Money and the Online Master’s in Communications
No discussion of graduate degrees would be complete without a review of the financial aspects. It’s a pressing question for potential students: how much does a degree program cost?
Although it's important to determine the expense, you should also understand the long-term pay-off. What is the return on your investment? While there is no definite answer to these questions – every school is different, after all – here’s some information to help you decide whether earning an online master’s in communications meshes with your long-term financial and professional goals.
Typical Costs for a Master’s Degree in Communications
The single biggest cost of an online master’s degree program is tuition. Fortunately, today’s schools are now much more transparent with tuition costs. While some schools clearly state the entire expected cost, others only publish the per-credit or per-course price and make you do the math.
A quick review of tuition prices online shows a significant variation in costs between schools. For example, as of this writing, California State University at Long Beach estimates that an in-state student will pay $12,604 to earn its Master of Arts in Communication Studies. Meanwhile, Northeastern University puts a price tag of $26,730 on its Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication.
However, these are the list prices for tuition and do not necessarily represent what you would actually pay for the program. Financial aid is often available to offset costs. In addition, communications students at the graduate level should look into working as a teaching assistant. These positions may be available to students in good standing, and they often provide enough funds to completely cover tuition costs.
Additional factors to consider include room and board, commuting and, if applicable, any child care costs. This is one area in which an online master’s in communication can be a money-saver. When students study from home on their own schedule, some of these costs are eliminated. Also, because they can continue their job while studying, they may be able to pay as they go instead of taking out student loans.
The price of an online master’s in communications is only part of the equation. Also consider how that higher education can enhance career prospects. In many cases, a job candidate with a master’s degree has an advantage over those with a bachelor’s degree, or may be able to command a higher salary.
Salaries for communications professionals vary significantly depending on their occupation. As an example, let’s look at a public relations specialist, a common choice for some communications graduates. Below are salaries for public relations specialists in 2013:
Top 10 %
Now, let’s look at salaries for public relations managers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some managerial positions can be filled by those with bachelor’s degrees, while others require that candidates hold a master’s degree. Here’s the type of pay you might see if you get the education and experience needed to move from a specialist to a management position.
Top 10 %
In 2011, the jobs website CareerBliss analyzed 10 jobs in which having a master’s degree would pay off. One of those jobs was a marketing director, another occupation common to communications graduates. CareerBliss found that those with a master’s degree earned an average of 19.95 percent more than their counterparts who held only a bachelor’s degree. That means their salaries averaged $98,849 compared to the $79,133 earned by undergraduates.