Thanks to the Internet and the mobile device revolution, communication and media workers may be more important than ever. Just about everyone has a media device on them at all times, and companies in both the public and private sector need well-trained personnel to communicate with the public on their behalf.
Study plans in communication and media tend to vary quite a bit from institution to institution, but most programs cover subjects like the strategic use of media, critical thinking about messaging and how to communicate in one-on-one, small-group and large-group settings. Many also go into the history of public relations, advertising and mass communication in general.
Online degrees for communication and media students are available as well, if you're looking for a way to continue your education that might put less of a strain on your schedule. Whether you're looking to earn your first degree or go back to school to train for a career change, online communication and media degrees can help lighten the burden.
Best Colleges for Communication And Media Degree Programs 2018-19
More than 700 schools across the country offer media and communication degrees, so we gathered a batch of data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and ran it through a multi-point analysis to see which ones came out on top. Click the button to find out how the schools were scored, and read on for our list of the ten best colleges for communication and media degree programs.
Only two other schools on our list scored better in the graduation rate category than our No. 1 school, and that's not the only attractive feature that the University of Oregon has to offer. It also had one of the highest concentrations of communication and media students among schools in our top ten, with approximately one in ten 2015 graduates earning a degree in the field.
The School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon offers undergraduate majors and minors in advertising, media studies, public relations and more, each with a different approach to the study of communication and media. Students who have already earned their bachelor's can pursue graduate certificates in communication ethics or new media and culture, as well as full master's degrees in strategic communication, media studies and journalism.
The graduation rate at the University of Colorado Boulder differed from that of our No. 1 school by just one tenth of a percentage point, and its admission rate was the fourth-highest among institutions that made our top ten. The northern Colorado school also offers alternative tuition payment plans and career services for students and graduates.
The array of degrees and certificates in communication and media at UC Boulder is vast, covering numerous aspects of the discipline and multiple academic levels. Programs include Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degrees in communication, media studies and media production and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees in information science and strategic communication.
Instructional expenses like course development and in-classroom tech can be the difference between an ordinary education and one that's truly on the cutting edge, and the State University of New York's College at Plattsburgh leads all schools in our top ten by committing 54 percent of its annual budget to these and similar essentials. SUNY Plattsburgh was also one of the more affordable schools on our list, ranking above all but three other institutions in that category.
Degrees in communication studies, multimedia journalism and digital media production are all available for undergrads at SUNY Plattsburgh. Each degree can be earned on either a B.A. or B.S. track. Graduate certificates in multimedia journalism and professional writing are available as well.
Flexibility was a key metric at the flagship campus of Ohio University, where busy students have the option to earn certain degrees exclusively through courses that meet at night and on the weekends. The Athens, Ohio, institution is also a top destination for students seeking online communication and media degrees, thanks to its extensive catalog of distance education courses and a B.S. in applied communication that's available entirely online.
The diverse selection of degree programs at Ohio University includes information design, organizational communication, public advocacy and photojournalism, among others. The School of Media Arts and Studies offers a few especially modern study plans, including an undergraduate certificate in social media studies and a bachelor's emphasis in media and social change.
No other school on our list had a higher graduation rate than this East Lansing institution, which reports that approximately eight out of ten students who were expected to graduate in 2015 flipped their tassel at commencement. Michigan State University is also the largest school to make our top ten, awarding just shy of 12,000 degrees in 2015, so it could be a good choice for students who like the feel of a big university.
Four-year bachelor's degrees in advertising creative, advertising management, journalism and more anchor the list of programs at MSU. Enrolled students who decide they want to pursue advanced degrees have some interesting options here, as well: linked bachelor's-master's degrees in advertising and communication that take only three semesters more than a standard undergraduate program.
Murray State University took our list's top spot for affordability, charging students an average 2015 total of just over $7,600 for tuition and fees. It also had the highest admissions rate among our best colleges for communication and media degree programs, granting enrollment to more than 90 percent of applicants in 2015.
While there may not be any fully online degrees for communication and media students at Murray State, you're likely to be able to craft a comfortable hybrid program by tapping into a substantial list of individual online courses. You won't be alone in the virtual classroom, either -- just three other schools in our top ten reported a larger percentage of distance education enrollment than this Kentucky institution.
Communication and media students who prefer a close-knit educational environment might find what they're looking for at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. This campus location near the state's western border boasts a modest student body of around 5,500 undergraduates and sits just a half-hour away from the Twin Cities of neighboring Minnesota.
Communication and media degrees at UW-River Falls are divided into three distinct approaches to the discipline. Journalism majors concentrate on the communication of facts to mass audiences, while communication studies majors examine interpersonal and intercultural discourse and marketing communication majors learn how to precisely target their methods and messages to more effectively persuade various audiences.
Students on the hunt for online communication and media degrees would be well-served to include the downtown Phoenix location of Arizona State University in their search. Not only do nearly 60 percent of students at the downtown campus take at least some of their courses online, but the institution's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication offers a B.A. in mass communication and media studies that can be earned without ever setting foot in a traditional classroom.
ASU's downtown Phoenix campus also offers a few study plans that are somewhat uncommon among communication and media schools. Undergraduates can pursue a B.A. that focuses on sports journalism, and an available minor in media analysis can help you learn to better interpret and evaluate mass messaging.
The spending numbers on record for University of Northern Iowa suggest a firm commitment to investing in student success. Nearly two thirds of the Cedar Falls school's annual budget is earmarked for academic reinvestment, with 50 percent going to instructional expenses and an additional 13 set aside for academic support activities like counseling, advising and tutoring services.
A range of undergraduate majors can be found in the catalog of communication and media degree programs at UNI, including a marketing degree that focuses on advertising and digital media and an interdisciplinary major in interactive digital studies that breaks new ground in the study of the modern New Media environment. A specialized major in political communication is also offered, in conjunction with the school's department of political science.
This medium-sized school in Morgantown, West Virginia, took the last spot in our top ten in part on the strength of high marks in affordability. Its $7,632 average cost of tuition and fees in 2015 landed it the No. 2 spot in that category in a close contest. West Virginia University also put up impressive marks for flexibility, thanks to alternative tuition payment plans and placement services for alumni.
Communications students at WVU are treated to an undergraduate curriculum that features courses in theater, radio and animation production alongside study of journalism, copywriting and public relations. Those interested in a more interpersonal approach to communications can try the B.A. in communication studies, which has emphases in organizational communication and social media.
Communication And Media Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Communication and media degree programs are typically available at the two-year, four-year and graduate levels. Bachelor's degrees in the field can apply to several careers and tend to be common among entry-level communication and media professionals. Here's a quick description of programs at that level and a few of the jobs that they can lead to.
Career Outlook for Communication And Media Majors
The wide range of jobs in the communication and media field aren't all expected to grow at the same rate, and keeping your finger on the pulse of the career market can give you an idea of where you're best served to concentrate your energies while earning your degree. Here's a quick rundown of employment projections for communication and media careers.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Media and Communication Workers, All Other||$52,430||20,420||7.3%|
|Public Relations Specialists||$68,440||239,030||6.4%|
|Communications Teachers, Postsecondary||$78,090||29,100||5.2%|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Communication And Media
The widest range of financial aid opportunities for communication and media students tends to be available through individual schools, although some, like the $5,000 BMI Founders Award for Radio Broadcasting, may be open to nationwide candidates in specific fields or demographic groups. Here's a short list of aid options for students in communication and media degree programs.
Renewable if recipient has minimum 3.0 GPA after freshman year; 3.3 GPA thereafter.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 2017, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed January 29, 2018: Media Communications (BA), Webster University, http://www.webster.edu/catalog/current/undergraduate-catalog/majors/media-communications.html; Undergraduate Programs, School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon, http://journalism.uoregon.edu/academics/ugrad/; Graduate Programs, School of Journalism and Communication, http://journalism.uoregon.edu/academics/grad/ ; College of Media, Communication and Information, University of Colorado Boulder, https://www.colorado.edu/cmci/academics; Majors, Minors, Graduate Programs, Degrees & Departments, SUNY Plattsburgh, https://web.plattsburgh.edu/academics/programs.php#certificates; Schools and Centers, Scripps College of Communication, https://www.ohio.edu/scrippscollege/schoolsandcenters/index.cfm; Emphasis Areas, School of Media Arts & Studies, http://mediaschool.ohio.edu/major-sequences; Certificate in Social Media Studies, Ohio University, http://mediaschool.ohio.edu/scripps-college-of-communication-certificate-in-social-media-studies/; Applied Communication, Ohio University, https://www.ohio.edu/admissions/online/applied-communication.cfm; Undergraduate Degrees, MSU Communication Arts and Sciences, Michigan State University, https://comartsci.msu.edu/undergraduate; 4 Year Plan for Incoming Freshman, Journalism and Mass Communications, Murray State University, http://www.murraystate.edu/academics/CollegesDepartments/CollegeOfBusiness/Programs/JournalismAndMassCommunications/4yrplan.aspx; Programs, Online Learning, Murray State University, http://murraystate.edu/academics/regionalAcademicOutreach/distance-learning/programs.aspx; Fast Facts, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, https://www.uwrf.edu/AboutUs/FastFacts.cfm; Journalism, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, https://www.uwrf.edu/CMS/Journalism/Index.cfm; Marketing Communications, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, https://www.uwrf.edu/MARC/Index.cfm; Communication Studies Degree Requirements, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, https://www.uwrf.edu/CMS/CommunicationStudies/COMSProgram.cfm; Undergraduate All, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University, https://cronkite.asu.edu/degree-programs/undergraduate; Department of Communication Studies, University of Northern Iowa, https://catalog.uni.edu/collegeofhumanitiesartsandsciences/communicationstudies/#text; Communications and Media, University of Northern Iowa, https://majors.uni.edu/comm-media; Communications, West Virginia State University, http://www.wvstateu.edu/communications.aspx; B.A. in Communication Studies, West Virginia University, https://communicationstudies.wvu.edu/students/undergraduate-students;
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed January 25, 2018: Public Relations Specialists, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/public-relations-specialists.htm; Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/reporters-correspondents-and-broadcast-news-analysts.htm; Writers and Authors, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/writers-and-authors.htm; Editors, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/editors.htm;
- Professional organization pages, accessed January 25, 2018: Why You Should Join IABC, International Association of Business Communicators, https://www.iabc.com/membership/why-join/; Membership and Interest Groups, National Communication Association, https://www.natcom.org/about-nca/membership-and-interest-groups; Why Join PRSA, Public Relations Society of America, https://www.prsa.org/membership/why-join-prsa/;
- BMI Founders Award for Radio Broadcasting, BMI Foundation, accessed January 25, 2018, https://bmifoundation.org/programs/info/bmi_founders_award_for_radio_broadcasting