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- Communication and Media Online Degree Completion Program, DePaul University, Accessed March 2017, https://communication.depaul.edu/academics/undergraduate-majors/communication-and-media/Pages/online.aspx
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Education in the communications and media field opens up many possibilities for a long-term, successful career in many for-profit, nonprofit and governmental agencies. The ability to convey an effective message through written text, images or audio has great value in the workplace, as companies and government entities vie for attention in a market that includes social media, traditional newspapers, and broadcast and cable television. Ongoing technological developments and their integration into the communications field have created the need for ever more sophisticated professionals, and having a degree in communications can be an excellent foundation for satisfying that need.
Best Online Colleges for Communications and Media in 2018-19
Anyone thinking about studying communications and media in college may find it challenging to identify all of the program options and pick out the best ones. Don't worry, we're here to help! We've analyzed schools across the U.S. on numerous metrics, including in-state tuition and graduation rates, using the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). With this data and our unique methodology (details at the bottom of this page), we've created this list of the 10 best online colleges for communications and media.
University of Phoenix-Arizona
Kaplan University-Omaha Campus
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
California Baptist University
University of Minnesota-Crookston
San Diego Christian College
Degree Overview : Communications and Media
The media landscape is constantly changing, and keeping up to date on these innovations is important in order to accurately broadcast messages to the world. The education offered by a communications & media degree program provides a valuable insight into these changes; to learn more about the courses that may be taught in these programs, and the skills they can help students develop, continue reading this section.
Online Communications & Media Courses
Students earning online communications and media degrees can take a number of classes that address specific types of media, as well as message construction. Below are some examples of possible course offerings, some more general to cover any possible communications career, others focused on more specific specializations.
- Persuasion: No matter what kind of media students are interested in, a class in persuasion can help them learn how to get their messages across in an effective way. Specific topics may include establishing speaker credibility, assessing and meeting the needs of an audience, the difference between persuasion in written and spoken communication, and strategies for crafting a creative campaign.
- Media law and ethics: It is important for any media student to understand the legal and ethical standards that media professionals are expected to adhere to before they begin disseminating their media to the public. The curriculum of these classes may address privacy, libel, slander, the First Amendment, pornography and the FCC.
- Documentary production: Aspiring documentarians who want to become the next Ken Burns or Michael Moore will want to take documentary production courses to harness the skills needed to work in this medium. Students may learn about how documentary proposals are created, different techniques for storytelling and what takes place during the preproduction, production, and post-production stages of documentary filmmaking.
- Photojournalism: Shutterbugs interested in this topic should pursue photojournalism courses. Common topics include how to take and prepare images used for media stories, the journalistic ethics associated with photography and the strategies for telling a story through pictures.
Career-Related Skills to Develop
Online programs for communications and media can provide students with more than just information; the coursework can also prove useful for developing important career-relevant skills. Below are examples of some of these possible skills.
- Public speaking: Professionals who present information to an audience often have the goal of convincing that audience of a certain position or raising awareness about an issue. As a prominent aspect of many communications and media careers, teaching students how to understand an audience and speak to them in an engaging way is a primary concern of many communications programs.
- Interpersonal: People in the media often work in teams. Professionals need strong interpersonal skills to get along with their colleagues and effectively collaborate on projects.
- Research: From writing a news story to crafting a marketing campaign to creating a presentation for colleagues, strong research skills are needed for a variety of tasks in this field. The ability to gather relevant information, determine its credibility and make decisions about what it means is easy to practice while completing the assignments of most communications programs.
- Organizational: The media business is fast paced, so professionals must be able to meet short deadlines and juggle multiple projects at once. The organizational skills students learn as they manage assignments in multiple classes will help them throughout their careers.
Communications and Media Specializations
The communications and media field is highly competitive, and with so many people vying for jobs, it's important to get an edge on the competition. While certifications are not required for employment, earning one can go a long way toward impressing a prospective employer and standing out from the crowd. The following are some of the certifications workers can earn.
- The Global Communication Certification Council awards Communication Management Professional (CMP) and Strategic Communication Management Professional (SCMP) certifications for those who demonstrate knowledge of ethics, analysis, context, strategy and engagement.
- The American Management Association has a certification for business communicators in management and non-management positions.
- The STC Certification, which is offered by the Society for Technical Communication, is available to those that demonstrate knowledge of the profession's best practices. There are three levels of certification offered: foundation, practitioner, and expert.
Communications and Media Career Outlook
While more traditional forms of media and reporting such as radio and newspapers are admittedly in decline, there are certainly still jobs available in these fields, and much like the perseverance of the paperback despite the rise of the ebook, there will continue to be jobs available in these fields as long as there is a market for them. Furthermore, with the demand for internet information increasing by the day, many of these careers may be available in slightly different forms working for websites and social media.
Knowing how to act fast and push a press release out to media outlets or spread a new idea on social media is the sign of a public relations specialist in the making. Some events and trends burn brightly but briefly, while others smolder for years before erupting onto the scene; a public relations specialist uses both to their advantage, riding the wave of the passing fad and looking ahead to predict the next game-changer.
Public relations specialists are pros at communication; they build contacts among all types of media outlets, networking with as many people and experts as they can. A day in the life of a public relations specialist can involve tasks such as phone calls, team planning, speech writing, fielding media questions, evaluating advertising and researching their client's competition.
The world is wide open for those interested in media and communication workers careers. The field comprises jobs for announcers, editors, photographers, reporters, technical writers and more. An eye for detail and a love of the written word — or of images — are musts.
Conveying ideas is just one important responsibility of those in the media and communication field. Workers need to stay up-to-date on issues, and must know how to use the latest software and communications application in an ever-changing digital world. Flexibility and adaptability are also important in this job.
Whether they're holding interviews to compose a new article or working undercover to uncover the truth in unexpected places, the work of a journalist is diverse and historically influential. One day they might write about a dog who helps his owner run a convenience store; the next they might interview a famous heiress in her glittering penthouse; the next they might uncover the dark secrets of a crooked corporation, directly forcing it to change its ways or close for good. Their work may appear in newspapers, news stations, magazines, cable channels and even radio programs, influencing thousands of people and even the course of history as we know it.
Interviewing people and researching stories is an inherent part of any reporting job. Journalists also need to develop relationships and build up their list of go-to reliable sources.
Sometimes it's as much about the voice and personality as the content. Radio and television announcers relay information, news and other content to listeners and fans. They might relay their personal opinions alongside their reports, or encourage discussion as they take calls from listeners, or stay carefully apolitical to give listeners a quiet space away from politics. It's common for people to choose which radio or television stations they consume purely out of loyalty to one particular announcer; these professionals can certainly make quite a difference in the world in this manner.
Radio and television announcers may provide commentary on specific events — like football or baseball games — read prepared scripts or make station announcements. Major news stations or satellite radio are potential employers, as are niche channels such as horror movie or classic TV stations. The digital age has even brought about new online applications for these skills, with accessible new professions such as the podcaster or the internet reviewer.
Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following four criteria for the specific subject being ranked:
- Offer a degree or certificate program in that subject, either in an online or hybrid format
- Have at least 1% of students attending some form of distance education
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2016-17
- Have reported data for all 11 ranking variables listed below
We ranked 1,813 colleges and universities in the United States on 11 criteria, using 2016-17 data from IPEDS:
- Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded via distance education in 2016-2017 were in this particular subject
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered via distance education at any level
- Ratio of students participating fully or partially in DE to Total Enrollment
- Average in-state tuition for undergraduates
- Graduation rate
- Retention rate
- The availability of any tuition plans (Payment, Prepaid, Guaranteed, Other)
- Services (Academic/Career, Placement for Completers)
- Credit offerings (Dual, Life, AP, Military)
- Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid
- Average amount of federal, state, local, institutional, or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students
All schools were scored on a 10-point scale for each of the points listed above. Individual data point scores were then multiplied by their respective weights, and the scores were added together, for a maximum possible score of 10 points.
NOTE: Schools' tuition amounts are based on 2016-17 undergraduate and graduate data reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/