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Top 30 Cheap Online Master's in Communications Degree Programs

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By BVS Staff
April 2018

There are plenty of reasons someone might return to school to earn an accredited master's degree in communications online. Maybe you consider it a stepping stone toward earning a Ph.D., or perhaps you're looking to improve your skills (and expand your job prospects) in a specific area of communication, such as journalism or public relations (PR). Or perhaps you work in a different field - such as business - and you want to learn about organizational or strategic communication as a way to strengthen your job performance.

Whatever your reason, going to school online provides a convenient way for you to earn your degree without quitting your day job. That way, you can continue to gain on-the-job experience at your current place of employment while simultaneously preparing for the next phase of your career.

Note: This article contains sponsored links. These are designed to help you connect with programs easily.

The 30 Best Online Communications Master's Degrees Ranking Methodology

Selection Criteria

For this ranking, we looked for public and private (non-profit) colleges and universities that offer master's degrees in communications online. Because the focus of this list is on affordability, we only considered programs with average* tuition rates of $20,000/year or less.

*For public schools, we calculated the average value of their in-state and out-of-state rates.

Ranking Factors

After compiling a list of all the colleges that offer online master's in communication degree programs and meet the above criteria, we then collected data in four categories:

  • Program Popularity: Out of all master's degree students, how many enroll in a communications-related program (such as journalism, PR, or general comm)? That is, how successful are the communications departments at attracting students to their programs over other options available at the school? To find out, we considered both the number of students who earned their master's degree in communications (or a related subject) in the 2015-16 school year as well as what percentage those students comprised of the entire graduating class.
  • Concentrations: What sort of academic variety and customization opportunities does each provide? This is an especially important consideration for communications professionals because the industry spans so many different subdisciplines (public relations, marketing, strategic comm, etc.). To test this metric, we looked at how many total concentrations each school's program(s) offer if any.
  • Online Accessibility: How many online communications master's degree programs does each school offer? Having multiple online programs grants students the flexibility to tailor their education to their interests and provides greater choice in online communications-related electives.
  • Affordability: What is the average annual cost of attendance?

After collecting and sorting all the information, we ranked the candidates according to their performance in each area. Finally, we summed up the results and gave each school a final score using a curve so that the top-scoring program earned an even 100 points.

Read more about the best cheap master's degrees in communications online below!

Cheap Online Master's in Communications Degree Programs Ranked

30. East Carolina University

Online Master's in Communication

On this online master's in strategic communications ranking, East Carolina University stands out for its highly focused M.A. in Health Communication. Courses introduce you to communication theory and research methodology before narrowing in on the specifics of health communication. Required classes touch on intercultural communication, working with the media, and how communication can benefit health advocacy. Thanks to two tracks, one with a thesis and one without, ECU's program is as helpful for those who want to pursue doctoral study as those who want to apply what they've learned on the job. Graduates report high satisfaction with the program and go on to work for nonprofits, marketing agencies, medical centers, and beyond.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,734/yr
Score: 50.4

29. South Dakota State University

Online Master of Mass Communication

For a collaborative program that's tailored toward working adults, give South Dakota State University a look. The school's accredited online master's in communication degree program readies graduates for work in mass communication - especially journalism - and incorporates many of the new media skills professionals are expected to know. Because this two-year program utilizes the cohort model, you'll take the majority of your asynchronous classes with the same small group of students (generally about 15), giving you a chance to network and build professional relationships. Although the degree doesn't include a formal concentration, highly targeted electives (such as "Opinion Writing" and "Health Journalism") help you personalize your studies.
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,797/yr
Score: 51.8

28. Sam Houston State University

Online Master of Arts in Communication Studies

Thanks to its broad curriculum, the communication studies degree at Sam Houston State University can meet the needs of most students. As you earn this cheap Master of Arts in Communication online, you'll take courses that focus on specific types of communication (e.g., family and interpersonal) and address advanced contemporary topics - gendered communications, for example. Given this breadth, SHSU's degree serves as a solid jumping-off point for further study. One practical point to keep in mind: Some statistics, research, and other upper-level courses are only available once every two years, so you'll want to check the schedule and plan your classes well in advance.
Average Tuition & Fees: $10,995/yr
Score: 53.9

27. Westminster College

Online Master of Strategic Communication

Experiential learners will appreciate Westminster College's affordable online communications master's degree. This flexible, hands-on program asks you to work on real-world projects from day one, collaborating with your cohort on branding strategies, marketing plans, training programs, and more. In fact, these "project sequences" are baked in throughout the curriculum - as are a few short residencies. You'll need to visit the Salt Lake City campus once per semester, but otherwise, you can complete your work online. The degree culminates in an international trip (included in the cost of tuition), where you'll put what you've learned into practice in a foreign country like Peru or South Africa.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,594/yr
Score: 55.8

26. Southern New Hampshire University

Online MA in Communication

You'll choose between two concentrations as you earn Southern New Hampshire University's accredited master's degree in communications online: Public Relations or New Media and Marketing. Where the former offers a straightforward education in PR strategies, the latter helps you stay abreast of media trends, understand how and why new media succeed, and hone your writing skills for diverse audiences. Regardless of your focus, you'll benefit from the school's fully online, asynchronous courses. Plus, you can graduate in just 15 months if you enroll in two courses per 10-week term. Another perk? You don't need a GRE or GMAT score to apply.
Average Tuition & Fees: $18,810/yr
Score: 57

25. Notre Dame of Maryland University

Online MA in Contemporary Communication

Rolling admissions and multiple yearly start dates make Notre Dame of Maryland University one of the more flexible options on this online master's in strategic communications ranking. The degree also stands out for its single track in contemporary communication. Beyond a focus on new media, the M.A. also incorporates coursework in "entrepreneurial communication," ensuring you'll be a valuable asset to both start-ups and established businesses alike. But this forward-thinking program won't limit you to trendy careers in areas like social media development. Rather, the coursework is versatile enough to qualify you for work in traditional fields like PR and communication management as well.
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,316/yr
Score: 57.3

24. University of Central Missouri

Online Master of Arts in Communication

If you hope to pursue a leadership role in a communication-based organization, the University of Central Missouri's M.A. program is worth a look. Faculty developed the school's cheap online communications master's degree with the goal of enabling leaders who are coherent and powerful communicators. As such, you'll learn how to deliver presentations effectively, build strong interpersonal relationships, and communicate clearly in all your written work. The program also incorporates multiple research courses. In addition, you'll have the chance to personalize your degree by choosing targeted electives that focus on organizational communication, international communication, and more.
Average Tuition & Fees: $10,726/yr
Score: 61.2

23. St Bonaventure University

Online MA Integrated Marketing Communications

St. Bonaventure University puts a unique spin on its accredited online master's in communication degree program. Officially an M.A. in Integrated Marketing Communications, this degree focuses strongly on branding. That means you'll learn how to develop a cohesive personal or organizational brand as well as how to market that brand effectively. As you complete the program - which could take one or two years, depending on if you attend part- or full-time - you'll dive into real-world case studies and complete a required fieldwork placement. The degree culminates in an extensive marketing campaign project, which you'll complete on behalf of a business or other organization of your choice.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,194/yr
Score: 61.4

22. Eastern New Mexico University

Online Master of Arts in Communication

Although you can certainly earn Eastern New Mexico University's affordable master's degree in communications online without ever setting foot on campus, this flexible program also lets you take on-campus classes at your discretion. If you're local to Portales, this might be a great chance to get face-time with instructors or network with classmates. Regardless of your delivery method, you'll appreciate the broad communications curriculum, which blends mass media theory with more practical training. You'll also customize the curriculum by satisfying 24 credit hours of electives, choosing from targeted classes like "Documentary Writing and Production," "Multimedia Journalism," and "Global Media," among others.
Average Tuition & Fees: $8,990/yr
Score: 62.3

21. Asbury University

Online MA in Communication: Digital Storytelling

Effective, emotional storytelling is at the heart of Asbury University's accredited Master of Arts in Communication online program. Students learn how to craft compelling stories in any field, how to use stories to share important themes, and how to inspire an audience to act. You'll ground this theory with extensive digital storytelling training thanks to classes in video production, sound design, viral marketing, and more. A few points of note: This is technically a hybrid program, so you'll need to visit the Wilmore, Kentucky, campus for occasional short-term sessions. Also, keep in mind that Asbury is a Christian school, so you'll be asked to "review and analyze media messages in light of a Biblical worldview."
Average Tuition & Fees: $10,242/yr
Score: 65.3

20. Texas Tech University

Online Master's Program in Strategic Communication & Innovation

At Texas Tech University, you'll design a course schedule that fits with your professional and personal obligations, rather than re-adjusting your life to fit around your classes. You can opt to take one to three courses per semester, and all classes are available fully online. As for academics, this cheap online master's in strategic communications blends communication theory with more practical work. This approach ensures that you'll acquire important skills, like how to develop strategic communications plans, carry out research, and act as a communications consultant. Electives range from niche subjects like "Multimedia Story Telling" to a special topics course that explores pertinent issues affecting strategic communications today.
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,197/yr
Score: 66.5

19. California Baptist University

Online Master of Arts in Communication or Public Relations

Another Christian school, California Baptist University offers communications and public relations degrees that seek to "integrate biblical thought with contemporary cultural concepts." Both accredited online communications master's degrees also prize creativity. That is, the goal of these programs is not just to impart a fundamental understanding of key concepts in the field, but to imbue students with the agility to develop thoughtful and engaging campaigns. Both also include coursework in new and digital media, ensuring you'll be able to apply what you learn to the latest medium. You'll also study ethics, using case studies to evaluate behaviors and build the confidence to tackle challenging ethical problems on the job.
Average Tuition & Fees: $12,140/yr
Score: 67.8

18. Troy University

Online Master of Science in Strategic Communications

Troy University's communications degree is about as straightforward as they come. Of the five required core classes, three deal directly with strategic communications, while the other two look more broadly at communications theory and ethics. The second half of the curriculum is comprised of five electives. These highly-focused options include "Leadership and Media Strategies" and "Strategic Communication and Emerging Media," among others. Thanks to Troy's strong emphasis on understanding (and harnessing) the "new realities" inherent in today's media, this is one of the best programs on this master's degrees in communications online ranking for forward-thinking, strategy-oriented professionals.
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,521/yr
Score: 67.9

17. Concordia University-Saint Paul

Online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication Management

If you're looking for a cheap online master's in communication degree program that offers a solid return on investment, check out Concordia University-St. Paul. 95% of CSP graduates receive a job offer within a year after graduation, and they typically report higher salaries than the national average. CSP is also a great choice if you want to study abroad, as the M.A. in Strategic Communication Management includes the option to pursue a four-credit class overseas. (If you prefer to stay in the States, you can substitute an "Intercultural Communication" class.) Beyond these benefits, the school shines for its management-focused curriculum, which incorporates classwork in leadership, project management, and crisis communication.
Average Tuition & Fees: $8,550/yr
Score: 68.1

16. Mississippi College

Online Master of Science in Communication

Although Mississippi College only offers a generalist communications degree online, the program nonetheless provides plenty of opportunities for customization. These come primarily through elective classes, of which you'll take 15 credit hours (compared to 13 hours of required courses). Among your options are some of the most unique electives on this Master of Arts in Communication online ranking, including "Play Directing" and "Media Sales." MC is also a great choice if you're interested in hands-on learning, as the curriculum includes optional field studies and internship experiences with media, PR, and other communications organizations. Or if doctoral study is more to your taste, you can opt to write a thesis instead.
Average Tuition & Fees: $10,806/yr
Score: 68.9

15. National University

Online Master of Arts in Strategic Communications

Alongside the expected communications classes - i.e. those covering theory, marketing, crisis management, etc. - National University's curriculum also includes a few unconventional courses. For example, students are required to complete a class in "Persuasion." This course melds conceptual theories of persuasion with practical skills to help you learn how to not only make shrewd decisions, but also convince others of their merit. National also stands out on this master's degree in communications online ranking for its dedication to service members. Founded by veterans, the school is decidedly military-friendly, with a robust Veteran Center that offers myriad resources and participates in the GI Bill program.
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,232/yr
Score: 69.1

14. Park University

Online Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership

For a leadership-focused M.A. in Communications, look to Park University. The Missouri school's affordable online master's in communication degree program includes nearly equal coursework in both communications and leadership, with required classes such as "Organizational Leadership," "Leading Organizational Change," and "Measuring Leadership." It's also a great choice if you'd like to conduct research, whether for your own intellectual gain or because you want to pursue doctoral study. You'll take two research-specific classes, and you can opt to complete a research-centric thesis as your capstone. (The other option is a more general graduate project.)
Average Tuition & Fees: $8,025/yr
Score: 70.9

13. Spring Arbor University

Online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership

Another M.A. that incorporates leadership-focused coursework, Spring Arbor University does so from a Christian perspective. This top online master's in strategic communications considers communication as a vocation, asking you to consider your personal and professional goals and then make a plan to attain them. It's also a practical program: You'll graduate with a digital portfolio that demonstrates your professional growth and the communications assets you've created throughout the 18-month program. And if you're unsure about online learning, you'll appreciate SAU's Student Success Coach program. Your dedicated advisor will guide you on issues that go beyond the academic, helping you maintain a healthy work-life balance, pursue personal development, and more.
Average Tuition & Fees: $7,217/yr
Score: 71.2

12. Marist College

Online MA in Communication or Integrated Marketing Communication

Marist College offers two ways to earn an accredited online communications master's degree. The first focuses on organizational communications and leadership, blending theory, research, and analysis with courses aimed at developing your leadership and management skills. The second option focuses on integrated marketing, showing you how to develop and share a consistent message on various digital platforms. No matter which you choose, you'll enjoy the flexibility to attend on either a part- or full-time basis. And because Marist makes all classes available online, you'll never need to visit the Poughkeepsie campus.
Average Tuition & Fees: $14,040/yr
Score: 71.4

11. Austin Peay State University

Online Master of Arts in Communication

From student organizations to study abroad opportunities to scholarships, Austin Peay State University has plenty to offer students who earn its top Master of Arts in Communication online. This flexible program also gives you the option to pursue an internship or an on-campus practicum, but you certainly don't need to do so. You will, however, have to choose one of four areas of focus: Corporate Communication, General Communication, Marketing Communication, or Media Management. The first two are "specializations" (meaning they require fewer courses and aren't noted on your transcript) while the latter two are concentrations (and do appear on your transcript). All four include a research component and require between 12 and 18 credit hours of electives.
Average Tuition & Fees: $16,763/yr
Score: 71.9

10. Queens University of Charlotte

Online Master of Arts in Communication

Queens University of Charlotte offers a broadly applicable and affordable online master's in communication degree program that puts a strong emphasis on developing a brand identity. Among other topics, you'll learn how to harness emerging media, hone your leadership skills, and develop comprehensive communications plans for an organization. If you want to further refine the degree, you can add the optional concentration in Integrated Digital Strategy. Comprised of four classes, the concentration explores digital communications technology and culminates in a "digital intervention," which you'll design for a real-world organization of your choice.
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,730/yr
Score: 73.9

9. University of Memphis

Online Master of Arts in Journalism and Strategic Media

The University of Memphis has earned accolades for its online programs from a multitude of education-oriented websites, so it's no surprise that the school also appears on our online master's in strategic communications ranking. Designed for working professionals, UM's communications program offers a fully online curriculum in four emphases: Integrated Strategic Media, News and Storytelling, Research, and Visual Media. It also gives you the option to complete a practicum, a professional project, or a thesis as your capstone. Another perk? You can complete a Prior Learning Assessment to earn credits for previous professional and other life experiences.
Average Tuition & Fees: $14,855/yr
Score: 76.5

8. Drury University

Online MA in Communication

Test-averse students, take note: You don't need to complete the GRE to apply for Drury University's cheap Master of Arts in Communication online program. That's not the only benefit of this Massachusetts-based school, however. There's also the price: Tuition averages just over $8,500, and locals can apply for graduate assistantships to further reduce their costs. On the academic front, Drury boasts two narrowly defined emphases: Integrated Marketing Communications and Organizational Leadership and Change. Both consist of 24 credit hours in core coursework plus another six in electives. And while Drury doesn't require an internship for either option, you can pursue one for course credit (with faculty approval, of course).
Average Tuition & Fees: $8,622/yr
Score: 77.9

7. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

Online Master of Arts in Communication Studies

At the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, you have plenty of ways to customize your degree. First, you'll choose one of four concentrations: Integrated Marketing Communication, Intercultural and International Communication, Managerial and Leadership Communication, or Public Communication. Next, you'll decide whether you want to pursue an internship as you earn this top online communications master's degree. Finally, you'll select a capstone option. You can write a thesis paper, take a comprehensive exam, or participate in a practicum at a communications firm (such as your current place of employment). No matter your path, you'll appreciate the broad curriculum, which incorporates ample coursework in theory, research, and communications ethics.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,813/yr
Score: 80.6

6. Montana State University-Billings

Online Master of Science in Public Relations

Aspiring public relations professionals in the Big Sky state would do well to consider Montana State University-Billings. Not only can you earn the school's accredited master's degree in communications online, but you can also incorporate evening classes to create a personalized hybrid program. This flexibility also extends to the curriculum as a whole; here, you'll have your pick of four emphases: Public Relations Theory and Practice, Health Communication, Political and Public Communication, and Media and Society. These targeted options incorporate plenty of industry-specific courses, ensuring you'll leave with the training you need to stand out in your field.
Average Tuition & Fees: $12,901/yr
Score: 83.7

5. Liberty University

Online Master of Arts in Communication

With its eight yearly start dates, fully asynchronous coursework, and multiple capstone options, Liberty University offers the chance to earn an eminently flexible, top master's degree in communications online. No matter your goals - whether it's to prepare for doctoral study or simply enhance your skills - you can tailor this program to help you achieve them. Not only does the curriculum incorporate ample electives, but it also gives you a choice between three capstone experiences (a thesis, project, or comprehensive exam). The Virginia school will also appeal to students of faith, thanks to its Christian affiliation and courses that integrate biblical teachings into the subject matter ("Communication in Nonprofit and Christian Ministry," for example).
Average Tuition & Fees: $8,430/yr
Score: 86

4. Missouri State University-Springfield

Online MA in Communication

If cost is a crucial factor as you decide where to earn an accredited Master of Arts in Communication online, you'll want to consider Missouri State University-Springfield. Not only is this M.A. competitively priced, with tuition averaging just under $7,900, but the school also offers scholarships that can further offset your bottom line. While some scholarships require applicants to meet very specific criteria - involvement in applied research, for example - others simply ask you to demonstrate financial need and maintain a specified GPA. Even if cost isn't a major concern, you'll want to give the school a look for the opportunity to specialize in some hard-to-find areas, such as conflict communication.
Average Tuition & Fees: $7,894/yr
Score: 90.1

3. Webster University

Online MA in Public Relations, Communications Management, Advertising & Marketing, or Media Communications

With four accredited online master's in communication degree programs, Webster University has a pathway to match nearly any career goal. At this St. Louis school, you can earn a degree in Advertising and Marketing Communications, Communications Management, Media Communications, or Public Relations. Communications Management stands out as one of the more unique options. This high-level program helps you become an efficient project manager and strategic thinker. But no matter which option you choose, you'll appreciate the school's broad range of elective courses, which can help bring additional areas of focus to your work.
Average Tuition & Fees: $12,690/yr
Score: 91

2. Lasell College

Online Master of Science in Communication

Designed for working adults with busy schedules, Lasell College's M.S. in Communications is both flexible and customizable. Have time to spare? Opt for a 12-month program. Too many obligations? Go for the 24-month option instead. Plus, you can choose one of three highly focused concentrations as you earn this top online communications master's degree: Public Relations, Integrated Marketing Communication, or Health Communication. The latter is a rather rare find on this list. Students in this track learn how to effectively communicate important ideas related to health policy and public health.
Average Tuition & Fees: $10,960/yr
Score: 97.6

1. Ball State University

Online MA in Journalism, Public Relations, or Emerging Media Design

Given that it runs a well-established school of journalism, it's no surprise that Ball State University earns a spot on this online master's in strategic communications ranking. With three M.A. options - Journalism, Public Relations, and Emerging Media Design and Development - just about any communications-oriented student should be able to find a degree that meets their interests. While the first two programs are relatively common, the latter track offers an innovative alternative for professionals who want to explore cutting-edge industry trends. The curriculum addresses the "two-way storytelling" inherent in social media while teaching you how to engage audiences through compelling stories. Note, however, that it uses a hybrid format, with on-campus workshops once per semester (both other programs are fully online).
Average Tuition & Fees: $15,204/yr
Score: 100

Thanks for reading our ranking of the 30 top cheap online communications master's degree programs!

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