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Best Online Master's in Journalism Degree Programs

Learn about the top online master's programs in journalism, including common coursework and degree requirements. Then, get tips on how to choose the right program for your needs and explore journalism careers.

Best Online Master's Programs in Journalism

The best online master's programs in journalism, which are found on our list below, are affordable, flexible, and offer unique areas of concentration within the field.

1. University of Iowa

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Iowa City, IA $11,336

The University of Iowa's online 30-credit Master of Arts (MA) in Strategic Communication degree program features a curriculum that helps future journalists hone their writing and communication skills. This program requires 5 core courses where students study strategic communications writing and research and complete a capstone project. Then, students choose 5 elective courses that best suit their career goals with possible classes on copywriting, political communication, and internal communication. Courses allow students to complete assignments on their own while also interacting with their professors and peers during a live session that meets once a week.

2. University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Lincoln, NE$7,588

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers two pathways to earn a journalism-focused degree, including an online Master of Arts (MA) in Journalism and Mass Communications degree and online Master of Arts (MA) in Integrated Media Communications degree. Both master's degrees require 36 credits. The MA in Journalism and Mass Communications features core and elective coursework in entrepreneurial and multi-platform journalism as well as a final professional project. The MA in Integrated Media Communications has a unique focus on either marketing or communications and allows students to choose journalism-focused electives. These programs boast a low cost of $357 per credit for in-state students and $652 for out-of-state students.

3. University of Missouri-Columbia

Location University of Missouri-Columbia Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Columbia, MO$10,017

The University of Missouri-Columbia has an online Master of Arts (MA) in Journalism degree that allows students to choose a concentration in one of the following areas:

  • Health Communications
  • Strategic Communication
  • Interactive Media
  • Media Management

Each degree area requires 37 credits, and students must attend a single on-campus seminar during a fall semester. This online MA in Journalism program prepares students for specialized careers in social media management, advertising, media relations, or healthcare, depending on their chosen area of study. Along with core and specialized coursework, students also complete a thesis or a professional project. The tuition here is $386 per credit hour and the University of Missouri-Columbia offers tuition discounts to active/retired military, National Guardsman/Reservists, and military spouses.

4. Marshall University

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Huntington, WV $8,432

Marshall University's Master of Arts (MA) in Journalism degree program offers a concentration area in new media that can be completed in a 100% online format. This 30-credit program is designed for seasoned journalists or those new to the field who want to develop a modern, technological journalistic skill set by studying web design, online journalism strategies, and new media cultures. The online MA in Journalism program boasts an affordable price of $378.50 per credit hour for all students. Marshall University's journalism program has been accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) since 1976.

5. Regent University

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Virginia Beach, VA $16,179

Regent University offers an online Master of Arts (MA) in Journalism that features short 8-week classes with a focus on emerging new media and traditional media. Students take a range of courses on such subjects as specialty, political, and multimedia reporting. They also complete a culminating professional project. Students in this online program are guided by the same professors who teach on-campus, and they gain valuable practical experience that helps them become published professionals. Regent University offers all students, regardless of residency status, the same tuition price -- $650 per credit.

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Overview of Online Journalism Master's Degree Programs

Online master's programs in the field of journalism can lead to a Master of Arts (MA) in Journalism degree or a MA degree in media, strategic, or mass communications. These types of journalism master's programs prepare students not only for careers in traditional journalism but careers in public relations, social media, writing, and media relations. As such, many MA in Journalism degree programs feature concentration areas, such as the ones below:

  • New Media/Social Media
  • Strategic Communications
  • Mass Communications
  • Healthcare Communications
  • Teaching Journalism
  • Reporting/Storytelling
  • Media Analytics

Typically, journalism master's programs require about 30 to 37 credits, and most require a master's thesis or a professional project. Most programs have no in-person or internship requirements but some require a 1-time campus visit that could be an orientation or that you take at least 1 course on-campus.

Additionally, many online journalism programs feature asynchronous learning, which means that students can complete assignments, readings, and projects at their own pace without set class times. However, a limited number of programs may require students to attend live class sessions that take place once a week during the semester.

Length of Online Journalism Master's Degree Programs

The length of time it takes to complete a master's degree in journalism depends on several factors, including the program format and whether you are a full- or part-time student. Generally, however, most students can earn their degree in about 2 to 3 years, but some programs may feature an accelerated format that allows students to complete their degree in only 1 year.

Common Courses in Journalism Master's Programs

The exact makeup of an online journalism program's curriculum depends on the type of degree and its area of focus. Although these programs often have unique classes that cover a range of topics that include the study of social media, reporting, communications, and writing, there are some common courses, some of which you can explore in-depth below:

Feature Writing

This course covers all types of feature writing, including blogs, essays, and magazine articles, and also teaches students techniques for writing long-form pieces, including how to effectively use sources, illustrations, and titles.

Media Law and Ethics

A course on media law and ethics examines different issues related to the ownership, creation, and distribution of media and content. Students usually study legal concepts, such as libel, intellectual property law, and freedom of the press, along with ethical theories. Some programs break this course up and require just a class on ethics or law.

Multimedia Reporting

This class teaches aspiring journalists how to report using a variety of media platforms, including mobile, broadcast, social media, and print platforms. Students learn how to craft a news story for specific platforms by studying writing craft, video production, and digital media production.

Visual Storytelling

Visual storytelling focuses on the techniques and methods for effectively telling stories through the use of photographs, design layouts, and picture editing. Usually, this course teaches students how to visually tell stories across different platforms.

Journalism Communication Research

This course centers on the research methods and techniques that students will need to conduct reporting in the field, including interviewing, polling, and focus groups. Students also learn research methods for conducting academic research and analysis.

News Writing and Reporting

This is a class that teaches students the skills they need to gather information for reporting, including how to research, interview, and investigate. There is an emphasis on writing and reporting for different platforms, including web, social media, and video.

How to Choose a Journalism Master's Degree Program

Deciding on a program can be difficult; we suggest that you look at several factors, including total program cost, experience requirements for admissions, and school/program accreditation.

Cost

The total cost of earning your degree is one of the most important considerations to make when choosing between journalism programs. Generally, these types of programs can range from $350 to $1,800 per credit (although, some universities charge a flat semester rate). And while a number of universities charge online in-state and out-of-state students the same, others charge out-of-state students more. If you are exploring programs located outside of your state of residency, you'll want to consider whether you're willing to pay more for your degree, compared to attending an in-state school.

Further, most universities charge additional fees, such as technology fees, course fees, and distant education fees, which are added onto your tuition. It's a good idea to ask your university for a tuition and fee breakdown so that you understand the total cost of degree. Also, if your program has any on-campus requirements, then you want to factor in the cost of travel, accommodations, and food.

Experience

A limited number of journalism master's programs require that you have a certain number of years of professional experience to apply. However, this isn't a common requirement, and a majority of programs accept students without professional experience as long as they meet other admission requirements, such as holding a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA and submitting a resume, writing samples, and letters of recommendation.

Accreditation

There are two types of accreditation that are important for online journalism master's degrees. First, your college or university should be regionally accredited by an agency that is approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Examples of regional accrediting agencies include the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), and the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). Regional accreditation matters. You have a much better chance of receiving a high-quality education, and only students who attend an accredited school are able to access federal financial aid.

Second, look for your journalism program to be accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC). This organization accredits journalism and mass communications bachelor's and master's programs based on standards that include a curriculum based in journalism, the liberal arts, and the sciences, program resources, and institutional diversity.

Financial Aid & Scholarships for Journalism Master's Degrees

When researching how to afford your journalism master's program, its best to look at both federal aid and scholarships. You can learn about what types of federal aid you qualify for by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Graduate students, typically, can access Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans. If you have previous student loans, the Direct Consolidation Loans program can help you condense your loans into a single loan.

There are also a lot of scholarships out there for journalism students. These scholarships can be for students pursuing a certain type of degree or career or can be based on academic merit and personal traits. Below are some great examples of scholarships that graduate-level journalism students can apply for:

NAJA-Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship

From the Native American Journalists Association, this is a $10,000 award for a student pursuing a digital media, journalism, or communications degree. To apply, you must demonstrate a commitment to Indigenous storytelling through your coursework and projects.

The Getty Images Inclusion Scholarship

From Getty Images and the Asian American Journalists Association, this is a $10,000 scholarship for a student who wants to pursue a visual journalism career. To apply, you must submit an essay, work samples, and other materials.

Bill Walsh Scholarship

From the American Copy Editors Society (ACES), this is a scholarship for a student who wishes to pursue a career in news and editing. To apply, you must produce news-related copy, write headlines, and demonstrate academic achievement in editing.

Job Options with a Master's Degree in Journalism

After earning your master's degree in journalism, you are able to pursue a variety of careers in the field of media and communications. Read on the explore job duties and salary information for journalists, public relations specialists, and editors.

Journalist

Journalists are responsible for reporting the news through different platforms, including television, print, radio, and digital. To do this, they must conduct research and interviews, write copy and articles, and stay on top of developments. The specific job duties of journalists also depend on the medium they work in. For example, a multimedia journalist is responsible for creating their own video, audio, and written reporting and posting it. Television reporters must conduct live or recorded interviews, while also editing and recording voice-overs.

Below is the salary and job outlook information for reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts:

  • Median Annual Salary: $43,490
  • Projected 2018-2028 Growth Rate: -10%

Public Relations Specialist

Public relations specialists are responsible for helping to maintain the communications strategy and public image of an organization. To do this, they interact with the media, answering questions, creating press releases, and writing speeches. They might also be in charge of monitoring social media channels.

  • Median Annual Salary: $60,000
  • Projected 2018-2028 Growth Rate: 6%

Editor

Editors work in a wide range of industries, including in news, book, and magazine publishing and in public relations or advertising. The job duties of an editor depend on the type of editor they are and what industry they work in. For example, an executive editor in the news industry plans publishing strategy and stories, assigns work to reporters or writers, and manages contracts and budgets. On the other hand, a copy editor is responsible for proofing written pieces for grammar and clarity, fact-checking, and arranging print layouts.

  • Median Annual Salary: $59,480
  • Projected 2018-2028 Growth Rate: -3%

Salary information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Licensure & Certification for Journalism Careers

To work as a journalist, you don't need to have a license or any certifications. However, if you choose to transition into the field of teaching or have the goal of becoming a journalism professor, then you could earn the optional Certified Journalism Educator credential from the Journalism Education Association (JEA). To qualify for this credential, you must be a current JEA member, have a valid state teaching certificate, and either have taken college-level courses required by JEA or have teaching/journalism experience and pass the JEA exam.

Professional Journalism Organizations

Professional journalism organizations exist to promote and advocate for the field of journalism and related professions. Joining one of these organizations helps you advance your career, as you are able take advantage of things such as conferences, job boards, and educational resources.

Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)

SPJ is dedicated to the field of journalism and promoting ethical journalism. SPJ has a large freelance community that helps journalists find jobs and refine their craft and also offers training/educational resources to professional journalists and students. A paid SPJ membership gets you discounts on conferences, exclusive website features, and access to career support.

The American Copy Editors Society (ACES)

ACES is an organization made up of professional editors, educators, and students. This organization is dedicated to the written word and improving the lives and careers of editors in all fields. As a member of ACES, you get access to editing training/educational resources, networking opportunities, and discounts to the annual ACES conference.