For those interested in earning an online communications degree, a variety of nationwide, distance education programs are available. Programs can be compared based on accreditation status, degree offerings, completion time, instructional delivery and program costs. By making a well-informed choice, graduates with an online communications degree will be ready for competitive employment opportunities in a number of diverse career tracks, including: public relations, advertising, marketing, journalism, human resources, education, customer service, health care administration, social services, legal counseling, broadcasting, electronic media and entertainment.
Over the past two decades, online distance learning formats have been gaining acceptance as legitimate ways to earn higher education degrees. A key factor for program consideration relates to the online school’s accreditation status. First, higher education institutions should be endorsed by the appropriate regional authorities approved by the Higher Education Commission. Then, communications degrees and their specialization areas should be accredited by or affiliated with organizations such as the:
- Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.
- Public Relations Society of America.
- American Communication Association.
- National Communication Association.
Types of Online Communication Degrees and Completion Time
Online communications degrees are available at associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. Depending on the focus of study, degrees may be offered through liberal arts, science or business departments. In some cases, students may major in business with a communications emphasis. While associate’s degrees are a good way to get started in a communications career, many employers anticipate that job candidates will have at least a bachelor’s in the field. For professionals seeking career advancement, earning a master’s degree is often recommended. Doctoral level degrees will typically be obtained by those working as researchers or post-secondary educators. In general, associate’s and bachelor’s degrees span two to four years of study while graduate degrees take 12-36 months.
Instructional Delivery and Program Costs
Coursework expectations for online communications degrees offer comparable rigor and depth of study as degrees earned in traditional settings. Examples of curricular topics include:
- Communicating in professional business settings.
- Persuasive techniques and human relations management.
- Cultural and social influences on communication.
- Digital and technological communication including software applications.
- Media communications and broadcast journalism.
- Message design in visual, verbal and written forms.
- Communication principles applied to marketing and customer services.
Additionally, online programs offer greater flexibility for program completion and usually involve a combination of scheduling and instructional formats:
- Full- or part-time schedules in seasonal and evening classes.
- Independent viewing of posted lectures and associated assignment completion.
- Online video conferencing and instruction in real time with professor and other students.
- Online participation in cohort study groups.
- Opportunities for internships and on-the-job experiences.
Online schools are often more economical as the cost can be spread out over time. Reduced tuition rates may also result from fewer overhead costs associated with providing online versus brick-and-mortar instruction. Finally, student loans and grants remain available to qualified candidates enrolled in online programs.
A communications degree from an accredited, online program offers aspiring students numerous career choices across industry platforms. Whether wishing to work behind-the-scenes with technology communication or desiring to be in the media spotlight, earning an online communications degree may be the right choice to launch your career.