focuses on the design and delivery of digital and printed text. Each class lasts only seven and a half weeks. The program requires a thesis or applied project for graduation. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA for the last 60 credit hours of an undergraduate program or a cumulative 3.0 GPA for a graduate program.

12

Western New England University Springfield, MA

ADMISSIONS RATE 81%
GRADUATION RATE 59%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 2%
RETENTION RATE 78%
DEFAULT RATE 5%

Located in Springfield, Massachusetts, Western New England University was founded nearly 100 years ago. Despite expanding its main campus to 215 acres, the university continues to offer small classes and personalized attention with a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio. WNE’s online master’s degree in communication with a public relations concentration prepares students to develop brands, manage communication crises, and improve public relations. By enrolling in two classes per term, distance learners can complete the 30-credit online communications master's degree in as little as 15 months. Students submit assignments for asynchronous classes on the learning platform Kodiak. Admission requirements include an online application, official transcripts, three recommendation forms, and a 500-word personal essay.

13

National University La Jolla, CA

ADMISSIONS RATE N/A%
GRADUATION RATE 33%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 60%
RETENTION RATE 64%
DEFAULT RATE 7%

One of the largest private universities in California, National University provides small classes for the university’s diverse population. While the university operates 28 locations throughout the country, the main campus is located in La Jolla, a small seaside community about 24 minutes north of San Diego. NU offers an online master’s degree in strategic communication. The online communications master's degree requires at least 45 quarter units of graduate work, including at least 40.5 quarter units (nine core classes) taken at NU. Students will learn how to manage a public relations campaign and how to handle crisis communications. To apply, distance learners must already possess a bachelor’s degree and hold a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Learners with a lower GPA may attend with satisfactory scores from any of the following tests: the GRE, GMAT, Miller Analogies Test (MAT), or an approved program exam.

14

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Edinboro, PA

ADMISSIONS RATE 96%
GRADUATION RATE 44%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 15%
RETENTION RATE 70%
DEFAULT RATE 9%

One of northwestern Pennsylvania’s largest education institutions, Edinboro University offers small class sizes and more than 100 areas of study. Located in Pennsylvania, EU provides numerous online programs, including the master’s degree in communication studies. The online communications master's degree offers four concentrations: managerial and leadership communication, integrated marketing communication, intercultural and international communication, and public communication. The online master's in communication requires a minimum 3.0 GPA. Distance learners complete 36 hours of coursework, or 30 to 33 credit hours of coursework and an internship. Near the end of study, students must also complete a thesis, a comprehensive exam and project, or a practicum. To apply, interested candidates must submit an online application, official transcripts, GRE or MAT scores (when applicable), two reference letters, and a statement of purpose.

How to Choose an Online Master's in Communications Program

An online master’s in communication can vary in length and content depending on the school and specific program you choose. Most programs require 30 to 36 credit hours of coursework that can be completed in a year of full-time study. Core courses will feature strategic communication topics such as audience analytics and public relations. Electives are more likely to vary from program to program; some schools offer healthcare communications while others offer marketing strategies. Some communications programs are nested within specific colleges at a university, such as the college of journalism, which would influence the instructional content as well.

Look into the capstone requirements of various master’s programs; some master’s degrees require in-person practicums or internships. If you want to get hands-on experience, you might be interested in programs with internship requirements. Also, be sure to check that your program of choice is accredited by either a national or regional accrediting agency.

Careers for Graduates of Master's in Communications Programs

An online communications master’s degree is relevant to dozens of industries, including journalism, healthcare, entertainment, and business. While most entry-level communications jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree will help you land an intermediate level job, replacing experience with education. An online master’s in communication can also be used to transition into the communications field from a different professional background.

The following table features descriptions of five communications careers and their annual median salaries.

Job Outlook and Salary for Graduates of Communications Master's Degrees

Since an online communications master’s degree is so widely applicable, job outlook varies. Generally, the projected employment rates for public relations and similar fields are positive, with average or above average growth. Similarly, salaries will also depend largely on the specific industry and occupation. For instance, a communications coordinator working for a multinational corporation will likely make a higher salary than a journalist working for a local newspaper. In the same way, individuals in executive positions can expect higher salaries than entry-level positions within the same industry.

The following table features the employment growth data for public relations specialists according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026
259,600 283,000

Salary Growth by Experience for Graduates of Communications Master's Programs

Salary can also vary by experience. The more experience you have in the communications field, the higher your salary. Some positions see a consistent salary growth rate based on years of experience. For instance, communications coordinators get a $4,000 raise on average every five to ten years. Others experience a higher salary growth rate at a particular moment in their career. For instance, marketing associates see an average of a $10,000 increase between zero years of experience and ten years of experience.

The following table features data from Payscale on the median annual salaries of technical writers, communications coordinators, and marketing associates by their years of experience.


To determine the best online master's in communications programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school's commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the best online master's in communications programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school's ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category's ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.