Digital technologies have upended everything we thought we knew about traditional communication (at least the kind practiced since Gutenberg). The ability to amplify a message instantly across multiple mediums has tremendous advantages — but comes with serious downsides as well. Do-overs are increasingly rare. Mistakes are costlier than ever. How do you say what you mean to say, and how do you ensure your audience understands?
Every organization is being forced to face these problems, and they’re doing so by hiring: advertising, marketing, and promotions manager roles are projected to increase 10% over the next decade; public relations specialist jobs are expected to grow by 23,000. In all, the media and communications industry will add over 43,000 jobs through 2026 with a median annual wage of $56k.
Colleges and universities have taken notice. Communications programs are on the rise, and online degrees have streamlined education for students in need of high-quality, affordable instruction. If you’re interested in a communications career but unable to commit to a full bachelor’s, an associate degree may be the right fit (and allows you to transfer into a bachelor’s program). For your convenience, we’ve ranked the ten most affordable online communications programs below. Keep reading to find the right degree for your needs!
1) Northeast Mississippi Community College
Northeast Mississippi Community College is a two-year public school serving certificate and associate programs for residents of Alcorn, Prentiss, Tippah, Tishomingo and Union Counties (AA and AAS). All degrees underscore career-driven, industry-tailored instruction, and classes are highly flexible and customizable to accommodate a variety of non-traditional students and adult learners. Online classes deliver through the Mississippi Virtual Community College and offer several tools, from group discussion boards to chat rooms and tech support. Nearly all students receive some form of financial aid, and the 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio promotes a vibrant, collaborative atmosphere and an intimate classroom experience.
Northeast Mississippi offers an affordable online associate’s in Marketing Communications and PR designed for students interested in pursuing manager-level roles in advertising, marketing, promotions, media, and more. Graduates of the program can transfer into the University of Mississippi’s bachelor’s in Business Administration. In addition to in-depth coursework, students are encouraged to complete an internship to gain hands-on experience in the field. Areas of study may include market research, marketing strategy, sales, advertising, promotion, pricing, product development, and public relations, among other business subjects.
Founded in 1951 as a subsidiary of the American Military University, American Public University is a leading online education center, with a total enrollment of more than 50,000 students, 60% of which are active duty or military veterans; 17,000 are enrolled through the GI Bill. All students receive some form of financial assistance, and the university’s 19:1 student-to-faculty ratio promotes a dynamic learning experience that combines tailored instruction, peer-to-peer education, and skill-building coursework and professional development.
American Public University’s affordable online associate’s in Communication prepares students to pursue careers in journalism, marketing and public relations, business management, public policy, or corporate training. Major coursework includes Information & Digital Literacy, Making Writing Relevant, Interpersonal Communications, Information Literacy and Global Citizenship, Human Relations, Public Speaking, and more. Embedded electives allow students to create a customized curriculum, and monthly start dates mean you can begin the program at your convenience. Upon completion of the degree, students will be able to: describe the basics of communications theory; articulate and apply interpersonal and intercultural communication practices; demonstrate an understanding of communication ethics, the dynamics of small group communication, and communication between genders.
Mesa Community College, founded in 1965, is the largest of the 10 community colleges in Maricopa County, with an enrollment of about 26,000. The average student age is 25, and 70% are enrolled part-time, highlighting Mesa Community’s emphasis on flexibility to accommodate working professionals, adult learners, and non-traditional students. The 19:1 student-to-faculty ratio fosters a tight-learning environment. 96% of MCC students say they would recommend MCC to a friend or family member; 98% of 2014-15 MCC graduates said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their instructors. Credit for life experiences, academic and career counseling, and on-campus day care for students’ children are also available.
Mesa Community’s online AAS in Business includes a Business Communication track for students interested in bookkeeping, business communication, management, marketing, real estate, international business, or project management. Major coursework includes Interpersonal Communication, Elements of Intercultural Communication, Project Management In Quality Organizations, Technical and Professional Writing, Society and Business, Business Communication, and more. All online courses are highly customizable, and elective options allow students to tailor the degree to areas of professional interest. Other business specializations include Management, Marketing, Management Information Systems, Web Technology, Small Business, Multimedia Technology, and more.
Founded in 1900, Rasmussen College offers associate’s degrees, applied associate’s, bachelor’s, certificates, and diplomas across 23 campuses and the school’s extensive online campus. Designed for adult learners, working professionals, and non-traditional students, all Rasmussen programs are highly flexible, including accelerated tracks and cost-saving opportunities such as flex paths, scholarships, discounts, and a generous transfer policy. With a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Rasmussen combines tailored instruction opportunities with a vibrant, collaborative educational community. Additional benefits include credit for life experiences, academic and career counseling, and military support services.
Rasmussen offers an affordable online associate’s in Marketing that blends traditional practices and concepts with skills for the modern digital economy (i.e., market research, public relations, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and product management). Major coursework includes Online Multimedia Marketing, Internet Business Models and E-Commerce, Public Relations and Advertising Strategies, Communicating in Your Profession, Computer Applications and Business Systems Concepts, Business Law, and more. From there, students can concentrate in either Digital Marketing or Sales Management, and elective options provide the track with a customizable component. Graduates of the program have gone on to careers in accounting, healthcare, finance, insurance, government, and retail and hospitality. The degree can be completed in as little as 18 moths.
Colorado Christian University, founded in 1914, has a total enrollment of about 8,200. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni named Colorado Christian one of just 20 schools to earn an “A” rating on its annual assessment (which it’s earned several years in a row), and as a member of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, CCU is ranked among the top universities in the country. The university’s online campus is designed to fit the needs of adult learners and working professionals, with flexible scheduling, self-paced classes, and transfer credit opportunities. Washington Monthly named CCU one of the “Best Four-Year Colleges for Adult Learners” by in 2016. With a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio, CCC combines collaborative learning with intimate, individualized instruction.
Colorado Christian offers an online associate’s degree in Communications that balances affordability with a theoretical and practical approach to the field, preparing students for careers in business, media, journalism, politics, or nonprofit work. Coursework includes Research Writing, Information Literacy, Effective Business Communication, Oral Communication, Introduction to Mass Communication, Communication and Technology, and Communication Law, among others. Electives allow students to tailor the associate’s program to areas of professional interest, new classes start every 5-7 weeks, and course blocks deliver in accelerated 5-week terms; most students complete the degree in two years or less. The track is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Founded in 1903, Waldorf University is a private liberal arts school with an enrollment of 2,000. Offering a range of certificate, associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs, Waldorf’s online offerings have expanded to to fit the scheduling needs of adult learners, working professionals, and non-traditional students. The 21:1 student-to-faculty ratio encourages a dynamic, collaborative learning community, and nearly all students receive some form of financial aid, which covers over 80% of tuition costs.
Waldorf offers an affordable online associate’s degree in Leadership Communication that’s built for both current and aspiring professionals in social media, public relations, communication strategies, public speaking, and related fields. Major requirements include Communication Skills for Leaders, General Psychology, and Attitudes and Persuasion. From there, students choose two electives to tailor the curriculum; available courses include Creative Thinking and Problem Solving, Graphic Core, Digital Core, Public Relations Skills, Crisis Management, and Speech Communications. For students who want to pursue further instruction, the associate track fulfills requirements for the Leadership Communication concentration for Waldorf’s bachelor’s in Organizational Leadership. Full-time students can complete the degree in as little as two years.
Raritan Valley Community College offers more than 150 online courses and a growing number of online programs, each of which include rigorous academics and expert instruction from RVCC’s faculty. Asynchronous 100% coursework allows students to complete classes on their own schedule, and provides maximum flexibility to accommodate a variety of working professionals, adult learners, and non-traditional students. 60% of RVCC students are enrolled on a part-time basis, and over half are over 21 years old. Additional benefits include credit for life experiences, dual credits, academic and career counseling, and on-campus day care for students’ children.
Raritan Valley’s online associate’s in Communication Studies is highly affordable and prepares students in careers or future studies in public speaking, communication, media production, and journalism. Major coursework includes Introduction to Mass Communication, Speech, Intercultural Communication, and more. Communication electives allow students to customize the degree to areas of professional interest, and co-op, internship, and service learning projects provide a hands-on component. Upon graduation, communication students will be prepared to: write effectively across media, organize and deliver effective oral presentations, understand the relationship between media and society, recognize where and how communication breaks down, and analyze visual communication media.
Founded in 1964, Harrisburg Area Community College has over 20,000 students, making it one of the largest two-year universities in the region. Harrisburg’s extensive online offerings feature over 50 unique programs designed to accommodate adult learners, working professionals, and non-traditional students with a variety of customized delivery methods, including accelerated degree paths. The 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio supports a combination of collaborative learning with intimate, personalized instruction, and nearly 80% of students receive some form of financial aid. Credit for life experiences, dual credits, academic and career counseling, and on-campus day care for students’ children are also available.
HACC offers three affordable online communications associate degrees in Human Communication, Journalism, and Public Relations. Major coursework includes Mass Media and Society, Theories of Communication, Intercultural Communication, and a Communication capstone. From there, students select their specialization, and electives are available to help shape a unique, customized curriculum. Upon completion of the program, students will be prepared to communicate effectively in diverse personal, professional, civic, and social relationships; express ideas orally and in written form; analyze issues in the history, theory, and criticism of human and mass communication; and transfer into a bachelor’s program in one of the three available specializations.
Central Penn College, founded in 1881, has a total enrollment of about 1,400 and ranks among the best colleges in the North region according to US News. With associate, bachelor’s, and master’s programs, Central Penn’s 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio fosters a tight-knit learning community that combines collaborative education with a tailored, personalized instruction approach to accommodate every student’s needs. Nearly 70% of classes have fewer than 20 students and none over 49. For those interested in financial aid opportunities, 83% of full-time undergrads receive some form of tuition assistance. Additional benefits include credit for life experiences, academic and career counseling services, and weekend and evening delivery.
Central Penn’s affordable online associate’s degree in Communications instructs students in foundational theories and a variety of skills to succeed in the modern workforce. Coursework includes Media Writing, Public Relation, Journalism, Survey of Mass Communication, Communications Ethics, Advertising, Communications Law, and more. Specifically students will focus on social media content production, editing and strategy, how to write press releases and other written communications, and industry standards for media copy and materials. In addition to built-in electives, students are required to complete an internship or capstone course to earn real-world experience and develop professional skills. Graduates of the program have gone on to careers in as copywriters, content producers, broadcasters, and more.
Founded in 1902, Franklin University is a private school designed for adult learners, working professionals, and non-traditional students, with a growing roster of online degree programs. The average student is in their mid-30s, and 90% of students transfer into a program using prior academic credits. All programs utilize maximum flexibility to fit students’ schedules, and multiple accelerated paths are available for students who want to fast-track their education. The 13:1 student-to-faculty supports a tight-knit educational setting and personalized instruction by expert faculty. Student support services include career development, academic advising, credit for life experiences, tech support, online tutoring, enrollment assistance, and more. About 40% of full-time undergrads receive some form of financial aid.
Franklin offers an affordable online associate’s degree in Communications that teaches students how to to create professional communications solutions through creative, strategic, and technical skills. Major coursework includes Interpersonal Communication, Marketing, Business & Professional Writing, Communication Ethics, Organizational Communication, and Communication in Groups and Teams. In particular, Franklin’s program emphasizes interpersonal, organizational, and media communications, and how communications professional can help business discover and utilize their voice. Graduates of the program have gone on to pursue careers as communications associates, marketing coordinators, public relations specialists, and copywriters, among other roles.