Top 5 Online Journalism Programs

While online degrees have been around for quite some time, it seems like the last few years have seen huge growth in this arena.

Not only are more students choosing to get online degrees, but online degrees are gaining more credibility. Universities are recognizing that not all prospective students are able to attend a full time program on campus due to work, family and other responsibilities.

More journalism schools are offering distance learning opportunities as well. Here’s our top 5 list of online journalism programs (and related programs) available for undergrads, grad students and working professionals.

1. University of Missouri’s School of Journalism
The University of Missouri’s School of Journalism has been offering its online master’s program since 2001. The journalism school was one of the first to offer an online journalism program, and as a result, they’ve had ten years to perfect it, and make changes as needed.

The Master’s degree is geared towards those who have worked in journalism, public relations, government or corporate communications, advertising or a related field for at least three years; however having a Bachelor’s degree specifically in journalism is not required (students come from a variety of undergrad backgrounds). The Master’s equips students—who can choose to concentrate in such areas as health communication, media management, strategic communication or interactive media—with the expertise to excel into more executive roles.

2. Penn State World Campus – Pennsylvania State University
Pennsylvania State University’s “World Campus” is at the top of’s “30 Best Online Colleges for 2014” list; and it ties for third place in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings for “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.”

One of Penn State’s online programs is its Bachelor of Arts in Advertising & Public Relations with a Strategic Communications concentration. “The courses in this program encompass aspects of advertising, marketing, public relations, communications, technology, law, research, social media, and many other disciplines,” states the Penn State Online website. Graduates can go onto communications, marketing and related careers in a variety of industries from healthcare and public policy to business.

3. Arizona State University
The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University is committed to providing its high caliber of education, not just in its physical classrooms, but also via its online platforms to students around the world. The university’s online school strives to cater to a variety of learning styles, and professors work with instructional designers in order to develop effective teaching methods. ASU Online’s dean, Phil Regier has stated “An online education out performs what you can get face-to-face.”

Arizona State University’s online campus offers a number of undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates. Those related to journalism include: a BA in Mass Communication and Media Studies and a Grad Certificate in Business Communication (each offered through ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication), as well as a BA in Business and Communication, a BS in Communication, a BS in Nutrition Communication and a BS in Technical Communication.

4. University of Massachusetts Amherst
UMass Amherst offers at least two online journalism programs. The first is an undergraduate level Certificate of Journalism, which was named a “Program of Excellence” by the University Continuing Education Association. To earn the certificate, students must complete five courses—news writing/reporting, intro to journalism or ethics and three electives. Those not wanting to complete a certificate can also enrol in individual courses.

Additionally, those looking to complete a Bachelor’s degree with a concentration in Journalism Studies can do so online at UMass Amherst. The undergraduate journalism concentration is offered as part of their “University Without Walls” degree completion program. Benefits of this program include potentially being able to convert previous life and work experience into academic credits, flexible plans (from studying completely online to hybrid arrangements) and one-on-one guidance from an academic advisor.

5. University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications
The University of Florida offers a number of journalism and communications degrees at the Bachelor, Master’s and Ph.D. level. For online programs, its College of Journalism and Communications offers three specialty options: Global Strategic Communication, Social Media, and Web Design & Online Communication. These areas can be explored as part of either a Master’s or Certificate program. The University and its Journalism School have received numerous accolades, including second on’s list of “The 30 Best Online Colleges for 2014.

Top Online Journalism Programs – Honorable Mentions

  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s M.A. in Journalism & Mass Communications
  • American University’s M.A. in Strategic Communications
  • University of Washington, Professional and Continuing Education certificates and courses
  • The University of Texas-Austin School of Journalism’s Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas – its MOOC professional development courses (some are free)

While some are still skeptical of online degrees, the fact is, they’re becoming more common, and better designed all the time. In fact, besides catering to those who need a flexible learning schedule, online degrees may offer several pedagogical advantages. For example, proponents report students are more willing and able to participate in classroom discussions compared to if they were in a face-to-face classroom.

When it comes to something as digitally-based as journalism, online courses really do make sense. Online degrees and programs, are not without flaws, and it’s important to be selective when choosing the program that’s right for you. That said, if you take the lead from the qualities of the schools listed above, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be satisfied with your journalism education.

Meet the Author

Michelle - Contributing Editor

Michelle Brunet is a freelance writer who contributes to numerous print and online publications, including She holds a B.Sc. in Environmental Studies/Biology and a B.Ed. Prior to writing, Michelle spent time teaching (in Canada and South Korea), volunteering on an organic farm in Ontario, camp counseling in Hong Kong, and a range of other short term gigs, from waitressing at a resort to separating recyclables on a conveyor belt. She loves meeting new people and is constantly fascinated by their unique stories.

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