The 10 Best Master’s in Journalism Programs in the US

Getting a graduate degree in Journalism today can lead to more careers than writing for a newspaper or working at a TV news bureau. Think about how many sources there are for news now, especially online, and it’s easy to see how competitive Journalism departments must provide training in technological tools, audience attention and perception, and the many ways available to tell a story.

Anybody planning a career in news acquisition and delivery—whether it’s going to be digging out the secrets and backstories of corporations and politicians or illuminating the newest scientific discoveries—these graduate programs offer specific skills training along with professional experience.

Most people might think getting a Master’s Degree in Journalism requires an undergraduate degree in Journalism or English first. But many programs accept or even recommend a degree in the subject matter of interest—the topic the student wants to cover as a reporter.

Once a candidate decides to apply, a series of follow-up decisions guide the choice of school. Students planning to work as field reporters, correspondents, writers—any active media role—want to look for a “Professional” track. These Professional Master’s programs can be MA or MS.

Students interested in teaching, research, or even media management might consider a Research track. Today’s media world requires a tremendous amount of market research, psychological and physiological study, and statistical analysis. 

Students with the right training can find work at centers and foundations for media study around the world, as well as in private companies.

A Master’s Degree in Journalism can take anywhere from six months to two years, depending on the scope and nature of the program. Many graduate programs allow students to attend classes part-time to maintain an ongoing career. Quality options exist in hybrid and completely virtual forms.

Journalism graduate candidates need to consider the kind of course delivery they’d most value. Many top schools employ the “teaching-hospital model” of study, where graduate students learn by doing rather than traditional classroom credit hours.

These schools offer skills training from professionals, career planning and contacts, internships and study abroad programs, and the opportunity to learn what life as a contemporary journalist feels like. These schools envision the journalism of the future as well, where biometrics and gaming technology will bring the news to life in new and exciting ways.

Here are 10 of the best Master’s in Journalism Schools in the US.

University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication (Madison, WI)

UW Madison garners widespread acclaim for its Communication and Media Studies programs, ranking in the top ten globally. The Journalism department offers Research and Professional MA programs, both with renowned faculty and extensive professional opportunities for students.

Students in the Professional MA program work with an advisor to select classes in a variety of nonfiction writing. Coursework not only develops the student’s communication skills, but also grounds each student in a larger understanding of how mass communication functions.

The Professional MA program requires a specialty area: students interested in reporting on climate change, for instance, take courses through UW’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. Students devise areas of specialty with access to all the departments of UW Madison.

The department assists students in finding professional development situations through funding travel to conferences, bringing professionals to campus for workshops, and through internships with Madison Commons, the school’s news site. All Master’s students must complete a professional internship with a media company while in the program.

UW-Madison ranks among the leading journalism research institutions, with multiple centers for studying metrics, history, ethics, and theory. The Center for Journalism Ethics draws journalists from around the world for conferences and residencies.

Research students can be a part of the school’s Mass Communication Research Center, which hosts research groups studying media-related topics from computational analysis to social media and democracy.

Ohio State University School of Journalism (Columbus, OH)

Ohio State University School of Journalism
Blervis, Journalism OSU, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Graduate Program in Communications at Ohio State encourages students to take a broad, contextual view of media studies. Candidates find their own roles and voices within modern media while learning how the mechanisms of communication affect society.

Ohio State’s program explores the way multiple aspects of the communication fields intersect. Research areas within the program span topics like human-computer interaction, field research and opinion polls, and even automated eye-tracking of visual stimuli.

The program focuses on the way the public takes in media, with research groups in specific areas covering the management of images and ideas. Students in the program explore the way audiences respond to electronic and print media, how polls can be interpreted, and the way our brains react to information.

Ohio State’s program is less focused on traditional Journalism coursework on reporting and writing. Polling work, advertising, brain research, medical compliance and patient relations, and strategic broadcast media planning would all be careers served by a program like this one.

Every admitted MA student receives full funding through associateships or fellowships. Its commitment to student research, excellent faculty, and forward-thinking curriculum make the program a leader in the discipline; recent assessment by Shanghai Ranking placed the department at #2 among Communications programs worldwide.

West Virginia University Perley Isaac Reid School of Journalism (Morgantown, WV)

West Virginia University Reed School of Journalism
Richinstead, Wvu-martin-hall, CC BY-SA 3.0

Reed College of Media at West Virginia University offers a Master of Science degree in multiple Communications fields, some of which can be completed online. The Master of Science in Journalism students matriculate on campus, choosing either the teaching-research track or professional track.

Reed’s program considers the complexity of modern media and seeks to provide students with the skills and training to forge a purpose-driven career in the field. Within each track, students can choose from five Areas of Interest to add dimension to their study.

The program’s designated Areas of Interest show its awareness of the wide range of expertise needed to function in the world of modern media: Advocacy & Public Interest Communications, Media Innovation, Digital Publishing, Visual Journalism, Reporting & Writing, and Television.

Immersive web-based journalism projects like 100 Days in Appalachia offer Reed College of Media students a chance at professional experience. The school’s Media Innovation Center fosters many such projects, along with workshops, podcasts, and innovator-in-residence programs, keeping student experience relevant and vital.

Departmental assistantships offer financial support and professional experience. Reed College of Media offers a global reach and an expansive vision in a small-town setting. It may be the only Journalism program with its own therapy dog.

UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism (Berkeley, CA)

Berkeley’s School of Journalism has a storied history of advocacy, ethics, and excellence. Pulitzer Prize winners, NPR correspondents, filmmakers, novelists, and titans of print and television news number among the school’s graduates.

For students considering long-form and multimedia, The UC Berkeley School of Journalism offers a dazzling array of study options. Photo and Video Journalism have their own separate concentrations and course sequences with visual thesis projects.

The Video Reporting and Storytelling sequence of classes provides the backbone for the Video Journalism and Documentary concentrations. The Multimedia concentration includes coursework in writing, visual narrative, and other media. Audio journalism focuses on radio and podcasting writing, reporting, and programming.

Professional-level studios allow Berkeley students to create, record, and broadcast their own projects and connect with industry professionals at work there. Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program, led by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, works with Netflix and FRONTLINE to research and produce documentaries on stories related to injustice and abuse of power.

Aspiring print and audio journalists interested farming, food science, and agriculture can apply for the Food and Farming Journalism Fellowships, $10,000 scholarships offered through Berkeley’s School of Journalism.

Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism (Evanston, IL)

Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism
Madcoverboy, Fisk Hall at Northwestern, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, part of Northwestern University, spans five campuses. Anchored by the Evanston campus, Medill students can join classes or residencies at satellite campuses in downtown Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., or in Doha, Qatar.

Medill’s offers a Master of Science in Journalism; candidates base their curriculum on either a subject or method specialization. Politics, Health, Sports Media, Investigative Practices—specialization areas cover most prospective journalists’ interests.

The Medill MSJ takes one year to complete. Students have the opportunity to travel through Medill Explores, a program led by Medill professors that take the classroom on the road.

The Knight Lab at Medill serves as a crucible for student networking and projects, providing resources and technology. Medill’s Spiegel Research Center leads the industry in customer engagement research.

Graduates of Medill go on to become leading figures in news and entertainment. Writers Gillian Flynn and George R.R. Martin are graduates, along with Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief of Mother Jones magazine, TV writer and producer Mara Brock Akil, news anchor Sheinelle Jones, sportswriter Christine Brennan, and Pulitzer-prize winner Tina Rosenberg.

University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism (College Park, MD)

The Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland offers a versatile graduate program focusing on data studies, investigative journalism, and sports journalism.

Depending on track (research or professional), Merrill has an MA and an MJ degree (respectively). The MA requires a final thesis; the MJ concludes with a portfolio review.

Candidates interested in information studies may choose a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Data Journalism—this track, a joint offering from Merrill and the UMD College of Information Studies, may be completed in person, online, or in hybrid form.

Coursework within the program tracks covers many specific, currently relevant topics in journalism. Students can choose courses like Multimedia Storytelling, Audience and Analytics, Newsroom Management, and Mobile Journalism, allowing them to envision and prepare for their future professional roles in practical ways.

A Budding sports journalist should note Merrill’s excellent Povich Center for Sports Journalism, a center for this format unlike any other. Candidates interested in political reporting would benefit from the program’s proximity to D.C. and its student-run news service, an entity so successful it now reports to the Associated Press.

With its investigative journalism center, opportunities for study abroad, and professional faculty, Merrill offers graduate students a wealth of quality experiences. Its retention rates, internship opportunities, and real-world approach ensure students the best preparation for a career in journalism.

University of Missouri School of Journalism (Columbia, MO)

The University of Missouri at Columbia originated the study of Journalism as a degree program. Also one of the oldest graduate programs in the field, Missouri granted its first Master’s diploma in 1921.

Missouri Journalism graduate students can pursue their Master’s degree on or off-campus. In either case, the program expects students to develop and write publishable articles under the guidance of faculty and mentors.

The Reynolds Journalism Institute gives students professional development opportunities by bringing in working journalists as Fellows, sponsoring workshops and competitions, and maintaining various publications with student work. Writers groups, presentations, and project meetings take place in well-furnished facilities, where students can access tools and media through the Frank Lee Martin Journalism Library.

The PRIME Lab at Missouri conducts research on psychophysiological response to media. Along with five other labs within the mass communication and journalism programs, The PRIME Lab allows students interested in data science to conduct research, participate in conferences, and submit to academic journals.

Missouri’s legacy allows it to maintain significant connections to the industry, giving students unprecedented access to journalism professionals. Multiple campus-based organizations and facilities bring working journalists to Missouri.

Walter Williams, the first dean of Missouri’s School of Journalism, authored “The Journalist’s Creed,” a kind of Hippocratic Oath for Journalism. His words grace the walls of the National Press Club and newsrooms around the world.

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (New York, NY)

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
Pulitzer Hall – public domain photo by Columbex via Wikimedia Commons

Columbia University’s Journalism School offers more permutations of Master-level graduate degrees than almost any other program. Master of Science, Master of Science in Data, and Master of Arts degrees further differentiate into 16 different areas of study.

The program features specialty tracks in Data, Documentary, and Multimedia, like other programs. But specialty areas in Arts Journalism, International Journalism, and Science Journalism set Columbia’s program apart.

Documentary and Investigative students have options to expand their educational experience. Documentary students can extend their matriculation by a semester to complete a short documentary film; students specializing in Investigative Journalism can take additional training at the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Multiple centers for Journalism practice and research call the Columbia campus home. The Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights offers fellowships and awards annual prizes for reporting on Civil Rights issues. 

Columbia Journalism partners with Stanford University’s School of Engineering in the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, where grants, seminars, training, and access to technology allow students to envision future forms of journalism.

Arizona State University Walter Kronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications (Phoenix, AZ)

Arizona State University’s acclaimed Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication presents an array of degree programs for prospective students with the ambition to become public figures, whether in print, television, or digital media. 

The program offers MA degrees in Investigative Journalism and Sports Journalism, an MS in Digital Audience Strategy, and an MMC in Mass Communication.

Dual Degrees in cooperation with other professional programs present students with a way to be uniquely qualified to report in their chosen fields. 

The Mayo Clinic’s Alix School of Medicine provides the necessary dimension in coursework for the MD/MMC degree, while ASU’s own Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law supports the MMC/MLS Master of Mass Communication and Legal Studies.

Campuses in Phoenix and Los Angeles serve student needs by offering professional opportunities and a base of solid communication skills. The old Herald Examiner building houses Cronkite News’ Los Angeles bureau, along with up-to-the-minute studio equipment.

The Cronkite School owns Arizona’s PBS station, and students participate in creating Cronkite News, broadcast nightly across Arizona.

The Cronkite School regularly refashions the study and practice of journalism. Immersive journalism features heavily in a new program integrating gaming technology with narrative to deliver the news. The school plans to offer a new graduate degree in Emerging Media and Narrative Storytelling.

Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications (Syracuse, NY)

Syracuse University Newhouse School
DASonnenfeld, Newhouse School Syracuse University, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse provides its graduate students with solid experience and a significant matrix of professional support by the time they receive a diploma. Newhouse places 89% of its graduates as working journalists within six months of graduation.

Newhouse degrees follow the Professional or Academic model, with 11 different programs under the Professional heading. Online Master of Science degrees in Communications and Communications Management provides the Newhouse quality of instruction to students who cannot attend on campus.

Alongside Digital Journalism and Multimedia Master’s programs, Newhouse has some less common concentration areas, like a degree program that proposes all companies now need a media presence, and therefore media management.

Student-run news publications, both print and online, join radio stations, television stations, as well as student-run public relations and advertising agencies. Newhouse students have access to the Career Development Center, providing connections and job search advice.

Newhouse grounds its students in the fundamental skills of journalism while providing the context in which students can envision the many roles of a 21st-century journalist. On-campus centers for research and media projects give students work experience and support working journalists, as well as enriching the field itself.

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