Answer: Mass communication (or communications) can be defined as the process of creating, sending, receiving, and analyzing messages to large audiences via verbal and written media. It is an expansive field that considers not only how and why a message is created, but the medium through which it is sent. These mediums are wide-ranging, and include print, digital media and the internet, social media, radio, and television. Mass communication is multi-disciplinary in nature, incorporating elements of related fields such as strategic communication, health communication, political communication, integrated marketing communications, journalism, and more.

Mass communication professionals use their knowledge of rhetorical principles and strategic media practices to develop, share, and evaluate effective messages to large, targeted audiences. These strategies allow public relations specialists, journalists, broadcast professionals, advertisers and marketers, content writers, graphic designers and illustrators, corporate media managers, and other media professionals to craft and launch calculated communication plans — from broadcast news to online marketing campaigns — across nearly every industry.

The diversity of mass media formats and communication practices allows for creativity and flexibility in career selection. Individuals with an education in the field can pursue employment in any number of areas, including marketing and advertising, entertainment, healthcare, journalism, public relations, non-profit and government, communications consulting, broadcast media, financial services, and foreign services, to name just a few possible career paths.

In addition to being an applied field of study, media and mass communication is also a research area within academia. Scholars in the field study and research subjects such as how media is used and its corresponding effects; the processes behind media production; regulatory, ethical, and legal issues in mass communication; mass media theory; and related cultural and gender issues. For example, researchers might study the lingering effects of how news outlets report violent and tragic events, or how advancements in information technology and emerging media are reshaping interpersonal communication and relationships. They might also explore the relationship between social media and political voting patterns.

Master’s in Media and Mass Communications Programs

Master’s degree programs in media and mass communication programs introduce students to the foundational theories and concepts behind exchanging information and messages on a large scale, including research methodologies used across communication-focused disciplines. Students develop practical knowledge of the message creation process in different mediums (e.g. web, print, video, social media), as well as how to leverage those messages to target specific audiences. Mass communication programs generally offer curriculum in specialized areas of study, such as digital media, media studies, mass media research, media management, journalism, multimedia journalism, integrated marketing communications, media and globalization, and more.

The curriculum in these programs generally includes coursework in mass communication research, media law, digital media, research methods, telecommunications, theories of mass communication new technology and media, and other related subjects. Students can expect to gain a multidisciplinary skill set, becoming storytellers via written, oral, and visual mediums, and building competencies in research and data analysis, writing and editing, media production, audience segmentation, and new media technology.

Although there are numerous master’s in mass communication programs with an emphasis on professional skill development, there are also those that focus on research and theory. These programs are designed for students looking to further their studies at the doctoral level, and move into careers in research or academia. Students in these particular mass communication programs might, for example, study the impact of media and digital images on political campaign outcomes, research how media influences consumer behavior, or examine how age, gender, and race impact how people perceive mass messaging related to health and medicine.

For additional information about master’s in media and mass communication programs, including sample course plan, and degree requirements, please refer to our Master’s in Media and Mass Communications Programs page.

Skills for Graduates with a Master’s in Media and Mass Communications

Below is a list of skills students can expect to gain or build on through their studies in a master’s in mass communication program:

Professional Skills
Advanced oral and written presentationTeamwork and collaboration
Writing and editing Journalism and reporting
Research and data analysisDigital and social media
Mass media content creationQualitative and quantitative research method
Critical thinking and adaptabilityVisual and graphic communication

Careers in Media and Mass Communication

A master’s degree in mass communication can lead to a diverse selection of career opportunities, in fields such as advertising and marketing, journalism, healthcare, public relations, social and digital media, nonprofit, consulting, financial services, government, and more. Graduates might pursue employment with public relations agencies, marketing and advertising firms, newspapers and digital publishers, community and non-profit organizations, healthcare agencies and hospitals, or television and radio stations.

With their knowledge of audience behaviors and content creation, professionals with a background in mass communications are crucial to delivering targeted, effective messages to large audiences. Graduates of master’s programs in the field can also continue their studies at the doctoral level and transition into careers within academia and research.

Below is a list of potential careers in media and mass communication that may be open to those with a graduate degree in the field:

  • Professor: Tenure-track professors work at four-year universities and colleges, conducting research into areas of interest in the field of mass communication. They also teach undergraduate and graduate communication courses, participate in campus service projects, serve on committees, advise and mentor students, and advance scholarship in the field.
  • News Media Director: News media directors manage teams of journalists and the production of news stories. They possess an understanding of their readership and audience, create editorial calendars to address stories of interest, and oversee production of informative content around social, political, cultural, and economic issues.
  • Journalist: Working under the supervision of news media directors, journalists find, investigate, and write about or report on important events or issues that are relevant to their readers. They employ not only the written word, but also multimedia and even interactive technology to develop stories that engage readers while educating them. Journalists often specialize within a given area of news media, such as politics, health, economics, or social issues.
  • Web Content Specialist and Web Producer: Web content specialists, including social media specialists, search engine optimization (SEO) specialists and directors, and web producers, are experts in crafting engaging and informative content for online audiences. They typically manage one or more websites or online properties (such as social media accounts), and conceive of and implement content plans that address their target readerships’ interests. These professionals use search engine and web traffic analytics software to assess the performance of their website in terms of web traffic and reader engagement, and continually update their site’s content to ensure it stays relevant to their target audiences.
  • Public Relations Director: Public relations directors manage the development and execution of strategic communication initiatives that help enhance a company or organization’s public reputation and manage a positive relationship with consumers, competitors, investors, and the press. They generally supervise a team of public relations staff and oversee development of media practices that align with the organization’s mission and values.
  • Marketing Director: Directors of marketing manage the creation of multimedia advertising and other marketing assets that enhance brand reputation, engage consumers, and sell a product or service. These professionals also use marketing and consumer behavior analytics technologies such as search engine marketing analytics technology and customer relationship management software to inform their marketing strategies.
  • Marketing Specialist: Marketing specialists work under the supervision of marketing directors to implement marketing and advertising campaigns. While marketing directors may design the concept for a new marketing plan, specialists execute on these plans by writing relevant and engaging content, creating videos and graphic designs to engage readers, and conducting regular consumer research to ensure that their marketing strategies remain relevant and up-to-date with the latest technologies and consumer preferences.