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Top 25 Smart Choice Schools for Online Communication and Public Relations Degrees

The emergence of multiple new media platforms like blogs, social networks, and mobile applications has created a more global and interconnected marketplace that demands people fluent in the latest communication technologies and PR techniques. That’s why we’ve put together our first ever Smart Choice ranking of top online schools for communication and public relations degree programs.

Featured Online Programs

How We Selected the Smart Choice Schools

Our Smart Choice online communication rankings are based on several factors. To begin with, only regionally accredited colleges and universities listed in the National Center for Education Statistics database and offering online bachelor’s or online master’s degrees in communication, public relations, or journalism were considered. Qualifying schools were then evaluated based on publicly available data related to market reputation, academic quality, student satisfaction, and cost. The resulting list represents the top twenty-five schools offering online communication degrees we could find, and a great place to begin your search for the online communications program that is right for you.

#1. University of Southern California

The University of Southern California (USC) is the oldest private research university in California. Founded in 1880, USC has grown along with the city of Los Angeles, its home, and in addition to the largest population of international students of any US university, boasts a robust online education program.

Program Information: USC offers an accredited online Master of Communication Management. This 32 credit hour program is designed for mid-career professionals with at least three years of work experience who want to take on management and administrative duties with an education from a top communications program. Students will be able to apply the knowledge the gain to their current jobs, and the higher positions made available because of a master’s degree, including problem-solving, critical thinking, and skills in writing and speaking.

Accreditation: USC is accredited by WASC, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

[Click here to request more information about this program from the University of Southern California]

#2. University of Florida

Founded in 1853, the University of Florida is a historic land-grant university located in Gainesville FL since 1906. UF was an early adopter of distance learning and their online programs have been acclaimed by The Economist and US News and World Report. It is one of only 17 public universities in the Association of American Universities, an association of the 61 top research universities.

Program Information: UF offers an accredited online Master of Arts in Mass Communication.This 37 credit hour program offers two possible areas of concentration: Web Design and Online Communication, or Global Strategic Communications. Both of these programs offer the knowledge, practice, and networking opportunities of a top communications program, with the convenience of all-online coursework, and can be completed in as little as 18 months.

Accreditation: University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The College of Journalism and Communication is also accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.

[Click here to request more information about this program from the University of Florida]

#3. University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

As the oldest public university in the United States, founded in 1795 in Chapel Hill, NC, the University of North Carolina has a reputation that speaks for itself. Consistently ranked among the top public research universities, with stellar athletics programs and legendary graduates and faculty, UNC has been acclaimed by The Princeton Review, The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg Businessweek, among others.

Program Information: UNC Online offers an accredited online Master of Arts in Technology & Communication. This rigorous, highly regarded program admits only 20 students per year, who work through coursework as a cohort in two and a half years. Students should have at least 3 years of professional experience, as well as strong GRE scores. By learning and practicing communications skills and theory students will be prepared to take on leadership roles in media, journalism, advertising, and PR.

Accreditation: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

#4. The George Washington University

George Washington University was founded in 1821 by an act of congress as a college for the District of Columbia. Today it is a private, non-denominational, co-ed university located in the heart of Washington DC, mere blocks from the White House and the National Mall. Its association with Freemasonry is reflected in the architecture and design of the campus, as well as the $1 million gift from the The Supreme Council of Scottish Rite Freemasonry Southern Jurisdiction that founded the Business School.

Program Information: George Washington University offers an accredited online Master of Strategic Public Relations. This 33 credit-hour program combines flexible scheduling with the wealth of public relations expertise in the Washington DC area, providing students with a top communications education emphasizing media theory, ethics and law, and management skills.

Accreditation: George Washington University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

[Click here to request more information about this program from The George Washington University]

#5. University of Missouri

The University of Missouri – informally called Mizzou – is the largest public university in Missouri and the most significant of three campuses in the University of Missouri system. Founded in 1839, Mizzou was the first public university west of the Mississippi River, and holds the distinction of being the first university to celebrate Homecoming. Ranked in the top 100 national universities by US News and World Report, Mizzou has enlarged its scope with its online degree programs.

Program Information: Mizzou Online offers an accredited online Masters in Journalism. This 37 credit-hour program offers specializations in either strategic communications or media management, and includes a one credit, weekend course in Columbia, Missouri. Strategic communications specialists will develop skills for professions in advertising, which media management will prepare students to take on managerial roles in journalism. Students generally complete the degree in three years.

Accreditation: University of Missouri is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

#6. Quinnipiac University

Quinnipiac University was founded in 1929 in New Haven, CT; today it is located in Hamden. Originally a small commuter school, Quinnipiac University has grown in the last twenty years into a highly respected private university, ranked at the top of its category by US News and World Report. It is also known for the Quinnipiac Polling Center, a source of public opinion frequently cited by major news outlets.

Program Information: Quinnipiac offers an accredited online Master of Science degree in Interactive Media. This 36 credit-hour program provides students with an understanding of how to create and manage content for the Internet and other digital media platforms. Full-time students may finish in two and a half years, and may be eligible for an optional three-credit internship.

Accreditation: Quinnipiac University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

[Click here to request more information about this program from Quinnipiac University]

#7. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1876, JHU has been at the forefront of scientific and medical research for much of its history and commands a reputation as one of the finest universities in the world.

Program Information: JHU offers an accredited online Master of Art degree in Communications. This 30 credit-hour program gives students the same stellar education as JHU’s campus-based programs with the flexibility of an all-online course delivery. Students will develop and practice skills in media theory, persuasion, and research in the contemporary digital media environment.

Accreditation: Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#8. Arizona State University

Founded in 1885, Arizona State University, is one institution spread over four campuses around the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. Recent advances in quality have led to ASU’s reputation as an up-and-coming university, and its large and growing online division (ASU Online) has garnered numerous awards and rankings for its top quality online degree programs.

Program Information: ASU offers an accredited online Bachelor of Science in Communication and an online Bachelor of Science in Technical Communication. Both of these are full 120 credit-hour bachelor programs. The BS Communication helps students develop communication and facilitation skills that will be useful in professional, civil, and community settings; the BS Technical Communication focuses on communications using contemporary technology, including collaboration, digital publishing, and legal issues.

Accreditation: Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association.

[Click here to request more information about this program from Arizona State University]

#9. Ball State University

Ball State University is a public university in Muncie, Indiana. Founded in 1899 as a normal school for training public school teachers, the Ball brothers (of Ball jar fame) bought the property to save it from foreclosure and made a gift of the school to the state of Indiana. Over time the unofficial nickname “Ball State” was adopted as the official name. Today Ball State is classified as a Research University and continues to grow, with over 20,000 students.

Program Information: Ball State offers an accredited online Master of Arts in Public Relations. This 33-36 credit-hour program will prepare students for management positions in public relations, providing the equivalent of three years of experience. Working professionals benefit from the online course delivery, and Ball State’s program is the only online MA in Public Relations certified by the Public Relations Society of America.

Accreditation: Ball State is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

#10. Kent State University

Kent State University is a public research university located in Kent, OH. Founded in 1910 to educate public school teachers, Kent State is today one of the largest universities in Ohio, with eight campuses. Unfortunately remembered for the infamous Kent State shootings in 1970, Kent State has turned this tragedy, and its reputation for radical activism, into the foundation for a better university, offering standard-setting degree programs in Peace and Conflict resolution and fostering a mission of peace and cooperation.

Program Information: Kent State offers an accredited online MA in Journalism and Mass Communication.This fully online degree program offers students advanced education and experience in the principles of mass communication with specialization in public relations, practicing the use of social media, large-scale media campaigns, branding, and management.

Accreditation: Kent State University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association. The School of Journalism and Mass Communication is also accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.

[Click here to request more information about this program from Kent State University]

#11. Gonzaga University

Gonzaga University is a private Roman Catholic university, founded by the Society of Jesus, located in Spokane, WA. Originally intended to educate local Native Americans in the Catholic faith, Gonzaga has since grown into a respected university, consistently ranked in US News and World Report’s list of top universities for more than 15 years. Though the university has grown beyond its original bounds, it retains its focus on its core liberal arts curriculum, and boasts such notable alumni as poet Sherman Alexie and singer Bing Crosby.

Program Information: Gonzaga offers an accredited online Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership Studies. This unique, innovative program combines communications theory with leadership skills to prepare students for leadership positions in modern organizations and social systems. Gonzaga’s program combines scientific and humanistic theory and methodology with an emphasis on ethics, problem-solving, and communication.

Accreditation: Gonzaga University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

#12. University of the Incarnate Word

A private Catholic university located in San Antonio, Texas, The University of the Incarnate Word was founded in 1881 by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. With campus extensions in China and Mexico, 93 sister schools throughout the world, and an unparalleled study-abroad program, UIW, the largest Catholic university in the state of Texas, has maintained a commitment to its mission.

Program Information: University of the Incarnate Word offers an accredited online Master of Arts Administration in Communication Arts. In this 39 credit-hour program students will learn not only the knowledge and theory of communication, but also the skills necessary to work as ethical, competent administrators in professional settings.

Accreditation: University of the Incarnate Word is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

#13. University of Memphis

The University of Memphis is a public research university in Memphis, Tennessee, part of the Tennessee Board of Regents system. Founded in 1912 as West Tennessee State Normal School, University of Memphis is committed to becoming one of the leading metropolitan research universities in the nation.

Program Information: University of Memphis offers an accredited online Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations. This full 120 credit-hour bachelor’s program can be completed entirely online, with a mixture of in-person and online courses, or by transferring credits from approved schools and completing the online program. Students will be prepared to use communication skills in professional, business, and academic contexts in preparation for employment or graduate schooling.

Accreditation: The University of Memphis is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

#14. Full Sail University

Originally founded as an audio recording trade school in Dayton, Ohio, in 1979, Full Sail University moved to Winter Park, Florida in 1980 and began expanding. Today Full Sail is a private, for-profit trade school owned by TA Associates, and is one of the most highly regarded entertainment and media-focused universities in the world.

Program Information: Full Sail University offers an accredited Master of Arts degree in New Media Journalism. This 12-month graduate program provides students with a grounding in using social networking, mobile communications, and interactive media, placing students on the path to success in the growing world of online media. Students will learn self-branding and client list-building skills as well, helping them to build their own businesses.

Accreditation: Full Sail is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.

#15. University of Minnesota, Crookston

The University of Minnesota, Crookston, is one of five campuses of the University of Minnesota system. While small (its motto is “Small Campus. Big Degree”), UM Crookston has been a leader in technology in education, as the first university to issue laptops to all of its students (in 1993) and continues to lead with its top online education programs.

Program Information: University of Minnesota, Crookston offers an accredited Bachelor of Science in Communication. This full 120 credit-hour bachelor’s degree prepares students for communication in many professional and corporate settings, from human resources to management. Student will develop and practice communication theory, publication, design, and event management.

Accreditation: University of Minnesota, Crookston is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

#16. Drexel University

Drexel University is a private research university in Philadelphia PA. Founded in 1891 by financier and philanthropist Anthony J. Drexel, Drexel’s cooperative education program may be the best in the nation. Drexel students follow a unique 5-year track, including 18 months of real corporate internship experience; thus an exceptional degree of experience and a wide network of business contacts upon graduation.

Program Information:Drexel University offers a number of accredited online Communications degrees: a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications, with a concentration in Corporate Communications and Public Relations; a Bachelor of Science in Communications and Applied Technology, a multi-disciplinary degree merging communications, business, and web technology; and a Master of Science in Communication with a concentration in Public Relations. With Drexel’s well-known business contacts, Drexel’s communications degrees provide students with the knowledge and experience they need to succeed in the professional, business, and corporate worlds.

Accreditation: Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

#17. Bay Path College

Bay Path College is a private women’s undergraduate college; graduate degree programs are coeducational. Founded in 1897 in Springfield, Massachusetts as a coeducational college, Bay Path took the unusual route in 1945 of becoming a single-gender college. Located in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, a suburb of Springfield, Bay Path is part of the 8-college Cooperating Colleges of Greater Springfield consortium.

Program Information: Bay Path offers an accredited online Master of Science degree in Communications & Information Management. The degree is offered as an alternative to an MBA and is designed to augment the student’s existing management skills and prepare them to lead projects and people across multiple disciplines and organizational sectors. Students will learn how to increase the productivity of managers and coworkers through information processes, plan the integration of information and communication technologies, develop strategies for communication or information policies, as well as basic data, project, and people management.

Accreditation: Bay Path College is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

#18. Lasell College

Lasell College is a non-denominational private college in Newton, Massachusetts. Founded in 1851 as a women’s seminary, Lasell began offering two-year degrees in 1852, giving it claim to being the first successful junior college in the United States. After becoming a four-year college in 1989, and admitting men in 1997, Lasell ranks highly by US News and World Report as a top ten best value and a top 25 best regional college.

Program Information: Lasell College offers an accredited online Master of Science in Communication. This 36 credit-hour program offers three possible concentrations: Health Communications, Integrated Marketing Communications, and Public Relations. Each of these concentrations provides students with field-specific professional knowledge and experience to succeed and take on leadership positions.

Accreditation: Lasell College is accredited by The New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

#19. Southern New Hampshire University

Founded in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University is a private university with campuses in Manchester and Hooksett, New Hampshire. Originally an accounting school, SNHU was chartered by the state of New Hampshire as a non-profit institution. SNHU, with its acclaimed business school, is ranked highly by US News and World Report as
a regional university.

Program Information: SNHU offers an accredited online Bachelor of Arts in Communications. This degree program prepares students for careers in media and communications, with courses in public relations, social media, publishing, and other basics of contemporary communications technology. Students may choose further concentrations in Professional Writing or Public Relations.

Accreditation:Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

#20. Ottawa University

Ottawa University is a private, non-profit liberal arts university located in Ottowa, Kansas and affiliated with the American Baptist Church. Originally founded in 1865 to provide education for the dislocated Ottowa Indians, Ottowa University still offers tuition-free undergraduate education for members of the Ottowa Tribe. This small university also has adult education campuses in several locations in Kansas.

Program Information: Ottawa University offers an accredited Bachelor of Arts in Communication. This bachelor’s degree teaches students analysis, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills necessary for effective communication in a variety of contexts, as well as preparing students to make use of personal communication insights in fostering professional relationships in diverse cultural, social, and political contexts.

Accreditation: Ottawa University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, a Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

#21. Franklin University

Franklin University operates five locations throughout Ohio and Indiana, beginning in Columbus, Ohio, sponsored by the YMCA in 1902. Franklin became a university in 1933 and today offers a wide range of online educations options. One of the first 15 colleges to be granted the right to unlimited distance education by the US Department of Education, Franklin’s online program is so trusted that the US Army chose Franklin as one of the first institutions to provide distance education for soldiers.

Program Information: Franklin University offers accredited online Bachelor of Science degrees in Communications and in Public Relations. These full 124 credit-hour degree programs prepare students for careers in communication and public relations by providing instruction in speaking and writing skills, ethics, collaboration, and media, as well as networking opportunities.

Accreditation: Franklin University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

#22. Walden University

Walden University was founded in 1970 as an experiment, originally proposed in a paper by Harold Hodgkinson, to provide working adults an opportunity to complete their higher degrees while also working toward positive social change. Eventually moving from Florida to Minnesota, Walden was accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and grew into a unique and acclaimed online university.

Program Information: Walden University offers an accredited online Bachelor of Science in Communication. Students can choose concentrations in Marketing Communications, New Media, Organizational Communications, or Public Relations. Walden’s communications BS prepares students for success in the corporate,
nonprofit, or public sectors by developing communication skills in speaking, writing, and online/interactive media.

Accreditation: Walden University is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

#23. Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University is a private, for-profit Christian university located in Phoenix, AZ. Originally founded by Arizona Southern Baptists in 1949, as a school that would provide Baptist education to students in Arizona, financial difficulties led to its sale in 2004 to Significant Education, LLC, making it the first for-profit Christian university in the nation. Since its switch to for-profit education, Grand Canyon has expanded its reach and improved its reputation, leading to acclaim from Forbes magazine.

Program Information: Grand Canyon University offers an accredited online Bachelor of Arts in Communications. This bachelor’s degree prepares students for careers in business, marketing, politics, and other fields in which communication is a value. Students may choose concentrations in Digital Film Production, Graphic Design/Animation, or Public Relations.

Accreditation: Grand Canyon is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

#24. Bellevue University

Bellevue University is a private university located in Bellevue, Nebraska located near Offutt Air Force Base, Bellevue was founded in 1965 to provide an educational option for students, especially servicemen and women, who could not travel to the University of Omaha from the growing Bellevue. This commitment to convenient, high-quality education led Bellevue to establish a well-regarded online education program.

Program Information: Bellevue University offers an accredited online Master of Arts degree in Managerial Communication. This master’s degree prepares students for managerial positions in business with a 24 credit-hour core curriculum and a 12 credit concentration in Business, Computer Information Systems, Executive
Coaching, or Human Resources Management.

Accreditation: Bellevue University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

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