Online Communication Degree Programs
Communication and communication studies represent an area of social science research and academic study grounded in theories of how thoughts, ideas, and messages are conveyed, processed, and interpreted by individuals and among groups. It is a field in which social, cultural, and psychological factors intersect with technological developments to create an array of contexts in which meaning can be formed and understood. As a result, there are many different facets of communication, including but not limited to interpersonal communication, organizational/group communication, mass communication, business and professional communication, and journalism and political communication.
In addition to writing, speaking, and various non-verbal modes of intercultural, interpersonal, group, and organizational communication, there are many media technologies that fall under the purview of mass communications, from film, radio, and television to the Internet and mobile devices. Communication degree programs at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels may include courses that investigate some or all of these modes of communication from a theoretical and/or a practical standpoint. Students in these programs typically learn theories that underpin our scientific understanding of communication and apply those theories to one or more communication modes and technologies in preparation for careers in business and management; sales, advertising and public relations; education and public policy; government and politics; science and technology; and many other fields.
Types of Online Communication Degree Programs
In this section, we explore the different types of online communication degree programs, classify programs based on degree level and the focus of their curricula, and provide additional details about program structures and formats. Communication is a broad field and choosing a program that matches specific career goals can be confusing. On one end of the spectrum there are communication studies programs that focus primarily on theories and research into how meaning is forged through symbolism, allegory, metaphor, rhetoric, and other representational processes (i.e., semiotics), and/or on information theory, which seeks to quantify how signals and messages are processed, broadcast, and received. At the other end of the spectrum there are applied communication programs that are concerned primarily with how communication techniques and technologies (e.g., television, radio, the Internet) are used in marketing, political campaigns, public relations, and other professional fields.
Based on independent research into online programs, OnlineEducation.com categorizes communication degree programs by type and delineates the unique features of each type of program. We also ensure that programs listed on the site are offered by regionally accredited, non-profit colleges and universities and that they are offered online. Programs that require students to attend more than two on-campus sessions per year are considered hybrid programs and are not listed on the site.
Online communication degree program on the site are grouped into the following categories:
- Online Bachelor’s in Communication: These programs provide students with an undergraduate degree that includes a designated major in communication, communication studies, or mass communications. Students in a bachelor’s in communication program are introduced to theories of communication and research in communication, and may then have an opportunity to learn about various applications of that knowledge in fields like business, broadcasting, education, and social policy.
- Online Master’s in Communication Studies: These programs focus on advanced topics in communication theory and research in the field of communication. A master’s in communication studies curriculum typically includes coursework in research methodologies (e.g., qualitative, quantitative, and rhetorical methods). These programs may also include courses in rhetoric, information theory, and semiotics, and opportunities to use communication theory to examine interpersonal and group interactions, engage in social advocacy, and promote social well-being.
- Online Master’s in Strategic and Corporate Communication: Students in these programs receive training and instruction in the application of communication theories and skills to managing an organization’s internal and external messaging and furthering an organization’s goals. This may include coursework in brand building, digital marketing, and other communication functions that are relevant to corporations and other business entities and organizations. These programs typically include courses in leadership, team building, persuasion, negotiations, crisis management, and public relations.
- Online Master’s in Health Communication: These programs are designed to prepare students to work in the field of healthcare policy and health education and to use to the tools of communication to disseminate important health and medical information to the general public. Students in these programs may take courses in the design of healthcare campaigns, the use of health informatics, and the structure of the American healthcare system. They also study the dynamics of patient-provider interactions and how different social, cultural, and demographic groups respond to health information.
- Online Master’s in Journalism: Online master’s in journalism programs typically provide professional training in news and feature reporting, writing for print and broadcast media, documentary storytelling, video journalism, and legal and ethical concerns in journalism. These programs may also offer specialized courses in new media journalism, data journalism, and/or specialized skills for reporting in fields like politics, health, and science.
- Online Master’s in Mass Communication(s): These programs focus on the management and use of various mass media platforms and technologies, including television and other broadcast media, the Internet and social media, and various forms of print media. Depending on the focus of a master’s in mass communications, the curriculum may include coursework in visual communication, digital storytelling, integrated marketing strategies, and/or how mass media impacts social and political discourse.
- Online Master’s in Media Studies: A master’s degree in media studies typically includes coursework in theories of communication, an historical overview of media technologies, and an investigation of laws and policies pertaining to telecommunications and other areas of mass media. Students in these programs learn to use quantitative and qualitative analysis methods to conduct media research and may study case histories in media innovation, the television and film business, and the global media environment.
- Online Master’s in Political Communication: Students in an online master’s in political communication program prepare for careers in government and politics by learning to apply communication analysis and messaging skills to writing speeches and policy papers, managing the media side of political campaigns and policy initiatives, and working with the news media. These programs also typically include coursework in crisis communication, the laws pertaining to political speech, and the dynamics of public policy discourse.
- Online Master’s in Public Relations: These programs are designed to prepare students for careers in public relations by providing training in the application of communication tools and technologies to designing and executing marketing campaigns, building successful brands, and mediating the interactions between clients and the public. Students in these programs learn how integrate written, oral, and electronic modes of communication into strategies for furthering the interests of companies, individuals, and other public entities, and for crisis management.
- Online Master’s in Technical Communication: Technical communication is a specialization that focuses on the use of communication tools and strategies to convey information about technical subjects like software, medical protocols, scientific research findings, and technology-related products and services. Students in these programs learn how to write for and speak to both technical and non-technical audiences, how to clearly explain complex ideas, and how to use visualization techniques as part of a communication strategy. Some of the practical skills covered by these programs include learning how to write whitepapers, instruction manuals, grants, and educational pamphlets, and how to apply communication skills to building websites and user interfaces.
Additional Resources for Online Communication Degree Programs
The individual program pages below provide a more expansive and comprehensive overview of the different types of online communication degree programs. As part of our efforts to offer a wide range of well-researched and up-to-data resources to those who may be interested in pursuing an online degree in communication, we interview experts and educators in the field of communication and report on trends and innovations in online education. Our program pages include details on coursework, online instructional methods, enrollment options, and admissions policies. In our FAQ section we publish answers to frequently asked questions about careers and certifications in the field of communication and other aspects of online communication degree programs.