Communication Degree Programs Online
Before enrolling in a communications degree program, there are a multitude of decisions to make. That includes selecting an on-campus or online communications school, picking a specialty and identifying graduation requirements, which may seem an overwhelming prospect. This guide aims to simplify the process of pursuing an education in communications by exploring degrees, example curriculum structures and options for content delivery.
Top 10 Online Communication Degree Programs & Majors
|Webster University Saint Louis, MO|
|National University La Jolla, CA|
|Montana State University-Billings Billings, MT|
|California Baptist University Riverside, CA|
|University of Memphis Memphis, TN|
|Liberty University Lynchburg, VA|
|Concordia University-Wisconsin Mequon, WI|
|Mississippi College Clinton, MS|
|Thomas Jefferson University Philadelphia, PA|
|Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH|
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Choosing the Right Communications Degree Program
The umbrella of communications covers a wide variety of activities, from blogging to technical writing to corporate marketing and beyond. For many of the related fields, specialized education is the first logical step, so students should find an academic program that matches their own specific interests.
Communications degrees are available at the associate, bachelor’s and graduate levels. Associate degree programs prepare students in interpersonal communication fundamentals with the support of general subjects like writing, speech and social sciences. At the bachelor’s level, students may begin to follow a focused path, for example, communications concepts targeted at business and organizational leadership. Studies for managerial communication address topics like listening techniques and social science data analysis, while also offering electives in conflict resolution, ethics and human relations. Graduate level programs include more concentrated coursework in similar areas, as well as trending topics such as information technology and Internet privacy. Advanced programs usually allow participants to emphasize an area of interest, for example, in public relations.
Online Communications Degrees
In addition to traditional on-campus options, online communications programs are available for students who need extra flexibility to juggle professional and personal obligations. As many topics in this area of study can be easily conveyed via distance learning, there are numerous opportunities to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees through online communications schools. Students use electronic media to access course materials, share ideas and publish their work, building technical skills that are useful across the economy.
Students pursuing online communications degrees can often complete all program requirements virtually, without having to report to classrooms. However, some graduate degree programs may require students to attend on-campus residency workshops. Distance learning tools include course management systems such as Blackboard, streaming audio and video programs, and online writing tutorial services. Students can collaborate in online forums and through Skype, FaceTime and Google Plus Hangouts.
Program Highlight: Online Communications Bachelor’s Degree
Graduates of online bachelor’s degree programs in communications are prepared to pursue professional interests in many areas that require critical thinking and effective interpersonal skills. Students learn about communication theory and build on public speaking and presentation strengths to help position them as leaders in the field.
Most online communications degree programs require approximately 120 credit hours. Students may take classes exclusively online, with few, if any, on-campus visits. Leveraging email, live chat and other technology, students are able to interact with peers and instructors. Most programs follow a curriculum similar to brick-and-mortar schools, enabling full-time students to graduate in four to five years.
Coursework covers topics like conflict and negotiation, persuasion and social influence, global awareness, humanities, English and mathematics. Students may also choose from a variety of elective courses within the major in areas such as advertising, business, media, broadcasting or digital journalism. Depending on the college, students have the opportunity to declare a specialization in an area of interest.
Online Communications Associate Degrees
An associate degree program in communications typically takes two years of full-time study to complete. It combines core English and mathematics classes with introductory mass media and oral articulation courses. Students receive exposure to the fundamentals of writing, marketing, public speaking and group communications. Graduates of an associate program may explore openings in the workforce or move on to pursue their bachelor’s in communications. The table below describes some of the common courses offered in 2-year online communications degree programs:
|Interpersonal Communication||Explores the structures that influence interpersonal interaction and how ideas are conveyed. Researches some of the major aspects of this subject.|
|Digital Media Editing||Presents an introduction to digital media, including single camera documentary production, multi-camera remote production, sports television, television news, digital film-making, editing, studio lighting and audio editing.|
|Media Writing||Introduces skills necessary for writing for media outlets, including feature stories, critical reviews, advertising, press releases and scriptwriting.|
|Intro to Advertising||Covers the purpose and function of advertising in the U.S., including its role in marketing and impact on society. Methods and procedures used in the development of objectives, strategies and tactics of advertising campaigns.|
Online Communications Bachelor’s Degrees
A bachelor’s degree in communications builds a foundational knowledge of theories and research methods, showing how to apply them to workplace issues and group settings. For example, students learn how to convey messages effectively, how to communicate with people of different cultural backgrounds, and how social factors such as gender, race and class can impact communication. Students also analyze trends in print, online and broadcast media. Below is an example of course structure in a typical online communications degree program:
|Intro to Mass Communication||This overview covers application of communication principles and theories to achieve intended outcomes in public relations, community affairs and crisis scenarios. Covers mass communication including historical context and concepts.|
|Dynamics of Group Communication||This course examines classic and cutting edge research on groups and teams. Topics include stages of team development, task and maintenance functions, crisis communication and groupthink.|
|Intercultural Communication||Students learn how to communicate effectively in a diverse, global environment. Focus is on the relationship of culture and personal identity to communication strategies. Distinguishes the modes and styles of communication unique to specific cultures.|
|Writing for the Digital Age||This course presents the fundamentals of writing such as purpose, context, voice and structure. Covers implementation through print, Internet, advertising and broadcast mediums.|
|Applied Interpersonal Communication||This course focuses on cognitive and affective aspects of communication. Topics include acceptance, perception, emotional intelligence, self-presentation, learning styles and models of human information processing.|
|Fundamentals of Public Speaking||Students examine presentation skills, empathic and critical listening, and critical thinking, with attention to audience analysis and use of technology. They develop content and organize ideas using proven techniques for delivery of speeches.|
|Media and Technology Communication||This course studies aspects of existing and emerging social media and the relationship to business communication. Instills knowledge of the dynamics of effective communications.|
Online Communications Degree: Master’s
A Master of Arts or Master of Science in Communications emphasizes theory, research, analysis and writing in a variety of contexts. A graduate program, whether it’s a traditional classroom offering or an online communications school, aims to provide both practical and applied knowledge.
Students learn about effective communication campaigns by conducting research and then developing compelling and persuasive messages and visuals. A program emphasizing new media covers aspects of Internet publishing and social networking. In a track focused on business or management, students discuss differences in organizational structure and how they impact communications. Additionally, courses introduce a wide range of leadership skills and styles, as well as strategies for dealing with conflict.
Online communications master's degree programs typically include a thesis component, research project and/or comprehensive exams, and full-time students need about two years to complete the requirements. While the curriculum can vary significantly depending on the student's emphasis, the table below describes some of the core master's-level courses offered in many communications degree programs.
|MASTER'S PROGRAM CORE COURSES||overview|
|Web Writing and Content Strategy||Examines how compelling Internet content is essential to engaging visitors and driving their behavior. Explores styles appropriate for B2B and B2C websites and blogs. Content formats include videos, infographics, contests and polls. Also focuses on search engine optimization, social media and content marketing.|
|Changing Behavior Through Communication||Explores major theories used to predict when and under what circumstances individuals are likely to change their behavior. Covers individual-level, interpersonal-level and community-level models and theories.|
|The Digital Age||Examines empirical research to help professionals excel in the digital age, for example, through social networking and electronic journalism. Discusses how communication professionals interact with public groups and how people access, understand and process information.|
|Persuasion||Covers all varieties of messaging, from individuals communicating one-on-one to messages communicated via mass media. Focuses on the importance of a spokesperson’s expertise, trustworthiness and likeability.|
|Media Effects||Surveys major theories and perspectives on how mass media can influence individuals, organizations and society, with a focus on content areas that have the most strategic relevance for public relations practice. Explores the role of media in shaping the public importance of issues.|
|Branding and Advertising||Discusses how to develop brands, concepts and advertising campaigns. Teaches practical tips, including how to organize a creative department, write a creative brief, create budgets and timelines, research and purchase visual imagery, and determine appropriate media for branding and advertising campaigns.|
|Understanding Markets and Audiences||Reveals the integral steps that facilitate target audience definition and how to extract a keen understanding of this audience within its environment to develop effective campaign strategy.|
|Emergency and Risk Communication||Covers best practices in emergency and risk communication to effectively work with government, industry, the media and the general public during crises and longer-term threats involving health, safety, security and the environment. Talks about core principles of emergency and risk communications and risk perception.|
|Opinion Writing||Provides an understanding of the anatomy of editorial writing; how to write for opinion sections of newspapers, magazines and other news outlets; how to pitch op-ed and opinion pieces; and how to sell ideas to editorial boards.|
Online Communications Degree: Ph.D.
A Doctor of Philosophy in Communications is typically research-based, studying relationships between people and media in various contexts, including cultural, political, historical, social, technological and economic. Some programs take an interdisciplinary approach, allowing students to put together a curriculum in humanities, social sciences and other fields. Many graduates go on to teach at the college level, but there are also opportunities in industries that use communications-related research-for instance, government agencies that formulate and publicize policies or disseminate important information to the public.
What Can You Do with an Online Communications Degree?
An online communications degree builds a background in strengths such as public speaking, collaboration, critical thinking, writing and leadership. These skills translate well to a wide variety of careers, including public relations, journalism, advertising, broadcast media and more. Graduates may also seek positions in business, law and health services management. Below is a sample of the potential job opportunities open to communications degree holders:
Top Online Communication Schools and Programs
Communication programs can include specialty certificates in the field to two-year, four-year and graduate-level degrees. Graduates of these programs can work in a variety of fields, including print and visual media, writing, production, advertising and more. But the trick is to find the program and field that suits your needs and career aspirations. We've taken a look at a wide range of programs and schools and compiled this list of the best schools for communication based on class size, student services and overall cost.
4 Year Colleges
The graduate communication arts program at Webster University offers a variety of different concentrations, but all specializations are flexible enough to enable students to earn an education degree with an emphasis beyond just instruction and teaching. Current educators who complete the program will graduate with the ability to pursue career advancement. All concentrations involve coursework in languages, the arts and media communication. Although the program is delivered through the Webster University School of Education, it culminates in a master of arts in communication arts degree. Distance learners will have access to a range of success resources to help them on their academic journeys.
The strategic communications undergraduate degree, which is available completely online, blends both human and professional communication theory. The school has incorporated a variety of learning tools so students can pursue their coursework in a format that suits their own academic style. National University is part of the National University System, a large network of not-for-profit learning institutions. Distance learners will benefit from a variety of academic success resources, including academic advising and counseling, career services, tutoring and disability services. Library services include books, articles, research databases, periodicals and interaction with a librarian.
Montana State University-Billings offers a wide selection of communication-related concentrations at both the BAS and BSLS levels. Online students will benefit from a variety of resources and services for distance learners, including assistance with registration, course selection and degree fulfillment. Career services include counseling, testing and career planning help. Online tutoring is available through the Academic Support Center, and accommodations can be made for students with disabilities. Students can purchase required learning materials through the online bookstore, and online library services provide a range of resources to distance learners, including electronic indexes and an online catalog.
The BA in communication studies at California Baptist University is designed to equip graduates to be experts in creating and delivering high-level professional presentations. CBU Online is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission. Classes start every eight weeks, and accelerated courses can be taken 100 percent online or in a hybrid format. Since three semesters are held throughout the year, students can graduate more quickly. Students can receive academic advising and online tutoring through the Smarthinking 24/7 system. There are also career services for distance learners, as well as disability services.
All online degree programs at the University of Memphis can be completed 100 percent online with no on-campus requirements. Online programs are developed directly by U of M faculty, and advisors guide distance learners throughout their academic journeys. Diplomas and transcripts are identical to those earned by on-campus students, and distance learners have the same amount of access to Tier II research university resources. Many students will be able to earn credit for prior learning. The University of Memphis (UofM) is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Communications degrees are available in both business and graphic arts through Liberty University, and several master's degrees are available, as well. Like all degrees at Liberty, distance learning programs are focused on Christian values and traditions. A handful of courses may require students to visit campus on occasion, but most degrees can be completed 100 percent online. Classes are offered in an eight-week format, and transfer evaluations are free for students who are interested in transferring in. Liberty University, and all of its degrees, is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Students who graduate from the Concordia University-Wisconsin communication program will graduate with the ability to enter a variety of fields, including media, government, business, the nonprofit sector, politics and sales. Distance learners will receive and submit assignments through the Blackboard learning management system, which is also the platform students will use to communicate with instructors and engage with classmates. The university accepts up to 70 incoming credits from two-year schools and up to 90 credits from four-year schools. The school maintains several blogs about online learning and offers distance learners a variety of resources.
The communication degree at Mississippi College is an accelerated, interdisciplinary program that prepares graduates for careers in political campaign management, public relations or entry into the seminary or law school. Students will explore both theory and practice, while learning about the history of the media. The college, which is the largest private university in the state, offers students a readiness questionnaire that helps them gauge whether or not they are a good fit for distance learning. Those who choose to pursue the degree will have several online resources to help them succeed, including academic advising and career services.
The bachelor of science in professional communication and emerging media degree at Philadelphia University can be completed 100 percent online. Coursework prepares students to deal with both new and traditional media across all fields. The curriculum involves social media and writing for mobile and the web, as well as media writing and public relations. Philadelphia University is fully accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Distance learners will use the Blackboard learning management system, which is the platform that instructors use to assign work and post lectures, and that students rely on to submit assignments and communicate with instructors.
Graduate students can pursue communication degrees in the fields of new media and marketing, public relations, and health communication, all of which can be finished completely online. Undergraduate communication students also have several 100 percent online options, including public relations, new media and professional writing degree programs. Students will have 24-hour access to their coursework and can benefit from an online writing center, online tutoring, academic advising, 24-hour tech support, disability resources and a comprehensive online library. There are also programs and information designed to help distance learners foster healthy lifestyles.
2 Year Colleges
East Mississippi Community College offers communications students the opportunity to complete their associate degree without and face-to-face interaction on campus. Before getting started, students are invited to take the READI online self-assessment test to determine if online learning is right for them. It's only a guide, and the results of the test will not prevent them or qualify them for taking online courses. Although courses are flexible, classes are not self-paced, and students will have to adhere to a classroom schedule. Library services include 24/7 librarian, ebooks, articles, video, references and articles.
Students in the associate of arts communication degree program will learn about relationships and human behavior, and will improve speaking and writing skills through career-specific communications instruction. Students will receive career guidance as they learn, including resume, interview and career exploration guides. Even distance learners will have the opportunity to attend career fairs and workshops throughout the year if they choose. Distance learners will also receive disability support and academic advising. An advisor will be assigned to students when they register, and the advisor will guide them through course selection and help them achieve their academic goals.
Online associate degrees at San Antonio College are approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Online courses allow students to access between 85 percent and 100 percent of their coursework completely online. Some students may be required to complete a distance learning orientation, which may be taken online or at the campus. In comes cases, students might have to report to campus for proctored tests. The school maintains a Division of Student Success, which is home to a range of student resources. This includes retention services, disability services, advising and counseling, and enrollment services.
The fully online human communication degree at Georgia Military College will help students develop written and verbal communication skills while preparing them for entry into a wide variety of industries and fields upon graduation. Prospective students are encouraged to browse the online blog to learn tips, trends and advice from other online learners and graduates. Coursework will be delivered through the Moodle learning management system, which comes with tutorials and help, should students need it. Students are entitled to 10 free hours of tutoring for each class they take through Tutor.com.
Although distance learners don't have to visit the campus to complete their communications associate degree, they are welcome to use the campus' computer labs. Students are encouraged to take a self-assessment readiness test prior to registering for online courses. Should they intend to transfer their degree after graduation, students are encouraged to work closely with an advisor to gain a full understanding of the transfer school's requirements. The school has created video tutorials to help students get acclimated, and distance learners have access to the same student services as their on-campus peers, including advising and counseling, careers services and disability support.
The communication program at Tulsa Community College culminates in an associate in arts degree. An advisor will work with students who intend to complete their degree to make sure that they are enrolling in the courses that satisfy the requirements of the transfer school. The school offers a wealth of success resources aside from advisement, including career services, which helps students craft resumes and provides networking opportunities. Disability services are available, and distance learners will have access to the school's comprehensive library services, which include one-on-one discussions with librarians. Online learners will also benefit from research guides and video tutorials.
Completion of the communication studies associate of arts degree at Sinclair College guarantees satisfaction of the requirements for the Ohio Transfer Module, which ensures transfer to any public institution in the state. Distance learners have several connections to the campus through the school's e-learning program. This includes eTutoring for assistance with papers, homework and math. Online library services include videos, images, music, books, articles and research tools, all accessible online. There is also the Career Connection program, and distance learners can keep up with campus events through the online version of the Clarion student newspaper.
Coursework for online students at Holmes Community College is delivered through the Canvas learning management system, which is the platform students will use to communicate with instructors and other students, to receive and submit assignments and to view lectures. Holmes is affiliated with the Mississippi Virtual Community College (MVCC), and therefore offers classes beyond just those included in the college's own program. MyHolmes maintains a live help desk capable of fielding technical issues, and Canvas maintains its own 24/7 help center. Distance learners will receive academic advising and counseling, just like their on-campus counterparts.
Gadsden State Community College, and all of its associate degrees, is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Distance learners pursuing a degree in communication will have immediate access to tech support if they're having trouble accessing their coursework, which will be delivered through Blackboard Learn. Blackboard is the learning management system students will use to receive and submit assignments, and to stay in contact with their peers and instructors. The school maintains separate systems for taking tests and viewing lectures, and distance learners will receive guidance from academic advisors.
The associate of arts degree in communications from Cochise College is fully transferable, but students must work closely with an academic advisor to make sure the courses they select fulfill the requirements of the school to which they plan to transfer. The college has been offering online courses, which are currently delivered through the Moodle learning management system, since 1998. Student resources include disability services and pre-graduation career and co-op services. Tutoring and help with testing are also available to online students, as are library services, help with technology, including Moodle, and access to the college's vast alumni network.