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Top Online Communications Schools

Top Online Communications Schools

Classes in communications are often found as part of the general education requirement of a bachelor’s degree, and some graduate degrees in business may even include communication classes as a central focus. However, there are degree specializations in mass communications that may be beneficial to aspiring managers, marketing specialists, technical writers, website designers and more.

Learning to be a better communicator can be helpful in almost any profession, from business administration to journalism, and even in auto repair. Online communications courses are included in degree programs for broadcasting, human resources management, publicity, advertising and education, or they can be found independently.

Top schools for multimedia and video communications

U.S. News & World Report has published their 2012 rankings of multimedia and video communications graduate schools. These schools have been ranked according to survey responses from art school deans and art school academics. Here are the best multimedia and video communications schools according to U.S. News & World Report:

1.   Carnegie Mellon University
2.   California Institute of the Arts
3.   School of the Art Institute of Chicago
4.   Rhode Island School of Design
5.   University of California, Los Angeles
6.   Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
7.   University of California, San Diego
8.   New School - Parsons School of Design
8.   University of Southern California
10. School of Visual Arts

While not all of these schools may provide online degree programs, some schools on the list from U.S. News & World Report, such as the California Institute of the Arts, do provide online classes and courses for students who may already have a degree but are looking to expand their multimedia and video communication skills.

Below are some of the communications focuses available from online schools and colleges through SchoolsGalore.com:

Mass communications

Simply put, mass communications is any form of communication with the general masses. Newspapers, magazines, websites, TV news and radio are all part of the world of mass communications. While there are some degrees in mass communications which require practical, on-site attendance and cannot be completed online, degrees in journalism, public relations and technical writing can be completed online.

Technical writers can produce a website’s frequently asked questions page and design the layout of a magazine or newspaper. Public relations specialists work with journalists and other broadcasters to improve a company or person’s public profile or disseminate product information. Journalists report on news both nationally and in the community, keeping people informed on what’s going on in the world around them. In all three professions the ability to properly communicate via writing and speaking is important.

Classes in the field of mass communications can include public speaking, argument writing, English, marketing and, in the case of technical writers, classes in technical fields such as computer science. For students with a prior degree, journalism certificates are available online and can be completed in as little as a semester, such as the Certificate of Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Following graduation, professional certificates are available for individuals looking to show off their professionalism. Certification is available from Public Relations Society of America and the Society for Technical Communication.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment for technical writers to grow by up to 17 percent from 2010 to 2020 (BLS.gov, 2012) and projects employment for traditional journalists to decrease by six percent during the same decade (BLS.gov, 2012). Employment of public relations managers is expected to grow by up to 21 percent during between 2010 and 2020 (BLS.gov, 2012).

Technical writers earned a national annual salary of $64,610 median in 2011 (BLS.gov, 2012), while the top ten percent earned $102,250 nationally and the bottom ten percent earned $37,990 nationally in 2011 (BLS.gov, 2012). Public relations specialists earned a nationally annual wage of $53,190 median in 2011, with the top ten percent earning $96,880 nationally and the bottom ten percent earning $30,860 nationally (BLS.gov, 2012).

Reporters and correspondents earned an annual, national wage of $34,870 median in 2011, with the lowest ten percent earning $20,000 nationally and the top ten percent earning $75,420 nationally in 2011 (BLS.gov, 2012).

Personal communications

Managers, specifically public relations managers, work on a near one-on-one basis with employees and executive officers to resolve grievances and clarify hiring policies. Additionally, educators work closely with their students to teach lessons and skills. In both professions a solid grasp of communication is necessary.

According to the BLS, communications is just one part of both professions’ job descriptions; educators teaching in a secondary and primary education environment are required to be licensed by their state and managers may be required to have an MBA. Post-secondary educators may need relevant work experience for employment as well, especially if teaching a vocational trade. In all these fields the BLS recommends that professionals have good communication skills.

Classes in communications can help those already employed as management and educational professionals hone their communication skills. If you already have a degree in communications, it can potentially serve as a stepping stone to graduate degree programs in the education and management administration specializations.

The BLS expects employment for both post-secondary and secondary school educators and human resources managers to expand by up to 17 percent, 7 percent and 13 percent, respectively, between 2010 and 2020. According to the BLS, secondary school educators were paid a national annual salary of $54,270 median in 2011(BLS.gov, 2012); post-secondary educators were paid a national annual wage of $64,310 median (BLS.gov, 2012) in 2011. HR managers earned a national annual wage of  $99,130 median in 2011 (BLS.gov, 2012).

Visual communications

While the field of visual communications traditionally has included art, video and photography, with the introduction of the Internet, visual communications now includes website design and development.

Web designers create the visual appeal and content for a website. From button shapes to site logos and written content, they utilize visual communication skills to inform site viewers, generate sales, or simply make navigation of the pages easier. Unlike other communication professions, Web design may require understanding HTML, SQL and Flash languages. And, the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) reports, some employers may require web designers to have experience with graphic design.

Visual communication classes can provide education in design styling, what colors invoke what moods or opinions, which fonts to use to hinder dyslexia, how a viewer’s eyes move over the page and where to place photos or images for maximum communication effect.

According to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012), employment for Web designers and developers is expected to grow by up to 22 percent between 2010 and 2020. The BLS notes that Web developers earned a national annual wage of $77,990 median in 2011, with the lowest ten percent earning $42,770 nationally and the top ten percent earning $124,860 nationally in 2011 .

Learn more about communications programs from online schools and colleges through SchoolsGalore.com:

When researching online colleges and universities, make sure to verify that your choice of school is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council or by another accrediting agency that approved by The U.S. Department of Education or The Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or both. DETC and CHEA both provide a searchable list of approved schools.

Sources and further reading:

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation

The U.S. Department of Education

The Distance Education and Training Council

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

O*NET Online

The Media Communications Association International

U.S. News & World Report