What’s the Best Online Journalism Degree?

Journalism is one of the most popular degree programs among online students. You can get associate’s, bachelor’s, and even master’s degrees in this field online, and once you do, you qualify for jobs such as reporting, magazine writing, professional blogging, publishing, and broadcasting. The quality of your education depends on the school you choose, so it is important to consider your options carefully. With more and more programs coming online every year, distance learning isn’t what it used to be, with just a few selections. Let’s cover some of the most important things to consider if you want the best online journalism degree possible.

Accreditation

Online colleges were once the topic of much speculation when it comes to the quality of your education. Today, there are many legitimate programs that are just as high-quality (if not more so) than traditional classroom programs at brick and mortar campuses. On the other hand, there are also scams that are attempting to cash in on the growing popularity of online degree programs. Diploma mills, for example, will give you a diploma in exchange for your “tuition” payment, even if you don’t actually go to classes, pass tests, or learn anything.

The best way to avoid such programs and other scams is to look for a college that is accredited. Accreditation means that a third party, usually a company or organization that is nationally recognized, has evaluated the program’s diploma or certification requirements to ensure that you’re getting a quality education. Without accreditation, you likely won’t qualify for many grants or scholarships, and your degree may not mean much on your resume after you graduate. It’s usually pretty easy to determine if a university or college is accredited, so just make sure to do your research before even applying.

Interaction with Professors and Students

Even if you’re a self-guided learner, it is important to share ideas with others in a classroom setting. At an online college, you won’t find a traditional room filled with chairs and tables, but you will find that many programs have online chats, conference calls, and other interactive “classes” that require students to help one another learn. The idea is to still foster one of the key pillars to attending college, which is a sense of community. By allowing students to discuss issues and work through problems together online, they can learn much more efficiently. The best online journalism degree programs will allow you to talk to other students via college-run portals, so be sure to seek things like this out when narrowing down online programs.

Being able to contact your professor is also important. Some online programs are written but never actually taught by a live person. This isn’t an optimal way to learn, since there’s no opportunity to ask questions or get clarification. You don’t want to end up with just a basic grade at the end of the semester, based on standardized tests. In the field of journalism, this is especially important, since your writing skills will guide your career. Many times though, because of the nature of journalism, grades will be much more contingent on writing and so most classes will not be simple multiple choice exams. These classes do typically have professors you can ask questions with and they even will get on live student forums to discuss issues with your fellow classmates. Utilizing this forum is the best way to air out questions and get the answers you need from someone who has a similar perspective as you. It is important to note though that many times people will only get on these forums to ask questions and then won’t help others. Make sure to stay engaged and encourage other classmates to help each other out.

Practicality of Online Learning

We’ve seen more traditional college environments adopt technology and online learning, even if for only particular aspects of a class, so it should come as no surprise that exclusively learning online is increasing greatly in popularity. As technology has advanced in recent years, many journalists have adopted online research methods and actively communicate via the internet. This has made a large difference in online education, allowing it to evolve to provide a learning environment that is much closer to real-world experiences. Students pursuing a journalism degree online can now be as experienced as their traditional university counterparts because of how integral using a computer has become in the profession. This has closed the gap between learning online and attending class on a college campus, so be sure to take advantage of this.

Qualified Professors

Who is teaching your classes? Not every online school has professors who are big names in the world of writing, but these professors should be experienced in journalism and in teaching. Not every professor needs a PhD to be qualified, but someone who has little real-world experience in journalism can’t answer your questions with authority or give you tips on finding a job after graduation. Before signing up for an online program, try to gain a better understanding of what the faculty is like and the experience they’ll be able to impart on their students.

These factors aren’t the only standards you should use to judge an online journalism degree program, but it is a start. It’s recommended to “tour” a number of online colleges because it’s much easier this way to determine which one is right for you. Look for identifiable differences between the schools and try to gauge the most notable benefits for each to make the best decision. This is a huge part to determining success in college, so make sure thorough research is done.

Quality Learning

Getting a journalism degree online doesn’t mean you’re getting a less valuable education. You can still make your degree work for you by staying active and up-to-date on happenings in the journalism community while still in school. Keep your eye peeled for worthwhile internships and other information that can help you get the most of your college experience. College isn’t merely defined by choices in the classroom, so make sure to seek out as many opportunities as possible.

Online Journalism Schools and Degrees

Kaplan University — For aspiring journalists seeking a communications degree, Kaplan University offers two such programs, the BS in Communication/Organization Communication and the Advanced Start BS in Communications for students who have already earned an associate's or bachelor's degree. Students enrolled in online programs engage classes through the use of online communities of peers, multimedia, and hands-on assignments. Read more about Kaplan University.

Full Sail University — The MS in new media journalism from Full Sail University allows journalists to keep their skills sharp all while meeting the demands required by today's media consumers. The degree program combines traditional methods of journalism with emerging technology. You'll learn how to produce multimedia content, use social media to engage audiences and promote your work, and publish and distribute content across digital delivery platforms. Read more about Full Sail University.

Ashford University — Ashford's bachelor's degree program in either journalism & mass communications or communication studies is a good fit for anyone pursuing a career in business, communication management, media, journalism, or public policy. Upon completion of either program, graduates are highly valued and sought after in the job market in all of these industries. Ashford also offers a similar degree in English/Language Arts that is geared toward individuals interested in a liberal arts education. Read more about Ashford University.

Kent State University — Kent State offers a master's degree of Journalism and Communication. This degree is specializes in Public Relations, preparing students for managerial positions or in-house PR positions with courses on social media, branding, strategy campaigns, and crisis management. This is one of only a few online masters of journalism programs available. Read more about Kent State University.

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