By Gabrielle Kratsas
When prospective college students wonder how to become a journalist or get a journalism job, an online bachelor’s degree seems to be a good option, but many overlook some of the cheapest online colleges because they only offer communications majors.
Those after the idea of the big-name top journalism schools may scoff at the idea of getting an online degree in communication, communications or communication studies. I, a graduate of University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, sure did. In reality, that “simpler” degree will open up a seemingly endless number of job opportunities for any hopeful journalist in a time when the traditional newspaper is dying.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts is dim with a 10 percent decline from 2016 to 2026 with almost 5,000 fewer jobs in the market.
On the other hand, employment of general media and communication occupations is projected to grow 6 percent during those 10 years, which is about the average growth for all occupations and will result in about 45,300 new jobs. The BLS states, “Demand for media and communication occupations is expected to arise from the need to create, edit, translate, and disseminate information through a variety of different platforms.”
In this digital age, we can assume that the lead platform for disseminating information, whether that’s hard news, long-form nonfiction writing or advertising, is the Internet. So, why not get your education straight from the source?
In the 13th annual survey of higher education by the Babson Survey Research Group, the “Online Report Card: Tracking Online Education in the United States” found that the number of students taking online courses grew to 5.8 million nationally, suggesting “an important shift in the American higher education landscape, with contemporary learners leaning in to online options,” said Kathleen S. Ives, chief executive officer and executive director of the Online Learning Consortium.
Very few online colleges offer degree programs geared toward just journalism. Instead, we found that many BA and BS degree programs in communication include at least a couple mass media courses. More importantly, these online courses cover subjects ranging from graphic design for online mass media to social media marketing and basic reporting or interviewing. Employers–even those at traditional newspapers–will value candidates who have wider ranges of skills, and you can get that from the following affordable colleges that offer fully online, accredited degree programs.
In creating this ranking, we sourced information from the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator Database, the individual school’s website and other college resource websites listed at the end of this article. We started with a list of more than 50 online colleges offering journalism-related degrees and narrowed it down to the 30 cheapest universities because we want to find students the best value.
30. University of Massachusetts Amherst in Amherst, MA
At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, online college courses for credit cover the wide scope of subjects that a prospective journalist will find useful today.
Net Cost: $20,093
University of Massachusetts Amherst is New England’s largest public school, the flagship university within the five-campus University of Massachusetts system, all of which are accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Over 45 years the UMass Amherst University Without Walls (UWW) has been helping distance learners complete their bachelor’s degrees online.
Both the BA in journalism studies and the BA in writing at UMass Online are UWW programs, which allow credit for life experiences and up to 100 transfer credits from prior learning. This journalism-specific program is through the nationally recognized UMass Amherst Journalism Department, offering course topics like news writing and reporting, interviewing skills, visual storytelling and more. The BA in writing degree completion program is another option as it covers communications, English, journalism and writing, offering courses in magazine writing, public relations and creative non-fiction.
29. King University in Bristol, TN
King University has reverse articulation agreements with community colleges, meaning students can complete specific King course requirements while earning credit toward an associate’s degree.
Net Cost: $18,918
Founded in 1867, King University is a Presbyterian-affiliated, doctoral-level comprehensive university that’s accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and has been selected eight years running as a G.I. Jobs’ Military Friendly School. This university’s online programs enroll students year round with multiple start dates, and they will accept up to 76 credits toward all bachelor’s degrees.
The online BS in communication at King is about 16 months in length with 49 required major semester hours at about $305 per hour. As a degree completion program, students must have already earned 45 credits to gain admission, and they’ll need to complete 124 credits total to earn the bachelor of science degree. These online courses are the same as those delivered on campus, covering topics like writing, presentation, design, critical thinking and public speaking.
28. Ashford University in San Diego, CA
Nervous about how you’ll fare in an online college? Ashford University makes a promise to students that if they don’t “progress and participate in an academic activity during the fourth week of the first course, there are no charges or debt incurred.”
Net Cost: $18,235
Ashford University offers technology that allows access to features like faculty, classmates, librarians, writing assistants, career services specialists and more from a smartphone or tablet, not just a student’s laptop. Accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission, Ashford charges $452 per credit plus a number of additional fees, and it offers multiple payment options. This online college allows up to 30 credits from nontraditional learning experiences toward a bachelor’s degree program, and it offers both a BA in journalism and mass communication and a BA in communication studies.
The online journalism degree program teaches the rights and responsibilities of news media professionals in a changing political landscape through courses like Elements of Journalism, News Gathering & Reporting and Journalism Law. The school also has an online chapter for the Society of Professional Journalists. The online communication studies degree program covers a wider scope of writing, editing, rhetoric and argumentation through courses like Media Writing for Communication, Public Relations Practices and Promotional Writing.
27. University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS
If you’re considering transferring to the University of Kansas, additional online minors, aside from those mentioned below, could be possible, depending on your transferable credits.
Net Cost: $18,014
At the University of Kansas Online, both resident and non-residents pay the same tuition of $377/credit hour in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, KU offers five start dates in August, October, January, March and June, as well as 8-week or 16-week flexible course schedules. KU is also one of the 62 leading public and private research universities that are members of the renowned Association of American Universities.
The BGS in communication studies online degree completion program is one of the first three online degrees available at this school. This degree program comes with the “same academic rigor you can expect on-campus,” and students can add on an online minor in anthropology, history, psychology or sociology, which consist of 18 credit hours each. Since it’s a degree completion program, students should come in with 45-60 credit hours of transferable work. Students in this program will take courses like Communication and the American Presidency, Rhetoric of Popular Culture and Introduction to Intercultural Communication.
26. Clarion University in Clarion, PA
Online bachelor’s degree students at Clarion University are able to take just one or two classes at a time, and this school offers online master’s programs like an MS in mass media arts and journalism.
Net Cost: $17,972
Clarion University currently serves more than 1,200 online degree seeking students, offering helpful digital tools to students like 24/7 discussion boards where students can ask any general or specific questions concerning the course. Another unique online study resource that Clarion offers is CUTalk Online, a student health resource, in addition to the school’s online tutoring and writing center. Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Clarion’s in-state online tuition for 2017-18 is $9,520 while out-of-state is $10,760.
The BS in liberal studies with a concentration in communications offers a broad-based foundation in subjects like mass communication, writing, communication theory and interpersonal and small-group communication for those pursuing careers in corporate communication, media management, journalism or other mass media-related fields. Students can continue working toward their degrees during the online winter intersession, which is considered its own academic term, and students can earn Prior Learning Credit.
25. Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA
Regent University online offers a flexible 8-week class schedule with courses taught by the same on-campus faculty.
Net Cost: $17,837
Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Regent University offers online associate’s and bachelor’s degrees from programs within the College of Arts & Sciences or online master’s and doctoral degrees from its seven graduate schools. Military Friendly® ranked Regent No. 1 on its 2017 ranking of Large Private Institutions, as well as the No. 1 Military Spouse Friendly School in the same group.
Regent’s online BA in communication studies offers concentrations in journalism, rhetoric & public culture, internet & social media and advertising-public relations. All of these programs offer a Christian framework, and the journalism concentration is designed to teach students how to strategize research, write and package news and disseminate information to a global audience through multiple media formats. Graduates of this program will also know how to get their work published in professional media outlets. The internet & social media concentration teaches students how to write online and explores how organizations use social media to connect with audiences. Want to take the degree further? Regent offers an online master’s degree program in journalism, as well as a Ph.D. program in communication and a minor in communication.
24. Washington State University in Pullman, WA
Tuition online degree programs at the WSU Global Campus is based on the campus of admission. Plus, online students have full access to academic advisors, 24/7 tech support, free online tutoring, a writing lab and more.
Net Cost: $17,815
Washington State University and its Global Campus are regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and the school does a great job with building a community for online students. All students enrolled online at WSU benefit from an online student government and Global Connections program, which facilitate face-to-face events, online career fairs, live-streamed cultural performances and more.
WSU Global students can earn a BA in integrated strategic communication, which is offered by the nationally acclaimed Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. This online degree program is designed to provide a broad-based curriculum focused on both digital and traditional media. Murrow College faculty develop and teach online courses, such as Creative Media Strategies and Techniques, Multimedia Content Creation and Reporting Across Platforms. After completing 120 credits, 30 of which have to be from WSU, graduates should be prepared for careers in corporate communications, social media, community and media relations, advertising and public relations.
23. Southern Illinois University Carbondale in Carbondale, IL
The online courses at Southern Illinois University Carbondale have similar class sizes to those on campus.
Net Cost: $17,149
At Southern Illinois University Carbondale, online courses are delivered via a combination of video and audio lectures, content, and reading materials. SIUC offers flexible class schedules with courses available in 4-week, 8-week and 16-week segments, where students will simply be required to complete weekly assignments like quizzes, exams and written work. With continuous enrollment, students can start any semester.
Through online study at SIUC, students can earn a 120-credit-hour BS in journalism, and they can add on the specialization in Journalism and Mass Communication. Courses in this program include Creativity Across Platforms, Video for Online Journalism and Specialized Topics in News Reporting. The School of Journalism at SIUC is accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC). It also offers an online certificate in journalism and mass communication, which can be completed in two years.
22. Mississippi College in Clinton, MS
Students in the accelerated communication program at Mississippi College can take online college courses for credit like Multimedia Journalism, Interpretive Reading and Introduction to Graphics Software.
Net Cost: $16,804
Every fall and spring semester at Mississippi College consists of two online learning terms, and summer counts as just one. Affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention, MC is a private, co-educational, Christian university of liberal arts and sciences. Forbes magazine has listed MC as one of the nation’s top 25 “Best College Buys.” It’s accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Online at MC, students can earn a BA or BS in communication as a “generalist degree,” which means it’s highly interdisciplinary and less specific than the on-campus major options in interpersonal & public communication, journalism, mass media, public relations or sports media; but classes in these areas are still available online. This is an Accelerated Degree Program for those students prepared for an intense and fast-paced learning format with the BA program including 12 hours of foreign language where the BS doesn’t. Not only will students gain speaking, writing and public presentation skills while learning more about the theory and practice of media, but they’ll do so at a discounted price. ADP programs at MC are discounted 10 percent per credit hour!
21. University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ
The University of Arizona offers 80+ online degrees, free drop-in tutoring for writing and math, librarian consultation, academic skills coaching, a leadership development program, a career network and more, all accessible from anywhere you have internet access.
Net Cost: $16,466
The University of Arizona is No. 1 in Undergraduate Salary Earning Potential Among Arizona’s Public Universities for 2017-18, according to PayScale. Online students are expected to participate in each course three to five days each week, collaborate with others on projects and use and explore new technologies. The university offers a unique pay-per-credit tuition system which allows online study to be at whatever pace fits best in each student’s life.
UA Online offers a BA in communication where students develop skills related to interpersonal communication, social influence and persuasion, or the social effects of media and new information technologies. This major is interdisciplinary and doesn’t focus on specific skills training, but it can include courses like Violence in Mass Media and Society, Media COMM & Race and Media & Politics in America. Students can also earn a bachelor of general studies in arts, media & entertainment degree program designed to teach skills in criticism and evaluation of art forms, the processes by which art and creativity are communicated, and promotion and marketing in the performing arts. Graduates of this program work in print media, film and television, theater, public relations, outreach and marketing.
20. Colorado State University-Global Campus in Greenwood Village, CO
Graduates of the online communication program at the Colorado State University-Global Campus can enter their careers as editors, reporters, account executives, media associates, communications directors and more.
Net Cost: $16,232 (Fort Collins)
Colorado State University-Global Campus is a not-for-profit, public university and offers affordable tuition at $350 per undergraduate credit ($1,050 for a 3-credit course) and $0 in extra fees; that tuition is also guaranteed not to change for students as long as they are enrolled. Online students at CSU-Global can benefit from monthly term start dates and accelerated 8-week courses that are flexible for any working adult. Plus, every online course is available every term, so students can work toward the credits they need when they need them.
The online BS in communication at CSU-Global teaches students to write and revise supporting documents, use various forms of media to improve user comprehension, create and standardize content across media platforms, verify facts and much more. In addition to learning about mass communication and new media, CSU-Global comm students also touch on oral and written communication, public relations and technical writing. This program is designed for students interested in leadership or management positions within their desired careers. They will take innovative courses like Communication in the Global Information Age, and they can (but aren’t required to) add a 15-credit upper level specialization in subjects like international business, public and nonprofit management or organizational leadership.
19. Harvard University Extension School in Cambridge, MA
True to Harvard’s reputation, online students at the Harvard University Extension School are expected to complete field of study and minor courses with a B- or higher without letting their overall GPA dip below 3.0.
Net Cost: $16,205
The Harvard University Extension School is a fully-accredited Harvard school enrolling more than 14,000 students each year, making it the largest school in the history of the university. Last year, 97 percent of Extension School students reported they were satisfied with the quality of their instructors and 98 percent said they were satisfied with the quality of their courses. Harvard offers almost 800 online college courses for credit, and the average tuition ranges from $1,550 to $2,700 for the 4-credit courses.
This online degree program is my favorite from this list for two reasons. First, it is incredibly interdisciplinary and customizable. Students work toward a bachelor of liberal arts, but they choose one of three concentrations (humanities, science or social science), a field of study and up to two academic or professional minors! Journalism, along with creative writing, international relations, communications, government, digital media and much more are available as fields of study and minors. Harvard’s online bachelor’s degree program has just one specific course requirement (EXPO 25) and only 32 credits of core requirements. These are included in the total of 128 required credits for graduation, but just 52 credits need to come from Harvard instructors. A unique requirement of this course is that you have to go to Cambridge for at least 16 credits, but that on-campus requirement can be completed through online courses combined with a required weekend on campus.
The second thing I love about this program is the “Earn Your Way In” admissions. There’s no application required to begin registering for a few Harvard degree courses, all of which are required for the BLA, regardless of transfer credits. Instead of hoping their transcripts look good enough to the HUES admissions office, students can take the opportunity to prove that they are ready and capable of earning a degree from this online Ivy by completing three courses with at least a B and 3.0 GPA. To encourage students to take certain courses in this process (because of course Harvard allows you to choose two of the 4-credit courses), it offers a discounted tuition of $1,000 per 4-credit course for those who choose EXPO 15, EXPO 25 and MATH E-3. Students finally “apply” to their specific degree program during the third course.
18. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Milwaukee, WI
The College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee offers a 100% online undergraduate curriculum for students to complete the university’s general education requirements.
Net Cost: $14,747
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is Wisconsin’s premier urban research university, extending more than 30 degree and certificate and 700+ courses off-campus through UWM Online. This online college’s U-Pace online instructional approach has won four national awards. The same on-campus professors teach these online courses after undergoing additional curricular and technology training. UWM Online has been developing and improving its blended and online study programs since 1999. Today, students benefit from resources like the online help center, online tutoring and writing support, electronic library resources and specialized support for online students.
Those looking to get journalism jobs can work toward the online BA in communication, which focuses on the theory, history, ethics and practice of communication through broad areas like interpersonal communication, rhetoric and public communication, intercultural communication, and technology and communication. Courses like Rhetoric in Western Thought and Qualitative Interviewing are available, as well as minors in communication, economics, business administration and more. Online, UWM also offers non-credit continuing education certificates to become a social media manager or social media specialist.
17. University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, ND
Graduates of the online communication degree program will leave the University of North Dakota with valuable skills like how to create and edit socially responsible communication and how to use communication technologies ethically in conventional, as well as imaginative, ways.
Net Cost: $14,693
The University of North Dakota is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and enrolls more than 7,000 students off-campus and online each year. UND began its journey in distance learning in 1911 when it offered correspondence by mail courses. This online college’s transfer credit rule is: “In general, all college-level credits attempted at institutions accredited by a regional or national accrediting organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), including the American Council on Education (ACE), will be transferred.” Otherwise, the school’s typical per-credit cost is $351.98, and online students pay in-state prices, regardless of residency.
UND’s Online BA in communication offers start dates every fall (August), spring (January) and summer (May). All 125 credits of this four-year course are completely online, where students interact in a virtual classroom. Courses in the curriculum are semester-based and include subjects like Media and Diversity, Web and Mobile Publishing, and Community Journalism. At UND Online, students have the opportunity to craft their own degrees within the Department of Communication by focusing on many areas of interest within the field, including interpersonal communication, organizational communication, public relations, advertising, print journalism and media studies.
16. Valdosta State University in Valdosta, GA
Valdosta State University utilizes Atomic Learning online, which offers training on more than 205 software applications.
Net Cost: $14,573
Valdosta State University is a comprehensive public university within the University System of Georgia that is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. This university’s ‘eTuition’ is the same for in-state and out-of-state residents. The undergraduate rate for the fall of 2017 was $250 per credit hour and $750 per three-credit course. Core credits cost even less, and the school offers a competency-based education option. Plus, VSU offers a SmartPath Core program with fully online courses that allow students to complete core coursework for a non-science major bachelor’s degree in only three semesters.
VSU’s online bachelor of fine arts is available with a major in emergent media and communication, which is 60 total credit hours and focuses on emergent media technologies, communication theories and processes, and mass media trends. Courses in this interdisciplinary curriculum like Critical Approaches to Emerging Media, Research in the Digital Age and Writing for Emerging Media are designed to balance theory and practice, creative design and critical thinking. A series of studio design courses in this program offer online students a chance at multiple professional experiences. Online undergraduate minors are available in French, Spanish, coaching, nutritional science and psychology, and VSU Online students can still take advantage of the school’s study abroad programs.
15. Wilmington University in New Castle, DE
Wilmington University students in the online BS in communication degree program will learn a range of skills like multimedia design, digital publishing, technical writing, public relations and more.
Net Cost: $14,471
Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Wilmington University enrolls more than 18,000 total students annually, 41 percent of whom are earning degrees online. Online classes for credit are mainly available in 15-week and 7-week formats, during which students are expected to complete weekly readings, assignments and other learning activities using the Blackboard online platform. Students communicate to classmates and professors via email, chat and discussion boards without any required on-location meetings. Online tuition is billed at the New Castle rate, and students can earn credits for prior learning and experience.
Wilmington Online’s BS in communication is a multidisciplinary program with a choice of either integrating marketing communication or media communication as a concentration. This program, which is the region’s only practice-based online communication degree, accepts up to 90 transferable credits toward the bachelor’s degree, and it includes co-op opportunities for resume-building experiences. Students in the program can take courses from the College of Technology, the College of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences. With the media communication concentration, students will learn about the impact of visual images, television and the Internet. Some examples of courses in the curriculum include Basic/Intermediate InDesign, Streaming Media and Writing and Reporting for the News Media. Already have an associate’s (or equivalent)? This degree can be earned through a completion degree format.
14. University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, WI
Online students at the University of Wisconsin-Stout can work toward a Communicating with Emerging Media Certificate, through which they use a variety of emerging media and investigate how these communication technologies are changing the world around us.
Net Cost: $14,038
University of Wisconsin-Stout was the first university in the state to be certified for excellence in distance education practices by the United State Distance Learning Association and has been serving online students since 1996. As of fall 2017, UW-Stout enrolled just under 2,000 online students from 49 states and 20 countries, and the average student age was 35.9. The Higher Learning Commission accredits and its 15 online undergraduate degree programs, but many of the programs have discipline-specific accreditation as well. Over 99 percent of the entering online or distance education students come in with transferable credits, the average undergraduate class has 20-25 students and every student has free access to an online writing lab, tutoring and distance librarians.
UW-Stout online offers a BS in professional communication and emerging media, which can lead to careers like technical writer, digital trends analyst, multimedia producer or social media strategist. Dive further into the subject with an applied communication concentration, and/or complete your degree in as little as two years. The program is 100 percent online, taught by full-time faculty and has consistent fall, spring and summer course offerings/availability. After learning to write effectively for various audiences, students apply user-centered design strategies and produce real projects for real clients. Graduates of this program walk away with a significant print and digital work portfolio and the skills necessary to oversee publication of print and electronic documents. Course examples include Usability Design and Testing, Writing for the Media and Digital Storytelling, and the per-credit tuition is around $406/credit.
13. Granite State College in Concord, NH
Students earning an online bachelor’s degree at Granite State College can minor in digital communication and social media, taking courses like Human Computer Interaction.
Net Cost: $13,922
Regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), Granite State College accepts applications on a rolling basis so students can start at any term in the year. About 84 percent of GSC students are transfers, and you can earn credits by demonstrating college-level knowledge from prior learning. By collaborating with the Community College System of New Hampshire schools, GSC offers Transfer Pathways to help guide community college students on to finishing their bachelor’s degrees. Distance education at GSC began in 1972 with evening and weekend classes, and today an undergraduate in-state credit hour costs just $307.
Granite State offers an online BS in communication studies. Students take courses like Website Development, Foundations of Digital Media and Media and Strategic Communication to learn how to analyze and critique communication methods specific to cultural, media and industry norms. Program graduates should also be able to understand the impact of cultural differences on communication in a global context. Students looking for journalism jobs could also choose the online BS in digital media, which offers courses like Design Fundamentals, Web Development and Foundations of Digital Media Production, in addition to classes concerning media and strategic communication. Program graduates will be able to design and evaluate interactive web sites, as well as apply theories of communication to individuals, groups and mass media.
12. University of Minnesota in Crookston, MN
The University of Minnesota’s Crookston campus has a job placement rate of more than 93% within six months of graduation.
Net Cost: $13,396
The University of Minnesota is a public, baccalaureate institution and one of five campuses in the University of Minnesota system with about 900 online students enrolled. Students earning their degrees online have similar access as those on campus. They can take part in any of the 300+ study abroad opportunities, and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) allows online learners to design and conduct research as undergraduates. The university dubs itself as “extremely transfer-friendly,” and regardless of your residency, all students pay the same online tuition rate of $440.47/credit. With 20 years of online education experience, UMC offers online double majors and minors, formats courses on a semester basis and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The Crookston campus offers a BS in communication online program in which students can add an emphasis in communication studies, writing or organizational communication/public relations. A total of 120 credits are required with 63 of them from within the major, and examples of courses include News and Promotional Writing, Communication Technology Trends and Editing. During the program, students will use learned strategies to create publications, design online resources, manage projects and more. A minor in communication is also available, and the program’s curriculum is the same as it is on campus, plus an additional technology credit requirement.
11. University of Memphis in Memphis, TN
The University of Memphis’ UofM Global allows students to earn credit for prior learning/work experience through avenues like the Prior Learning Assessment.
Net Cost: $13,291
The University of Memphis’ UofM Global offers 60 online degree programs that consist of asynchronous, semester-based course schedules. Students have access to learning support, technology support, library services, career services and more. The online teaching faculty at Memphis are separate from those teaching on campus. They are all credentialed according to the same standards, but the online faculty are specifically trained to deliver courses through the LMS eCourseware. Through the UofM Finish Line Program, students who previously attended the university and have completed 90+ credits but had to leave the university are able to finish their degree through faculty-assessed self-paced courses.
UofM Global is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and offers an online BA in communication, which can be worked toward with a concentration in communication studies and a focus on media and culture. At least 33 out of the 120 total credit hours are required for the major. The program includes courses like Rhetoric/Pop Culture, Media Industries and Audio Narratives. The Department of Communication at UofM aims to teach its students what communication is and how it can be applied effectively across a range of professional and social contexts. The per-credit-hour tuition rate for undergraduate Tennessee residents is $420/hour and the non-resident rate is $480/hour.
10. Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ
Those interested in moving forward with graduate study can take online master’s programs at Arizona State University American media and popular culture or business journalism.
Net Cost: $13,007
Among 1,500 institutions, Arizona State University was ranked No. 1 in U.S. News & World Report’s 2016 Most Innovative Schools lst. This university has multiple beneficial partnerships like the PLuS Alliance partnership, which deploys innovative research and online education linkages globally, as well as the Starbucks College Achievement Plan tuition reimbursement program for Starbucks employees pursuing degrees online at ASU. ASU’s Global Freshman Academy also offers an alternative entry into the first year of higher education. With 150+ online degree programs, ASU offers six start dates each year, and all of its online programs are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.
ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication offers an online BA in mass communication and media studies, which consists of 41 total 7.5-week classes, and it’s Fast Track eligible. Similar to only a few of these top online colleges, you can study at one of the nation’s premier journalism schools, directly from the Cronkite School’s on-campus faculty, without leaving your home. Students in this program explore global mass communication issues from societal, cultural, historical, political, economic, technological and legal dimensions. Examples of the courses available are Media Issues in American Pop Culture, Race, Gender, and Media, and Visual Communication. Online students can also minor in digital audiences, film and media studies, media analysis and more.
9. University of Maryland University College in Adelphi, MD
In most classes at the University of Maryland University College, students demonstrate their knowledge by completing an essay, paper or project, not exams.
Net Cost: $12,483
A member of the University System of Maryland, University of Maryland University College has provided educational opportunities around the world for 65+ years. Regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, UMUC was the first American university to educate U.S. military personnel overseas, sending teaching faculty to Europe in 1949. Today, this top online university has divisions and a presence in Asia and Europe and on military installations in 20+ countries and territories. UMUC’s online students benefit from a suite of student services, including a career center, tutoring and mentoring, 24-hour tech support and more. Most online courses have weekly or biweekly due dates, online discussions and group projects. Because of free open educational resources available to UMUC students, undergraduates can complete most degree programs without purchasing any textbooks!
Communication studies is available as a minor and online bachelor of arts degree program. Students can also minor in digital media and web technology, homeland security, diversity awareness and more. This program requires a total of 120 credits upon completion, 90 of which are transferable, and courses are offered in 8-week sessions for undergraduates. This program’s multidisciplinary curriculum was developed in conjunction with employers. It covers speech communication, mass communication and new media, journalism, public relations, business writing and technical writing. Specific courses include Introduction to News Writing, Mass Media Law and Effective Listening. The price is also hard to beat: $289/credit for in-state and $250 for military members; the out-of-state sticker price is $499 per credit.
8. University of Wisconsin-Superior in Superior, WI
Online minors in writing and other subjects are available at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, and students can earn an online degree through an individually designed major.
Net Cost: $12,470
University of Wisconsin-Superior has offered distance learning for 30+ years with more than 1,000 graduates. It was named “Best Online College in Wisconsin for 2015-2016” by AffordableCollegesOnline.org, and its online programs are approved as a part of the school’s accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission. These online degree programs are “pay-as-you-go”, and they include free 24/7 online tutoring, an online writing center and Jacket Jobs, which is the university’s official web recruiting system. Students can access job or internship openings and volunteer opportunities that regional, national and global employers are posting. Online students are also able to network with recruiters and view upcoming career events. Distance learning courses have small class sizes and are on a term basis with start dates in the fall and spring semesters, as well as the summer session.
One journalistic degree option at this top online college is the BA/BS in communicating arts with a concentration in communication, which can lead to careers as a newspaper reporter or editor, a nonprofit organization director, public relations specialist and more. Specific courses include Media and Society and Theorizing Media Culture. In this curriculum, students will use research methods to understand how communication shapes our world, and they’ll examine the relationship between theory and method. The second option at UW-Super Online is the BA in writing online. This major requires the completion of 30 credits in small, workshop-style classes, where students will learn to develop personalized strategies for generating ideas, drafting, revising and proofreading. They will also be able to write for various purposes and audiences in a variety of genres, leading graduates to careers as journalists, social media specialists, editors, freelance writers, magazine writers and more.
7. University of Arkansas at Little Rock in Little Rock, AR
Online communication degree students at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock can continue their studies with online master’s degree programs like the MA in mass communication or the MA in professional and technical writing.
Net Cost: $12,317
University of Arkansas at Little Rock is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, affiliated with the SREB Electronic Campus and designated as “doctoral/research intensive” by the Carnegie Foundation. This university offers more than 450 courses and dozens of online degrees and certificate programs. UA’s faculty continuously develop more online programs each semester, and students can currently choose from 14 minors online like Spanish, writing or applied communication. Online courses are typically based on a weekly schedule, and accelerated courses are condensed to half of a semester. All online students have access to the Ottenheimer Library through its website or Blackboard, where they can utilize different research databases, scholarly journals, e-books and other resources. The “Ask a Librarian” feature helps online students answer questions as they might if studying on campus, and they benefit from the OWL, UA Little Rock’s Online Writing Lab.
For an affordable $280 per credit hour, hopeful journalists can earn a BA in applied communication online, which consists of 120 credit hours and teaches students how to analyze messages, develop messages, anticipate communication barriers, accomplish communicative goals, embrace difference and influence discourse. Students can also complete this degree in an accelerated format with 8-week courses. Another journalism-related option, the BA in professional and technical writing offers a curriculum that provides practical writing, editing and document design skills for today. This program has two concentrations: nonfiction and technical writing. This online bachelor’s degree can earn graduates positions as grant writers, freelance writers, teachers, nonfiction writers, ghostwriters, web developers and editors. Courses in the nonfiction concentration include Advanced Nonfiction Writing, Publishing Inside Out.
6. Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, AR
The online MS in media management at Arkansas State University is earnable in as little as 12 months for less than $300 per credit hour.
Net Cost: $12,310
Founded in 1909 as an agricultural school, Arkansas State University introduced online programs in 2006, and now offers 25 online degree-granting programs at the undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate degree programs and certificate level. Accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of College and Schools (HLC), A-State offers online learners six start dates a year. Minors aren’t available online, but Military Time ranked A-State among the “Best for Vets” in 2016.
Prospective journalists have two degree options: a BA in communication studies or a BS in social media management. Both require a total of 120 credits for graduation, costing an affordable $236 per credit hour, which includes the administrative fee. The communications curriculum combines theory with experiential learning. Students have the opportunity to pair it with one of other select A-State Online degrees: BA in criminology; BA in political science; or BA in sociology. Specifics courses include Mass Communication in Modern Society, Intercultural Communication and Narratives in Health and Healing. The BS in social media management focuses on in-depth study on social media, as well as social media measurement and case studies. Courses in this program lead to certification with Google Analytics and Hootsuite. Example courses are Media Grammar and Style, Social Media Measurement and Computer Mediated Information. A-State is one of the few schools in the country to offer a program of this nature, and it’s a high-demand specialization.
5. University of Florida in Gainesville, FL
The University of Florida and UF Online is one of the best online colleges to get a master’s degree in communication because the university offers seven different specializations within this graduate degree study area like social media, digital strategy and political communication.
Net Cost: $11,976
Launched in January 2014, the University of Florida’s UF Online offers three start dates each year, virtual career fairs and access to exclusive job postings. Online learners can choose from 19 undergraduate majors and seven minors in accounting, anthropology, business administration, geography, health promotion, mass communication and sociology. Online master’s degrees, specialist and doctorate programs and non-degree college courses for credit are also available. For students who already have an associate’s degree from a state college in Florida, UF Online offers an accelerated bachelor’s degree pathway.
Within the College of Journalism and Communications, the BS in telecommunication: media & society isn’t necessarily geared toward students aspiring to a career focused on print or broadcast journalism, advertising or public relations, but it is considered “one of the premiere programs in electronic mass media.” The media and society specialization focuses on the theories, methods and techniques used to play, produce and distribute audio and video programs and messages; personnel and facilities management; marketing and distribution; media regulations, law and policy; and principles of broadcast technology. Graduates are prepared to work in any media organization or those that use electronic media. This program is accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC), and students have the option to minor in mass communication.
4. Montana State University Billings in Billings, MT
Adult learners are able to earn credit for past life learning and experiences to put toward an online degree at Montana State University Billings.
Net Cost: $11,680
Founded in 1927, Montana State University Billings has a total enrollment of 4,401 and is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. MSUB Online offers more than 240 classes and 26 degree programs; that’s more online course offerings than any other institution in the state. All online classes are taught by the same professors who are teaching on-campus, and online students have access to all of the university’s resources, like online tutoring and Advising and Career Services, which facilitates hundreds of internship opportunities. MSU Billings accepts transfer credits from any accredited institution, and academic advisors are available to evaluate these credits once you’ve applied for admission.
MSUB Online features a BA in communication that offers options in organizational or mass communication. In the mass communication option, the curriculum is concentrated in the construction and delivery of media messages, as well as the effects of mediated messages on attitudes and behaviors. Students take courses like Media Criticism, Media for Social Change and Multicultural Mass Communication to eventually enter careers as public relations assistants, news reporters, fund raisers, copy editors and journalists. Tuition per credit hour is listed as $373.74 for the summer of 2018 not including additional fees. The organizational communication option is more business-driven, leading to jobs in corporate communications, management, human resources and more.
3. University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa, TX
The University of Texas of the Permian Basin offers online communication courses like Political Communication, Research Methods and Intercultural Communication.
Net Cost: $9,109
Part of the respected University of Texas System, the University of Texas of the Permian Basin is recognized as an innovator “for championing student success through affordable tuition, online college courses and creative partnerships with other academic institutions, corporations and industries.” UTPB is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It offers online courses for college credit that are just 7.5 weeks in length. UTPB’s online programs come with six convenient start dates throughout each year. They include the same comprehensive core content and are taught by the same faculty members who teach on campus. Those working toward their master’s or bachelor’s degree online have access to live tutoring, live streaming video and apps that send full lectures straight to their mobile devices.
Every course is available 100 percent online for the 120-credit BA in communication at UTPB, and the tuition cost is less than $300 per credit hour. The curriculum for this online communications degree is “designed to provide students with a comprehensive overview of communication theories and the impact of modern media on businesses, societies and cultures around the world.” This degree program has a broad discipline, teaching students a skill set they can utilize across multiple careers like journalism, politics, law, social sciences and more. An 18-credit minor is part of the degree program, and online minors are available for psychology and sociology.
2. Indiana University East in Richmond, IN
Undergraduate residents of Indiana pay as little as $215.92 per credit for online degree completion programs at Indiana University East.
Net Cost: $8,548
A part of the Indiana University System, Indiana University East offers the opportunities and services of a large university while its students benefit from the atmosphere of a small college where the average class size is just 20 students. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, IUE enrolls a total of 4,573 undergraduate students and 134 graduate students. The online degree programs at IU East and all that come with them (credits, transcript and diploma) are “identical” to those received on campus. IU East online is a member of the Online Learning Consortium, and its offerings were described as “thorough, in-depth and intense” by BS in business administration alumni James Strong.
The BA and BS in communication studies online are described as having similar curriculums on the school’s website, but they are both degree completion programs designed for students coming in with at least 60 semester hours of transferable credit, and they must have a GPA of 2.0 or better. The completion programs consist of 60 credits total, and a minimum of 36 credit hours must be taken at the 300 level or above with at least 18 of those coming from the major. During the first semester, students in these programs will take Foundations of Journalism and Mass Communications, and there’s a writing requirement attached to a few other courses. Other online communications courses include Statistical Techniques and Communication Research Methods.
1. Bellevue University in Bellevue, NE
Washington Monthly ranked Bellevue University among the top 10 universities for adult learners.
Net Cost: $6,349
Opened in 1966, Bellevue University is a private, nonprofit university that is focused on adult education and distance learning. This is the cheapest university via net cost on our list. It offers career-relevant bachelors, master’s, and Ph.D. degree programs online and on-campus. At the time of this writing, 2,366,951 credits were transferred to Bellevue from outside institutions in the last five years, and it is “routinely ranked among the nation’s top military-friendly and open access institutions.” To help students get the most out of credits already earned prior to coming to Bellevue, the university partners with a number of community colleges across the country. Accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, Bellevue serves almost 9,000 students with ages ranging from 18 to 65 and older. Online learners have access to Bellevue’s service desk for hardware or software support during extended hours of operation seven days a week, and online library resources are available 24/7.
Here, students can earn a BA, BS or BAS in communication studies completely online. These programs prepare students with strategic, organizational and media communication skills, as well as critical thinking and problem-solving skills, creativity and brainstorming techniques through projects like simulated business cases. Students are expected to perform research to evaluate tools and technology while developing communication campaigns, and then analyze data to learn where adjustments are necessary. Online communications studies students can complete their degree in an accelerated cohort format the comes with a performance-based approach; through this curriculum, students progress with the same tight-knit group of peers from start to finish. The BS (120 credits) offers courses like Design Thinking, Intercultural and Global Communication and The Communication Campaign. The online BA program (127 credits) is geared toward those interested in journalism, social media, public relations and more with courses like Communication in the Digital Age and Understanding Mass Media. The BAS has a curriculum similar to the BA, but only requires 124 total credits. A specialty BA in health communication online is also available. Pair any of these with the online minor in web graphic design, and you’ll be set for a multifaceted career in journalism.