Journalists keep the public informed about current events, news, and politics. An online journalism degree trains graduates for careers as reporters, news analysts, and correspondents. Journalism majors gain research, writing, and analytical thinking skills, leading to careers as journalists and in other fields like public relations, education, and government.
This article helps students identify the best online journalism degrees based on their background and career goals. The guide explores the coursework requirements and core skills gained during a journalism program. Prospective students also learn about the potential career opportunities and salary information for professionals with a journalism degree.
Overview of Journalism Degrees
Students earning their online degree in journalism study the relationship between the press and society and the role of ethics in journalism. They also acquire foundational skills for reporting. They may specialize in areas of journalism like digital reporting, investigative journalism, or copy editing. Students can also complete electives in other disciplines to hone their journalistic talents and prepare for careers as business reporters, science journalists, or healthcare reporters. Journalists can work as editors or as fundraising professionals, applying their strong communication skills in different industries.
An online journalism degree may appeal to students interested in media and reporting, particularly those seeking strong research and writing skills. The flexibility of an online degree allows students to arrange their classes around work or family responsibilities, and working professionals can attend top online journalism programs without relocating. Learners can also benefit from using the latest online communications technology during their program.
Before enrolling in an online journalism degree program, prospective students must successfully navigate the application process. During this process, applicants submit required materials and programs evaluate the candidates to determine whether to offer admission. Most schools require transcripts and standardized test scores. Students with little or no college experience submit high school transcripts, while transfer students submit transcripts from every college attended.
Applicants may need to meet a minimum GPA requirement for admission. Many schools also request SAT or ACT scores, though they can waive the requirement for transfer students with at least one year of college experience. In addition to transcripts and test scores, applicants may need to submit essays, letters of recommendation, or proof of English language proficiency for international students.
Students apply to the journalism program after gaining admission to the college or university. Many programs set additional requirements to declare a journalism major, such as prerequisite courses or a minimum GPA in journalism courses. While completing the admissions process, students can speak with an admissions adviser for assistance. Because the process varies depending on the school, prospective students should carefully research the requirements and deadlines for each potential program.
What Will I Learn?
While earning an online journalism degree, students learn foundational and advanced skills in journalism, communications, and writing. Journalism majors learn how to research stories, write well-sourced pieces, and work in different journalistic styles and media. Students also study the relationship between journalism and society, the role journalists play in politics, and journalism ethics.
These courses prepare graduates for careers in journalism and related fields that rely on analytical and writing skills. Most journalism programs include 30-36 credits of coursework in the major, with additional elective offerings. Students also complete 50-60 credits of general education coursework, which may include classes in English, history, natural science, and mathematics. Journalism majors can also choose a minor to specialize their skills. A minor in political science or law, for example, can help journalism majors planning careers in political reporting.
The following list introduces common classes in a journalism degree online program.
Introduction to Journalism
Introductory courses provide an overview of journalism, with an emphasis on the foundational skills required for careers in communications, journalism, and the media. Students learn about theoretical and ethical considerations for journalism and the role of journalists in society. The course prepares students for advanced classes in the major.
Digital journalism classes look at the growing role of digital media in journalism. Students learn how to incorporate video, images, and web design into journalistic reporting; how to tell stories in digital formats; and the basics of video production and editing. The course prepares students for careers in multimedia journalism.
The Press and Politics
Students learn about the role that journalists play in public policy, elections, and politics. The course may examine the relationship between political campaigns and the press, the evolution of the relationship between the media and government institutions, and the role of press in local politics. The course also provides instruction on political reporting and news writing.
Foundations of American Journalism
This course traces the evolution of American journalism, including the philosophies and theories that shaped modern journalism. Students examine the historical relationship between journalism and society, with an emphasis on the ways journalism changed over time. The course also looks at the history of communication systems.
Journalism majors learn how to report on global issues or issues with international significance. The class covers topics such as medicine, the environment, or business and emphasizes the skills required to identify and report on international trends or developments.
Students considering careers as editors or copy editors benefit from copy editing classes, where they learn how to revise reporting to fit with the publication's style and how to fact check articles. Students may also learn about creating headlines and summaries.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Journalism?
The writing, analytical, and storytelling skills gained during an online journalism degree lead to careers in journalism, writing, or editing. Journalism majors also learn how to conduct interviews and write persuasive pieces, training students for careers in public relations, publishing, or fundraising. This section introduces the core skills gained during a journalism program and the potential careers for journalism graduates. By earning a journalism bachelor's degree, graduates prepare for careers in a variety of industries.
Students who earn a journalism bachelor's degree online learn the best practices in reporting, including interviewing skills, journalism ethics, and communications. During a journalism degree, majors build storytelling abilities using different media, including written and visual work. In addition to the foundational skills of journalism, students also gain skills and competencies that prepare them for diverse career paths.
Journalism majors, for example, build strong writing skills through their coursework. They learn how to clearly communicate an idea to their audience using both persuasive and investigative techniques. These skills help graduates pursuing careers as writers and authors. Journalism majors also learn how to edit work and provide relevant feedback, a valuable skill for an editing career.
During a journalism bachelor's degree, students build strengths in analytical reasoning, in-depth research, and long-form writing. Majors also expand their critical thinking and data analysis skills. Many employers seek job applicants with strong competencies in these areas, making journalism majors attractive candidates on the job market. The skills that make someone a strong journalist also translate to diverse careers in writing, public relations, fundraising, and other sectors that hire journalism majors.
Potential Careers and Salaries
With a bachelor's degree in journalism, graduates pursue careers as reporters, journalists, and news correspondents. They may also work as news analysts for broadcast news or radio. A bachelor's degree in journalism program provides core skills in research, interviewing, and reporting and prepares graduates for a variety of journalism careers. Graduates can also use their writing, research, and analytical skills to work as authors, editors, or writers.
Journalism majors with an interest in science or medicine can become medical writers, or they can choose to write articles or books about current events, history, or other topics. With their strong background in communication, journalism majors also pursue opportunities in public relations and communications. Entry-level positions such as public relations manager require strong writing and communication skills, and experienced professionals with a bachelor's degree qualify for positions as a public relations manager or fundraising manager.
Annual Median Salary: $61,820
Writers and authors create content for books, websites, and magazines. They also write scripts, investigative reports, and advertisements. Journalistic writers often conduct research, interview people, and work with editors to polish their copy before publication.
Public Relations or Fundraising Manager
Annual Median Salary: $111,280
Public relations managers direct campaigns to improve their organization's public image. Fundraising managers coordinate campaigns to raise money for their organization. Both positions design and implement strategic plans while overseeing a team that carries out the plan.
Reporter, Correspondent, or Broadcast News Analyst
Annual Median Salary: $40,910
Reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts report current events and other news to viewers and readers. They research story ideas, investigate a topic, conduct interviews, and write articles or scripts based on their research. Journalists work in the print industry and media.
Public Relations Specialist
Annual Median Salary: $59,300
Public relations specialists create and maintain an organization's public image. They create press releases, provide information to the media, and draft speeches. These specialists may also use social media to measure public opinion of their clients and interact with the public.
Annual Median Salary: $58,770
Editors work with writers and authors to create pieces for publication. They help writers develop content ideas, revise text to correct errors and maintain the publication's style, and approve pieces for publication. Editors may also evaluate pitches for books or story ideas.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Journalism?
Journalism majors enter the workforce with a versatile degree that leads to careers in journalism, writing, and editing. Candidates with a bachelor's degree meet the educational requirements for many entry-level positions in these fields. However, some professionals benefit from pursuing a graduate degree, which can open additional career advancement opportunities.
Mid-level, leadership, or specialized positions may prefer candidates with a master's degree. In academia, journalism professors typically hold a doctorate in their field, a requirement for many colleges and universities. Graduates who move into specialized fields like public relations also benefit from earning a graduate degree.
Professionals working in journalism and related fields gain valuable work experience in entry-level jobs. For many, this professional experience provides another route toward career advancement. Writers, for example, may qualify for senior writer positions with several years of work experience.
Accreditation for Journalism Bachelor's Programs
Prospective journalism students should always check a school's accreditation status before applying. Accreditation benefits students by ensuring their degree-granting institution follows the best practices in higher education. Students attending accredited institutions also qualify for federal financial aid. During the accreditation process, an independent accrediting agency assesses a school's student learning outcomes, graduation requirements, and faculty qualifications. Once a college or university earns accreditation, it must undergo periodic reviews to maintain its status.
Regional accreditation remains the highest standard for liberal arts institutions that offer journalism majors. Six regional accrediting agencies offer accreditation to institutions in their region. Some disciplines also pursue programmatic accreditation, a specialized review for business degrees, teacher training programs, or social work programs. However, journalism departments do not pursue programmatic accreditation, so prospective students should look for a regionally accredited institution.
Journalism Professional Organizations
Professional organizations help journalism majors transition from school to the workforce. These organizations prove valuable to majors planning careers in fields like editing, public relations, or communications. Specialized organizations provide career development support, including mentoring and career counseling.
Students can also benefit from career centers run by professional organizations, which list job openings nationally and offer resume upload services. Some organizations may include a members directory, which can help journalists connect with publications. These resources support journalism students as they build a network and strengthen their skills.
Society of Professional Journalists
Dating back to 1909, SPJ represents journalists and offers resources for freelance journalists, students, and professionals. The society's career center provides access to dozens of different job posting sites and lets members upload a resume and join the freelance directory.
American Society of Journalists and Authors
Independent journalists and nonfiction writers rely on ASJA for professional development support. The society publishes market information for the profession, offers meetings with editors, and provides mentoring services. ASJA also holds workshops and seminars with networking opportunities.
The Authors Guild represents writers in all genres, with resources including writer contract templates, legal assistance for writers, and guidance on copyright protections. The guild also offers member benefits such as events, regional chapters, and a reference guide for creating contracts.