Answer: Yes – There are currently no master’s in communication programs offered online in the United States that require a thesis. At this time, MastersinCommunications.com lists 105 online master’s degree programs in the field, and not one of them explicitly requires students to complete a thesis in order to graduate. While some programs offer students the opportunity to write a thesis as their graduation requirement, it is included as one of two or more capstone options. In an online master’s in communication program, capstone options most often include a project, portfolio, comprehensive exam, or internship. There are also online programs that have no capstone requirement. Capstone options and requirements vary by program, so students should be sure they fully understand what is expected of them before applying.

The capstone requirement is a major component of most master’s degree programs in communication whether they are offered online or on-campus. Students typically spend a significant amount of time working on this project, which may take one of several different forms. The most common capstone options are:

  • Thesis
  • Publishable papers
  • Applied project
  • Comprehensive exam
  • Internship
  • Portfolio

Some programs also require students to enroll in a capstone course, where they work on their capstone under the guidance of faculty or instructors. It is also not uncommon for students to earn credit hours towards graduation for completing a thesis or applied project (typically three to six credits).

A thesis is a lengthy research paper, in which students identify an issue within the field of communication and form a hypothesis around it to study with extensive research. The process of conceptualizing, researching, and writing a thesis often spans the entire second half of a student’s master’s program, and these papers regularly end up being over 100 pages long. During the development of their thesis, students typically work with a committee comprised of three or four faculty members who help guide them through the process. In most cases, students then must defend their completed thesis in front of this same committee, answering in-depth questions about their research and conclusions.

As mentioned above, no online master’s programs in communication or any of its related specializations currently offered by schools in the United States include a thesis as a mandatory graduation requirement. There are, however, some traditional on-campus programs that do require students to complete a thesis. These are typically programs with an academic or theoretical social science focus, designed for students intending to further their studies at the doctoral level. In many cases, graduates of these types of programs go on to work in academia or research. As such, researching and writing a thesis is often great preparation for their future careers.

Some programs offer students the choice to write several publishable papers as their capstone requirement. These are also research-based projects, but not as extensive as a thesis. Each publishable paper is typically much shorter than a thesis, however, the multiple papers put together may be comparable in length. Students go through a similar process when developing a publishable paper, applying communication research methods and theory to a real-word issue in the field in order to form an original analysis. This capstone option may also be a good choice for students considering a PhD program or career in research, as well as those who wish to fully investigate or complete a study they began earlier in their master’s program.

An applied project is one of the most common capstone options in many online master’s in communication programs. As opposed to a thesis or publishable papers, which are more theoretical and academic in nature, the applied project, or praxis, is geared toward students who intend to enter the professional world following graduation, or current working professionals looking to further their careers. In completing an applied project, students still identify and attempt to solve an actual problem in communication or their particular specialization. The major difference is that they then produce a tangible product meant to address this issue, as opposed to a paper detailing their solution. This final product may take many different forms, such as a training video, marketing or communication plan, employee handbook, website, mobile application, or documented consultation with a business or organization. Students often pursue a project that aligns with their career goals after graduation, as these can be prominently featured on one’s resume. Since many online programs are designed for working professionals, most online students complete an applied project instead of a thesis, even when both options are available.

Another capstone option commonly offered by online master’s in communication programs is the comprehensive exam. Students who choose this as their graduation requirement must successfully pass an extensive examination, testing them on their knowledge of topics covered in the program. These exams typically include questions pertaining to core communication theory and research methods, as well as questions focused specifically on one’s degree concentration (e.g., organizational communication, technical communication). The question set is often customized for each student by a faculty committee, and may include both a written and oral component. While the exam itself may take most of a day to complete, and students can expect to spend a significant amount of time preparing for it, this capstone option still requires less time overall than a thesis or praxis. As such, the comprehensive exam is often a great option for working professionals or students otherwise too busy to devote time to an extensive research project. Programs that offer students the choice between a thesis/project or a comprehensive exam may, however, require those who take the exam option to complete additional courses.

There are also some online programs that offer students the chance to complete an internship or portfolio as their capstone requirement. These are both fairly straightforward. Students who pursue an internship go to work for a business or organization related to their particular field of study. This hands-on experience allows them to apply what they have learned in the program in a real-world professional environment, all while gaining valuable training they can include on their resume. At the conclusion of their internship, students typically must submit a summary or other deliverable detailing their experience in order to satisfy their graduation requirement.

The portfolio, on the other hand, is generally a collection of projects, papers, or other work a student completed during their time in the program. These may be assignments directly related to a course they took, or projects completed outside the program itself, such as at their job or during their free time. The requirements for a portfolio and what it must include to qualify a student for graduation vary by program.

Finally, there are a few online master’s in communication programs that do not require any capstone project for graduation. In these programs, once students complete all the required courses and meet the credit requirements, they are eligible to graduate, assuming they are in good standing.

To learn more about many of the capstone options discussed above, check out our in-depth Guide to Understanding Capstone Options.

Capstone Requirements by Online Master’s in Communication Program

The following table contains the capstone options for all online master’s in communication programs offered by schools located in the United States. Click on the program name to learn more about the program.

School Program Thesis Required Graduate Requirement
American University Online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication (with Optional Concentration in Advocacy and Social Impact) No Capstone project
Arizona State University Online Master of Arts in Communication (Focus in Workplace Communication) No Capstone experience / project
Arizona State University Online Master of Science in Technical Communication No Thesis or applied project course
Asbury University Online Master of Arts in Communication Arts for Media Professionals (with an Emphasis in Digital Storytelling) No Optional Thesis or creative project
Ashland University Online Master of Arts in Corporate and Strategic Communication (with Concentrations in Health & Risk Communication, and Public Relations) No Capstone course/project
Austin Peay State University Online Master of Arts in Communication Arts (with Specializations in General Communication, and Corporate Communication, and Concentrations in Marketing Communication, and Media Management) No Research paper or thesis (available for corporate communication specialization)
Bay Path University Online Master of Science in Communications and Information Management No Capstone project with essay and portfolio
Bay Path University Online Master of Science in Communications (with an Emphasis in Emerging and Social Media) No Capstone project with essay and portfolio
Bellevue University Online Master of Arts in Business and Professional Communication (with Concentrations in Business, Computer Information Systems, Executive Coaching, Human Resource Management, Project Management, and Transnational and Cross-Cultural Communication) No Capstone course with multi-media presentation
Boston University Online Master of Science in Health Communication No No thesis or capstone required
Bowling Green State University Online Master of Arts in Media & Communication (with a Specialization in Strategic Communication) No Comprehensive exam
Brenau University Online Master of Arts in Communication and Media Studies No No thesis or capstone required
California Baptist University Online Master of Arts in Communication (Generalist Program) No Project (25-page paper)
Concordia University, Saint Paul Online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication Management No Capstone action research project
Drake University Online Master of Arts in Communication (with Specializations in Communication Leadership, Brand Communication, and Public Affairs and Advocacy) No Capstone course (professional project)
Drexel University Online Master of Science in Communication (with Concentrations in Public Communication, Technical Communication, and Science and Health Communication) No Internship for students without communication experience
Duquesne University Online Master of Arts in Corporate Communication (with Specializations in Crisis and Risk Communication, Management Communication, Nonprofit Communication, and Integrated Marketing Communication) No Communication practicum and professional integration project
Duquesne University Online Master of Arts in Communication (with Emphasis Areas in Communication Studies, and Rhetoric and Philosophy of Technology) No No capstone required
East Carolina University Online Master of Arts in Communication (with an Emphasis in Health Communication) No Thesis or comprehensive exam (with an additional elective)
Eastern Illinois University Online Master of Arts in Communication Studies (with a Concentration in Communication and Leadership) No No capstone required
Eastern Michigan University Online Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications No Capstone course: IMC Campaigns
Eastern New Mexico University Online Master of Arts in Communication (with Areas of Focus in Public Relations, Journalism, and Media Literacy and Criticism) No Thesis or capstone project
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Online Master of Arts in Communication Studies (with Areas of Emphasis in Managerial and Leadership Communication, and Integrated Marketing Communication) No Internship and non-internship tracks; capstone options: thesis, practicum, or comprehensive exam plus project/portfolio
Florida International University Online Master of Science in Mass Communication (with a Focus on Global Strategic Communications) No Professional project
Fordham University Online Master of Science in Strategic Marketing Communications No Applied project
Franklin University Online Master of Science in Marketing & Communication No Capstone project
Georgetown University Online Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations & Corporate Communications (with Focus Areas in Corporate Communications, Digital Communications, and Public Relations) No Capstone course (comprehensive communications/PR plan)
Georgetown University Online Master of Professional Studies in Integrated Marketing Communications No Capstone course (IMC plan)
Georgetown University Online Master of Professional Studies in Design Management & Communications No Capstone course (visual communications project)
Gonzaga University Online Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership Studies (with Optional Concentrations in Strategic & Organizational Communication, College Teaching of Communication, Global Leadership, Digital Media Strategies, and Servant Leadership) No Capstone project or thesis
Johns Hopkins University Online Master of Arts in Communication (with Optional Concentrations in Applied Research in Communication, Public and Media Relations, Political Communication, Health Communication, Digital Communication, and Corporate and Non-Profit Communication) No Research Track: thesis; Strategic Planning Track: practicum or additional elective
Kent State University Online Master of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication (with a Concentration in Journalism Education) No Project or thesis (thesis option is for students who live near the Kent State campus)
Lasell College Online Master of Science in Communication (with Specialized Concentrations in Health Communication, Integrated Marketing Communication, and Public Relations) No Thesis, comprehensive exam, special study project, or professional internship
Liberty University Online Master of Arts in Communication (General Program) No Thesis, thesis project, or comprehensive examination
Liberty University Online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication No Thesis, thesis project, or comprehensive examination
Lynn University Online Master of Science in Communication and Media (with Specializations in Media Studies and Practice, and Digital Media) No Optional creative project or thesis (Media Studies and Practice specialization); digital portfolio (Digital Media specialization)
Marist College Online Master of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communication No Capstone course (integrated brand experience)
Marquette University Online Master of Arts in Corporate Communication No Capstone assessment exam
Mercer University Online Master of Science in Technical Communication Management (MSTCM) No Capstone project research course
Michigan State University Online Masters of Arts in Strategic Communication No Capstone course with strategic communication project
Minnesota State University, Mankato Online Master of Science in Communication Studies (with Specializations in Organization and Conflict, and Culture and Relationships) No Capstone options: internship or alternate plan paper
Minnesota State University, Mankato Online Master of Science in Communication & Composition No Capstone options: internship or alternate plan paper
Minnesota State University, Mankato Online Master of Arts in Technical Communication No Thesis, alternate plan paper, or capstone course
Mississippi College Online Master of Science in Communication - Integrated Communication (Generalist Program) No Comprehensive exam and convocation paper
Mississippi College Online Master of Science in Communication - Professional Communication (Program in Health Services Administration) No Comprehensive exam and convocation paper
Missouri State University Online Master of Arts in Communication (with a Specialization in Conflict, Organizational Communication and Public Relations) No Comprehensive exam plus thesis, seminar paper, or a professional project
Missouri State University Online Master of Professional Studies in Applied Communication No Capstone experience, research project, or internship
Missouri University of Science and Technology Online Master of Science in Technical Communication No Comprehensive exam
Morehead State University Online Master of Arts in Communication (General Program with Electives) No Thesis and non-thesis options with graduate portfolio
Murray State University Online Master's in Organizational Communication (MS or MA) No Thesis plus comprehensive exam and oral defense (MA program) or comprehensive exam (MS program)
National University Online Master of Arts in Strategic Communications No Capstone project (digital, web-based portfolio)
New Jersey Institute of Technology Online Master of Science in Professional and Technical Communication (MSPTC) No ePortfolio capstone seminar and oral presentation
Northeastern University Online Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication (with Concentrations in Social Media and Online Communities, Public and Media Relations, Human Resource Management, Usability/User Experience, Project Management, Leadership, Leading Communication Strategy and Talent Development, and Cross-Cultural Communication (Social Justice or International Tracks)) No Capstone integrative experiential learning project or professional project
Northeastern University Online Master of Science in Technical Communication (with Concentrations in Computer Industry Writing, Social Media and Online Communities Concentration, and Usability/User Experience) No Capstone project (e.g., online help system, technical manual, or Web-based assistance product)
Northern Arizona University Online Master of Arts in Communication (with Emphasis Areas in General Communication and Documentary Studies) No Thesis or project options
Northwestern University Online Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications No No capstone required
Notre Dame of Maryland University Online Master of Arts in Contemporary Communication (General Program with Electives) No Colloquium in contemporary communication project or additional coursework
Ohio University Online Master of Arts in Organizational Communication No Capstone project: comprehensive exam, applied research project, or thesis (students choose one option)
Park University Online Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership (with an Organizational Emphasis) No Comprehensive exam and thesis or graduate project (with additional elective course)
Penn State World Campus Online Master of Professional Studies in Strategic Communications No Capstone project (strategic communications campaign)
Point Park University Online Master of Arts in Communication Technology (with Concentrations in Social Media, and Applied Practices) No Thesis or professional track requirement (project)
Purdue University Online Master of Science in Communication (with Concentrations in Strategic Communication/Public Relations, and Integrated Communication & Advertising) No No thesis or capstone required
Queens University of Charlotte Online Master of Arts in Communication (with an Optional Integrated Digital Strategy Concentration) No Digital portfolio and final capstone project
Regent University Online Master of Arts in Communication (with Concentrations in Media & Arts Management & Promotion, Political Communication, Strategic Communication, and Technical Communication) No Capstone course: directed project, thesis, or internship (options vary by concentration, no capstone required for technical communication)
Rider University Online Master of Arts in Business Communication (with a Concentration in Health Communication) No Capstone project (health communication campaign)
Rutgers University Online Master of Communication and Media (with a Specialization in Digital Media) No Capstone paper/project or e-portfolio course
Sam Houston State University Online Master of Arts in Communication Studies (with Areas of Study in Gendered Communication, Health Communication, and Interpersonal and Family Communication) No Comprehensive exam (no thesis option)
South Dakota State University Online Master of Mass Communication No Professional project or additional coursework with professional portfolio
Southern New Hampshire University Online Master of Arts in Communication (with Optional Concentrations in New Media & Marketing, and Public Relations) No Communication capstone course
Southern Utah University Online Master of Arts in Professional Communication (General Program with Electives) No Capstone options: thesis, professional project, or internship
Spring Arbor University Online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership No Professional ePortfolio
St Bonaventure University Online Master of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communications No IMC campaign project
Stephen F Austin State University Online Master of Arts in Mass Communication (with Concentrations in Advertising and Public Relations, Journalism, and Broadcasting) No Comprehensive exam (with 2 additional courses), thesis, or media project (students who choose the thesis or media project options take two fewer courses)
Stevenson University Online Master of Science in Communication Studies (General Program) No Thesis or communication project
Syracuse University Communications@Syracuse Online Master of Science in Communications (with Areas of Specialization in Advertising, Public Relations, and Journalism Innovation) No Capstone project (strategic communications plan)
Temple University Online Master of Science in Communication Management (with Focus Areas in Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution, and Strategic Communication and Cross-Cultural Leadership) No Capstone project in communication management (paper)
Texas Tech University Online Master's in Strategic Communication & Innovation No Applied research project
Texas Tech University Online Master of Arts in Technical Communication (with Areas of Emphasis in Rhetoric, Composition, and Technology; Technical Communication; Rhetorics of Science and Healthcare; Technology, Culture, and Rhetoric; and Visual Rhetoric, New Media, and User-Centered Design) No Two portfolios (mid-program and final) with reflective essay and learning artifacts
The College of New Rochelle Online Master of Science in Communication Management and Media (with a Concentration in Leadership, Communication Consulting, and Entrepreneurship) No Thesis or additional coursework plus a comprehensive exam
The University of Alabama Online Master of Arts in Communication Studies (with a Specialization in Organizational Leadership) No Capstone portfolio after professional internship or project (Professional Option)
The University of Iowa Online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication No Capstone project
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Online Master of Arts in Digital Communication No Three part final project (non-traditional thesis) plus final examination
Troy University Online Master of Science in Strategic Communication No Comprehensive exam and a strategic communication capstone course
University of Arkansas at Little Rock Online Master of Arts in Mass Communication (with a Mass Media Research Option, and a Professional Mass Media Option with Tracks in Multi-Platform Journalism, or Strategic Communication/Public Relations) No Capstone: master's thesis (required for Mass Media Research option) or professional project (required for Professional Mass Media option)
University of Central Florida Online Master of Arts in English - Technical Communication No Thesis, project or coursework (one additional course)
University of Central Missouri Online Master of Arts in Communication (General Program with Electives) No Thesis or research paper
University of Denver Online Master of Arts in Communication Management (with Concentrations in Dispute Resolution, Leadership Communication, Learning and Development, Marketing Communication, Organizational Development, and Public Relations) No Capstone portfolio or capstone project
University of Florida Online Master of Arts in Mass Communication with Specializations in Audience Analytics, Digital Strategy, Global Strategic Communication, Political Communication, Public Relations, Social Media, and Web Design No Capstone project (varies by specialization)
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Online Master of Science in Health Communication No Capstone project
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Online Master of Science in Strategic Brand Communication No Capstone project (strategic brand communication plan)
University of Louisiana at Monroe Online Master of Arts in Communication (with a Concentration in Strategic Communication) No No thesis or capstone required
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Online Master of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communications (with Specializations in Integrated Media Communications (Advertising and Public Relations), and Professional Journalism) No Capstone project (Professional Journalism specialization); capstone course (Integrated Media Communications specialization)
University of Southern California Online Master of Communication Management (with a Focus in Corporate Communication, Strategic Communication, and Public Relations) No Practicum and project
University of Wisconsin-Stout Online Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication (MSTPC) No Field project or thesis
Utah State University Online Master of Technical Communication No No thesis or capstone required
Washburn University Online Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership No Capstone project
Washington State University Online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication No Capstone course: comprehensive exam and professional online portfolio
Webster University Online Master of Arts in Advertising and Marketing Communications No Capstone research project
Webster University Online Master of Arts in Communications Management (Focus in Media and Organizational Communication) No Capstone research project
Webster University Online Master of Arts in Media Communications No Capstone research project
Webster University Online Master of Arts in Communications Arts (for Educators) (with Emphases in General Communication Arts) No No final project required
West Virginia University Online Master of Arts in Corporate and Organizational Communication No Final project
West Virginia University Online Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications No Capstone course (professional IMC campaign)
West Virginia University Online Master of Science in Data Marketing Communications No Capstone course (cohesive marketing communications campaign)
Western New England University Online Master of Arts in Communication (with a Concentration in Public Relations) No Thesis or independent study project