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.

Top 10 Most Affordable Online Communications Degrees

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FAQs

  • 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.


Most Affordable Online Communications Degrees 2021

  1. The University of Texas at El Paso
    Location

    El Paso, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Texas at El Paso is a public school with over 20,000 enrolled students. Home to 10 unique schools and colleges, UTEP offers a range of interesting degrees and programs. In fact, through UTEP’s Extended University, you can earn an online Bachelor of Arts degree in Organizational and Corporate Communication.

    Program Features

    This completely online degree is ideal for those hoping to land a job in human or public relations after graduation. All students must complete a core curriculum. Other requirements may include:

    • Ad Sales and Management
    • Communication and Conflict
    • Case Studies in Public Relations
    • Communication and Organizational Leadership
    • Writing for Public Relations and Corporate Communication

    Additionally, all online students will have access to UTEP’s Career Center to help them reach their dream job. Graduates of this program have gone on to pursue careers as technical writers, advertising managers, PR specialists, and more.

    Notables

    All online courses through UTEP Connect are taught by the same professors who teach on-campus. Plus, online students have access to many of the same resources as those on-campus, including an enrollment counselor and a student success advisor. Students may access their online courses 24/7 and complete coursework on their own schedule.

  2. Indiana University East
    Location

    Richmond, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in Richmond, Indiana, this university offers over 60 unique degree programs. Now, students located near and far can pursue an online degree completion program at Indiana University East. IU East offers completion programs across a variety of subject areas, including both a Bachelor of Science and Arts in Communication Studies.

    Program Features

    As this is a degree completion program, applicants must already have completed at least 60 semester hours of college credit or must hold an associate’s degree. Admitted students can expect to take courses such as:

    • World Language course
    • Communication Theories
    • Interpersonal Communication
    • Introduction to Communication and Culture

    Both the BS and BA completion programs require students to successfully complete a Capstone Seminar in Communication and Culture. Graduates of this program have pursued careers as editors, sports marketers, event planners, publicists, museum curators, and more!

    Notables

    Every online student at Indiana University East is paired with an advisor who will work to create the best course of study to suit their career goals. Non-residents must pay a slightly higher tuition rate, but all online students are eligible to apply for financial aid. Indiana University East has been ranked among the nation’s Best Regional Universities in the Midwest.

  3. University of Missouri-St. Louis
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in St. Louis, Missouri, this public research university has been around since 1963 and is now home to over 15,000 students. The University of Missouri–St. Louis houses 10 colleges and schools, including a College of Nursing and College of Optometry. Students may also take online courses through UMSL|NOW which now offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication.

    Program Features

    Applicants for this program do not need to have any prior coursework or experience in the field of communications. Courses are offered through USML’s College of Arts and Sciences. Requirements may include:

    • Intercultural Communication
    • Interpersonal Communication
    • Communication in the Organization
    • Research Methods in Communication

    Additionally, all online undergraduate students must complete either a practicum or an internship in Applied Communication. This program also includes a foreign language requirement.

    Notables

    The University of Missouri–St. Louis offers a variety of resources to its distance learners, including access to career services, library services, tech support, and more. Prospective students should note that non-residents must pay a significantly higher rate of tuition than those in-state. However, there are several scholarships and loans that students may apply for.

  4. Northern Kentucky University
    Location

    Highland Heights, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in Highland Heights, Northern Kentucky University is home to over 14,000 students and boasts a 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio. With more than 70 unique degree programs offered across six colleges and schools, NKU is a popular choice for many. Now, students can pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies completely online.

    Program Features

    Students typically complete this program in four years. Required courses may include:

    • Small Group Communication
    • Strategies of Persuasion
    • Culture and Communication
    • Introduction to Interactive Media
    • Web Writing for the Professions

    Graduates of this program will be well-versed in public speaking, communication theories, and various research methods. Applicants do not need any prior experience to gain admission into this program.

    Notables

    Northern Kentucky University has been ranked among the 100 Best Colleges in the South by U.S. News and World Report. All classes at NKU are taught by faculty members and there are no graduate teaching assistants. Online students are taught by the same professors who teach on-campus.

  5. The University of Texas Permian Basin
    Location

    Odessa, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1969, the University of Texas Permian Basin offers more than 30 undergraduate degree programs across its five colleges and schools. One of the most affordable schools on this list, UTPB annually awards over $14 million in financial aid to its more than 7,000 students. Now, students can pursue an online Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication at UTPB.

    Program Features

    This 120-credit program offers all courses completely online and each course is just seven weeks long. This program has six start dates per year and is taught by the same professors who teach on-campus. Required courses may include:

    • Communication Law
    • Modern Media and Society
    • Small Group Communication
    • Rhetoric in Western Thought
    • Measurement in Communication

    Additionally, students must choose a minor in either psychology or sociology. No matter your state of residency, all students pay the same tuition rate per credit hour.

    Notables

    The University of Texas Permian Basin is ranked among the Top 10 Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs by U.S. News and World Report. The university also ranks highly for Student Engagement and Assessment. Plus, all online students have access to the university’s J. Conrad Dunagan Library, as well as online academic support services.

  6. Appalachian State University
    Location

    Boone, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian State University was founded in 1899 and is now home to nearly 20,000 students. With a low student-to-faculty ratio and more than 100 unique majors to choose from, ASU is a popular choice for undergraduates. Now, you can earn an online Bachelor of Science degree in Communication, and Advertising at ASU.

    Program Features

    This full-time, 120-credit program is offered entirely online, making it both convenient and affordable for students across the board. This specific program is ideal for those who want to dive into a career in marketing, advertising, social media management, and more. Required courses may include:

    • Public Speaking
    • Communication Law
    • Copywriting for Advertising
    • Professional Ethics in Advertising
    • Thinking Through Communication

    All students are required to choose a minor in either Business or Sociology. Most undergraduate students complete this program in just six semesters. Graduates of this program have landed careers as media buyers, market researchers, advertising managers, and more.

    Notables

    Online programs at ASU are strictly transfer programs, meaning only junior- and senior-level coursework is offered. You must have at least 50 credits to transfer in prior to applying. Online classes at Appalachian State University are offered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. If you live nearby, you may also choose a hybrid option and take some courses on-campus.

  7. Mississippi University for Women
    Location

    Columbus, MS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Despite its name, Mississippi University for Women is a coeducational public university that offers more than 50 unique undergraduate majors. With small classes and low tuition rates, MUW is filled with opportunities for the taking. Interested in an online program? Check out The W Online which now offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications.

    Program Features

    This 124-credit program is open to freshmen, transfer students, and returning students. Required courses may include:

    • Newsgathering
    • Oral Communication
    • Media Law and Ethics
    • Advanced Writing for the Media
    • Mass Communication and Society
    • Problems in Mass Communication

    All communications majors are required to complete a minor as well. While some communications programs are geared toward marketing and advertising, this particular program focuses more on news, film, and media production. This major also requires a foreign language course.

    Notables

    The W Online offers 24/7 tech support, as well as academic support and student services programs including career and counseling services. Online students also have access to the university’s Fant Memorial Library digital databases and resources. Mississippi University for Women is ranked among the nation’s Best Public Universities in the Southeast by U.S. News and World Report.

  8. University of Houston-Victoria
    Location

    Victoria, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Houston-Victoria was founded in the early 1970s and now offers over 70 unique bachelor’s and master’s degrees. All programs are offered through UHV’s College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business Administration, or College of Education, Health Professions, and Human Development. Interested in distance learning? Check out UHV’s online Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication.

    Program Features

    This 120-credit program is offered through the university’s College of Arts and Sciences. Students may earn either a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree. Required courses may include:

    • New Media Theory
    • Professional Writing
    • Grammar and Rhetoric
    • Intercultural Communication
    • Organizational Communication

    Students do not need to have any prior college credit to apply for admission into this program. Online learning is flexible and students can access coursework from wherever, whenever. Plus, all online programs at UHV are nearly identical to their on-campus counterparts. Students never have to sacrifice quality for convenience!

    Notables

    The University of Houston-Victoria is ranked among the Top 10 Most Affordable Public Universities in Texas. Plus, eligible students may apply for scholarships, grants, and financial aid packages to help offset tuition costs. The university has also been ranked among the Best Colleges in the West by U.S. News and World Report.

  9. Columbus State University
    Location

    Columbus, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in the late 1950s, Columbus State University is a public school located less than two hours south of Atlanta, Georgia. CSU offers undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs across its seven schools and colleges. Looking for a convenient degree option? Check out CSU’s comprehensive online Bachelor of Arts degree program.

    Program Features

    Offered through the university’s Department of Communication housed within its College of the Arts, this 123-credit program can be completed in four years. Required courses may include:

    • On-Set Film Production
    • Interpersonal Communication
    • Qualitative Communication Research
    • Inter-Ethnic Cultural Communication
    • Ethics and Legal Issues in the Professions

    Through this online program, students will graduate with valuable communication, research, and production skills that can be applied across a variety of industries. With a communications degree, career options are seemingly endless. But popular choices for graduates include careers in communications management, human resources, research, and more.

    Notables

    At Columbus State University, tuition is charged per semester and rates are the same no matter your state of residency. In addition, all students must pay a technology, institution, and student activity fee. The university also has an Early Book Program for eligible students, offering up to $800 towards the purchase of books and supplies.

  10. University of Southern Maine
    Location

    Portland, ME

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in Portland, the University of Southern Maine offers more than 50 unique majors, nearly 100 minors, and over $12 million in scholarships. Now, USM offers online degree programs with courses taught by the same professors who teach on-campus. Interested in communication studies? Check out the university’s Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications.

    Program Features

    Offered through the university’s Communication and Media Studies Department, courses in this program are taught by the same professors who teach on-campus. All courses can be completed entirely online. These courses may include:

    • Rhetoric, Media, and Culture
    • Meaning and Communication
    • Media Criticism and Aesthetics
    • Ethical Dilemmas in the Digital Age
    • Business and Professional Communication

    Additionally, all students must complete a Theories of Communication Capstone to earn their degree. Prospective students are encouraged to apply throughout the year, as applications are considered on a rolling basis.

    Notables

    The University of Southern Maine allows online students to study on their own schedules, from anywhere in the world. Plus, you may gain credits toward your degree based on what you already know! The university offers a Prior Learning Assessment to determine your eligibility. All distance learners also have access to an online academic advisor as well as a faculty advisor.


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.


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

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