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Top Online Journalism Schools

Top Online Journalism SchoolsIt may seem odd, what with all the talk about journalism being a dying profession, to attend journalism school rather than say, business school. However, at the heart of journalism are the skills for communication and the spreading of expertise, which is in demand. Unlike with other degrees, journalism stresses succinct communication that is understandable to everyone, skills that may be useful for to aspiring advertisers and marketers.  

These skills have even been useful to those in completely unrelated professions, such as Josh Fisher who was a just a Dodgers baseball fan until he began covering the nasty divorce of the teams owners. As a result, he is now is a sports analyst for L.A. sports talk radio and has been interviewed by ESPN. Same with Lauren Luke, who was a just a YouTube contributor making movies about makeup until the videos became popular and The Guardian offered her a beauty columnist gig. Benjamin Corshaw also made flash videos about video-games on YouTube before he was picked up by a publisher as well. Succinct communication skills allowed them to turn their hobbies into their professions.

There are countless others who have gone from a profession like computer programming, mechanical engineering or scientific research, to working in the media, whether it is print, television, or on the Internet. . While it will be difficult to find a job at a paper as a hard-boiled reporter, there are a number of options available in the fields of technical writing, public relations and special analysis for experts in every field and a degree in journalism can help communicate your expertise.

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

Technical Writing

Technical writers prepare how-to documents, instruction manuals, “frequently asked questions”, and supporting documents for equipment, programs or other publications. These documents disseminate technical, specific information among program and product users, readers and the general public. Technical writers work closely with professionals in the field they are writing in to ensure the accuracy of the information they are providing and that they understand what they are writing.

According to the O*Net Online, almost half of all technical writers reported that an associate degree or some college education is required for the job, the rest reported a bachelor’s degree was the minimum. In fact, many technical writers start off as professionals in a technical field (science, computer programming, mechanical design, and aeronautics) before moving into writing (BLS.gov, 2012). For mechanical engineers, designers, and architects, earning a degree or certificate in journalism is one way to expand a career into the world of technical writing. For students without a previous degree in a professional field, prior work experience may be beneficial to finding employment or for success as a technical writer.

In addition to the ability to write, technical writers may be required to select photos or images to use in documents or on websites. With manuals and technical documents moving increasingly online, technical writers may be required to integrate multi-dimensional images as well as sound and video features into their final product.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the employment of technical writers to grow by up to 17 percent from 2010 to the end of 2020 (BLS.gov, 2012). This expansion is fueled by the continued use of scientific and technical products and by web-based product support. As the high-tech industry grows, so should the profession of technical writers. Additionally, technical writers in the software publishing field and scientific research and development, two of the faster growing professions, were paid, in May of 2010, a national median wage of $76,410 and $64,890 per year respectively (BLS.gov, 2012). The national median salary for all technical writers was $64,610 per year (BLS.gov, 2012) during May, 2011.

Print & Broadcast Journalism

There’s no easy way to say it, the number of jobs for the traditional journalist is contracting and is the BLS projects an employment outlook contraction of up to six percent from 2010 to the end of the decade (BLS.gov, 2012). The decline is caused by growing consolidation in the news industry and the decrease in print sales. However, there is a rise in individual news websites as more people get their news from online sources. These websites run the full range in size but all require their correspondents to provide content fit for a paper. While the number of TV anchors and on-air reporters is small, they rely upon a team of writers for their content. Both professions rely upon a solid journalistic writing background.

Additionally, many correspondents gain expertise in a specific field, or enter into journalism from a specific field, and can later work as a news-specialist either in broadcast news analysis or as a print columnist. Columnists are generally required to write regularly and provide topical commentary to the reader (BLS.gov, 2012) while a news analyst supports a broadcast news segment through interviews with an on-air anchor. Earning a journalism degree or certificate may be a great opportunity for someone who is already a specialist in another field and enjoys writing.

Many journalism classes are available online or through distance learning, however there may be requirements that can only be completed on location. Certificates are also available online, such as the Certificate of Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. The certificate is awarded to students who complete the one unit class, and who have previously completed 15 journalism units in other classes. Many certificate programs have similar requirements. The certificate is proof the holder understands how to write a news article or broadcast copy and is aware of the ethics they must follow. The certificate may be particularly useful for individuals who have previously completed a related degree in English, communications or another discipline involving prolific writing.

While the BLS does expect the journalism profession to contract, it also expects to see a growth of news analysts and columnists. Employment growth of analysts and columnists expected to reach 10 percent from 2010 to the end of 2020 (BLS.gov, 2012). The BLS does note that even at a rate of 10 percent, growth is expected to be slower than that of all other occupations. The national median pay, in May of 2011, for reporters and correspondents was $34,870 per year (BLS.gov, 2012) and $55,720 per year for broadcast analysts during the same year (BLS.gov, 2012).

Public Relations

Public relations specialists and managers help craft the voice of a company or group. They construct and distribute information to the public about a client -- often a company but it may also be a group of scientists or a sports team -- and answer questions people may have. They produce and release press releases which tend to be the seed of many important news stories. In government, the public relations specialist or manager is often called a “press secretary” who informs the public about the news of a politician or law.

Public relations is often referred to the “other side” of journalism as public relation specialists often deal with reporters and write press releases which form the seeds of news stories. As such, a degree in journalism is preferred by many employers, however, a degree in communications, English, business or communications may also be desired (BLS.gov, 2012). According to O*Net Online, 66 percent of public relations specialists and managers reported that a bachelor’s degree is required for employment. Because much of the work involves writing and research, associate through master’s degrees are available entirely online although some communication and public speaking classes may require on-site attendance.

Earning the Accredited in Public Relations credential is voluntary but, as the Public Relations Society of America points out, the credential serves to combat public criticism directed towards the public relations profession. Credentialing is complete through the Public Relations Society of America and requires a commitment to continued education. Much of this education is available through online schools and colleges or through online courses by public relation societies.

While journalism may be contracting as a profession, the outlook for its other side is expected to be brighter. The BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) expects the employment outlook of public relation specialists to expand by more than 20 percent from 2010 to 2020. Growth is spurred by an increase in community outreach emphasis from organizations and companies. Additionally, the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) reported that the national median public relations specialist salary was $53,190 per year in May of 2011.

Learn more about accredited journalism 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.

For journalism schools, the only accrediting body is the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. They provide a list of all the accredited institutions for the 2012 to 2013 academic year.

Top Journalism Schools

The following schools were ranked by NewsPro “The Magazine for News Professionals”, in their December 2011 issue, as the top ten journalism schools in the country. The ranking was based on responses from the publication’s readers.

1.   SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

2.   NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, Medill School of Journalism

3.   COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, Graduate School of Journalism


5.   UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

6.   ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

7.   NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, Department of Journalism and Mass Communications

8.   UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEY, Graduate School of Journalism

9.   UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL HILL, School of Journalism and Mass Communication

10. GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, School of Media and Public Affairs


Sources and further reading:

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation

The U.S. Department of Education

The Distance Education and Training Council

The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

O*NET Online

The Society of Professional Journalists

The Public Relations Society of America

Pew Research Center, The New News Landscape: Rise of the Internet

US News, Why it’s a Great Time to be a Journalism-major