Northern Arizona University (NAU) offers an online Master of Arts in Communication degree through its School of Communication. This program features both a General Communication track and a Documentary Studies emphasis, and can be completed entirely online with no campus visits. However, students who live hear the Flagstaff, Arizona campus also have the option of taking some of their courses in-person if they choose. Northern Arizona University uses Blackboard Learn, an online learning management system that serves as a comprehensive platform through which students can view course lectures, submit course materials, participate in online discussions, and connect with peers and instructors.

The online Master of Arts in Communication requires 36 credit hours of study. Program curriculum is split between core curriculum (12 credits), electives (18-21 credits) or specialization classes (21 credits), and credits for completing a thesis (6 credits) or project (3 credits). The curriculum emphasizes skill development in writing, multimedia use and public speaking. Core coursework covers subjects such as communication theory and application, history of communication and communication scholarship, and advanced research practices in the communication field. Students also choose one of three research methods courses: Qualitative Research Methods, Quantitative Research Methods, and Critical Methods in Communication. These courses cover the fundamental theories of communication research, their historical and contemporary relevance, and how students can employ these research and critical methodologies in their own work. After their core courses, students may select from two academic options – a General Communication concentration (wherein students can choose their own elective courses, with their advisor’s approval) or a Documentary Studies track.

The General Communication track is designed to prepare students for a wide range of advanced professions in communication, such as journalism and education, or to prepare for future studies at the doctoral level. The electives from which students can choose range from Health Communication and Environmental Communication to Communication in Instruction and Organizational Communication. These electives are designed to teach students how to apply communication concepts and research to the design of effective messages for different audiences and contexts.

The Documentary Studies track is designed for individuals interested in documentary work or multimedia journalism, and serves as a preparatory curriculum for continued doctoral studies in media studies, cinema, and documentary production and criticism. The specialized coursework that students take for this class is highly applied, and includes an Introduction to Documentary Issues, Theories, and Methods; a Documentary Research Practicum; and Documentary Skills and Storytelling Practicum, wherein students learn how to tell stories using audio, photography, and film media. Coursework emphasizes skill development in applied areas, such as production and storytelling.

Regardless of academic emphasis, students may choose between a thesis or research project for their final course requirement. The thesis is an original work of academic scholarship that results in a research paper the student presents and defends to a faculty committee. The research project requires students to design a research project that critically examines and seeks to address a communication problem in a professional area of interest.

Northern Arizona University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Online Master of Arts in Communication

Department: School of Communication
Specializations/Concentrations: Emphasis Areas in General Communication; Documentary Studies
Websites: Department and Program

Program Format
Structure: Online program with no required campus visits
Instruction Methods: Most classes use asynchronous instruction using the Blackboard Learn platform, although some classes may have synchronous sessions
Campus Visits Required: No
Program Length: Program can be completed in two years when pursued full-time; part-time students take longer

Curriculum and Graduation Requirements
Thesis Required: No
Capstone Options: Thesis or project options
Credits Required: 36 credits (12 courses)
Example Courses: Communication Theory And Application; Graduate Study In Communication; Seminar In Communication Theory; Critical Methods In Communication; Qualitative Research Methods; Quantitative Research Methods In Communication

Application Requirements
Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
GPA Requirements: Minimum GPA 3.0
Testing Requirements: GRE required
Start Dates: Fall and Spring admission

Tuition Costs
Estimated Tuition: ~$19,800 + fees
Cost per Credit Hour: $550 per credit hour

State Authorizations: Students from Massachusetts should check with an admission advisor before applying to confirm NAU accepts students from Massachusetts - program accepts students from all other states