Is a Master’s in Communications Worth It?

Industry Advice Communications & Digital Media

Earning a graduate degree is a popular choice for professionals working in a corporate environment and looking to advance their careers. For those working in a communications-focused role, the likely inclination is to pursue a Master of Science in Communication.

If you’re considering earning your MS in Communication, you’ve probably found yourself asking a lot of questions: What salary will I earn with an advanced degree? What kinds of skills will I learn? What kinds of jobs are common among program graduates? Each of these concerns is guiding you toward answering one specific question: Is earning a master’s in communications worth it?

Ultimately, determining whether or not earning any degree is worth the time, money, and effort required involves the consideration of a number of factors. The single most important of these factors is your motivation for earning the degree. Once you understand your motivation and identify the value that you will get out of a degree, it will be relatively easy to understand whether or not pursuing one is the right decision for you.

Below, we explore some of the common reasons that many professionals choose to earn a master of science in communication. We also offer some advice and tips that you can use to ensure that the program you choose aligns with your unique personal and career goals.

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What Are The Benefits of Earning a Master’s in Communication?

For the right individual, there are a number of powerful benefits that come from earning a Master of Science in Communication that make it worthwhile. Ultimately, these benefits stem from the knowledge and skills that you’ll learn over the course of the program, which you can potentially leverage to advance in your career, boost your salary, and gain greater overall job satisfaction.

1. Valuable Knowledge and Skills

The goal of most master’s in communication programs is to give students the specific tools that they need to be successful in a communications-focused career, whether in the private or nonprofit sector. There are also programs which are designed specifically to prepare students for a career in research or academia, and which focus less on the development of practical skills.

While the specifics of what you can expect to learn from an advanced communications degree will naturally vary depending on which program you choose, most tend to focus on developing skills related to the challenges unique to complex, modern organizations.

Real-World Example

In the past, most organizations were built around the idea of “silos,” wherein each silo was responsible for a particular set of tasks and activities, and where employees reported vertically in a clear line of succession from middle-management through executive leadership. But as organizations have sought greater agility and cross-functionality between teams, there has been a shift away from the silo structure towards what is termed “matrix working,” which brings together employees with diverse backgrounds and skill sets to work toward shared goals.

While an effective model, matrix working can bring its own challenges due to its added complexity and blurred lines. This complexity brings into focus the importance of highly-developed communication skills, particularly among management.

Some of the most valuable skills that current MS in Communication programs help students develop include:

Expanding upon these skill sets doesn’t just prepare students for a communications-focused role; these abilities can just as readily be applied to countless other roles in which communication is a central factor.

“Let’s be honest: We’re all communicators,” says Carl Zangerl, faculty director for the communication and human resource management programs within Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies. “Some of us are in a professional communications role, but the fact is that if you look at what employers are looking for these days, communication skills are right up there at the top, regardless of what function you play or what industry you work in.”

Learn More: Watch the full interview with Northeastern’s Carl Zangerl here.

Additionally, most degree programs offer a range of concentrations or specializations that students can choose from in order to delve deeper into a particular subject. For example, at Northeastern, the Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication program offers six different concentrations, including:

  • Human Resources Management
  • Public and Media Relations
  • Leadership
  • Project Management
  • Social Media
  • Cross-Cultural Communication

2. Increased Career Options

In the past, a bachelor’s degree was enough to help job applicants stand out among their peers. However, according to the Pew Research Center, approximately 40 percent of millennials have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, and that number is only expected to rise in the coming years.

The reality is, in many organizations, a bachelor’s degree is only the minimum education requirement for applicants. This means that whether you’re looking to rise up the ranks in your existing organization or you’re applying to a new company altogether, simply having a bachelor’s degree may no longer be enough to catch the hiring manager’s attention.

More than 38 percent of employers have reported raising their educational requirements over the last five years, and more intend to follow suit. In fact, nearly 33 percent of employers now require master’s degrees for positions which, in the past, had been held by employees with four-year degrees—and in some industries, that percentage is even higher. Earning your master’s degree can help you stand out to employers as a viable and skilled candidate for jobs in many of today’s top fields.

3. Increased Salary & Job Security

Over the course of their lifetimes, individuals who have obtained a master’s degree can expect to earn 18 percent more than individuals who only have a bachelor’s degree, regardless of discipline or subject. This can translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional compensation over the course of a 40-year career.

Looking specifically at those who have studied communications, those who hold a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn an average salary of approximately $52,000 each year, whereas those who have earned their master’s in communication can expect to earn an average salary of approximately $69,000 annually.

Here are some positions commonly held by those who have earned their MS in communications, along with their average salaries:

  • Marketing Manager: $72,552
  • Communications Manager: $74,582
  • Account Supervisor: $77,764
  • Director of Communications: $84,874
  • Marketing Director: $104,640

Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that roughly 43,200 new media and communication jobs will be created between 2016 and 2026 as technology evolves and companies adapt to a changing and more connected world economy.

Making It Your Own

In order for a master’s degree in communications—or any graduate degree—to have a valuable impact on your career, it’s important that you relate the degree back to your specific personal and career goals. To do this, take time to ensure you’re choosing the right program from the start.

For those who have chosen a master’s in communications, consider the following advice to ensure you garner as much value as possible from your degree:

Choose classes that will round out your existing skills.

The goal of any level of education is to learn something that you don’t already know or to improve upon your existing skills. When choosing a program, look for one that offers at least some degree of flexibility so that you can tailor your classes and coursework to your particular interests and fill in any gaps that you may recognize in your skill sets.

Look for experiential learning opportunities.

The value of real, hands-on experience is difficult to overstate. Simply put, employers want and expect a certain level of experience from their employees, especially when it comes to management- and executive-level positions. By choosing a program that offers some kind of experiential learning component—whether in the form of an internship, co-op, or capstone project—you can ensure that this valuable experience is baked into your coursework.

Find a program that aligns with your specific career goals.

Most master’s in communication programs aim to teach students a wide range of skills and information, which can be incredibly helpful for a generalist. Other more specific programs and concentrations do exist, however, which can be beneficial for students who know that they would like to pursue a particular avenue of work.

In addition to the Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication, Northeastern offers a number of other communications-focused programs which align with a variety of possible career goals.

The Master of Science in Technical Communication, for example, is designed to arm students with the skills necessary to convey technical information to a variety of audiences and in different formats. The College of Professional Studies also offers a range of graduate certificates in subjects such as Social Media and Online Communities and Cross-Cultural Communication, which provide additional opportunities for the expansion of tailored communication skills.

With so many options, it’s never been easier to earn a degree that applies directly to your unique career goals and aspirations.

Ready to take the next step toward your ideal career? Browse through the many communications programs offered at Northeastern, and get started choosing the degree, concentration, or certificate that’s right for you.

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