Your Guide to the MA in Communication

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Communication can be a lucrative career path with impactful work in numerous areas, such as journalism, corporate communications, and politics, among others.

[Featured Image] A women with her MA in communications stands in an office holding a tablet.

Earning a Master of Arts (MA) in Communication can build on the knowledge you gained in your bachelor’s degree program, prepare you for more advanced roles, and even lead to higher salaries.   

In this article, we’ll go over more about the MA in communication, what it takes to earn the graduate degree, and the roles you can explore after graduation. 

What is an MA in communication?

The Master of Arts in Communication is an advanced degree you can pursue once you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree. Graduate communications programs tend to focus on theories, strategies, and practices of effective communication, though some schools also emphasize media studies given the close relationship between the two subjects.

Typically, learners who enroll in a master’s communications program are interested in deepening their understanding of communication and how its employed in various settings, as well as ways to enhance their written, verbal, and even visual communication skills. 

Learn more: MA vs. MS: A Guide

Types of MA communication programs

Many schools break down the MA in Communication into an academic (or theoretical) track and a practical track. The one you decide to follow will largely depend on your goals. 

  • Academic: For those interested in pursuing a career in academia or research after graduation.

  • Practical: For those interested in a career in journalism, media, corporate communications, or another related industry. 

Take time to research the different colleges and universities offering an MA in communication, and note what your degree options might be. Pay close attention to the coursework you’ll be expected to take and the learning outcomes of the program, so you can make sure you select the best track for you.  

MA in communication coursework 

Master’s level communication courses tend to involve the theory and strategy of communication as it applies to different settings, audiences, and needs. While every school has a unique set of coursework, you’ll likely encounter classes that cover some of the following subjects: 

  • Writing for strategic communication

  • Rhetorical theory

  • Digital storytelling

  • Advertising campaigns

  • Media research and analysis

  • Crisis communications

  • Interpersonal communication

  • Media and culture

How long does it take to earn an MA in communication?

It typically takes two years to earn an MA in communication when you attend classes full-time. However, you have other options or earning your degree.

Part-time courses

Students enrolled in less than nine credits, or about three classes, per semester are considered part-time. For people working a full-time job or with a family at home, part-time may be a better fit even though it will take longer to earn the degree.     

Online courses

The credits and time commitment associated with online courses are often the same as traditional programs, but many students like the flexibility that comes with an online program. For instance, rather than attending a scheduled class, you can watch lectures when it’s convenient for you. Online degree programs often have several start dates as well, so you don’t have to wait until the fall to begin your education.

Learn more:Online Classes: Your Degree and Learning Guide

Dual degree programs

Some universities bundle the bachelor’s and master’s degrees together in a five-year offering. Typically, it takes four years to earn a bachelor’s and two to earn a master’s when you attend full time, so a combined degree program can reduce the time you invest into earning your graduate degree. 

Applying for an MA in communication 

Unless you enroll in a dual degree program, you’ll often need a bachelor’s degree before applying for an MA in communication. Your bachelor’s can be in a subject other than communication, though you may need to explain or highlight your interest in communication and why you’re interested in studying it at the graduate level.

You may also need to complete an entrance exam known as the GRE and achieve a minimum score, as well as provide letters of recommendation, a CV, a writing sample, and other materials. In many ways, applying to graduate school is similar to applying to an undergraduate program. Learn more with our step-by-step guide

What can you do with an MA in communication?  

An MA in communication is an opportunity to learn specific skills you can use in a variety of communications work, like organizational management, media management, strategic planning, crisis communications, global communications, and public outreach. An MA in communication can be applied to the following industries:

  • Mass media 

  • Journalism 

  • Corporate communications

  • Politics

  • Marketing

  • Speech communication

  • Higher education 

Students seeking a master’s degree often strive for higher positions than entry-level jobs available with a bachelor’s degree alone—and they tend to earn more. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), master’s degree holders earn a median weekly income of $1,574 compared to $1,334 for bachelor’s degree holders [1]. What’s more, a master’s degree signal to employers that you’ve spent additional time and effort advancing your subject knowledge. 

Learn more:Is a Master’s Degree Worth It?

Skills you can gain from an MA in communication

An MA in communication encourages you to develop a specific set of skills that are applicable to just about any job requiring clear, effective communication, such as: 

  • Cohesive writing 

  • Active listening 

  • Verbal and presentation skills

  • Selling and persuasion 

  • Critical evaluation 

  • Teamwork and collaboration

  • Analyzing an audience

  • Synthesizing content into a digestible format 

  • Researching

  • Managing stress under pressure

  • Handling tight deadlines

  • Communicating with a diverse group of people

Typical jobs held by those with an MA in communication

A master’s in communication gives you a diverse list of growth opportunities that have to do with written, verbal, and visual communication. Here’s a look at a few jobs you can explore with your MA. 

Job titleUS salary*
Reporter$48,370
Graphic designer$50,710
Technical writer$78,060
Internal communications specialist$79,211
Brand manager$93,271
Public relations manager$119,860

*Data from BLS and Glassdoor

Are MA communication degree holders in demand?

Research suggests there is demand for this type of degree. Employment in media and communications positions is expected to grow 14 percent between 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS [2], and many industries require professionals who can communicate clearly, proactively, and efficiently. 

Explore further 

Consider taking an online course to see if studying communication is right for you. On Coursera, you can an individual course or a specialization, like the University of Colorado Boulder’s Effective Communication: Writing, Design, and Presentation or Introduction to Public Relations and the Media Specialization

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Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Education Pays,   https://www.bls.gov/emp/chart-unemployment-earnings-education.htm.”  Accessed May 12, 2022.

2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Media and Communication Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/home.htm.” Accessed March 15, 2022.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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