Online Communication Arts Degree Program Options

Dec 04, 2019

Essential Information

Many schools offer bachelor's and master's degree programs in communication arts through online study. In these programs, which are available 100% through distance learning courses, students can log on to the program website and view lessons and access course materials as their schedules permit. They can communicate with instructors and other students through e-mail and online message boards or have real-time discussions through video conferencing. A computer with a high-speed Internet connection and a current operating system is generally all that is required, although some programs may require students to download special software.

A high school diploma or equivalent is required for admission to a bachelor's degree program. Many schools offer completion programs that require students to complete an associate's program or prerequisite courses prior to enrollment. Courses emphasize understanding various types of communication, including public relations, mass media and workplace communications. Students learn about news writing, the function of media and media ethics.

In a master's degree program, students must have a bachelor's degree, and acceptable GRE scores. These programs take 1-2 years to complete, depending on if the student is full- or part-time. Coursework emphasizes advanced skills for the workplace such as writing a persuasive message. Students also examine communications theory and quantitative and qualitative research.

Communication Arts Bachelor's Degree

These online bachelor's degree programs follow the same concentrations as in a traditional program, focusing on development of communication techniques. Graduates receive a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Communication Arts. Students learn to persuade and present ideas using a whole range of tools, from verbal communication to the written word; visual and technological facets of communication are also covered.

Online curricula frequently take the form of degree completion programs, which require incoming students to have already completed an associate's degree or a certain amount of college credits. Work experience, a statement of purpose and the ability to learn independently are typical requirements for consideration.

Program Information and Requirements

The structure and requirements for completing an online degree will vary from school to school, but each program will require specific numbers of general education, elective and communications credits for graduation. Delivery is done via the Internet, and classes can be accessed anywhere at the student's convenience. Reading lists, homework, exams and class participation via discussion boards are part of distance learning formats. Some schools also offer the option of working online with other distance education students.

Technical requirements differ, but typically include a minimum processor speed, a certain amount of RAM and a high speed modem as well as specific operating systems. Students must have access to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and may be required to use a specific Web browser.

Course Topics

Coursework in these programs focus on both verbal and non-verbal communication, along with English, humanities, math, science and other traditional general education requirements. Although curricula vary by school, subjects such as these are common to all programs.


Practical experience is taught in writing news stories, editorials, features and workplace communication pieces. Skills in note-taking, grammar, punctuation, mechanics, editing and writing for a specific audience are also a large concentration. A portfolio of writing samples may also be developed in this course.

Understanding Media and Society

Examination of the purpose, impact and function of media on society is the focus of this course. Various print and visual media forms are studied, along with how they are used to represent culture. Specific institutions and the messages they use to influence society are also explored.


Ethics in advertising, public relations, privacy and implications of decision-making are taught in this course. Utilitarian, deontological, communitarian, compassion, integrity and courage are some of the ethical theories and concepts studied using real-life and hypothetical situations.

Communication Arts Master's Degree

Typical prerequisites for the master's degree programs include a bachelor's degree, formal application, resume, statement of purpose, letters of recommendation and acceptable Graduation Record Examination (GRE) score report. Students learn cutting-edge communication skills using digital technology, and upon graduation individuals are awarded a Master's of Arts in Communication.

Program Information and Requirements

These programs are offered 100% online in part-time, full-time and accelerated formats, which normally take from 1-2 years to complete. Programs require approximately 30 credits focusing on communication classes. Some schools offer 8-week courses and summer classes, allowing more courses to be taken each year. On-campus visits, receptions and conferences are offered at some of the online programs for those who wish to meet peers and faculty face-to-face.

Like any online degree program, technical requirements vary from school to school but will include the same factors as listed for the bachelor's degree.

Course Topics

A master's degree curriculum intensely studies the specialty through theory, foundations and principles of communication. Some courses are common to all programs to develop real-life skills needed in the industry. A thesis and defense are also a normal culmination to these online programs. Courses may include:

Theory in Communication

Class provides a strong foundation in communication theories and different methods of use. Inductive, phenomenological and deductive traditions are learned, along with axiological, ontological and epistemological orientations. Students also learn the connections between different theory and research methods.

Quantitative and Qualitative Research

Students learn to use various data-collection methods to create effective communication pieces including surveys, studies, focus groups, interviews and audits. Statistics, rhetorical analysis, correlation and other tools are explored, along with how to write and present research results.


Theories of persuasion's role on society and how to create persuasive messages are learned in this class. Students also examine what makes a message persuasive using empirical evidence and theoretical perspectives of conformity, consistency and reciprocity.

Career Information

Students of communication arts degree programs can choose from a variety of careers in areas such as advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales management. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), median annual wages in May 2018 were $117,130 for advertising and promotions managers and $134,290 for marketing managers; public relations and fundraising managers earned a median of $114,800 for the same year ( The best job opportunities should be available to college graduates with experience and strong communication, computer and new media skills, particularly Internet-related.

A large selection of bachelor's and master's degree programs in communications arts are available online. These programs emphasize principles of writing, media in society, ethics, research and persuasion.

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