Journalism studies can provide in-depth knowledge of the trade and help you develop advanced skills for careers ranging from print news to broadcasting to new media communications. This guide walks you through an in-depth examination of different types of online journalism degrees, as well as potential career paths for graduates and tips for success in online distance learning programs.
Finding the best online degree program for journalism is vital, especially when there are so many options available. Quality journalism programs introduce students to the latest technology and online resources that professionals use today, offer networking and internship opportunities so students can hone their craft and provide job placement services so students graduate with career options already on the table. An online journalism program should also be fully-accredited and have multiple concentrations students can pursue. Using our detailed methodology, we’ve done the research to create a list of the Best Online Journalism Degree Programs. Find out who made the cut for our 2018 list right here.
The big headline for journalism majors is that this rapidly evolving industry is transitioning from old school mass media such as newspapers or television toward digital communications. Today’s journalists are expected to have a broad set of skills and familiarity with the tools and techniques needed to work in both online and offline settings. Journalists continue to provide accurate reporting on newsworthy topics, but for increasingly varied outlets. With the expansion of social media and technology, the roles of journalists extend far beyond local, regional, and even national publications or TV and radio stations.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the most promising career prospects for those who have experience in multimedia communications, for example, video production. In contrast, competition is likely for reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts. Changing job opportunities reflect the declining advertising revenue for traditional media as well as sociocultural trends such as the rise of smartphones and tablets. The good news is that graduates from online journalism schools can branch out to related specializations such as public relations, film and video editing, photography, teaching or writing for digital media channels.
One size does not fit all for journalism students. Aspiring journalists need to track down the educational qualifications required for their particular career interests and find a degree program that supports those aims. Students can take advantage of the flexibility of online journalism degrees if they currently have a job or responsibilities that interfere with a regular college schedule.
To suit different students’ interests, online journalism schools offer a range of degrees and academic concentrations. Certain programs are intended to help graduates break into the industry with an entry-level job or parlay an advanced degree into management opportunities. Other schools feature the chance to gain hands-on experience, for example, writing or editing for the school’s website. Graduate programs may include research components such as a thesis or a lengthier project that demonstrates proficiency in the field.
In addition to online journalism degrees, certificates may be available as well. Participants in these programs can update their technological skills and gain fluency in areas like blogging or social media. The electronic platform and tools for content delivery used by online schools mesh with subjects such as digital journalism and web publishing.
Associate degrees, which usually take two years to complete, provide foundational knowledge in the field of journalism and can pave the way for entry-level careers. In addition to general education courses building skills such as English composition, students learn the basics of news writing, editing, reporting, and critical thinking. Introductory courses may include:
An online associate degree can be a primer for a bachelor’s degree in journalism or a related field. For those who want to dive right into the workforce, an associate degree may help a student find work as an assistant copywriter, beginning news writer or reporter, or publicist.
If you are interested in broadcast journalism, news reporting, or feature writing as a career, most employers require at least a bachelor’s degree and experience through a relevant internship. The baccalaureate takes four years for most full-time students to complete, but the schedule may depend on commitments to other jobs or fieldwork.
This undergraduate program covers a broad range of topics in communications, business, emerging media trends, and digital publishing. Students learn how to produce content both online and offline, acquire investigative reporting skills, and use different research methods to gather information from news beats and other sources. Most students create a portfolio with work samples such as scanned hard copy publications, online articles and video clips, which they can present to prospective employers or graduate school admissions officers.
Examples of courses in a bachelor’s degree program include:
Bachelor’s degrees allow students to choose elective courses that focus on a particular field of interest, such as science and health, politics, business or economics. These courses can build a specialization in a certain area.
A master’s degree in journalism can prepare graduates for a leadership or managerial role. Most students can complete this type of program in about two years. For those who aspire to run a news center, oversee an editorial group or lead a production team, a master’s degree may be necessary to fulfill basic job requirements. Graduate programs often include a thesis, independent project, or capstone project.
The curriculum for master’s programs from online journalism schools could include:
Minimum requirements typically include a baccalaureate in journalism or a related field, a certain minimum GPA, and in some cases, prior work experience in the field.
Those who are more interested in research studies and contributing to the field of journalism through lectures and education may consider completing a doctoral degree. A PhD can prepare a graduate to teach at colleges and universities, conduct extensive research for journalism and advertising organizations, do consulting work, or participate in research projects for government and private organizations. Studies include research methods used to support effective communications plans for balanced media coverage and advertising campaigns.
Sample courses for online journalism degrees at the doctoral level include:
PhD programs typically include fieldwork experience and extensive research projects. Students may be required to complete a qualifying examination before they can proceed with the doctoral research component of the program.
Do you have the personal makeup to be a successful journalist? Ideal candidates are good communicators who enjoy following the news and the latest trends, and want to develop strong writing and research skills. Journalists must possess some core skills and traits to manage the wealth of information they are exposed to every day. They need a mix of creative thinking and organizational abilities and should also be able to work under pressure, with tight deadlines. To determine if journalism is the right field for you, ask yourself the following personality questions:
There are dozens of options when it comes to choosing online journalism degrees, but not all of them match every student’s needs. Aspiring journalists share certain traits, such as keeping abreast of the latest news and a desire to develop strong writing and research skills, but their individual goals run the gamut from sports announcer to photojournalist to videographer. Some enjoy communicating on camera while others dream of producing stories for magazines or websites. It’s a good idea to take some time to compare different schools and pay attention to the following:
Schools that have been accredited can assure applicants of receiving an education that meets certain specific standards. Accreditation is possible at the regional or national level and also on a programmatic basis, where a program has been examined by an organization specializing in that discipline. Students can make sure schools are accredited by agencies that are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education.
It’s fairly easy to review the bios of faculty members teaching the online journalism classes to determine whether they have professional experience. Faculty members that have advanced degrees in the field, or those who have direct experience in print, broadcast, and electronic journalism, can be valuable mentors.
Many students pursue online journalism degrees because they do not have time to attend on-campus programs. Before choosing a school, students should do some investigative research to identify any campus-based elements. While many schools do offer programs exclusively online, others could incorporate minimal residencies or in-person attendance requirements.
Each school offers a unique menu of electives and core courses to help a student dig into a specialization or concentration. While most study plans cover introductory topics such as news writing, reporting and broadcasting, a well-rounded curriculum also has advanced courses in topics such as emerging communications technology, journalism ethics, privacy, and research skills development.
An internship is highly desirable as a means of showing prospective employers that you have experience in the field. Internships can provide hands-on training as an assistant to a journalist or editor, or simply shadowing a media professional to learn how things work in a real-world setting. Find out if different schools help set up local placement opportunities for current students and/or graduates.
Looking for a job in this industry can be a challenge, especially if a graduate is interested in news journalism or broadcasting. College and university career services can provide students with recommendations on opportunities that would be a good match. Career placement advisors may introduce a student to companies and organizations that are looking for certain skills, or assist the student in transitioning into the working world.
Even though a student may not be going to a campus for classes throughout the week, they may still be able to take advantage of the support that is available to all enrolled students. Such resources may include access to lectures, workshops, seminars and other events specifically for journalism students. These can be valuable opportunities to network with other students and professionals, and learn more about the current state of the industry.
Completely online programs are available from Clarion University, a member of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. The school has both a bachelor’s degree in mass communication/media studies and a master’s in mass media arts and journalism. Students also have the option to complete a certificate in public relations or advanced journalism studies to complement their degree.
Learn more about journalism studies at Clarion University.
An online Bachelor of Arts in Journalism is available through the University of Memphis College of Communication and Fine Arts. This intensive program offers a public relations angle, teaching students how to build awareness for a company or clients with stories and articles. Students can also learn about monitoring media channels for comments and feedback, managing PR activities and image crises, plus other aspects of this diverse industry. No campus trips are required but the option exists of taking some on-campus courses if desired.
More details are found online about journalism majors at the University of Memphis.
Web-based journalism studies offer potential benefits to anyone that needs some flexibility in their schedule. However, completing a degree program exclusively online can be a challenge for some. Those who are not comfortable working in a virtual environment or have difficulty with remote communications may need some time to adapt to the distance learning format. Here are some tips for success when attending online journalism schools:
Online students are responsible for juggling assignment and project deadlines so they need to keep up with classes and communicate regularly with professors. There may also be required interaction with other students and participation in discussion forms throughout the semester. Successful students check emails daily for updates and organize messages so that they can review and reply to them in a timely manner.
Even though it’s convenient to work and study from virtually anywhere with an Internet connection, it can be easier for students to set up a dedicated space with a reliable Internet connection. This reduces the risk of technical difficulties or interruptions when attending webinars, trying to learn new material or viewing online course materials.
Many online journalism degree programs include interactive components where students communicate directly with professors and peers in a virtual classroom setting. Discussions feature a variety of topics and forum threads where students contribute by sharing links for interesting articles, analyzing topics related to the industry, or simply posting notes and assignment details. Staying active in these groups is usually a class requirement and one key to a well-rounded online education experience.
One of the advantages of completing an online degree program is that the student has full reign over their study schedule. However, this means they need to be able to complete all assigned tasks before a certain deadline and manage their time effectively. Maintaining a calendar or to-do list can reduce the chances of missing any reading assignments or other projects.
Many aspects of journalism careers require networking and building up a list of professional contacts and sources. It’s a good idea to consider any networking opportunities and events hosted by colleges or somewhere in the community. These activities can expose students to industry contacts and might open doors to an internship or job in the near future.
Even though many students completing an online journalism degree search for traditional journalist and news reporter jobs after graduation, some are inspired to explore alternative careers with their newfound skills. Many skills learned in journalism programs can transfer over into fields such as public relations, communications, marketing and even entrepreneurship.
Here are some unconventional career choices for a journalism school graduate:
Those who are good at persuasion and both online and offline communications may consider such a career. Public relations representatives and publicists are responsible for reaching out to contacts, developing brand campaigns and working closely with media professionals.
Those who want to share their knowledge of a subject like journalism, communications or writing may think about becoming educators. Many employers require a specific level of academic achievement, work experience or licensure, but this can be a viable career path for journalism school graduates.
Those with strong social networking and communication skills may be the perfect fit for a company that needs a representative to interact with customers or clients, build a community and manage social media activities.
A press secretary may serve as a spokesperson or communications director tasked with maintaining a favorable public image for a politician, organization or corporation. In the field of politics, these specialists are responsible for providing advice to leaders and public servants on how to deal with the news media.
Graduates who are articulate and enjoy writing for others can craft cohesive material for those giving presentations on a variety of subjects. Journalism school provides a student with strong writing and research skills that can be used to prepare speeches in a variety of voices and tones.
Online journalism programs at colleges and universities serve students who cannot commute or relocate to attend a traditional degree program. Despite the large number of options available, not all online degrees meet each new student’s educational goals. Factors such as tuition costs, journalism faculty, student support and career services may be critical to prospective students. At the same time, evaluating programs at so many schools can feel overwhelming. The following search tool can jumpstart your search, filtering hundreds of programs by factors that matter to you.