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Question: How Long Does it Take to Complete an Online Master’s in Communication Program?

Answer: The time to completion for an online master’s in communication degree program can depend on a number of factors, including the focus of the curriculum. Applied communication degree programs are generally designed to be completed in one to two years by students who enroll full-time. Master’s in communication studies programs that focus on communication theory and research in the field of communication may take slightly longer to complete, as they typically include a master’s thesis requirement. Students who enroll part-time in a master’s in communication program generally take two or more years to complete the degree, depending on the program structure and the number of courses taken per term/semester. The number of credits required to graduate ranges from 30 to 48 credits, which typically equates to 10 to 16 courses. Students who complete three courses per semester should be able to graduate from some applied communication programs in a few as 12 to 16 months, while a part-time student in a similar program might take one or two courses per semester and graduate in 24 to 36 months.

Determining the amount of time it will take to earn a master’s in communication degree online can be confusing, as there are a number of important variables that impact time to completion. However, these variables can be broken down into several categories: structural variations, preferential variations, and the focus of the curriculum.

Structural variations include the number of courses/credits required to graduate; part-time vs. full-time enrollment options; and whether or not the program offers courses year round, which would include summer sessions. Some online programs are designed to offer more structural flexibility than others. For example, one program may offer a set sequence of courses and require students to enroll full-time for the equivalent of four academic semesters over 16 consecutive months, while another program may have several designated paths to completion in order to accommodate full-time and part-time students.

Preferential variation encompasses a number of options that students in the program may have, such as the number of courses taken per term, the order in which those courses are completed, and whether or not to attend year round. Some online programs allow students to select and vary the number of courses taken each term, in which case the time to completion is in part determined by a student’s preference. These programs typically cap the number of years a student may take to complete the program, usually at five or six years.

The focus of the curriculum is also an important consideration, as online master’s programs with an applied communication focus often do not require a research-bases thesis, which allows students who enroll full-time to complete the program in less than two years. Programs that focus on communication theory and research commonly have a master’s thesis requirement, which may make it difficult to complete the program in less than two years.

Online Master’s in Communication Program Requirements

The number of credits required to earn a master’s in communication degree online varies from 30 to 48 credits. This typically equates to at least ten courses and may incorporate a capstone project or master’s thesis. Students in a program that requires a final capstone, whether it is a thesis or an applied project, may have the option of taking an extra term or semester to complete that requirement. Traditionally, students would typically expect to spend four academic semesters or two years to complete a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) in communication or communication studies. However, many master’s programs offer courses five or six times a year during eight-week or ten-week terms, which may allow full-time students to complete four semester of coursework in twelve months of continuous enrollment.

The table below offers a comparison of the time to completion for full-time and part-time students enrolled in three different master’s in communication programs:

ProgramRequired CreditsRequired CoursesFull-TimePart-Time
School A30 1020 months30 months or more
School B331116 months24 months or more
School C421424 months36 months or more

Types of Master’s in Communication Programs

Communication is a broad field that encompasses the application of written, verbal, nonverbal, and multi-media communication skills in business, marketing, advertising, public relations, politics, journalism, and broadcasting, as well as theoretical research into cultural, sociological, and technological aspects of communication. As a result, there are many different types of master’s in communication programs that can be distinguished by name and/or curriculum.

Master’s in communication studies or interpersonal communication degree programs typically place greater stress on scientific study and scholarly inquiry into modes of communication, theories of communication, and how communication technologies impact culture and society. These programs often serve as a pathway to doctoral studies in communication and they typically include a formal master’s thesis.

There are also a number of different kinds of applied master’s in communication degree programs, including but not limited to:

  • Master’s in Business Communication
  • Master’s in Communication Management
  • Master’s in Corporate and Organizational Communication
  • Master’s in Health Communication
  • Master’s in Integrated Marketing Communications
  • Master’s in Political Communication
  • Master’s in Strategic Communication
  • Master’s in Technical Communication

Master’s in communication program with an applied focus are designed to provide specialized training in the use of communication skills and knowledge in a particular field, such as healthcare, politics, or marketing. These programs may provide opportunities for additional specializations in areas such as public relations, social media, and/or global/international communication.


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