Mass Communication Degrees by Level: Program Overviews

Oct 28, 2019

Essential Information

Mass communication programs include areas of study like journalism, advertising, public relations and broadcasting. These programs are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels, with some schools offering online courses.

Students interested in mass communication may choose a general mass communication program that covers different types of communication (such as interpersonal, rhetoric, and crisis communication), or they may choose a concentration or specialty such as sports communication, communication studies, journalism, public relations, international communication, new media, and advertising.

Undergraduate programs may include options for internships or research projects, while master's programs typically require a thesis or capstone project.

Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communication

Students gain a broad liberal arts background and familiarity with communication theories regarding the most effective ways to disseminate information to the public in these 4-year Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science programs. The coursework can vary according to a student's chosen concentration but core classes may include:

  • News reporting
  • Public communication
  • International communication
  • Statistics
  • Mass communication law

Master's Degree in Mass Communication

In these Master of Arts and Master of Science programs, research and leadership skills are emphasized so graduates may qualify for advanced media careers. Eligible candidates for a master's program have a bachelor's degree from an accredited postsecondary school. Applicants with an unrelated undergraduate degree may need to make up for their training gap by taking additional coursework. Thesis, non-thesis and online options exist for these programs. Specialties in areas such as those offered in a bachelor's program are common. Through coursework, students are introduced to research methodologies, and they apply this knowledge toward their chosen area of concentration. Some examples of classes are:

  • Crisis communication
  • Media ethics
  • Research methods
  • Rhetorical criticism

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Mass Communication

Research is the underlying aspect of a Ph.D. program, and students often work closely with faculty members to contribute to current research studies in the mass communication field. Applicants with a master's degree or who are in the process of earning a master's degree, may be eligible to enroll in a Ph.D. program. At the program's end, students exemplify their research skills through a dissertation. Graduates are prepared to critique the media and conduct original research in the field, working mainly in the academic community or executive-levels of the media industry. Leading up to the dissertation, the coursework is often customized with the help of a faculty adviser, although certain courses are typically required for all students. Courses may include:

  • Research design
  • Quantitative mass communication research process
  • Media ethics and law research methods
  • Teaching media communication

Popular Career Options

Relevant careers in media are found in the journalism, publishing, advertising and public relations fields. After graduating from a bachelor's degree program, job seekers may qualify to hold the following positions:

  • Journalist
  • Public relations specialist
  • Advertising sales associate
  • Sportscaster

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

With a master's degree in mass communication, graduates may qualify for a management-level position, such as public relations manager. According to 2018-2028 projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for these professionals should increase 8%. This average growth rate is steadied by the continual desire for organizations to seek help in creating favorable public images. As of May 2018, public relations managers earned a median salary of $114,800, reported the BLS (

Mass communication programs equip students with communication training and research and leadership skills. Courses such as international communication, research methods, and quantitative mass communication prepare graduates for further study and careers in media.

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