Your Guide to the MA in Communication

Written by Coursera Staff • 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.

Communicating on behalf of a company to external and internal audiences is a critical business need. 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 this 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, and which tends to focus on theories, strategies, and practices of effective communication. However, some schools also emphasize media studies given the close relationship between the two subjects.

Depending on the school you're interested in attending, you may have the opportunity to enroll in a Master of Science in Communication, which may focus more exclusively on the strategy of communicating as it relates to management and leadership in business.

Take time to research the different institutions offering an MA or MS in communication, and pay attention to the focus of each program as well as the coursework you'll be expected to complete. Think about how these parameters align with your larger educational and career goals.   

Learn more: MA vs. MS: A Guide

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, and total costs can range from $30,000 to $120,000 [1]. However, there are other options to explore.

  • Part-time degrees: Students enrolled in less than nine credits (or about three classes) per semester are considered part-time. When you want to continue working, enrolling in your program part-time may be beneficial despite the fact that it will take longer to earn your degree.

  • Online degrees: Many students enjoy the flexibility that comes with an online degree. For instance, rather than attending a scheduled class on campus, 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.

  • Dual degree programs: Some universities bundle the bachelor’s and master’s degrees together in a five-year offering, thereby reducing your education by about one full year. In such cases, you would need to elect to earn your master's while still working on your bachelor's and apply for your school's dual degree program, if available. 

Learn more: Online Classes: Your Degree and Learning Guide

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. They also emphasize written, verbal, and visual communication skills.

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

Skills your MA in communication coursework may emphasize

While each program will differ, you can expect to learn some of the fundamental communication skills below:

  • 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

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 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 senior positions—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 [2]. What’s more, a master’s degree can signal to employers that you’ve spent additional time and effort advancing your subject knowledge. 

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 [3], and many industries require professionals who can communicate clearly, proactively, and efficiently. 

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

Jobs you can pursue with an MA in communication

With a master’s in communication, you can explore a number of industries that require effective communicators.

Job titleUS salary*
Graphic designer$50,710
Technical writer$78,060
Internal communications specialist$79,211
Brand manager$93,271
Public relations manager$133,380

*Data from BLS and Glassdoor

Explore further 

Enroll in an online course to see if studying communication is right for you. On Coursera, you can take 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. Get started with a free, 7-day trial today.

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Article sources

1. Education Data Initiative. "Average Cost of a Master's Degree," Accessed September 20, 2022.

2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Education Pays,”  Accessed September 20, 2022.

3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Media and Communication Occupations,” Accessed September 20, 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.