Answer: There are a wide range of careers one might pursue with a master’s degree in communication, and salaries for positions in the field and its related specializations can vary based on many factors. Because the field is so diverse, graduates’ actual salary will depend largely on the particular career path they move into after completing their degree, as well as their location, experience, and responsibilities. Therefore, the salary data* presented in this FAQ is not guaranteed and should only be used for estimating earning potential following graduation.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) surveys occupations and presents data in their Occupational Outlook Handbook. This data includes salary information, job outlook, and typical entry-level education requirements. Unfortunately, bls.gov groups occupations into broad categories** and does not track data based on the degree level of employees. Therefore, in order to estimate salary levels for master’s in communication graduates, other sources like Glassdoor.com and Payscale.com must also be used in combination with potential job titles. The following information uses data from all three sources.
Communications, Marketing, and Public Relations Managers
In many cases, earning a master’s in communication will qualify students for management or senior positions in the field. Communications Managers and Directors in the United States earn an average salary of $70,481 and $85,709, respectively, according to data from Glassdoor. Marketing Managers earn roughly the same, with Glassdoor reporting their national average salary at $81,078. For those interested in a career in public relations, the latest data (May 2017) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Public Relations Managers earn a median annual wage of $111,280. While it is possible to achieve these positions with a bachelor’s degree and several years of work experience, bls.gov notes that for Public Relations Managers, some employers prefer a master’s degree. The same is probably true for communications and marketing managers.
|Title||Salary (National Average)|
|Communications Managers||$70,481 (Glassdoor); $62,708 (Payscale)|
|Communications Directors||$85,709 (Glassdoor); $67,820 - $75,661(Payscale)|
|Marketing Managers||$81,078 (Glassdoor); $63,669 (Payscale)|
|Public Relations Managers||$111,280 (Bureau of Labor Statistics ) (median salary)|
|Note: Values from both Glassdoor and Payscale are included to demonstrate that national averages vary slightly based on data source.|
Other Positions in Communications and Marketing
Many graduates of master’s in communication program take on positions that involve directly handling internal and/or external communications for a business or organization. Depending on their level of experience, some might start in entry-level positions, such as Communications Specialist or Coordinator. According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a Communications Specialist is $55,988, while Communications Coordinators earn an average of $46,434. Typically, these positions do not require a master’s degree, so it is possible that a master’s graduate could negotiate a higher salary, one that ranges between specialist and manager.
For students interested in pursuing a career in marketing, such as those with degrees in integrated marketing communications, there are a wide variety of roles to choose from. Marketing Specialist, a more entry-level position, has an average salary of $50,528 according to Glassdoor, while Marketing Analysts earn an average of $60,823 nationwide.
For management positions in the field, which may require or at least prefer a master’s degree, the average compensation is higher. As mentioned above, Glassdoor data shows that Marketing Managers earn a national average salary of $81,078. Similarly, the average yearly pay for a Digital Marketing Manager is $74,114. With enough experience, graduates may be able to move into positions such as Senior Marketing Manager. According to Glassdoor, these professionals earn an average of $101,178 a year. Payscale has similar data, citing an annual salary of $97,801.
Additional Career Options for Master’s in Communication Graduates
Outside of communications and marketing, there are many career paths available to graduates of master’s in communication programs, depending on the specific focus of their degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has national salary data for a wide range of potential careers in related fields. As noted above, bls.gov does not offer salary information by degree type; however, each of the positions below are roles one might pursue with a master’s degree in communication or one of its subspecialties. While entry-level positions in many of these occupations only require a bachelor’s degree, earning a master’s may help graduates take on more senior positions and earn a higher salary.
Public relations is a popular field for communication graduates, with many master’s programs offerings concentrations in PR or a related focus. These professionals essentially act as spokespeople for employers or clients, cultivating a positive image for companies or important figures in both the media and the eyes of the public. According to the latest figures from bls.gov, Public Relations Specialists earned a median annual wage of $59,300 in May 2017, with the top 10 percent of those in this role earning more than $112,260. Graduates with a master’s in the field may be able to pursue a managerial or senior PR position, such as Public Relations Manager. Bls.gov data shows the median annual salary for Public Relations and Fundraising Managers was $111,280 in 2017. The highest 10 percent of professionals in these roles earned more than $208,000, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $61,130.
Students who specialize in journalism or media and mass communication might consider a career in the news industry, researching, writing, or reporting on stories for traditional or new media outlets. According to the bls.gov profile for Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts, broadcast news analysts in the United States earned a median annual wage of $62,910 in 2017, while reporters and correspondents earned $39,370. The salary range in this field is wide, however, as bls.gov data shows the top 10 percent of professionals earned salaries of more than $195,520, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $26,510.
Writing, Editing, and Technical Communicators
A common career path for students who earn their master’s in technical communication is becoming a Technical Writer/Communicator or Editor. According to bls.gov, the median annual wage for Technical Writers was $70,930 in 2017. As for Technical Editors, Glassdoor reports a national average salary of $54,247. While these jobs typically only require a bachelor’s degree, earning a master’s in the field may help graduates move into positions such as lead or principal technical writer, which can come with higher salaries. Bls.gov data shows that the top 10 percent of Technical Writers in the U.S. earned more than $113,810 in 2017. Most likely, these professionals were in management positions in the field.
For those interested in applying their communication skills to other types of writing, there are many options for master’s-trained authors and editors. Bls.gov reports the median annual wage for Writers and Authors in the U.S. was $61,820 in 2017, and the highest 10 percent of these professionals earned salaries of more than $118,760. Meanwhile, Editors earned a median annual wage of $58,770 nationwide that year. Those in the top 10 percent of this field saw salaries of over $114,460, according to the latest bls.gov data.
Many students who pursue a master’s in communication studies or another theory-based specialization, such as interpersonal communication, end up moving into careers in research or academia. In most cases, this entails earning a doctorate in the field after completion of their master’s degree; however, master’s graduates may be able to pursue teaching positions at community colleges. For those interested in becoming professors or instructors at the college level, bls.gov reports that Postsecondary Teachers earned a median annual wage of $76,000 in May 2017. (Note: Salary levels for academic teaching positions vary greatly by institution, location, employment type, and years of experience.)
*The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics presents data for median average salary, top 10 percent, and bottom 10 percent of salaries for the occupations they survey. Employees typically do not earn salaries in the top 10 percent range and those values are only included to demonstrate the range of potential salaries for top performers and executives in the fields discussed.
**There are four occupations in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook that most closely relate to potential careers for master’s in communication graduates. These include: Public Relations and Fundraising Managers; Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers; Public Relations Specialists; and Technical Writers/Technical Communicators. They also list data for Writer and Authors; Editors; Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts; and Postsecondary Teachers, which may all be potential career paths for master’s in communication graduates.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/advertising-promotions-and-marketing-managers.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Editors, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/editors.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Postsecondary Teachers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Public Relations and Fundraising Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/public-relations-managers.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Public Relations Specialists, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/public-relations-specialists.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/reporters-correspondents-and-broadcast-news-analysts.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Technical Writers,
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Writers and Authors, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/writers-and-authors.htm
- Glassdoor, https://www.glassdoor.com
- Payscale, https://www.payscale.com