Bachelor's and master's degree programs in communications are commonly available fully online or in a hybrid format. Very rarely, doctoral degree programs can also be completed online, but they aren't discussed in this article.
Bachelor's degree programs are usually multidisciplinary, include coursework in a range of communications areas and prepare students for a variety of careers. Sometimes, students may choose a specialization, like public relations or professional writing. Students should be able to complete all program requirements online without visiting campus.
Master's degree programs tend to be focused in a particular area of communications or offer specialization choices, like health communications, public relations, corporate communications, project management, social change communication, media studies and communication management. Most programs can be completed 100% online, although programs may offer elective courses that include practical training, like a co-op. Some programs may require on-campus residency workshops. Master's degree students are usually already in the workforce and seeking advancement.
Bachelor's Degree in Communications
An undergraduate degree in communications provides skills in communication techniques, innovative research and understanding mass media. Students in this program learn about theories and models of communication, social theory, communication ethics, business communication and critical reasoning. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED.
Program Information and Requirements
Students may complete programs fully online or through a hybrid of online and classroom work. The program is 120 credits and takes four years to complete. In addition to communication courses, students are also required to complete general education requirements in English, math and humanities.
Online bachelor's degree programs require students to have Internet access and an up-to-date operating system. Students attend lectures, classes, submit assignments, and contact their instructor and fellow classmates through a school's web-based system. Instructors may require students to purchase software and textbooks for specific courses.
Bachelor's-Level Communications Courses
Cultural Communication and Diversity
This course teaches students about the theories and problems related to communications and cultural diversity. Global issues are addressed, such as miscommunication, inequality and intercultural conflict.
Mass Communication and Media
Students explore the impact of new information technology in digital, broadcast and print media in this course. Additional topics include social and political effects, ethnicity, race, gender, class, sexuality, propaganda and public opinion.
The organizational communication course studies the success of effective communication systems and teaches students how individual behaviors affect group dynamics. Topics covered include conflict management, human relations, decision making and organizational diversity.
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Master's Degree in Communications
Graduates of an online bachelor's degree program in communications are prepared for master's-level work. Careers are often available in management and leadership roles. In addition to completing courses, most programs require students to complete a thesis to graduate. Some programs offer concentrations in public relations, media, journalism and integrated marketing. Those interested in enrolling in this program must have a bachelor's degree in communications or a related field.
Program Information and Requirements
Online communications master's degree programs offer the flexibility of full-time or part-time schedules. Internet access is necessary, and courses are usually available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Some schools require unique software and computer specifications to access their learning systems. Students communicate with instructors through chat rooms, discussion forums and instant messenger. Additional technical requirements include a web cam, microphone and headset.
Master's-Level Communications Courses
Graduate students learn advanced research methods in fact-finding, data analysis and data collection. Students learn how to systematically investigate topics using library resources, focus groups, interviews, surveys and experiments.
Theories, concepts and approaches in persuasion are the concentration of this course. The course also explores, compares and evaluates why certain approaches are psychologically persuasive.
Communication and Social Responsibility
Students in this course study the legal and ethical issues in mass media. The course teaches students about conflicts of interest, advertising practices and privacy.
Graduates from online communications bachelor's degree program can choose from a variety of careers involving media, public relations and journalism. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), median annual wages for entry-level careers related to communications were $37,720 for reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts and $56,770 for public relations specialists (www.bls.gov).
A master's degree in communications may offer career advancement opportunities in executive and managerial roles. The BLS reported in 2015 that median wages in communications-related positions were $95,890 for advertising and promotions managers and $128,750 for marketing managers.
A Doctorate in Communications program is available for graduates with a master's degree. Applicants must submit GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, transcripts and a resume. Graduates are able to teach at the university level and perform research in communications. Online programs at this level are rare, and students may need to enroll in a traditional on-campus program.
There are a number of online communications degrees available at the bachelor's and master's level, both fully online or with some on-campus requirements, primarily at the master's level. These programs focus on concepts in mass communication, communication research, and organizational communication, though master's-level students explore these topics more in-depth.