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As the field of communication expands and advances with the introduction of new communication technologies, the fields of mass communication, journalism, and digital media have played increasing roles in the dissemination of information about culture and society, politics, the economy, and health. Professionals who engage with these forms of communication have the power to impact society through clear, ethical, and informative messaging that can reach local, state, national, and international audiences. Graduate programs in mass communication, media, journalism, and digital communication prepare students for a wide variety of careers in journalism, social media, marketing and public relations, communication research, and more.
Master’s in mass communication programs tend to be applied in nature. Students in these programs take foundational classes in communication theory and research, but learn these concepts in the context of designing or implementing mass media content strategies. However, there are some programs that focus more on mass communication research, media criticism, and the impact of media on social issues.
MastersinCommunications.com classifies several related master’s in communication specializations under one category (Media, Mass Communication and Journalism) due to the overlap of course content between these different specializations. While some schools of communication offer distinct concentrations that train students specifically in one of these areas, others offer programs that include coursework in several of these areas or allow students to select from a broad range of courses in order to tailor their education and training. Furthermore, as there is no standardized naming convention for these programs/specializations across different schools, programs that are titled differently may prepare students for similar positions post-graduation. As a result, grouping these programs into one category allows students to see all related programs on one page. The concentrations grouped into this category include: Media, Digital Communication and Digital Strategies (including Social Media), Mass Communication(s), and Journalism.
Types of Master’s in Mass Communication and Media Communication Programs
The programs on this page fall into four main types depending on their curriculum and the specialization courses students take as part of the program. Again, some schools may offer these four sub-categories as distinct concentrations while others may group them into broader areas of emphasis that fall under one or more of the categories of Media, Mass Communication and Journalism. These specializations include:
Master’s in Communication with a Specialization in Media, Media Management, Media Studies or New Media: This specialization prepares students to strategically use different types of media, including print, audio, video, multimedia tools, web technologies, social media, and search engine analytics to connect with and educate target audiences for marketing, public relations, news, and public service purposes. These programs may also explore the connection between social, economic, and political developments and the production of news, advertising, and social media content. Graduates of these programs typically obtain the media management skills needed to oversee marketing, public relations, social media, and news projects for a wide variety of organizations. (Note: MastersinCommunications.com does not currently include related programs, including master’s in media studies, master’s in film and media arts, or master’s in digital arts on this page.)
Master of Mass Communication(s): This specialization requires students to explore the history of mass communication, how it has impacted society, and how they as communication professionals can use different forms of mass communication to reach and educate audiences. Mass communication is defined as communication for mass audiences, starting with the advent of print publishing and journalism, and most recently including social media. It includes but is not limited to online and print journalism, books, television, radio, social media, and email communication. Students of master’s programs in mass communication can work in journalism, social media, marketing and public relations, and in other roles that require them to communicate important messages to large audiences.
Master’s in Communication in Digital Media, Digital Communication or Digital Strategy: This specialization focuses on teaching students about the latest digital media technologies, and how they have impacted the fields of marketing, advertising, public relations, journalism, social media, health communication, and more. These programs also give students the hands-on training needed to engage with communication technologies and stay abreast of developments in their field. Graduates of these programs develop and implement web marketing strategies, incorporate digital technologies into public relations strategies, and use multimedia to enhance journalism projects.
Master’s in Communication with an Emphasis in Journalism: As a subset of mass communication, journalism is defined as the investigation and dissemination of important information about current events. Master’s in communication programs with a specialization in journalism train students to create news content that educates readers in variety of areas, from politics to health and the economy. These programs also introduce students to the latest technologies that are being used to modernize the creation and the dissemination of important news, such as social media, video and interactive web features, and data analytics technologies that measure reader interest in certain current events. (Note: MastersinCommunications.com only lists journalism programs if they are part of a communication program and offer core curriculum in communication. Master’s in Journalism programs are not currently included on this page.)
In addition to the four main categories above, some schools may offer programs that focus on theory and research versus applied communication techniques. There are also schools that offer secondary or niche specializations in areas such as documentary studies, media entertainment, and storytelling. Finally, students interested in careers in marketing and public relations may want to research master’s in communication programs with a specialization in public relations and marketing communication, as these programs typically have course content that overlaps with the courses found in master’s in mass communication programs.
Curriculum Details for Master’s in Communication Programs with Specializations in Media, Mass Communication and Journalism
Master’s in communication programs with a specialization in Mass Communication, Media, and/or Journalism typically require students to complete a core set of courses, after which students progress to specialization courses that prepare them for their desired role in mass communication, digital media, journalism, and/or social media. Core classes for master’s in communication programs typically cover subjects such as media law and ethics, persuasive writing, communication leadership, and research in communication. For more information about the core curriculum for master’s in communication programs, please refer to our Master’s in Communication Specializations page.
The specialization courses for master’s programs in mass communication, media, and journalism tend to cover such topics as public relations, journalism and reporting, technology in media, multimedia marketing, and diversity in journalism. The specific course content and sequencing for a given program in these areas of study tends to vary; as mentioned above, while some programs may specialize in one of the aforementioned areas, other programs may provide course content in two or more areas. As a result, students who are interested in mass communication, journalism, digital media, and social media should research the curricula of their programs of interest in order to see whether the curricula of these programs matches what they wish to learn, and what careers they would like to pursue post-graduation. Specialization courses that may comprise programs in this field include but are not limited to:
- History and Theory of Mass Communication: Since its inception, mass communication has played an important role in educating the public on important events and forming the foundation for individuals to connect with one another on social issues. This course examines the history of mass communication, beginning with the advent of newspapers and other print media, and ending with current developments in video content, online news outlets, and social media. Students learn how to examine mass communication and analyze its effects, as well as create mass communication campaigns in the areas of journalism, marketing, and public relations.
- Mass Communication in Popular Culture: The role of mass media (including newspapers, social media, informational websites, television, and advertising) in the formation of cultural perspectives and norms. How to be a critical reader of mass media messaging, and how to create engaging, persuasive, accurate, and ethical content for wide audiences across multiple forms of media.
- Marketing Strategies for Mass Audiences: The principles and practices for developing marketing strategies for large companies and organizations. How to identify local, state, national, and international audiences and create marketing campaigns that connect with these audiences in meaningful ways. How to create engaging cross-channel marketing content that is transparent, relevant and persuasive, informative, and ethically presented.
- Principles of Media Management: How to manage the media initiatives for different types of organizations, from news media organizations to the marketing and public relations departments of corporations. The business principles underpinning sound media strategies, such as research, sales, distribution, operations, and customer experience management. This course also covers topics in media research, media strategies for different types of enterprises, media entrepreneurship, and analysis of media initiatives and their impact.
- Visual Communication Technologies: The use of visual communication methods, such as graphics, photos, video, and interactive web features to enhance mass media content such as news articles, magazines, online advertising, and television shows and ads. How to create compelling visuals to accompany written content.
- Public Relations Principles and Practices: How companies and organizations can use clear, ethical, and carefully crafted communication to create a strong brand identity and maintain a positive relationship with consumers and stakeholders. How to handle specific public relations challenges via different media channels, including web, video announcements, and social media.
- The History and Principles of Modern Journalism: The history of American journalism, from its inception in print to its contemporary multimedia state. Journalism ethics and fundamental practices in the investigation and revelation of governmental, societal, economic, and health issues impacting populations on local, state, and national levels.
- Digital Storytelling and Content Strategies: How to integrate the latest communication technologies with principles of storytelling and persuasive rhetoric to create cross-channel content strategies that educate audiences and product measurable results.
- Social Media in Journalism and Mass Communication: An examination of the increasing role that social media plays in the spreading of ideas and the formation of communities around certain ideologies, brands, or shared interests. How to leverage social media in news and journalism, marketing campaigns, public relations, and coalition building. The new ethical issues that arise from the increasing popularity of social media as a news source, and how to manage issues that may arise via social media, such as trolling, bullying, or falsified news.
Below are two sample curriculum plans for a two-year course of study in Mass Communication and Media Management, respectively. Please note that these plans are examples only, and that course content and sequencing will vary across these types of programs. Moreover, as mentioned previously, some programs allow students to select their concentration coursework from a variety of courses so that they can tailor their education in mass media, digital media strategy, social media, and/or journalism. In general, master’s in communication programs require students to complete between 30 and 70 course credits over the course of 12 to 24 months of full-time study, or 24 to 36 months of part-time study.
Two-Year Sample Curriculum Plan for a Master’s in Mass Communication
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Two-Year Sample Curriculum Plan for a Master’s in Communication with a Specialization in Media Management
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While the majority of programs listed on this page focus on the industry applications of mass media theory and research, such as the use of mass communication principles in the development of marketing initiatives and compelling journalism, there are also programs that allow students to focus more on the research side of this field. These programs may have courses in which students read media criticism, explore the intersections of mass communication and culture, and research how new media technologies have impacted the exchange of information on a national or international scale. Students who are interested in the scholarly study of mass communication should read through the course listings of master’s in mass communication and/or media studies programs to identify courses that align with their topics of interest.