Earning a Master's in Journalism Online

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Earning an online master's degree in journalism can lead to exciting careers in broadcasting, public relations, reporting, and other multimedia-focused positions. Many candidates earn their master's degree in journalism online in two years or less, quickly increasing their earning and employment potential.

Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that several careers requiring a master's degree in journalism -- such as public relations specialists, video editors, broadcast engineers, and communications workers -- can expect rapid job growth through 2026. This guide explores some popular careers for graduates with a master's degree in journalism; it also looks at funding opportunities and program structures, listing some helpful resources for graduate students and new professionals.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Journalism?

An online master's degree in journalism proves ideal for candidates interested in broadcasting, mass communications, and reporting. Students and working professionals pursue journalism master's programs for several reasons. In many cases, bachelor's students seek a master's degree to increase their marketability and job opportunities upon graduation. On the other hand, professionals who already work in the field may earn a master's to develop a specialty or increase their salary potential.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Journalism?

Pursuing Specialization

Journalism master's programs provide the opportunity for students to develop specializations in their field. Some popular areas of expertise include sports, environmental studies, business, and international journalism. Specialties also help young professionals branch out into related careers. For example, some journalists who specialize in criminal justice issues could pursue journalism or mass communication jobs related to the legal system, law enforcement, or criminal investigations.

Career Advancement Opportunities

An online master's degree in journalism presents graduates with more career advancement opportunities than only a bachelor's degree. Additional training in your field often makes you a stronger candidate for higher-level and leadership positions that offer higher salaries. The number of available career advancement opportunities depends on your area of expertise, the job market, and your location. However, a master's degree in journalism develops the skills and credentials that can put you ahead of the competition in even the toughest hiring climates.

Online Learning Technology

Technology changes rapidly, and journalism professionals need to keep up with emerging ideas and products. Online master's in journalism programs use advanced distance learning technologies to deliver course materials. In addition, accredited online programs offer web-based training with cutting-edge software and hands-on projects that help you develop the skills you need to pursue a successful career in journalism or mass communication.

Prerequisites for Online Journalism Programs

Most institutions require prospective journalism students to meet certain prerequisites before gaining admission to a program. You may be expected to meet or supply many of the common standards and application materials in the following list.

    • Work Experience: Some graduate programs expect applicants to boast previous work experience in a relevant field. Professional experience demonstrates that you possess the skill set needed to perform in a journalistic setting.
    • Exams and Test Scores: In many cases, students applying to online master's in journalism programs do not need to submit their GRE or standardized test scores. Schools that require applicants to take the GRE typically expect average scores or higher, but expectations vary by institution. Your GRE scores remain valid for five years after you complete the exam.
    • Coursework: Prospective journalism students come from many different educational backgrounds, and previous coursework requirements tend to differ considerably between schools. Candidates who do not hold a background in research and writing should detail in their application why they wish to switch academic paths and pursue a career in journalism.
    • Recommendations: If a prospective school requests letters of recommendation, make sure to select references who can speak to your abilities as a student and journalist. While your recommenders should know you on a personal level, they need to know about your research skills, writing abilities, and your likelihood for professional success.
    • Essays: Application essays provide excellent opportunities to explain your desire to pursue a career in journalism or a similar field. This proves especially relevant for those without a background in journalism.
    • Interviews: Some schools require applicants to complete an interview with an admissions adviser. You can prepare for admissions interviews by researching common questions online and practicing in mock interviews with a friend, adviser, or professor.
    • International Students International students applying to programs at English-speaking institutions must take the TOEFL exam. Journalism programs come with high expectations and may expect students to demonstrate a minimum TOEFL score of 550-650 on the paper-based exam or 79-100 on the internet-based test.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Journalism?

In today's competitive job market, an online master's degree in journalism can open up a broad spectrum of traditional and nontraditional career paths. Both types of careers offer competitive salaries for individuals who hold advanced degrees. According to the BLS, news analysts, reporters, and correspondents enjoy a general salary range of $17,480-$97,510. Journalism graduates in nontraditional careers may earn up to $155,230 annually.

Traditional Careers for Master's in Journalism Graduates

Careers Stats Description

Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts

Median Pay: $40,910

Job Growth: -9%

These professionals research and investigate news stories for newspapers, blogs, and magazines. They may also serve as writers or editors who craft content for later use on television or in print. Broadcast news analysts may also work as anchors on television news broadcasts or radio programs.

Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists

Median Pay: $92,070

Job Growth: 12%

By analyzing the weather and climate, these scientists create forecasts, develop new data collection techniques and instruments, and advise clients in weather-related situations and challenges related to climate change. They may specialize in atmospheric studies, climatology, or meteorology. These professions require that candidates hold extensive data collection, observation, and scientific research skills.

Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators

Median Pay: $58,210

Job Growth: 13%

These multimedia specialists record audio and video for television programs, movies, music videos, newscasts, and other events. They compile footage into a cohesive, linear timeline according to specific guidelines or a storyline. They may also create documentary footage for movies or special events.

Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technicians

Median Pay: $42,650

Job Growth: 8%

Broadcast and sound engineers use multimedia technologies, including lighting, video, and audio, to generate distributable content used on television, radio, movies. They handle the multimedia components of live events such as public speeches, concerts, and festivals. They must be flexible problem-solvers who can troubleshoot technological issues at a moment's notice.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Nontraditional Careers for Journalism Graduates

Many graduates with online master's degrees in journalism pursue nontraditional careers. Traditional journalism training coupled with a graduate-level specialization can result in a highly transferable and valuable skill set. In the section below, we highlight some of these overlapping skills and their relationship to the traditional jobs in the field.

Career Stats Description

Postsecondary Teachers

Median Pay: $76,000

Job Growth: 15%

Often referred to as faculty members or professors, postsecondary instructors teach undergraduate- and graduate-level courses at colleges and universities. While many spend the majority of their time teaching students, they may also balance teaching responsibilities with research obligations. They are excellent public speakers, work well with others, and can manage course schedules and syllabi.

Skills Overlapped: public speaking; research; concise writing; self-motivation

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

Median Pay: $111,280

Job Growth: 10%

These managers enhance their clients' public image by developing promotional strategies and providing communications and advertising consultations. Fundraisers help clients meet funding goals by applying for grants, meeting with prospective donors, and supervising clients' staff members. Professionals in this field possess strong leadership, interpersonal, and networking skills.

Skills Overlapped: networking savvy; persuasive writing; leadership and management skills

Writers and Authors

Median Pay: $61,820

Job Growth: 8%

Writers and authors develop stories and written content, including books, magazine articles, television shows, advertisements, and other types of media. They usually specialize in writing material from a particular genre. This broad, creative profession encompasses many careers, including screenwriting, copywriting, blogging, and speechwriting. Most writers conduct research in order to craft authentic characters, storylines, articles, and biographical content. They must be dependable, able to meet deadlines, and maintain strong networking skills.

Skills Overlapped: networking skills; time management skills

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Paying for an Online Master's in Journalism

An online master's degree in journalism should fit both your academic needs and your finances. Tuition rates tend to vary among schools, sometimes by significant amounts. Some candidates save money and time by enrolling in accelerated programs. In addition, journalism graduate students enjoy many financial aid options, including loans, grants, and scholarships. Read on to explore some possible financial assistance opportunities and resources.

Scholarships for Online Journalism Master's Students

Many nonprofit organizations, foundations, and private companies sponsor merit- and need-based scholarships, and some awards go specifically to journalism students. Scholarships help cover the cost of tuition, fees, and school-related expenses. Typically, recipients do not need to pay back scholarship money, making these awards ideal funding sources.

What to Expect from a Master's Level Online Journalism Program

All online master's degrees in journalism feature different curricula, courses, and graduation requirements. The list below, however, includes notable milestones or steps most journalism students encounter en route to graduation. While researching graduate programs, read course descriptions and degree requirements to ensure both that a prospective school's curriculum fits your academic needs and that each institution's virtual classroom experience matches your preferences.

Major Milestones

  1. Capstone Coursework

    Typically, students take capstone courses during their final semester. Capstones usually consist of an extensive final project during which students demonstrate that they understand the concepts covered in the program.

  2. Thesis Preparation

    Many journalism master's programs expect candidates to submit a thesis proposal in their final semester. A predetermined faculty committee evaluates the document and schedules a defense date.

  3. Internships/Apprenticeships/Job Shadowing

    These hands-on learning experiences can occur at any time during journalism master's programs, including summer. After completing an internship, some journalism students pursue more intensive apprenticeships or job shadowing opportunities.

  4. Thesis Defense

    Students must follow a particular sequence, from composing their initial thesis proposal to submitting a final draft. After a thesis committee approves the proposal, students spend several months researching and writing the thesis itself.

  5. Intent to Graduate Forms

    Schools expect most candidates to submit an intent to graduate packet about two months before their final semester. The packets usually include multiple forms that students must sign and submit to the records office. Some departments may require an "exit test" or graduation survey.

  6. Comprehensive Exams

    Some online master's in journalism programs require exams for graduation. Exams may take place on campus or at home and can last several hours.

Coursework

Along with standard or introductory journalism courses, most master's programs include specialty and elective courses. Department faculty and their specialty areas, coupled with the school's access to resources, help determine course availability. Students often encounter one or more of the following classes in any journalism master's program.

Food and Health Journalism

Students learn to cover topics related to food and nutrition, global food chains, and dietary culture. Coursework teaches aspiring journalists to write engaging stories about human and animal health issues, farming, ranching, and resource consumption.

Terrorism and Media

This course examines journalists' roles and responsibilities as they cover modern terrorism in the United States and around the globe. Graduate students survey methods of addressing sensitive issues in the media, crime reporting, and world news.

Reporting and Multimedia

In this class, candidates receive hands-on training in audio and video recording, photography, video editing, and social media marketing. Lectures and assignments explore ethical media use, copyrights, and content ownership.

Communications Law

Communications law classes address topics such as freedom of expression, cybersecurity, privacy, Federal Communications Commission regulations, and regulatory bodies in the digital age. Aspiring journalists learn about professional, legal, and ethical decisions regarding digital communications in an international context.

Entrepreneurship and Journalism

This course proves ideal for professionals who wish to start their own journalism-focused businesses. Candidates learn to research and develop ideas, publish content, and generate revenue.

Degree Timelines

Students pursuing an online master's degree in journalism may select one of several enrollment options. You may choose to enroll in a standard or accelerated program on a part- or full-time basis. However, credit requirements and degree completion times differ considerably among schools.

Enrollment Status Time to Complete Description

Part-Time

24-48 months
(6 credits per semester)

Part-time enrollment works well for students who can attend classes and spend at least six hours a week on homework and writing. Some programs expect learners to explore story leads during the day, making them inconvenient for working professionals. These programs may only work for those with flexible schedules.

Full-Time

12-24 months
(9 credits per semester)

Full-time students usually complete 33-36 credits for an online master's degree in journalism. They spend their final semester preparing for or completing comprehensive exams and a thesis. Full-time enrollment proves best for students who can work a part-time job or take time off to complete their degree.

Accelerated

10-12 months
(12 credits per semester)

Accelerated online master's degrees in journalism take about one year to complete. While they cover the same material as traditional programs, they feature more rigorous schedules. Accelerated programs allow students who prefer an intense academic timeline to save time and money.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations offer many opportunities and benefits for students and journalists alike. Membership-based associations like the following groups provide access to online resources such as job boards, full-text books and articles, current research, and networking events.

  • Association for Women in Communications: AWC's global directory allows members to connect and collaborate with one another. The group's site features a job board, blog, professional development opportunities and events calendar.
  • Association of Health Care Journalists: This independent, nonprofit organization strives to enhance public understanding of healthcare issues. Members enjoy continuing education courses and training at annual conferences, seminars, workshops, and fellowship programs.
  • Journalism Education Association: This group supports journalism by providing resources, including merit-based and travel awards for professionals and students. Members also receive subscriptions to quarterly journals and online publications.
  • National Federation of Press Women: This group supports female communications professionals and students. The organization hosts an annual conference, which features workshops addressing social media skills, memoir writing, leadership strategies, photography, and career necessities.
  • Native American Journalists Association: NAJA sponsors journalism programs and projects that promote Native American cultures. The association offers student fellowships and scholarships, online legal resources, and an active job board.
  • American Press Institute: API offers online learning tools and information regarding in-person training workshops. The organization's diversity program encourages minority leadership in news and journalism.
  • Journalist's Toolbox: Presented by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Journalist's Toolbox offers reporting tips and tools, including links to articles about important issues and topics.
  • Pew Research Center's Journalism and Media Section: The Pew Research Center maintains a thorough database for data, news, and contacts for professionals and students in journalism, communications, and popular media. Visitors can explore research and news regarding topics such as immigration, science, religion, social media, and politics.
  • The Journalist's Resource: This site serves as an excellent reference for both students and young professionals. In addition to current news reports on six major journalistic interests, site visitors can access online resources such as educational articles and syllabi for courses in mass communication, journalism, and media studies.
  • Solutions Journalism Network: This organization provides online training guides for journalists reporting on health issues, education, and violence. It also offers career development tools, editing advice, and methods for creating productive collaborative projects.