Journalism is one of the fastest evolving professional fields today. As prominent modes of media and communication change, the field of journalism has to adapt. From print to broadcast and, increasingly, to digital and social media, journalism is a vast field with limitless possibilities.
To become a journalist, you now have the option to enroll in general journalism degree programs or in more specialized journalism degree programs like broadcast. More institutions are offering online degrees to make higher education in journalism more accessible and more affordable. Programs including internship or practicum requirements also give students in-person professional opportunities, even if all courses are online.
News reporting is essential to any democratic society. If you want to contribute to telling important stories about what is going on in our world, you could enroll in any online program with regional accreditation or with national accreditation from the Department of Education. This could be from a state university, a community college, or even a prestigious private university. Continue reading this guide for the best online journalism schools and online programs.
Online Journalism Degrees: An Overview
Online journalism schools offer online degrees in journalism at all levels. Programs offered include associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and certificate programs.
It’s important to know that most entry-level jobs in journalism require a minimum of a journalism bachelor’s degree or one in a related field. Media companies and news outlets want students who already possess the kind of analytical and critical thinking skills necessary for the job, even at the entry-level.
Master’s degree programs make sense for students who are changing careers or who are seeking additional educational credentials in the field. Students might seek out a certificate program if they already work in the field and are looking to specialize in a subfield, like radio or multimedia journalism. Certificate programs are also appropriate for someone who has a bachelor’s degree in a different field.
Online Associate Degree in Journalism Programs
Online associate degree programs in journalism are common at community colleges and state schools throughout the country. As previously mentioned, most entry-level jobs in journalism require a bachelor’s degree. That said, some entry-level positions in the field, like copy editing, editing, or producing, may be more flexible about these educational credentials. An associate degree, which is typically a 60-credit degree program with general education courses, can be enough for some of these entry-level positions.
Associate degree programs in journalism feature core journalism classes but they also include general education requirements, including liberal arts courses in the natural sciences, math, and social studies. Students may use their associate degrees as transferable credits to pursue a journalism bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution.
Here is a sample course list for an online Associate Degree in Journalism:
- Mass Media and Communication Studies
- News Reporting and Interviews
- Graphic Design
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism Programs
Online bachelor’s degrees in journalism are by the far the most common online degrees in the field. This is because most successful journalists have a bachelor’s degree but do not need to have a master’s degree to become experts. Online bachelor’s degree programs in journalism really run the gamut, from full-time intensives to accelerated programs to very flexible asynchronous programs.
Though online bachelor’s degree programs in journalism may differ in their overall emphasis, they all provide a foundation in journalism, giving students the tools to report, edit, and engage with a wide variety of topics.
Here is a sample course list for an online Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism:
- Reporting and Interviewing Techniques
- Visual and Digital Media
- Media and Ethics
- Mass Media
- Marketing and Public Relations
- Broadcast Journalism
- The Written Word
- Radio Journalism and Longform Journalism
Online Master’s Degree in Journalism Programs
Contemporary Master of Art in Journalism programs are designed to train the journalists of tomorrow. Why get a master’s degree in journalism? Because journalism is a rapidly changing field and digital and multimedia journalism skills are essential to staying relevant. Today, most master’s degree programs in journalism are focused on digital journalism and digital technologies for this reason.
Master’s degrees in journalism vary in their entry requirements and their topical areas of focus. For example, some journalism schools offer master’s programs for students who have just completed their bachelor’s degree program and do not require previous professional journalism experience. Other programs require at least two to three years of professional experience in the field. Finally, some programs are designed for an experienced journalist who has 10 to 15 years of experience in the field. This kind of professional typically decides to go back to school to earn their master’s degree because they want to gain tools in digital journalism.
While the majority of master’s degree programs in journalism are general and focused on the field overall, including communications, some are more specific. For example, you can pursue a Master’s of Broadcast in Journalism, a Master’s Degree in Multimedia Journalism, and a Master’s Degree in Photojournalism.
Online master’s programs in journalism will almost always require an internship component. Because many online master’s students are still employed full-time, the internship component may be replaced by a project within a student’s existing journalism job. Students can pair their professional internship with their coursework in a way that works for them and their professional lives.
Here is a sample course list for a standard online Master’s Degree in Journalism:
- Digital Media and Digital Fluency
- Social Media
- Social Justice Reporting
- Longform and Features Writing
- Radio Journalism
Online Certificate Programs in Journalism
You should consider earning an online certificate in journalism if you already have a bachelor’s degree in a related field and are hoping to quickly pivot your career toward journalism. A certificate program may give you the edge that you’re looking for to apply for entry-level reporting and writing jobs in the field.
You can typically complete a certificate program online in one year, full-time. That said, writing, pitching, and publishing well-received pieces is the best way to become recognized as a journalist.
Here is a sample course list for a standard online certificate programs in journalism:
- Writing and Editing
- Journalism Ethics
- Reporting and Interviewing
- Business Journalism
- Travel Writing
Online Journalism Schools: An Overview
Some journalism schools may also offer degree programs in the wider field of media and communications, with a journalism concentration or specialization within the program. Other schools offer very specific degree programs in subfields like broadcast journalism, online media, and communications.
Some colleges and universities offer online programs that they don’t offer in person. This is often because the demand for more flexible and accessible online degree programs is higher. On the other hand, some online programs have traditional in-person classroom program versions. Here is a rundown of some of the best-known, top online journalism schools in the country.
Top Online Journalism Schools and Degree Programs
This list includes some of the best online journalism school options out there. All of these schools are accredited institutions. Consider using this list to start your school and program search.
The University of Massachusetts flagship campus at Amherst offers a degree completion program online. Students who were previously enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program somewhere else can enroll in a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism Studies to complete their degree.
The University of New Mexico’s online Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communication is a broad degree program that prepares graduates to work in many different fields including, but not limited to: visual and digital communications, production, photojournalism, social media communications and marketing, and digital journalism. Coursework is entirely online and is asynchronous, so students can tune into their online materials at their own convenience. An in-person internship capstone project is required to graduate from the program.
Penn State Online offers a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Journalism and Media. The program’s main focus is to train students to be experts in all things multimedia. They will learn to tell stories through multimedia tools and jump into professional roles as multimedia content editors, digital strategists, and multimedia journalists. The program will also give students a solid foundation in the basics of journalism, including writing, editing, and ethics.
DePaul University, a large private university located in Chicago, offers a fully online Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Media. This is a great program option if you are interested in journalism as a field but you are not sure exactly which direction you want to go in. A more general program in communications and media will help you learn about all of the different aspects of the field.
Harvard University’s continuing education arm, Harvard Extension School, offers an online Master of Arts in Journalism. The program requires students to complete 12 courses and requires that they take at least one of those courses in-person on Harvard’s campus. The program also has a capstone project requirement, which must be a professional journalistic report that could be submitted for publishing. The main goal of the program is to arm students with the confidence necessary to succeed in multimedia journalism and communications.
New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute offers an entirely online Master of Arts in American Journalism. The program is open to all, though it is especially welcoming to international students seeking to learn the ins and outs of the journalism tradition within the United States. Students can expect to take classes like Investigative Reporting, Long-form Narrative, Multimedia Storytelling, and Journalistic Entrepreneurship. The program has part-time and full-time options to make sure students have the flexibility they need to graduate. Students can take breaks as needed, as long as they complete the program within five years.
Journalism Degree Career Prospects
While journalism is one of the most exciting and evolving fields today, it is also one of the most complicated. Yes, local newspapers and print journalism have taken a major tumble, but multimedia journalism and digital news outlets have skyrocketed in popularity and readership. This means that the field has not disappeared, but transformed.
That transformation is ongoing and is moving faster than many career journalists are able to keep up with. This is part of why online master’s degree and certificate programs in journalism are growing in popularity. Journalists who entered the field in the 1990s while print journalism was still thriving may need to learn about digital journalism in order to stay on pace.
You don’t necessarily need a degree in journalism to become a journalist. Graduates of other bachelor’s degree programs, like English, may also pursue careers in journalism. Still, an educational foundation in journalism-specific skills like interviewing is extremely valuable for those who do decide to earn a degree in journalism.
Here are a few sample job titles for someone with a degree in journalism:
- Staff Writer
- Broadcast News Reporter
- News Analyst
- Communications Specialist
- Public Relations Specialist
- Social Media Manager
If you are considering enrolling in an online journalism school to earn an online journalism degree, chances are you care about the world around you. Keeping the public informed about the important events happening around the world is essential work.
It is a career that takes drive, adaptability, and a certain panache that an online journalism degree could help you develop. Feel free to use this essential guide to online journalism schools as a starting point in your schools and program search.