Online Communications Degree

Many online colleges offer communication degrees to answer a steady need. Being able to write, listen, engage and respond are key skills in a range of industries. In fact, online students may use their degree as a stepping stone to a career in mass media, law, politics, or PR. If you have a knack for expressing thoughts in a clear way, earning a degree online may be the perfect format!

What is an Online Communications Degree?

An online degree in communications studies the tactics used to get a message across. And the mediums used to do it. Print, web, digital, mass media and the spoken word. Then applies these theories to ensure people see, hear, retain, and act upon that message. If an online program interests you, there may be degrees at all levels. Bachelor’s, master’s and PhDs. Each stage may stack theory with practical work. These areas may grow skills in clear speech and writing.

At the bachelor’s level, course work is introductory. You may study communication theories of how groups convey ideas and relate to audience needs. Once you graduate, you may be ready to look for an entry role related to your goals and interests. 

Master’s programs tend to go deeper as students may already be at work and in the know. As such they often study social media strategy and decision making. Having a graduate degree may thus be useful in managerial roles that call for refined skillsets.

PhD communications programs are about research. So, some grads use their degree to teach, consult, or in C suite roles. The insights into interpersonal communications they come up with may also start trends that others use.

When starting a school search, you may want to check accreditation. If regionally accredited, many colleges take part in state and federal financial aid. These schools also tend to have transfer credit agreements in place. Transferring credit hours may lessen the number of online courses you take. Fewer courses often makes studies more affordable. 

Bachelor’s Degree in Communication 

An online bachelor’s in communication tends to come in one of two forms. A bachelor of arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS). Both are standard entry level degrees for a range of careers. Media, writing, marketing, journalism, or PR. Most programs span 120 credit hours divided over four years. In general, a BA involves more writing. So may be useful to aspiring marketers, promoters, journalists or PR people. As a rule, you study communication theory along with humanities and a choice of emphasis.

An online bachelor of science may stress the technology used in modern organizational communications. So it may be a perfect path if your goal includes production, broadcasting or analytics. Areas of study may include team building, corporate writing or audio / video communication. 

To gain admission to a school, you should plan to match results of the schools on your list against your GPA. You must send high school transcripts and many colleges set a minimum that you must meet to get in. Many students also file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  The FAFSA helps to identify those eligible for grants (E.g. Federal Pell Grant) and need based financial aid.

Tuition rates across public and private online colleges vary. According to the NCES, public college tuition averaged $17,797 per year in 2017/18. That compares to $46,014 (private nonprofit) or $26,261 (private for profit) per year.

Master’s Degree in Communication

An online master’s in communication is a graduate degree. Many online colleges offer either a Master of Arts (MA or Master of Science (MS). Either may span 30 to 60 credits which may take one to two years. 

An MA program may study the craft of story telling for all kinds of platforms. So one may hone the skills to develop, create, and deliver effective messages. Plus, study the metrics used to measure success and manage brands. MS programs tend to come with a pre set course plan that may revolve around strategy. As a result, many feature classes that look deeper at cognitive science and analytics. These topics may help students refine leader and decision (vs creative) skills.

Despite the subtle differences, both MA/MS programs tend to favor an applied approach. Meaning, you may learn techniques and decision skills for use in a specific industry. Like health, politics, or business. As such, many go for a master’s to grow expertise or make a shift into a managerial role.

To apply for admission, you need a bachelor’s from an accredited school. Some online colleges set a GPA range and may want to see GRE scores (not all do). If a program restricts the number of applicants, it may assess goals and relevant experience. Another variable is the cost of graduate school. At last check, tuition plus required fees at a public college was $11,617. Private not for profits ($26,551) and for profits ($14,784) usually have higher average annual costs.

PhD in Communication 

A PhD in communications is a research degree. It is the highest level of award in the field and asks for a final dissertation in an area of interest.

Most course plans are a blend of required courses and ones you choose around a theme. On the required side, you study various approaches and means of research. The theme is one you want to delve into for your own original paper. Many schools thus want to see applicants share faculty interests.

While this may not always be the case, some PhDs include a teaching practicum. As such, you may find that while some courses may be online, others require in person presence. To gain admission into an online PhD program you tend to need a master’s. Like any level, many online schools set standards for grades and test scores. Some may also want to see letters from recommenders, a statement about your goals and resume.

What can I do with an Online Communications Degree?

Strategic communication skills are of use in many public facing career paths. From advertising and PR to politics, print, law and digital journalism. Because technology drives the industry, many communications careers are up and coming. That means, the education requirements are likely to vary in related fields. For entry level roles in PR, marketing and translation, one tends to need a bachelor’s. When looking to step into a manager role though, you may need a master’s. Is your goal to use a communication degree as a springboard? To get into law, public policy or teaching, employers usually look for people with a doctorate. 


The role of a PR specialist is to craft and maintain a client’s image. This kind of professional communication tends to involve writing press releases and speeches. Though many in the field watch over media outlets and respond to feedback as required.


PR manager may set the tone for any campaign that manages a client’s brand image. Often, they are also in charge of human resources and projects. Because they delegate and plan, some employers prefer to hire people with a master’s degree.  


Technical writing is about breaking down complex information. Then, crafting things like ‘How To’ guides, user manuals, journal articles and FAQ pages. Many writers in this field also know how to write grant proposals and product pages. As such, some may also have graphic design skills to be able to blend text and visuals. 


An interpreter works with spoken or American Sign Language. And a translator needs skills in intercultural communication. This enables fluency in at least two written languages. With this ability, one may find work in schools, hospitals, courtrooms, other settings. 


A marketing manager figures out what kind of demand exists for a product, service or message. In doing so, they spot target markets and come up with pricing tactics. Then, work with sales, PR, digital media and other teams to drive profit and reach goals.


A fundraising manager is in charge of securing donations. Many work for nonprofits who depend on these funds to run their programs. To be effective in this role one needs to people skills and not be shy about public speaking. For some roles, employers also prefer master’s prepared fundraisers.  


A policy analyst tends to have a master’s or PhD in political science. Along with skills in analysis, these pros need to know how to research and present findings. Doing so takes an ability to communicate to a variety of audiences.


A journalist reports the news for media outlets. such as TV, radio, newspapers or online platforms. In this role, they may research stories, interview and report about a topic they have expertise in. As you might expect this takes skills in oral communication. Also, writing, editing and being able to use trade software.

Is an Online Degree in Communications worth it?

Effective communication skills apply in many career paths. As a graduate, this may bring about prospects and above avg. annual wages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs in media / communication are growing at a steady clip. Demand should add 46,200 new jobs by 2029. This thanks to the need to craft, edit, translate and spread info through platforms new and existing.

Because more companies strive to be visible and keep customers, one of the faster growing areas is PR.  People in public relations  jobs work in almost every sector. Including business, gov’t and advertising and earn avg. median annual wages of $61,150. For those who prefer languages, the outlook is brighter. Demand for translators is on the rise by 20% or about 15,500 jobs by 2029. Median annual wages for these professionals ranges from $28,170 to more than $94,370.

Let’s say you prefer to write and edit and and understand information technology. There’s a need for writers who are able to break down technical ideas into relatable bits. The job outlook is faster than avg. (7%) with median annual wages reported at $72,850 per BLS data. Any industry also has a need for managers who set tone and strategy. So if you have these skills, there may be opportunity as well. Marketing and PR managers should see 18,800 and 8,100 more jobs respectively. Workers in both areas tend to report median annual salaries in the 6 figures.

Online Communications Degree Jobs & Salary

Occupation Average Salary Jobs
PR Manager $116,180 8,100
PR Specialist $61,150 19,700
Technical Writers $72,850 4,300
Interpreter $51,830 15,500

Top States for Jobs as a Communications

State Jobs Annual Mean Wage
District of Columbia 5,990 $191,960
New York 6,550 $174,240
New Jersey 2,100 $165,470
Virginia N/A $162,630
Rhode Island 370 $155,830

What classes will I take with an Online Communications Degree?

Communications classes are about how to speak, write, and reach people. But its not only for creatives. Communicators also need critical thinking skills. As such, most course plans are a mix. Some theory, and others practical ways used to send, share and exchange ideas. Many programs also offer specializations. Through one, you may be able to study and grow expertise in an area you enjoy. 

  • News Journalism
  • Video/Audio Production
  • Marketing 
  • Advertising/Branding
  • Image Management
  • Media Effects
  • Global Public Relations
  • Event Planning and Fundraising
  • Entertainment Production 
  • Corporate, Political or Health Communication
  • Copy Writing 

Each level of degree is likely to present these topics to online students in unique ways. To give you an idea, here are a few kinds of classes you may find at the bachelor’s, master’s and PhD levels.


As a rule, a BS/BA degree spreads out 120 credit hours over four years of full time enrollment. Part of these classes are general education. These often draw from math, software, writing and social sciences.Other aspects are classes in your major and electives. Through them, you may learn how an organization brands themselves. And, the platforms that go into creating and keeping this image consistent.

You are also likely to study the craft of storytelling. This is about using a message to achieve a desired outcome. Whether to inform, entertain, or influence. As a result, you may grow the skills needed to present clear messages on diverse mediums.

To round things out, students often need to take a capstone course. This may ask you to apply classroom learning to a real world communication case study. Here are a few samples of course topics you may also study when going for a degree online. 


May look at how people express themselves and the benefits of clarity. Side topics may include tactics to manage reputation and diffuse PR crises. 


Examines and assesses the social, ethical and economic aspects of advertising. Side topics may delve into the effects of advertising on a consumer and competition. As a project, you may have to come up with an ad campaign idea.  


This class may help you fine tune your presentation skills. You may learn how to create and deliver messages. Both across various channels and aimed at audiences of all kinds. 


About how groups use the media to influence individuals and society. Students may also learn how people work together towards a common goal. 


At the master’s level, course plans tend to cater to experienced students. So, classes may go deeper into content strategy, management and analytics. These areas may help students learn to ‘read’ audience behavior. Then to craft media strategies that turn those insights into action plans.

Course work for a PhD tends to include four areas of study. theory, research methods/statistics, courses related to the dissertation, and a thematic area. Below are a few samples of other course topics that master’s and PhD students may find.


Basic concepts of related to business planning and strategy. Students may take a deep dive into buyer habits and use these insights to manage and position a brand.


About consumer habits and figuring out how to suit a message to an audience. Through it you may learn how to turn market research into action plans.  


In this class, you may work to answer what aspects of a message make it persuade people to act (or not). And, what makes an audience resist influence. 


May take a deep look at podcasts, blogs, social networking, and digital journalism. You may explore these areas through the lens of PR, political and health communication.

How long does it take to get a Communications Degree online?

The time it takes to earn a communication degree online varies by level and course load. A bachelor’s is usually a four year degree if you study full time. From there, a master’s in communication may take from one to two years. If entering a PhD with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees you may need another 3 or 4 years. 

University Level of Degree # of Credits Required Starts Per Year Minimum Months to Complete
Southern New Hampshire University Bachelors 120 6 24
University of Minnesota Bachelors 120 3 48
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Masters 30 1 24
University of Illinois Urbana Champaign Masters 32 3 16
Johns Hopkins University Masters 30 3 12
Liberty University PhD 60 6 36
Regent University PhD 56-64 8 36
American University PhD 554 1 36

15 Schools with Online Communications Degrees

We have ranked our top 15 schools based on the number of graduates from the program in 2019. Our process looks at 2019 data from the NCES. And, it may help you narrow your search down.

  1. Arizona State University Online
  2. Southern New Hampshire University 
  3. U of Minnesota Crookston
  4. U of North Dakota
  5. University of Florida Online 
  6. U of North Carolina Chapel Hill
  7. University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign
  8. Johns Hopkins University
  9. University of Southern California
  10. Colorado State University
  11. Michigan State University 
  12. Liberty University 
  13. Regent University
  14. American University 
  15. Syracuse University 


Here is a closer look at the online programs these 15 colleges offer. 


Arizona State University Online

Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication & Media Studies

Fully Online

ASU offers a range of online bachelor’s degrees in communication. This BA program entails 120 credits and each class lasts 7.5 weeks. As a student, you may look at many aspects of communication. From its history to current trends and uses in politics and culture. There is also plenty of room to choose electives that match your interests. Some sample topics may include,

  • Media and Society
  • Humanities, Arts and Design
  • Literacy 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $11,338 / $29,428
Grad $11,270 / $26,160

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Southern New Hampshire University

Bachelor of Arts in Communication

Fully Online

SNHU’s BA program entails 120 credit hours. But eligible students may transfer up to 90 credits. The focus of the syllabus is to learn how to speak, write, and think creatively and critically. While studying these basics, you may also tailor studies through a focal area. Business communication, PR, Professional Writing or New Media. Some of the core courses might include,

  • Strategic Storytelling
  • Branding
  • Visual Communication

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $31,136
Grad $18,810

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University of Minnesota Crookston

Bachelor of Science in Communication 

Fully Online

U Minnesota’s program entails 120 credits. It stresses the theory and practices used to create and present clear messages. At the same time, it aims to build interpersonal and writing skills. Ones that may prove useful with coworkers, clients and publics. Students also have a choice of 3 focal areas. Communication Studies, PR, and Social Media. And, may take part in U of M internship programs. Some samples of courses are, 

  • Business Writing
  • Event Planning
  • Crisis Communications

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $12,116
Grad N/A

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University of North Dakota

Bachelor of Arts in Communication

Fully Online

UND’s program entails 120 credits and comes with 3 start dates. For those who want a hybrid format, the campus features a digital communication lab to make use of. If going for the 100% online version, it is self paced. As a student, the program covers audio and video production, writing and much more. A few possible topics are,

  • Digital Video Production
  • Media and Diversity
  • Advertising and Society

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $9,736 / $15,895
Grad $12,058 / $19,958

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University of Florida Online

Bachelor of Science in Telecommunication: Media and Society

Fully Online

UF’s program consists of 120 credits. It revolves around digital media and their effect on society. As a student, these areas may be useful to get to know the theories and methods used in broadcasts. Apart from that, you may explore law and policy. Plus the techniques used to play, produce and distribute audio/video messages. Sample course topics may draw from these areas,

  • Telecomm Law
  • Sight, Sound and Motion
  • Communications on Internet

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $5,656 / $18,786
Grad $9,684 / $24,116

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University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Master of Arts in Digital Communication 

Online / Some Campus Presence

UNC’s 30 credit program addresses the issues that reshape media and communication today. It does this through a pre set course plan and a few in person visits to campus. These classes look at the psychology of audiences and storytelling for various platforms. While studying these areas, the focus is on applied research. Students also complete a final thesis and may take classes such as,

  • Usability and Multimedia
  • Leadership
  • Business of Media

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $8,980 / $36,159
Grad $10,552 / $28,278

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University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign

Master of Science in Strategic Brand Communication

Fully Online

U Illinois’ MS tailors to at work students who want to gain the strategic skills to lead brands. The 32 credit course plan thus draws from business, advertising and media. Students also work on a capstone designed to grow practical strategic skills. The courses follow a set series that may take 16 months and might include,

  • Promotional Strategy
  • Messaging Strategy
  • Analytics

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $15,122 / $32,264
Grad $18,083 / $31,490

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John’s Hopkins University

Master of Arts in Communication

Fully Online

Johns Hopkins program spans 30 credits. It melds writing, research, tech, and strategy. Students also have a choice of electives. And, six focal areas. Public and media relations, applied research, health/ digital/corporate/ nonprofit comm. Some sample topics are,

  • Brand Management
  • Publishing
  • Content Strategy

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $55,350
Grad $57,556

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University of Southern California

Master of Science in Communication Management

Fully Online

USC’s MS allows students to craft a 32 credit course plan built around a focal topic. In each area, the classes revolve around using data to drive strategy. So, whichever area you choose you study ways to turn complex ideas into action plans. Examine the process of communication for business, marketing, or consumer behavior.

  • Strategic Corporate Communication
  • Managing Communication
  • Audience Analysis

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $58,195
Grad $47,107

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CSU’s program looks into media tools, tactics, and digital platforms. Students explore these ares in face to face and online classes for a total of 30 credits. Some of these classes are about Internet media writing, research and production. There is also a choice of 4 electives which may include topics such as,

  • Digital video editing
  • Web design and management
  • Media ethics

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $11,901 / $30,622
Grad $12,871 / $28,142

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Michigan State University 

Master of Arts in Strategic Communication

Fully Online

MSU’s program entails 30 credits. It studies digital communication from all sides. And how to bring these areas together in digital marketing strategy. Learners also look at mobile, social, location based services and big data. And, how to weave marketing, advertising, sales and logistics on all channels. Other possible topics of study might cover areas like

  • Professional Comm Ethics
  • Strategic Messaging
  • Digital Strategy

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $14,460 / $39,766
Grad $18,858 / $37,056

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Liberty University

PhD in Communication Studies

Fully Online

Liberty’s 60 credit program focuses on research and theory in mass communication. Including the “how” and “why” behind everyday practices used in the field. In other classes, one may gain insight into how to lead teams. How to use social and video storytelling and analytics. Students look at these areas through the lens of Biblical ideas. A few possible course topics are,

  • Social, Mobile and Online Media Analytics
  • Content Communication
  • Visualization

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $22,747
Grad $7,980

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Regent University

PhD in Communication

Online / One Residency

Regent’s 56-64 credit program explores communication through a Christian worldview. In doing so it studies how people process and understand global media. All while providing a forum to research, write and present material. Students also take a class in teaching tactics and may take others in areas such as,

  • History of Communication
  • Theology
  • Philosophy

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $18,620
Grad $16,952

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American University 

PhD in Communication  


AU’s program weaves media, technology and democracy. It if for scholars who want to understand new media in a civil society. Learners take 54 credits through an 11 month per year mentoring and learning format. The program maps courses through 3 years also includes doctoral teaching and research. Other sample classes might include, 

  • Advanced Media Theory
  • Media, Law & Policy
  • Project Development

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $49,889
Grad $30,351

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Syracuse University

PhD in Mass Communication  

Campus Based

This program has roots in social and behavioral science. One may study the social effects of print and electronic media. Or, focus on media related institutions in society. Through these areas, learners take a deep look at influence. How the media influences behavior and things that impact media content and buyer behavior. Other possible areas of study are, 

  • Media Law and Ethics
  • Diversity and the Media
  • Science Communication

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $53,849
Grad $38,880

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