2020 Best Graduate Schools Badge

25 Best Master's in Communications Programs 2020

By the GradReports team | Updated 4/1/2020

These are the best 25 colleges that offer a Master's Degree in Communications, based on median salary one year after graduation. The school with the highest median salary for this degree is Columbia University in the City of New York, at $97,600. The school ranked 8th, California State University-Fullerton, has the lowest median student debt on the list, at $21,867. Students who graduated with a Master's Degree in Communications from one of these schools had median starting salaries between $42,100 and $97,600.

Tuition, median salaries, and median debt were reported by the U.S. Department of Education in November 2019. View our methodology for more details about these rankings or read more about the top-ranked schools.

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Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Rank School Location Annual Tuition Median Debt Median Salary
#1 #1 New York (NY) New York (NY) $48,390 $69,497 $97,600
#2 #2 Stanford (CA) Stanford (CA) $51,354 Not Reported $74,400
#3 #3 Evanston (IL) Evanston (IL) $54,620 $48,523 $74,300
#4 #4 Baltimore (MD) Baltimore (MD) $55,816 $36,282 $66,100
#5 #5 Washington D.C. Washington D.C. $31,446 $51,248 $64,400
#6 #6 Los Angeles (CA) Los Angeles (CA) $45,561 $58,350 $60,400
#7 #7 Burlington (MA) Burlington (MA) $24,309 $35,813 $58,900
#8 #8 West Lafayette (IN) West Lafayette (IN) $28,794 $25,900 $56,200
#9 #9 Fullerton (CA) Fullerton (CA) $17,824 $21,867 $55,500
#10 #10 Charlotte (NC) Charlotte (NC) $13,158 $37,374 $55,300
#11 #11 La Jolla (CA) La Jolla (CA) $15,480 $29,348 $53,100
#12 #12 Denver (CO) Denver (CO) $49,695 $42,285 $52,400
#13 #13 South Orange (NJ) South Orange (NJ) $23,422 $41,000 $51,900
#14 #14 Pullman (WA) Pullman (WA) $26,234 $26,789 $51,800
#15 #15 Newton (MA) Newton (MA) $10,960 $33,267 $51,300
#16 #16 Gainesville (FL) Gainesville (FL) $30,130 $36,500 $50,900
#17 #17 San Diego (CA) San Diego (CA) $18,426 $37,412 $49,000
#18 #18 Miami (FL) Miami (FL) $24,202 $30,668 $48,100
#19 #19 St. Louis (MO) St. Louis (MO) $13,500 $51,071 $46,900
#20 #20 Philadelphia (PA) Philadelphia (PA) $25,020 $36,517 $46,000
#21 #21 New York (NY) New York (NY) $45,426 Not Reported $45,200
#22 #22 Chicago (IL) Chicago (IL) $19,422 $34,251 $45,000
#23 #23 Boston (MA) Boston (MA) $30,648 Not Reported $44,500
#24 #24 Normal (IL) Normal (IL) $14,290 Not Reported $42,900
#25 #25 Northridge (CA) Northridge (CA) $17,831 $26,165 $42,000

2020 Best Colleges Highlights

Median Salary $97,600
Median Debt $69,497
Annual Tuition $48,390

Columbia University offers a Master of Science in Strategic Communication degree. Focusing on developing strategic perspectives, critical thinking, and exceptional communication skills, the 36 credit program offers three formats with different program lengths: 12-16 months in the full-time on-campus format, up to 3 years in the part-time on-campus format, and 16 months in the part-time hybrid program for executives. Though the full-time and part-time on-campus programs are open to students of all professional backgrounds, the part-time hybrid program is designed for professionals with 6+ years of experience as a communication leader. 

The M.S. in Strategic Communication degree aims to provide students with the opportunity to apply communication strategy to organizational outcomes, develop effective communication strategies, and access learning outside of the classroom through seminars, workshops, and an optional practicum. Coursework includes content like Strategic Communication Management; Communication Research Insights; Digital Media and Analytics; Building Internal Engagement; Crisis Communication; Strategic Visual Communication; Cross Cultural Communication; and much more. 

Columbia University was founded in 1754 by royal charter of King George II of England. It’s the oldest institute of higher learning in the state of New York and the fifth oldest in the United States. Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university located in New York City. 

Visit Columbia University's website.

#2
Stanford (CA)
Median Salary $74,400
Median Debt Not Reported
Annual Tuition $51,354

Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences offers a Master of Arts in Communication with subplan in Journalism. The program focuses on the knowledge and skills required to report, analyze, and write authoritatively about public issues and digital media. The curriculum combines writing courses and seminars with classes dedicated to understanding the roles and responsibilities of news media in the coverage of public issues. 

The program requires a minimum of 45 credits, and integrates required coursework like Public Affairs Data Journalism; Journalism Law; Perspectives on American Journalism; and Multimedia Storytelling with two specialized reporting courses and three electives. Students must additionally complete a thesis project as an opportunity to study a specialized area of interest and showcase their talents as writers and reporters.

In addition to this program, Stanford undergraduates have the option to apply for a one-year coterminal master’s program with an M.A. subplan in Media Studies or Journalism. 

Stanford University is a private research university founded in 1891. The university is located near Silicon Valley in Stanford, California.

Visit Stanford University's website.

#3
Evanston (IL)
Median Salary $74,300
Median Debt $48,523
Annual Tuition $54,620

Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Communication program focuses on three primary areas: Managing Complexity, Collaborative Leadership, and Elegant Communication. The program is offered in two formats, including the Custom Leadership Program and Hybrid Leadership Program. Designed for working professionals, the 10 month Custom Leadership Program is part-time and courses are only taken on Saturdays. The Hybrid Leadership Program combines online study with four on-campus seminars, and is taken one course at a time. 

Students in the Custom Leadership Program complete core coursework in addition to customized electives. Core courses include Understanding and Leveraging Networks; Communication, Management and Ethics; Leading Collaboration; and Change Management. Electives include Foundations of Strategic Communication; Current issues in Law, Technology, and Strategy; Visual Communication; Public Persuasion; and Public Communication and Crisis Management. Each student will complete a multimedia Capstone Project, which demonstrates learning outcomes by integrating all coursework and practical experiences gained in the program. 

Students in the Hybrid Leadership Program take one course at a time in five-week sessions. The four on-campus seminars include Cultural Intelligence and Managing Inclusion; Crisis Communication Management; Leading Collaboration; and Executive Presence and Elegant Communication. Coursework for this program features content like Information Design; Collaboration & Technology; Using Data to Make Informed Decisions; Foundations of Strategic Communication; and Current Issues in Law, Technology & Strategy.

Northwestern University is a private research university established in 1851. The university’s main campus is located 12 miles north of Chicago in Evanston, Illinois,

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#4
Baltimore (MD)
Median Salary $66,100
Median Debt $36,282
Annual Tuition $55,816

The Master of Arts in Communication degree at Johns Hopkins University consists of 10 courses and takes between 12-24 months to complete. The program is offered either online or on-campus at the university’s Washington, D.C. campus. Concentrations are offered in public and media relations, political communication, health communication, digital communication, corporate/non-profit communication, and applied research in communication. The program’s curriculum emphasizes integrating digital technology with innovative strategic communication and strong writing skills. 

Core courses focus on conducting and analyzing primary research to create powerful messages and designing and implementing effective communication campaigns. Most classes are offered weekday evenings, with occasional weekend courses. The required curriculum consists of Research & Writing Methods and Thesis preparation. Core curriculum contains content like Changing Behavior Through Communication; Theory of Mass Communication Practices; and Persuasion. Among many elective courses are Organizational Communication; Social Media and American Governance; Branding and Advertising; Web Writing and Content Strategy; Speech Writing; Law for Communication Professionals; and much more.  

Students can combine this program with Johns Hopkins University’s MBA program or Certificate in Nonprofit Management program.

Founded in 1876, Johns Hopkins University is a private research university. Though their primary campus is located in Baltimore, Maryland, Advanced Academic Programs - including the MA in Communications program - is based in Washington, D.C.

Visit Johns Hopkins University's website.

#5
Washington D.C.
Median Salary $64,400
Median Debt $51,248
Annual Tuition $31,446

The American University Master of Arts in Strategic Communication degree aims to educate students in the most recent trends and empower them with strategic tools and insights that set them apart from their peers. The program is 30 credits, and is offered full-time, part-time, and online. The full-time program takes 12 months to complete, and the online program can be completed in 20 months.

This program offers four concentration areas to choose from: Advocacy & Social Impact; Digital Communication Strategies & Analytics; Corporate Communication & Reputation Management; and International Strategic Communication. Students are required to take a minimum of three courses related to a concentration area.  Examples of concentration-specific coursework are Ethics in Strategic Communication; Grassroots Digital Advocacy; Web Development; Speechwriting; Communication Law; Crisis Communication; Foreign Policy and the Press; and Social Media Strategies and Tactics.

The program distinguishes itself by offering a graduate mentoring program, which matches students with alumni to help with career goals, professional skills, and network-building. 

American University was chartered in 1893 by Methodist bishop John Fletcher Hurst to promote public service, internationalism, and pragmatic idealism. Its main campus is located in Washington, D.C. 

Visit American University's website.