Master of Communications MMC

Master of Mass Communications (MMC) in Context

A Master of Mass Communications is an advanced degree available at more than 450 institutions in the United States. [1] It aims to prepare graduates for a wide range of careers in the media, creative industries, and corporate leadership through a program of typically diverse courses, usually on a bedrock of contemporary communications theory.

Communications is a diverse field that overlaps with marketing and advertising, public relations, public affairs, journalism and the media, and corporate leadership.

The job prospects for communications professionals are encouraging for those looking to enter the field or rise in the ranks. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that management jobs within advertising, promotions, marketing, public relations, and sales will rise as much as 13% between 2014 and 2024. [2]

Around one in five communications undergraduates will go on to study at master’s level — and, according to a recent study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, can expect to see an average 25% more pay. [3]

Why earn an MMC?

Students take on a master’s in mass communications for a host of reasons. Motivations include:

  • Career advancement: An MMC has transferable appeal across the arts, media, marketing, journalism, and public relations occupations. According to self-reported data compiled by, mid-career MMC graduates can earn a salary of $84,739. [4]
  • Career variety: The breadth of concentrations typically offered on an MMC program can give graduates the edge when it comes to becoming subject matter experts in highly specialized fields (such as journalism or digital media). [5]
  • Personal satisfaction: Students can gain a depth of understanding in communications issues, emerging research, and new techniques and channels.
  • Choice: Communications programs are among the most diverse offered to postgraduates. With such a variety, it’s important to make an informed decision when it comes to choosing the right program for you.

How can an MS in Communications prepare me for the field?

The communications, public relations, and media industries are changing in the U.S. In 2015, the newspaper sector had arguably its worst year since 2008’s global recession. Average print and digital weekday newspaper circulation fell 7% — the greatest fall in figures since 2010.
Digital subscriptions have also yet to make a mark, with a drop of 8% in total advertising revenue. [6] The media comprises about 33,000 full-time newsroom employees — an estimated 20,000 less than 20 years ago, according to the Pew Research Center. [7]

Broadcast media and journalism are also shifting as audiences turn to new media for immediate, curated, and peer-shared content. Across age groups, 62% of U.S. adults now cite social media as their main source of news, reflecting the growing resources social media channels are pouring into streaming video capabilities. [8]

In a world where almost anyone can turn journalist and broadcaster, your Master of Science in Communications can help you fill the need for versatile, broadly educated media and communications professionals who can adapt and respond effectively.

Mass communications master’s students investigate the influence of mass media in American culture. Effectively taking on the role of analyst, they have the chance to explore a wide range of advertising, media, and communications materials, both historical and contemporary.

Because it’s an advanced qualification, a master’s in communications can help prepare you to play a key part as a senior practitioner within a diverse range of fields that may include journalism, advertising, marketing, public affairs, and public relations, shaping the future cultural legacy.

Areas of practice

Graduates from an online Master of Science in Mass Communication program can go on to work in a diverse range of fields, including government, corporate, creative, and not-for-profit industries. Career paths for graduates can include:

  • Editorial
  • Journalism
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Public relations
  • Strategic communications
  • Public affairs and lobbying
  • Broadcast media
  • Nonprofit and corporate management
  • Digital media

Who might choose this degree program?

According to data compiled by DataUSA, about 63.5% of MMC students are female, and the vast majority enroll in the degree with less than five years’ work experience. [14] MMC programs are designed first and foremost to appeal to people who already work in media and communications but are looking to advance to more senior positions.

It can also be a useful program for those with an interest in the subject who want to pursue further study, roles in policy and research, or teaching at a postsecondary level.

Employers often don’t have a formal requirement for master’s-level study when applying for senior roles, but graduates can feel that they have a more in-depth grasp of contemporary and theoretical issues in their working practice, which may give them a competitive edge in the market.

Other factors to consider

When choosing an MMC program, consider:

  • Asynchronous or synchronous: Most online MMC programs will be asynchronous, meaning you can study and work at your own pace. By contrast, synchronous programs require you to log in at certain times for live classes. Be sure to choose a program with the delivery mechanism that works best for your learning style.
  • Cohort or non-cohort: A cohort is essentially a group of classmates. For some smaller MMC programs, you may stay with the same cohort throughout the program. In others — particularly those with a choice of specializations and electives — you may have new classmates in each course.
  • Experiential learning: Most MMC degrees offer the opportunity to gain course credit through internships and field placements. Such experiences typically aren’t compulsory but are seen as a way for students to broaden their experience of working practice, particularly in the media.
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Career Advancement Overview

Since communications is such a broad field of study, graduates can be found in most walks of life and industries across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

Despite the rocky financial period the media recently experienced, experts in the field predict a steady growth in the number of roles for media and communications professionals. [23]

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), 27,400 new jobs are expected to be created across core media and communications occupations between 2014 and 2024. While some vocations, like editing and announcing, are projected to experience a decline, others are projected to meet or exceed the national average in terms of job growth. [15]

Public relations specialists, translators, and film/video editors are among the careers likely to see growth by 2024. [15] Relatedly, some 19,700 new jobs are projected for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers during that same time period. [24]

What kind of salary can I expect to earn as a graduate?

You might be interested in what kind of return on investment (ROI) you might expect to get from studying communications at master’s level when compared to the bachelor’s level. According to self-reported data compiled by, here are the median salaries for three of the most popular graduate job titles, showing a clear increase for master’s graduates: [25]

  • Marketing manager: Bachelor’s ($57,500); Master’s ($77,152)
  • Communications director: Bachelor’s ($52,500); Master’s ($59,000)
  • Communications specialist: Bachelor’s ($50,676); Master’s ($66,000)

Curriculum Overview

Communications master’s programs vary in emphasis, but all degrees are likely to cover the key aspects of established communications theory, research methodologies, and practice.

Master’s in communications programs are designed to help you develop a comprehensive grounding in the subject, refine your communication skills, and explore the contexts for communications (cultural, multimedia, corporate, and so on). Among the common required courses across MMC programs are:

  • Communications theory
  • Digital communication
  • Research methods
  • Creative practice
  • Crisis communications
  • Ethics in communications
  • Statistics
  • Media and culture

What should I look for in an MMC program?

The National Communication Association has published a list of key learning outcomes — the most important skills graduates should leave a program with. These outcomes might be useful during your research when evaluating programs’ stated learning outcomes. They include being able to: [17]

  • Articulate the communications discipline and its central issues
  • Employ communications theories, perspectives, principles, and concepts
  • Create messages appropriate to the purpose, context, and audience
  • Critically analyze messaging
  • Apply ethical communications practices and principles
  • Utilize communications to embrace difference
  • Influence public discourse

Concentrations and specializations

Some schools offer the chance to focus your degree on an area of interest with a concentration or specialization. Some common concentrations include:

  • Strategic communications
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Broadcast media
  • Public relations
  • Research
  • Digital media
  • Social media
  • International communications
  • Technical communication

Online vs. on-campus studying

The benefits of studying in class include the social support of studying alongside other students in person as well as being able to talk to your tutors and professors face-to-face.

Many modern online courses also offer channels through which students can interact with other students and faculty such as live chat, video, and bulletin boards. Studying online can give you the flexibility to complete your reading and assignments whenever and wherever you like. This can help you to fit in the program around your schedule and personal commitments, giving you the time you need to complete each course.

Some universities also offer blended programs, in which students attend campus for a set number of days, accompanied by learning at your own pace at home.

The content and range of courses are likely to be similar whether your program is online, on-campus, or hybrid.

Thesis vs. capstone projects

Most schools look beyond course-by-course outcomes to ensure graduates leave with a well-rounded understanding of communications to underpin their next career steps. To those ends, schools offer a variety of final assessment methods, including:

  • Thesis: Probably the most common final assessment method, a thesis is a systematic academic study of a specific communications issue, usually taking between one and two semesters to complete. Theses typically include exploration of an issue and its significance, analysis of results, conclusions, and recommendations for further inquiry. Completing a thesis could be the best option for you if you are considered study at the PhD level or wish to go into research, policy, or teaching.
  • Capstone projects: Students may be required to submit a capstone research project or take part in a capstone course in place of or in addition to a thesis. The nature of a capstone project makes its delivery and presentation more variable than writing a thesis is.
  • Oral defense: Some schools will ask for a viva voce, or an oral presentation in which students are required to defend and present their thesis to a committee. This format typically gives the student the opportunity to present and defend his or her findings.

Concentrations and Specializations

Depending on the MMC program you choose, you may be offered the chance to focus your study by selecting a concentration or specialization. These options give you the opportunity to turn the attention of your studies to an area of interest or a subject that might be of benefit for further study at doctoral level or for your chosen field of work.

If applicable, the concentration you choose will typically dictate your path through your program, including which elective courses you take. It can help you hone your practice and decide on the direction of your career after graduation.

Do I need a concentration?

Concentrations are by no means a requirement for most MMC programs, but if the school you choose offers them, they can be a good way to get a deeper understanding of a particular field of communications. Some common communications concentrations are:

  • Public relations/organizational communication: This concentration combines the theory underpinning press and public communications with hands-on experience. Students can develop their writing styles alongside established publication skills for fronting an organization’s publicity efforts. Organizational communications may also include instruction on the formats and skills required for effective internal communication.
  • Broadcast media: Schools offering broadcasting concentrations typically also have a practical media faculty or studio facilities so students can get hands-on experience to develop their understanding of production, news, programming, video, ethics and more.
  • Journalism: Once likely to be focused on the traditional skills of a print journalist, more and more journalism courses are now turning toward digital media. This concentration aims to prepare graduates to enter a career in journalism with a broader understanding of the changing media channels in use by audiences.
  • Advertising/marketing: Communicating ideas to market and sell products requires a specific skill set within the study of communications. This concentration sometimes will be in partnership with other university departments — typically business or marketing — that can benefit the breadth of your experience.

Other concentrations might be more specialized, including topics like health communication, web design, and digital strategy.

It’s worth spending some time looking through the contributing experience and course topics to see what could get you ahead in your chosen field of employment before choosing a degree program.

Experiential Learning and Field Placement

Experiential learning, internships, and field placements refer to the opportunity to spend a period of time in a real working environment. Usually taking up one or two semesters, field placements can give you the opportunity to put what you’ve learned in your program to practice.

These experiences can prepare you for working after graduation and give you the opportunity to gain an insight into a potential new field of employment.

Communications master’s programs increasingly favor experiential elements. Communications internships may help you learn to put your journalism skills into practice in a busy newsroom or influence corporate marketing through your knowledge of the theory underpinning communications.

Field placements can help you to:

  • Decide on a career path
  • Gain work experience for your resume before graduating
  • Explore hands-on techniques
  • Learn directly from professionals in an industry
  • Prepare for a career in communications

Some master’s degree programs have built-in internship components, often using the professional connections held by the media faculty. Other schools will award class credit hours for work experience in the field of study even if such a component isn’t a mandatory element of the program.

Even if an internship isn’t required for your program, you might find the opportunity useful. Many schools have career centers or other professional resources that can help you find opportunities in which you may be interested, even if they don’t lead to course credit.

Featured Degrees
University of Southern California – Master of Communication Management

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Program Length Overview

The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.

Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.

You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.

How many courses are required?

Master of Science in Mass Communications programs will typically require between eight and 12 courses, comprising about 24-36 semester credit hours. Your program’s composition will vary, but likely components of the curriculum include required or core courses, elective courses, and a capstone or experiential learning option.

Even within a particular school’s degree program, the number of courses required may vary based on the concentration you choose, your prior work experience, your number of transfer credits, or other such factors.

Admission Requirements Overview

While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.

In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.

For more information about admissions, please visit our admission requirements page.

Accreditation Overview

Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.

Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.

You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.

Specialized accreditation

Around 450 colleges and universities offer programs in journalism and mass communications — and about 1,000 institutions offer at least some instruction in those fields.

The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) sets the national standard for journalism and communications qualifications. The ACEJMC has accredited 118 programs at all levels in the United States and internationally. [1]

Licensure and Certification

Professional certifications can be one way of demonstrating your knowledge and expertise to employers, and they can show your commitment to professional development as the industry evolves.

There are no certifications required to practice communications, but some organizations do offer them to highlight areas of expertise.

One prominent example is the Communication Management Professional certification, created by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and Global Communications Certification Council (GCCC). It was developed in conjunction with industry leaders to demonstrate ongoing generalist proficiency. [22]

Your ability to gain certification is typically based on criteria like length and depth of work experience, breadth of education, and a written exam.

Alternative Degrees/Fields of Study

Mass communications is a broad field of practice that overlaps with a variety of other industries and professions. The benefit of the Master of Science in Mass Communications for many students lies in its breadth, with the ability to focus on areas of interest through elective courses and concentrations. There is, however, a huge range of other master’s degree programs in related fields, including:

  • Master’s in Journalism
  • Master’s in International Communications
  • Master’s in Media Communications
  • Master’s in Public Relations
  • Master’s in International Relations
  • Master’s in Marketing
  • Master’s in Advertising
  • Master’s in Marketing Communications
  • Master’s in Public Affairs.

The history of communications

Communications has always played a pivotal role in the development of societies and cultures. As early as the late 1870s, communications studies existed in some format, but it wasn’t until the early 20th century that studies like sociology, psychology, and political science gave way to formal discussions of communications as a discipline. [9]

During this period, deliberate philosophical discussions by the likes of Walter Lippmann and John Dewey on the nature of communication gave rise to the field as one integral to social function. [10] At the collegiate level, early communications programs began evolving over the next few decades through the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 1957 that Michigan State University began the first formal communications program, prompting a string of high-profile universities to follow suit. [13]

The latter half of the 20th century saw rapid development in communications, with the emergence of cellular technology and the rapid development of the internet and web-based communication.

Communications master’s programs have become hugely popular, aiming to equip graduates to enter the business or creative industries with the ability to leverage modern communications methods and technology.

In the last few years, some programs have been starting to offer specializations in emerging communications channels to meet the growing demand for new media professionals working in fields as diverse as print and digital journalism, public relations, social media management, and content marketing.

Tuition and Fees

There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.

For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.

Featured Degrees
University of Southern California – Master of Communication Management

The Right MCM Speaks Volumes. We Can Help Find the Right One for You.

Find the MCM That Speaks to Your Goals. Explore Your Options Now.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How could having a Master of Science in Mass Communications add value to my career?
A: Statistics compiled by show that MMC graduates earn higher average salaries than bachelor’s graduates. [37] Having an advanced-level qualification in mass communications can lead to a variety of career paths, including in the media, marketing and advertising, public relations, advocacy and public affairs, and corporate affairs.

Communication is a key skill in any walk of life, which is probably why communications remains a hugely popular major and a master’s subject taught at over 450 institutions in the US. [1]

Q: What kind of professional or educational background do I need to apply for a master’s in communications program?
A: Admission requirements vary from school to school. Some institutions require you to submit a resume for review to prove your working experience in the field. Others may ask you to submit standardized test scores to prove your academic readiness for study at an advanced level.

For any master’s-level program, you will need to have an undergraduate degree, although whether it has to be in a related field varies.

Q: What is the average salary for an MMC graduate?
A: Average salary for graduates depends on the field they enter, but the industry as a whole is seeing steady growth. Here are some median salaries for graduates of a bachelor’s communications course versus a master’s, according to self-reported data compiled by [38]

  • Marketing manager: Bachelor’s ($57,500); Master’s ($77,152)
  • Communications director: Bachelor’s ($52,500); Master’s ($59,000)
  • Communications specialist: Bachelor’s ($50,676); Master’s ($66,000)

Q: Is an on-campus degree the same as an online program?
A: For most institutions, there is no difference between the content of on-campus versus online programs. There may be some variations in the elective courses available online, but the key difference will be in the way learning is delivered.

With online programs, you can study wherever and whenever you like. On-campus programs suit people who prefer structure, taking classes on a set schedule. In terms of possible interaction with other students and professors, modern online learning usually presents just as many opportunities as its in-person counterpart.

Q: How important is it to choose an ACEJMC-accredited program?
A: The Accrediting Council on Education on Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) accredits mass communications and journalism programs against nine basic standards. The process follows a peer review format led by professionals and senior academics in the field.

As around a quarter of all U.S. programs in those fields are accredited, this distinction can help you to differentiate schools on the basis of likely quality. [1] But it is also important to choose the program that best fits your interests, your lifestyle, and other factors.

Q: Are there any other industry bodies I should contact?
A: There are various mass communications, media and journalism bodies that can help prospective MMC students or graduates. Depending on the body, they may provide guidance on the job market or help with finding industry placements and internships. Some major associations include:

  • Association of Marketing and Communications Professionals (AMCP) [39]
  • Communications Media Management Association (CMMA) [40]
  • Association for Women in Communications (WomCom) [41]
  • National Communication Association (NATCOM) [42]
  • International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) [43]