Masters in Communications

Thanks to our digital economy and prominence of social networking, the concept of relationship networks, group communication, and media theory, which were once abstract, are now significant areas of communications study. Communications degrees are both flexible and adaptable, allowing students to pursue a wide range of professions.

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Master’s degree programs in communications, in particular, explore the relationship between the new digital economy and communications, encouraging students to make critical assessments of social and political factors in communications, digital rhetoric, and social media, among others.

A master’s in communication allows students to develop a variety of skills that are attractive to employers across a number of disciplines. Some of the top skills communications major graduates possess include:

  • Writing and oral communication skills
  • Creative writing skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Comparing/contrasting skills
  • The ability to find solutions to intricate problems
  • The ability to perceive the world from multiple points of view
  • The ability to create persuasive messages
  • The ability to influence and persuade
  • The ability to advocate for causes, products, and services
  • The ability to read, reflect, and critique
  • The ability to gather information, work with others, meet deadlines, manage time, and summarize and present information
  • The ability to analyze text and information

The National Association of Colleges & Employers’ (NACE) 2011 Job Outlook listed the top skills and abilities employers seek from their employees, all of which are acquired through graduate studies in communications.

  • Analytical skills
  • Problem-solving skill
  • Written communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills

Selecting a Master’s Degree Program as a Communications Major

Master’s degrees in communications may be structured a number of ways:

  • Master of Arts in Communication Studies
  • Master of Arts in Communication
  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
  • Master of Arts in Communication and Journalism
  • Master of Arts in Human Communication
  • Master of Arts in Communication and Media Studies
  • Master of Arts in Communication and Culture
  • Master of Arts in Communication and Creative Arts
  • Master of Arts in Languages and Communication
  • Master of Arts in Organizational Communication
  • Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership
  • Master of Science in Business Communication
  • Master of Science in Mass Communication


Outside of regional accrediting agencies, the major accrediting body for master’s degree programs is the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC), which recognizes that professional programs in communications should prepare students with a body of knowledge and a system of inquiry, scholarship, and training for careers in which they are accountable to:

  • The public interest for their knowledge, ethics, competence, and service
  • Citizens, clients, or consumers for their competencies and quality of work
  • Employers for their performance

The ACEJMC also recognizes that the professions of journalism and communications should reflect the diversity and complexity of people, perspectives, and beliefs in a global society and in the multicultural communities they serve.

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The ACEJMC does not define specific curricula, courses, or methods of instruction for communications programs. Instead, it judges the programs against the standards it sets forth for preparing students for professional careers in journalism and mass communications.

The ACEJMC requires that students take a minimum of 72 semester hours in courses outside the major area of journalism and mass communications. It also urges programs to advise students on supervised experience in campus media and professional internships.

Admission Requirements and Prerequisites

Admission into a master’s degree in communication requires a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, and most programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Typical of a liberal arts degree, these graduate degree programs often require candidates to:

  • Complete a telephone or personal interview with an admissions advisor
  • Complete a personal statement that outlines their personal and professional goals
  • Submit a resume
  • Submit GRE scores

Master’s in Communication Program Structure

Master’s degrees in communications are designed for students interested in advancing their careers by moving into leadership positions and/or pursuing doctoral work. As a result, students of master’s degree programs often come from communication-related careers in public relations, marketing, journalism, and advertising, as well as a myriad of professional backgrounds, such as finance, environmental research, politics, healthcare and education.

Students of master’s degrees in communications build their skillset through coursework grounded in the latest communication practices and theories, allowing them to produce compelling messages for local, national, and global audiences. These programs offer real-world scenarios and projects that enable students to develop, execute, and measure communication strategies using both traditional and emerging channels.

Master’s degrees in communications allow students to build upon their critical thinking and strategic communications skills through the study of communications in business, marketing, politics, organizational communications, and public relations.

Therefore, graduates of these graduate degree programs are prepared to:

  • Apply strategies based on concepts and theories as to solve organizational problems
  • Develop brands and images for organizations
  • Communicate with investors and others who influence decision-making
  • Leverage communication with international, national, and local audiences
  • Build  and manage relationships through social media

Course coursework in a master’s degree in communications includes:

  • Communication theory
  • Communication research
  • Media relations
  • Organizational communication
  • Interpersonal communication
  • The role of communication in conflict and negotiation
  • Leadership in communication
  • Managing organizational change

Most master’s degrees in communications culminate in a thesis related to a specific area of communications study.

Master’s Program Concentrations for Communications Majors

Most master’s degree programs in communications allow students to focus their graduate degree on a specific area of communications. Although institutional offerings vary, some of the areas students may focus their communications master’s degree on include:

Journalism – A journalism concentration is for students who have an interest in sharpening their reporting, writing, and investigative research skills. This concentration exposes students to the investigative process and journalistic writing across all media, as well as digital communication, multimedia journalism, and media law and ethics.

Concentration coursework often includes:

  • Writing across the media
  • Free speech and ethics
  • News writing and reporting
  • News editing
  • Online journalism
  • Multimedia journalism

Marketing – A concentration in integrated marketing communication is designed for communications professionals in public communications. This type of concentration includes the study of public relations, promotions, and interpersonal communications, among others.

Concentration courses include:

  • Advertising
  • Integrated marketing communications
  • Consumer behavior

Public Relations – A concentration in public relations provides advanced study for developing relationships with the media, the government, and the community at large. This concentration allows students to develop knowledge and skills in legal and ethical issues, analytics, and theory.

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Concentration coursework includes:

  • Writing for public relations
  • Principles of public relations
  • Crisis communication

Organizational Communication Management – An organizational communication management concentration is designed for communications professionals who want to achieve advanced knowledge in the ethical management of communication for organizations that range from corporations to nongovernmental organizations.

Concentration coursework includes:

  • Organizational communication
  • Communication campaigns
  • Strategic communication for organizations

Health Communication – A concentration in health communication is designed for students who are looking to advance their healthcare career in hospitals, governmental agencies, biotech corporations, and nonprofit organizations.

Concentration coursework includes:

  • Health communication
  • Health promotions and campaigns
  • Branding health services

Mass Communications Research and Theory – A concentration in mass communications research and theory is designed for students interested in pursuing doctoral work in communications for teaching or research purposes.

Doctoral Studies in Communication

A master’s degree in communications is the logical precursor to a doctoral degree of the same name. PhDs in communications are the standard among communications professionals seeking careers in media science research or teaching.

PhD programs in communications involve studying the relationships between people and media in cultural, social, political, historical, economic, and technological contexts via a multidisciplinary approach.

These programs allow students to focus their doctoral research on specific areas of communications, such as:

  • Communication and technology
  • Rhetorical studies
  • Public relations/strategic communication
  • Persuasion-social influence
  • Organizational communication
  • New media-social media
  • Interpersonal-small group communication
  • Intercultural-international communication
  • Health communication
  • Gender communication

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