Online Masters & PhD Degrees in Journalism

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What will you learn in an online master's or PhD degree in journalism? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an online master's and PhD and potential careers.
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Study Journalism: Online Graduate Degrees at a Glance

Online master's degree programs in journalism are geared toward working professionals who want to expand their knowledge or who want to become leaders in the field. A master's degree program can help you hone your journalism skills or specialize in one area, such as print, online or broadcast journalism. Although online PhD programs in journalism are rare, you can find online programs in English, communications and rhetoric that can prepare you to become a postsecondary professor or to head research projects related to journalism.

The journalism industry in general is in a state of change. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), viewership and readership of traditional media is decreasing, resulting in downsizing and a decrease in demand for journalists. There is, however, an increase in independent and alternative news reporting organizations, including those that disseminate the news online. Competition for jobs in this industry is intense. The BLS projected that growth for reporters would decrease by 8% between 2010 and 2020. However, it projected that jobs for broadcast news analysts would increase by 10% and that job growth for postsecondary teachers would increase by 17% during the same time period.

Online Master's Online PhD
Who is this degree for?Journalism professionals who want to develop leadership skills in journalism or who want to specialize in a specific type of journalism Individuals who want to teach at universities or conduct research
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual median salary) - Reporter or correspondent ($35,000)*
- Broadcast news analyst (56,000)*
- Writer ($56,000)*
- Public relations manager ($93,000)*
- Copywriter ($43,000)**
- Public information officer (salary unavailable)
- Communications professor ($83,000)**
- Academic researcher ($74,000)**
Time to Completion2-4 years, part time 4-6 years, full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 30-37 graduate credits
- Professional project or thesis
- Campus residency requirement
- At least 44 semester hours of coursework
- Campus residency requirement
- Dissertation
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree
- Experience in journalism or communications
- Master's degree
- Experience in journalism or communications
Online Availability - Yes, fully or partially online - Rare, Ph.D.'s in related subjects available online

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2011 figures; **, August 2012 figures.

Online Master's Degree in Journalism

Online master's degrees in journalism are mainly designed for working journalists who want to build their expertise in a specific area or journalistic discipline. There are also some online master's programs in journalism designed to provide training and education for those students who want to change careers. Many online master's degree programs in journalism offer you the opportunity to focus your studies in one area, such as technology and communication, online media management, online strategic communication and integrated media communications. Regardless of the focus of your master's degree program, your coursework will feature research methods and multimedia communication applications.

Pros and Cons of an Online Master's Degree in Journalism


  • Courses are offered in convenient formats, and many can be completed on your own time from any location
  • Same faculty and staff teach online and on-campus courses and thus you have access to the same faculty expertise as you would on campus
  • Online master's in journalism programs are offered in a variety of communication specialties


  • Must have work experience in journalism or communications to begin an online master's in journalism
  • Many schools limit their enrollment to 15-20 students a semester, so admission may be competitive
  • Reporter jobs are projected to decrease over the 2010-2020 decade, and the competition for the decreasing jobs is intense*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

The courses you'll take will largely depend on the focus of your degree, but will typically include ethics, leadership in media, media management and communication theory courses. You'll also choose elective courses related to your area of focus, such as investigative reporting or legal issues in communication. You'll be required to complete a professional project, although some programs may give you the option of completing a thesis instead.

Online Degree Options

You can complete a master's in journalism fully or partially online. Some schools require brief on-campus visits during the summer or on a weekend for orientation and seminars. You will study the same subjects as students in a classroom and have access to the same professors as on-campus students. Because online master's in journalism are designed for working professionals, many courses allow you to access the coursework when it best fits your schedule, while still adhering to deadlines. For other courses, you'll be expected to interact with your class online during a scheduled class time.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Many online master's degree programs in journalism allow you to select as many as 21 credit hours (approximately seven courses) of electives. You can tailor your graduate program to your professional needs and interests through your choices of electives. For example, you can choose courses in science writing, news photography and international communications to help you expand your knowledge in these areas. You may want to focus your electives on areas of journalism that are expected to have job growth. For example, the BLS projected that technical writers would see a 17% increase in job growth during the 2010-2020 decade, while photojournalists in the newspaper industry were predicted to see a 30% decrease in job growth during the same decade.

Online PhD in Journalism

PhD in Journalism programs are designed for students with experience and education in the journalism or communications field. These programs prepare you for work as a professor, writer or researcher. Although online PhD programs in journalism are rare, you can find some related programs online in English, communications and technical writing. These programs all include either required or elective courses in mass communications and communications theories, and these programs often can be tailored to your needs.

Pros and Cons of an Online PhD in Journalism


  • In an online PhD program you can take classes from any location and you are eligible for financial aid
  • Some schools offer online libraries and on-campus libraries that will send you research materials that are not available online, including books and periodicals
  • You'll earn the same degree that you would earn if you completed all of your courses on campus; online PhD programs in journalism and communications have the same admissions and course requirements as on-campus programs


  • Online PhD programs in journalism are rare, so you may have to find a related program
  • You will have on-campus residency requirements, which can be up to one year during your PhD studies
  • You will need specialized computer software and hardware to ensure ability to video conference with live classes

Courses and Requirements

Your coursework in an online PhD in Journalism program will include theory and research methods in addition to communications-specific courses in media, technology, writing and rhetoric. You'll take a qualifying exam after you complete coursework and then you'll complete and defend your dissertation. Online and on-campus doctorate programs require that you complete your PhD requirements within 7-8 years.

Online Degree Options

Your online degree options are very limited for a PhD in Journalism, but you can find related partially-online programs that may meet your needs. On-campus and online students have the same academic requirements and attend the same courses. This means that you'll need a webcam and related hardware to ensure that you can fully participate in the class, and that you'll need to be available during scheduled class times. These programs also require an on-campus residency.

Stand Out With This Degree

Your work in an online or on-campus PhD program can lead to a career in academia, research or administration. For any career, it is important to demonstrate your abilities in your field. You can stand out with a PhD in Journalism by:

  • Focusing your courses and research on emerging fields of journalism, such as electronic media and entrepreneurial journalism. This will allow you to understand new research problems as they arise.
  • Make your dissertation applicable to real-world problems. You'll get noticed if your research can immediately be used to further communication or reduce communication problems.
  • Publishing and presenting your original research at journalism and communications conferences. You may find that some PhD programs even provide funding for travel to these events.

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