Multiple graduate schools at four-year institutions offer distance learning journalism master's programs. While standard coursework may be offered fully online, some programs are offered in a blended format that combines online and on-campus studies. Work experience is sometimes required for applicants.
Students in these programs learn to research, write and present news stories through print, online and broadcast media. Most programs take about two years to complete and include about 30 credits. The curriculum explores advanced topics like media law, professional ethics and advanced news writing. Programs typically culminate with a thesis defense, special project or fieldwork.
Individuals interested in pursuing a master's degree need to have first earned a bachelor's degree, which doesn't necessarily need to be in journalism, mass communications or a related field. However, some schools may require that prospective students possess professional experience in journalism or a relevant field such as public relations or corporate communications.
Students may receive lessons by e-mail or an electronic course management website. Some instructors set up virtual meetings in real time within an online classroom, while others make use of discussion boards that don't require all students to be present simultaneously. Tests, assignments and group work can all be completed through distance learning technologies.
The curriculum of a master's program in journalism is usually the same whether students study on campus or take distance learning courses, although distance learning students have the flexibility to complete coursework around work or family commitments.
Journalism programs allow many options for specialization in fields like print, online or broadcast journalism, public relations, advertising, mass communications, online news and editorial. Most programs require that students take at least introductory classes in research, production and delivery for print, broadcast and online media. Distance learning students often complete coursework in:
- Journalism and communications theory
- Journalism research methods
- Media law and ethics
- Online journalism
- Print journalism
- Broadcast journalism
- News writing and editing
- Multimedia communications
- Administration for mass media
Many journalism programs expect students to apply the knowledge and skills gained in coursework in field projects. Some schools have labs on campus where students can participate in active journalism activities. To finish their studies, students may be required to prepare and defend a thesis before a faculty committee or participate in a special project. In the latter case, online students may need to devote a semester to working in an approved news media setting.
Career Information for Graduates
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers in reporting for print, broadcast or online media, investigative journalism, public relations and advertising will be competitive in the coming years. Declines in the print news industry, as well as changes in broadcast news, are contributing to the limited number of positions available in the journalism field. The BLS predicts an 8% drop in employment for reporters and correspondents in the 2014-2024 decade. As of May 2015, the average yearly wage for reporters was $46,560.
Students in master's degree programs in journalism develop writing skills and familiarity in the field. Coursework may be offered almost entirely online, but there may also be on-site requirements for practical training or final examinations.