Master's in Communication: Definition, Types and Careers
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published September 29, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
The communications field can provide many diverse career opportunities in marketing, media, public relations and brand management. To pursue management and senior roles in these communications areas, it's beneficial to earn advanced credentials. A master's degree in communications is one option that can support your career development in a specialized field. In this article, we discuss what a master's in communication is, what types of degrees you can earn and what types of instructional platforms are available, with several roles that a graduate degree can support.
What is a master's in communication?
A master's degree in communications is a graduate-level credential that many professionals in media, public relations, marketing and consulting may pursue to advance in their careers. Coursework for communications at the graduate level can span a wide range of topics of study that can encompass disciplines like digital and strategic communication, media relations, corporate and mass communication. After receiving your master's, you can apply your degree to advance in your chosen communications field.
Types of master's degrees in communications
There are several distinct types of master's degrees you can earn in the field of communications, including:
Academic degree in communication
An Academic Master of Communication degree focuses on communication as it relates to research and theory. Many programs for academic degrees in communication involve a thesis project, where graduate students develop and complete research on a specific topic relevant to communications. Additionally, an academic master's degree can prepare you for a doctorate degree, especially if you're considering advancing into postsecondary education, contributing to research programs and publishing your own research.
Applied degree in communications
An Applied Master of Communications focuses on the practice of communications in professional environments. Because of this focus, graduates build on the theory of communication and use related principles to analyze, develop and test communication techniques that support industry uses. This degree focus can also prepare you for leadership roles in practical fields like marketing, public relations or brand representation. Several more fields an applied master's degree supports include corporate and strategic communication. Unlike the academic degree's thesis, an applied master's program often requires the completion of a project relevant to communications in business practices.
General master's degrees
Master's degrees in both the arts and sciences can provide a starting point for focusing on communications as your major. For instance, a Master of Arts degree can apply to a wide range of communications focuses, including combinations of theory and practice. Some MA programs feature studies in theoretical communications, business and strategic communications and media communications.
A Master of Science is another general degree that you can pursue to focus on communication studies, human resources and internal communication and global communications. Both the MA and MS programs may have various project or thesis requirements, depending on the institution and your major.
Related: 16 Top Communications Degree Jobs
What type of instructional methods are available?
Depending on your career field and degree focus, you can find several options for completing your education:
In-person classes provide scheduled coursework, group interaction and discussion projects that can support a variety of learning styles. Depending on the area of communications you pursue, in-person classes can offer opportunities to gain real-world experience with other professionals in your field. Additionally, some institutions may only offer in-person classes, so it's important to research the master's program carefully to determine the best learning methods for you.
Many programs are available online, too. One of the benefits of online courses is the ability to study at your own pace as instructors upload and introduce lectures and practice materials. Online classes are also beneficial for students who work and complete their coursework after normal business hours. Digital coursework may also require attending live meetings and group discussions to better support the practice of your communications focus.
Some educational institutions offer both online and in-person classes, where students can attend courses on campus while completing other classes online. These types of hybrid programs provide students with opportunities for engaging in group studies, learning from others in the field and completing independent projects. Some hybrid programs may also offer more frequent class schedules per term, depending on the communications focus and institution.
6 jobs you can get with a master's in communication
Consider the following careers you can pursue with a master's degree in communication:
National average salary: $58,396 per year
Primary duties: A public relations director plans and integrates strategies to build public awareness of a company, brand or individual. PR directors coordinate with advertising and marketing teams to develop and initiate communications campaigns that create positive reputations with their client's audiences. A PR director may also coordinate with media outlets like local news and radio stations for promotions through broadcasts.
National average salary: $58,563 per year
Primary duties: Liaisons who work in communications and public affairs serve as mediators to encourage and support interactions between companies, brands and individuals. A liaison may arrange conferences, solicit negotiations on behalf of different parties and managing overall communications between others. These professionals may often work in corporate settings, where they apply their skills and qualifications in areas like corporate, strategic and global communications.
National average salary: $59,507 per year
Primary duties: A media manager is responsible for the planning and integration of digital and content strategies across a variety of media outlets. They oversee processes in PR and content marketing, where they oversee media and communications teams and manage campaigns that promote businesses and brands. Media managers may also conduct market research to create content that delivers mass messaging in support of business goals.
National average salary: $63,450 per year
Primary duties: Marketing managers direct the planning, integration and monitoring of strategies to promote brands, products and services. They collaborate with marketing, sales and advertising teams to deploy campaigns that attract and convert customers. Communications is a large part of a marketing manager's job, as they oversee the processes for creating, editing and optimizing messages through print and digital channels.
Read more: Learn About Being a Marketing Manager
National average salary: $74,853 per year
Primary duties: The director of communications is the professional who oversees many of the communication and messaging activities of a brand or business. Typically, communications directors plan, write and use speeches and press releases, branded messages, promotional campaigns and media engagement to support companies' goals. They are also responsible for managing communications and public relations teams and internal and external messaging in corporate settings.
National average salary: $80,494 per year
Primary duties: Editorial project managers direct content and editorial teams to plan, create and deliver various forms of print and digital content. They plan editorial calendars, schedule publishing deadlines and establish strategies that support consistent editorial content that achieves brand or business goals. Project managers may also oversee digital media projects, such as social media and content marketing campaigns.
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