Strong communication skills is one important trait that employers look for among job applicants. In any type of career, having a degree in communication delivers value as oral and verbal communication skills play a big role in organizations. The online communication degree programs teach effective communication strategies that are proven effective in any setting.
Online communication degrees are offered with specific specializations and concentrations for various fields and sectors. Similar to journalism degrees, earning an online bachelor’s degree in communication is typically required if you are planning to pursue a career as a media practitioner, news reporter, and writer.
This guide aims to serve as a comprehensive resource for students planning to pursue online bachelor’s degrees in communication. Information on degree costs, the differences between online and traditional degree programs, and courses commonly included in these degrees will be discussed in the sections below.
Yes, students can now get their degrees without setting foot on campus. The evolution of eLearning methods and the growing adoption of educational technology have made it easier for students to pursue their degrees online. At many colleges and universities, getting an online degree means logging into a web-based platform or portal where you can access lectures and notes and submit course requirements.
Communication degrees are a popular choice among students today. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, over 96,000 students received their bachelor’s degrees in communication, journalism, and related programs in 2019. Many colleges and universities now offer online degree programs in communication to make these more accessible to students.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic also makes a good case for getting a degree online instead of going to face-to-face classes. The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases has been trending upwards in all 50 states since June (National Geographic, 2021). This latest surge of infections is believed to be caused by lagging vaccination efforts and the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant (Abatuleb & Sellers, 2021).
Yes, you can rest assured that employers will take your online degree seriously. In the past, online degrees had a stigma because of for-profit institutions that were suspected of being degree mills (Regis College, n.d.). However, employers have become more accepting of online degrees since well-respected, reputable universities started these programs (Friedman, 2017).
In most cases, an institution’s accreditation and reputation and the applicant’s relevant skills are more important to employers than whether a degree is earned online or on-campus.
Online degrees are starting to gain global acceptance, which may be driven by the higher demand and adoption of online education (Jones, 2020). However, to ensure that you get the most value out of your online degree, it’s best to choose an institution with regional accreditation as well as a positive reputation.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Online communication degree programs are designed to develop and strengthen students’ skills in written and verbal communication. During coursework, students are also introduced to topics, such as new media, conflict resolution, and persuasion. Many of these bachelor’s degrees also explore communication theories, allowing students to learn and apply effective communication strategies.
Bachelor’s degrees in communication usually imbue students with transferable skills that they can apply to a wide variety of industries. Specializations or concentrations available with many online communication degrees also prepare students for specific career tracks, like public relations and broadcasting.
Thanks to accreditation standards, curricula offered by online and traditional bachelor’s degrees in communication are usually of the same academic rigor and quality. However, as outlined below, there are key differences in pursuing these degrees online and on campus.
One of the biggest differences between on-campus and online degree courses is the learning methods or pace they use. While traditional courses typically follow a fixed schedule where all students learn simultaneously, most online courses use asynchronous learning methods. In asynchronous courses, you can access course materials on your own time and study at your own pace.
Universities and colleges typically provide online students with web-based portals where they can log in and view or download pre-recorded lectures, notes, and other learning resources. Despite the self-paced, independent learning environment, students of most asynchronous classes still have to comply with submission deadlines for coursework (The Best Schools, n.d.).
Because of their asynchronous nature, online communication degree programs typically offer more flexibility than their traditional counterparts. These flexible schedules can prove to be advantageous to students who can’t fully devote their time to getting a bachelor’s degree but still want to earn the credential.
Through online learning, degree programs also become more accessible to students. Online students aren’t restricted by their distance to their campus of choice, though some universities offer out-of-state tuition rates even for online students.
The accessibility of online degree programs is also an important factor to consider for international students. According to an international enrollment survey by the Institute of International Education, approximately 20% of international students study online from outside the country (Redden, 2020).
While getting a traditional degree on-campus may take a student at least four years to complete, the completion time for an online degree typically depends on the student’s individual schedule and pace. Many universities allow students to choose the number of courses they can take each term, so students can earn their bachelor’s degree at their own pace.
Many schools also offer a fast-track option or accelerated learning programs. Through these programs, students can achieve their online degrees more quickly (Affordable Schools, 2021).
The costs of getting an online degree usually vary depending on the institution offering the program. However, online students may end up spending less than on-campus students because they don’t have to deal with additional expenses for room and board, relocation, and transportation.
On average, students living on campus at public four-year institutions pay approximately $11,400 annually for room and board (Hanson, 2021). Online students tend to spend significantly less on their education by avoiding such expenses.
Online and regular degrees typically meet the same academic standards, especially at regionally accredited institutions. In general, it’s also safe to trust the quality of the online education offered by well-known universities and colleges. Of course, a student’s experience with getting an online degree also depends on how the student adapts to self-paced, asynchronous learning.
Many studies have explored the differences between online and traditional education, considering factors such as instruction delivery, learning environments, and student satisfaction. In a study published in Medicine in 2021, Bączek et al. discussed the results of a survey of Polish medical students who had switched to e-learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Titled “Students’ perception of online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic: A survey study of Polish medical students,” the article revealed students’ perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of e-learning.
According to the said survey by Bączek et al. (2021), “The most frequent advantages of e-learning chosen by respondents were the ability to stay at home (69%), continuous access to online materials (69%), the opportunity to learn at your own pace (64%), and comfortable surroundings (54%). The majority of respondents chose lack of interactions with patients (70%) and technical problems with IT equipment (54%) as the main disadvantages.”
Due to rising tuition and fees in the U.S., it’s always best to carefully consider the costs of getting a college education. The costs associated with getting an online bachelor’s degree in communication depend on a variety of factors, including the institution of choice and the number of credits required for completion.
Additional expenses such as books and supplies will also increase costs for online communication degrees. For instance, you can expect to spend an average of $1,334 each year on books and supplies at public four-year institutions.
To give you a general idea of how much an online bachelor’s degree in communication costs, below is a table of per-credit costs of the degree at various U.S. universities and colleges.
An online bachelor’s degree in communication can prove to be a valuable asset to people who want to work in the media and related fields, such as public relations and publishing. Moreover, job outlook data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that employment in media and communications occupations is expected to grow at a rate of 4% throughout the next decade. With this growth rate, communication degree holders can expect stable employment for the years to come.
Bachelor’s degree programs in communication also teach transferable skills, so graduates with this degree can work in a wide variety of industries. Human resources, sales, and event planning are some industries where communication graduates can find employment (Coursera, 2021).
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Like many bachelor’s degrees, online communication degree programs tend to have only basic requirements for applicants. Most universities require applicants to have proof of graduation (high school diploma, GED certificate, or Home Study certificate), high school transcripts, and ACT or SAT scores. Applicants may also need to submit transcripts from other colleges they’ve attended, if applicable.
Some universities also require applicants to submit writing samples. For instance, applicants to Drexel University must submit a personal essay before admission (Drexel University, n.d.). Additionally, TOEFL tests may be required from international students to ensure proficiency in the English language.
A stable internet connection and a computer are the two most important technological requirements for students taking online courses. With these tools, students can easily access their school’s web-based portal or virtual classroom, view or download course materials, and submit class requirements.
Though desktop and laptop computers may be easier to use, mobile devices, such as phones and tablets can also come in handy during coursework. According to online education statistics, 67% of students did course-related activities on their mobile devices. Audio and video accessories, such as speakers, webcams, and headphones can also help students participate in live discussions when these arise.
Source: Digital Promise
Depending on the institution, a communication degree program may be a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) degree. A BA degree in communication has a general education curriculum that places emphasis on humanities and social sciences, while a BS degree in communication will require more coursework in technical fields of study, such as mathematics and natural sciences (Excite, n.d.).
However, both types of degrees usually offer the same major-related courses. Below are some major courses commonly offered by online communication degree programs.
Aside from these courses, most online bachelor’s degrees in communication require students to complete a capstone project as a culminating activity. At Walden University, for instance, graduating communication majors must submit a comprehensive communications plan (Walden University, n.d.).
Source: U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics
Currently, there are over 1,300 U.S. colleges that offer a bachelor’s degree in communication (UnivStats, 2021). It’s best to consider the following factors when making a shortlist of schools where you can apply for this degree.
Not all degree programs you find online are accredited. One way to make sure you’ll be getting a quality education is to check the accreditation of the institution. You can trust a degree program that has been accredited by an agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the Department of Education (Friedman, 2016). According to Friedman, students will also want to choose a regionally accredited institution, since the regional accreditation process is more rigorous than national accreditation.
Aside from knowing the costs of tuition, books, and supplies, it’s also wise to check if an online bachelor’s degree in communication requires certain additional fees. Some universities may charge a technology fee for online students. Students at CSU Bakersfield, for instance, can expect to pay $500 for miscellaneous supplies, along with a $70 application fee for graduation (CSU Bakersfield, n.d.).
Universities and colleges often have various financial aid options in place for online students. In fact, many universities require students to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form along with their application forms to ensure that they get financial aid in a timely manner. Online students may also be eligible for work-study programs that can help with the costs of college.
Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
An online bachelor’s degree in communication can be a good first step for individuals planning to work in mass media or for individuals who want to work in publishing and public relations. These bachelor’s degrees also offer specializations or areas of concentration to students who want to focus on fields such as business communication or technical communication.
Many universities and colleges offer these online bachelor’s degrees in communication, so it’s best to check if an institution has regional accreditation. An institution’s reputation also helps determine the legitimacy and quality of the online programs offered.
If you’re interested in bachelor’s degrees in similar fields of study, you can check out our guide on English degrees.
After finishing this major, you might want to further your qualifications by embarking on an online master’s degree in communication or a similar track. This will ensure better job prospects, rates, and promotion chances.