Most Affordable Online Communications Degrees 2021

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Communications as an academic and professional discipline emphasizes the strategies and methods used to convey information, including spoken, written, and visual media. Communications encompasses fields as diverse as public relations, journalism, advertising, and business. In general, communications specialists analyze communication practices and devise new ways to reach audiences effectively.

An affordable online communications degree prepares graduates for a variety of media and communications careers, many of which offer strong salaries and growth potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) public relations specialists earned an annual median salary of $61,150 in 2019. The BLS projects 7% job growth for the career through 2029, faster than the national average.

This guide to online communications degrees includes typical admission requirements, overall program goals, and common coursework. The guide also includes information on professional organizations and scholarships for communications majors.

What Are the Goals of a Communications Degree?

Communications explores the various methods of human communication, including the use of written, spoken, and visual media to transmit information. An online communications program examines strategies for analyzing, interpreting, and improving communication among individuals, groups, communities, and societies.

Communications commonly figures into fields that actively seek to communicate information to audiences, such as journalism, public relations, marketing, and advertising. An online communications program covers topics as diverse as public speaking, telecommunications, social media management, and consumer analytics.

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  • How many years is a communications degree?

    Exact completion time varies among online communications programs, but most bachelor’s degree programs take about four years to complete, and most master’s degree programs take 1-3 years.

  • What kind of job can you get with a communications degree?

    Communications majors pursue a wide variety of careers in fields such as publishing, public relations, and marketing.

  • What's the difference between communications and marketing?

    Communications focuses broadly on communication practices in various professional fields, while marketing focuses on the application of these principles to businesses and other professional organizations.

  • How do I start a career in communications?

    Most communications careers begin with a bachelor’s degree. More advanced career paths often require a master’s degree in communications.

Why Get a Communications Degree?

Many students pursue an online communications degree for professional and/or academic reasons, with several of the most common benefits highlighted below.

Specialized Knowledge
A communications program builds specialized skills in areas such as writing, public speaking, and public relations — giving students a strong understanding of communications practices.
Increased Career Options
A high level of specialization translates to increased career opportunities, and communications majors pursue a variety of positions in the public and private sector.
Higher Salary Potential
Along with increased career options, degree-holders typically command higher salary levels than candidates without degrees. Degree-holders often advance to higher positions more quickly.
Networking Opportunities
An online communications program surrounds students with peers, professors, and other professionals in the communications field, presenting many opportunities to make valuable connections.
Internships and Other Professional Experiences
Many online communications degrees include experiential learning components such as internships or capstones, enabling students to learn from experienced professionals in a communications setting.

What Are the Requirements for a Communications Degree?

Admission requirements vary among programs, but all online communications degrees require applicants to hold at least a high school diploma. At the bachelor’s level, programs often call for high school transcripts along with standardized test scores, such as the SAT or ACT. Many schools waive the test requirement for students who graduated high school more than five years before the time of application.

At the master’s level, all programs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Some programs require applicants to hold an undergraduate background in communications, while others admit students of all majors.

What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?

Professional Organizations for Communications Students

Communications specialists depend on professional organizations to share knowledge and resources, network with other professionals, and stay aware of developments in the field. College students often benefit from mentorships, internships, and connections to job opportunities offered by these organizations.

  • The Association for Women in Communications

    Serving female professionals in the communications field, AWC promotes leadership and mentorship. The organization offers career resources, professional development events, and affinity programs that include discounts for members. AWC hosts both professional and student chapters around the country.

  • The American Marketing Association

    One of the country's premier organizations for marketing professionals, AMA offers a wide selection of resources for members, including training and professional development opportunities, certifications, and seminars. The organization maintains more than 300 collegiate chapters around the country, offering networking and education opportunities.

  • International Communication Association

    Dedicated to the academic study of communication, ICA serves scholars, researchers, and other professionals in the field. The organization hosts one of the world's largest conferences dedicated to communication studies. Members also receive access to several academic journals, grants and awards, and opportunities for students and early career professionals.

Scholarships for Communications Students

Students often offset the cost of their online communications degree by applying for a variety of scholarships. Unlike loans, scholarships do not require repayment. Some scholarships serve applicants from specific backgrounds, while others serve those pursuing specific career paths.

National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The National Academy offers a variety of regional and national scholarships for students planning to pursue careers related to any aspect of the television industry (including many communications careers). The National Academy welcomes applications from high school seniors planning to enroll in a bachelor’s program.

Amount: Varies

Bodie McDowell Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Outdoor Writers Association of America offers this scholarship to students with career goals in outdoor communications, including in journalism or broadcasting. Eligible applicants demonstrate exemplary work related to outdoor communications, knowledge of the outdoors, and hold a high GPA.

Amount: $1,000-$5,000

Axia Public Relations Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship helps students pursuing programs in public relations or planning to pursue public relations careers after graduation. Eligible applicants hold junior or senior standing at an accredited college and demonstrate professional experience (such as a part-time job or internship) relevant to public relations.

Amount: $2,000

Most Affordable Online Communications Degrees 2021

  1. Florida International University

    Miami, FL



    A top-tier public research university based in Miami, Florida, FIU offers an online bachelor of arts in communication arts with a specialization in organizational communication studies.

    This online communication arts program requires students to complete a total of 120 credits. Subjects covered include advanced public speaking, business and professional communication, interpersonal communication, organizational communication, conflict management, and communication for effective leadership. Graduates can pursue roles in consulting, human resources, marketing and sales, public relations, advertising, politics, and management.

    FIU requires all applicants to complete the online application and pay an application fee of $30. Applicants must also submit their official transcripts, along with their official SAT or ACT scores. FIU offers this online communication arts degree program at a rate of $228 per credit. Florida International University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  2. Eastern Washington University

    Cheney, WA



    A public university located in Cheney, Washington, EWU offers an online bachelor of arts in communication studies degree program for students wanting to pursue communication professional roles.

    Students must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0. They complete major courses in public speaking, mass media and the information society, language and social interaction, message design, gender and media, health communication, and cultural studies. This communication studies program prepares students for careers in consumer research, public relations, marketing, event planning, and sales.

    All first-year and transfer applicants must fill out the online application form and directly submit all academic transcripts, along with a recommendation letter from a current teacher or counselor. EWU does not require applicants to submit their SAT or ACT test scores. EWU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NCCU).

  3. University of Central Florida

    Orlando, FL



    A metropolitan research university with a campus in Orlando, Florida, UCF offers an online bachelor of arts in communication and conflict. This program is designed for students seeking careers in counseling, family law, and human resources.

    Alumni work as arbitrators, counselors, dispute resolution administrators, employee assistance providers, family law facilitators, foreclosure mediation coordinators, and human resources administrators. Students must complete 120 credits of coursework to earn their degree. The university offers this online degree at a rate of $179 per credit.

    UCF requires transfer applicants to hold a minimum GPA of 2.0 for all college work. All first-year and transfer applicants must complete the online application and submit official transcripts from all previously attended institutions. UCF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  4. University of Louisville

    Louisville, KY



    A public research university based in Louisville, Kentucky, UofL offers an online bachelor's degree in communication. This program helps working professionals enhance their writing and verbal skills.

    UofL offers 100% online course delivery and 24/7 access to the school's learning resources. Students take major courses in mass communication, advanced speech communication, communication technologies, strategic communication writing, and magazine and feature writing. The university offers this online program at a rate of $508 per credit.

    UofL allows students to transfer up to 60 credits from a community college and up to 90 credits from an accredited four-year college. All interested applicants must complete the undergraduate application and submit their official transcripts. The University of Louisville is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  5. University of Minnesota-Crookston

    Crookston, MN



    A public institution located in Crookston, Minnesota, UMC offers an online bachelor of science in communication degree program through the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Education department.

    UMC provides a communication degree with an emphasis in communication studies, organizational communication, public relations, and social media. Students must satisfy the 120 credit requirement to graduate. The program covers business and professional speaking, news and social media communication, human relationships and leadership, persuasion, and communication theory. UMC offers this program on-campus and online.

    All applicants must first complete the Golden Eagle Application on the school's website and pay the $25 application fee or apply for a fee waiver. UMC also requires prospective students to submit their academic transcripts and answers to the short essay questions on the application. The University of Minnesota-Crookston is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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