By earning an online associate degree in communications, students not only develop clear and effective writing and speaking skills, they also learn to apply these skills to careers in broadcasting, journalism, marketing, and public relations. To enhance their job opportunities, many associate students go on to pursue their bachelor's or even master's degrees. Some, however, immediately enter into the workforce as broadcast technicians, PR assistants, proofreaders, and technical writers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects strong growth in the communications field, including an 11% uptick in jobs for technical writers between 2016 and 2026. Whatever your academic and professional goals, an online associate degree in communications can propel you in the right direction.
What are the best communications programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||Colorado Christian University||Lakewood, CO|
|2||South Texas College||McAllen, TX|
|3||Finger Lakes Community College||Canandaigua, NY|
|4||Chippewa Valley Technical College||Eau Claire, WI|
|5||Georgia Military College||Milledgeville, GA|
|6||Sinclair Community College||Dayton, OH|
|7||Monroe Community College||Rochester, NY|
|8||Saint Paul College||Saint Paul, MN|
|9||Northampton Community College||Bethlehem, PA|
|10||Lone Star College||The Woodlands, TX|
2020 Best Accredited Online Associate in Communications Programs
Colorado Christian University
|Lakewood, CO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
Based in Lakewood, CCU stands out for its affordable tuition and 16-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. The school's reputation for affordability and personalized learning extends to its online programs, which include an associate in communications.
The 60-credit online associate of arts in communication studies typically takes under two years to complete at an accelerated pace. Course topics for the major include communication and technology, communication law, and professional public speaking. Learners must also take an advanced seminar in biblical studies, helping learners integrate an evangelical worldview with the legal and ethical aspects of the communication field.
The major's 18 credits of core requirements articulate with CCU's online certificate in communication studies. CCU holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
South Texas College
|McAllen, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 22%||
A public community college that serves approximately 31,000 students in the Rio Grande Valley region, South Texas College maintains its commitment to practical, affordable programs. The school's catalog currently features an online associate degree in communications.
The 60-credit online associate of arts in communication studies takes two years to complete and prepares learners for work in public relations. Course topics taken for the major include business and personal communication, discussion in small groups, and public speaking. The program culminates with an academic cooperative project integrating real-world work experience.
Many courses from the associate in communication studies articulate with the school's related associate degree in advertising and public relations. South Texas College holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Finger Lakes Community College
|Canandaigua, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 31%||
A public institution based in Canandaigua, New York, FLCC maintains seven regional campuses and a close affiliation with the State University of New York. Established in 1965, FLCC suits nontraditional learners on a budget. For the class of 2017, the school reports that 90% of graduates obtained full-time employment or continued their studies full time.
The school delivers its 64-credit associate of science in communications in a partly-online hybrid format. Most students complete the program in two years. Course topics include public speaking, video production, and introduction to mass communication. The curriculum allows learners to pursue specializations in digital video and communications. The program also offers a variety of professional internship opportunities to entry level learners.
Learners must maintain a 2.0 minimum GPA to graduate. FLCC holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Chippewa Valley Technical College
|Eau Claire, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 46%||
A bedrock of the Wisconsin Technical College System, with campuses throughout the state, CVTC furthers its commitment to helping nontraditional students through its online programs, including an online associate degree in communications.
The 60-credit associate of science in professional communications incorporates a strong writing component. The curriculum prepares learners for a career as a journalist, technical writer, or copywriter, with course topics encompassing writing for social media, grant writing, and technical writing. Credits earned for the associate in communication at CVTC articulate with several related graduate certificates in social media writing, grant writing, and technical writing.
The school gives applicants the option to apply for prior learning assessment for credit. CVTC holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Georgia Military College
|Milledgeville, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 24%||
Recognized as one of the most rigorous community colleges in the nation, GMC's strong reputation applies to its online programs. The public institution offers an affordable liberal arts-based education with a mission centered around building character.
The online associate degree in communications consists of 90-100 quarter credits and takes two years to complete. The curriculum primarily provides learners with a foundation for further undergraduate study in liberal arts topics. Course topics for the concentration include interpersonal communication, introduction to communication theory, and public speaking.
GMC's core requirements articulate with many four-year institutions nationwide, giving graduates plentiful transfer options not limited to regional schools. GMC holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Sinclair Community College
|Dayton, OH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 27%||
Established in 1887 in Dayton, Ohio, Sinclair continues to rank as one of the best community colleges in its home state and offers a range of affordable online programs. The school offers an online associate degree in communications geared toward transfer students.
The 62-credit associate of arts in communication studies usually takes two years to complete and prepares graduates to transfer to a variety of regional colleges through the Ohio Transfer Module. Coursework includes an introduction to software applications, mass communication, and small group communication. The program culminates with completion of either a communication studies capstone project or a supervised independent study seminar.
Online students access asynchronously-formatted coursework through the eLearn learning management system. Sinclair holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Monroe Community College
|Rochester, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 23%||
Based in Rochester, New York, MCC offers affordable higher education options for transfer students in the State University of New York system. MCC's catalog features numerous online programs, including an online associate degree in communications.
The 60-credit associate of science in communication and media studies takes two years to complete, preparing graduates for work in settings such as performing arts, media, and advertising. The program offers three tracks: public relations, speech, and journalism. The main coursework for the major covers topics such as interpersonal speech communication, small group communication, and media literacy.
Graduates leave the program able to evaluate the impact of mass media on communication in modern society. MCC holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Saint Paul College
|Saint Paul, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 29%||
Serving about 13,000 students in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, SPC also enrolls many degree-seekers in fully online or hybrid courses. Preparing ambitious students for high-demand careers, SPC takes pride in its emphasis on values such as respect, integrity, and excellence.
The 60-credit online associate degree in communications and media studies takes two years to complete, and prepares graduates to transfer into a bachelor's program in communication studies at a Minnesota school. Coursework for the concentration includes gender communication, family communication, and special topics in English. Graduates leave the program with a skillset applicable to work in journalism, media relations, and sales.
Applicants must present a 2.0 minimum GPA for consideration for admission. SPC holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Northampton Community College
|Bethlehem, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 21%||
Founded in 1967 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, NCC maintains campuses throughout the state. The school's affordable online offerings include an online associate degree in communications.
The 60-credit associate of arts in communication studies generally takes two years to complete and prepares graduates for transfer to a four-year college. Aside from general education requirements, coursework includes intercultural communication, communication theory, and mass media and society. The program allows learners to customize their degree by choosing a specialization such as mass communications, communication technology, or performing arts.
Online learners access primarily asynchronous coursework through the Blackboard learning portal. NCC holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Lone Star College
|The Woodlands, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 18%||
Established in 1972, LSC boasts a strong reputation in Houston, Texas, and supports civic responsibility and serving 90,000 students at its campuses statewide. The public community college also offers fully online programs, such as an associate in communications.
The 60-credit associate of arts degree in visual communication takes two years to complete. Coursework encompasses digital imaging, typography, and web design. The program culminates with either a portfolio development project or a real-world cooperative education project in commercial and advertising art. LSC students may apply up to 48 credits earned towards its graphic design level II certificate to the associate in communications degree.
LSC holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Associate in Communications Program?
Academic programs at the associate level cover the fundamental topics and skills needed to land many entry-level positions in the field. However, other curricular and professional development components vary based on the orientation of the department and faculty expertise.
Curriculum for an Online Associate in Communications
Beyond certain required topics, advanced classes differ depending on specific program goals. You may find that one program offers electives and another requires an internship or a capstone experience. Research thoroughly and ask questions of admission counselors to identify the school that best aligns with your interests, career plans, and schedule. The list below details five sample courses that are commonly found in online associate degree in communications programs.
- Information Literacy: As information becomes more readily available, using it effectively and ethically is more and more important. This course teaches students how to gather, interpret, and synthesize information and analyze its effects on our politics and culture.
- Communication Theory: In this course, students explore interpersonal communication theories, including ideas of "self" and the effect of communication on public consciousness. The class also explores relationship building, diversity, and theoretical applications.
- Critical Thinking and Argumentation: In this class, students learn to apply communication theory to problem solving and persuasive reasoning. Programs typically emphasize either oral communication or written communication -- the latter is geared toward analysis, presentation, and rebuttal.
- Mass Communication: This course takes students through the history of media, such as the press, television, film, and the internet. Students also learn the fundamentals of media theory, its applications in advertising and public relations, and related ethical challenges.
- Research Writing: An integral communication course for all professionals, this course teaches students how to conduct academic and professional research using reputable sources. Students then synthesize that information in written form. Additional topics include publication, editing, peer review, and research funding.
How Long Does it Take to get an Online Associate in Communications?
Online associate degrees in communications usually take two years to complete, requiring at least 60 credits. Beyond these requirements, specific program structures may affect how long it takes to earn your degree. Instructors typically deliver coursework asynchronously, and most programs enable you to take as many or as few courses as you like each semester through individually paced learning. Some programs, however, offer or require cohort learning, where you progress through classes with the same small group of peers -- sometimes taking one class at a time. This model emphasizes collaboration and benefits distance learners who want to maintain a full-time job, but it usually takes more time.
Internship and capstone requirements also affect the graduation date. Some schools, especially community colleges, offer baccalaureate pathways that let you transition into a four-year program after completing general education and prerequisite coursework. If you hope to expedite the time it takes to earn a degree, look for online associate degree in communications programs that provide accelerated classes year-round, including summer sessions.
Accreditation for Online Associate in Communications Degrees
For colleges and universities to confer valid degrees, they must obtain and maintain accreditation at either the national or regional levels. Organizations with authority from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) grant national accreditation, which reflects a school's adherence to governmental academic standards as well as those defined by CHEA. In return, the school's enjoy the support and resources of both organizations, including federal funding through the ED.
Schools receive regional accreditation from the regional accreditor for their section of the country. Overseen by CHEA, these institutions ensure that colleges and universities adhere with their standards. Employers tend to value regional accreditation more highly because they work with local and state authorities more often. Online associate degree in communications programs also earn the backing of professional organizations like the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.
As a government body, the ED ensures that schools work with the federal government to maximize pedagogical and testing outcomes. Without regional or national accreditation, schools lack access to government financial aid and other crucial resources. For more information, visit the ED's and CHEA's websites.
What Can I Do With an Associate in Communications Degree?
Obtaining an online associate degree in communications enables you to pursue careers in writing, journalism, and subfields related to business and the media. Communication specialists display time- and detail-oriented characteristics. They also possess exceptional critical thinking, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. The list below details five popular communication careers.
- Technical Writer
Technical writers create articles, manuals, and how-to guides focused on complex business and technical topics. They work as freelancers or for businesses collecting and disseminating information. Though many enter the field with an associate degree, other technical writers hold a bachelor's and specialize in a particular industry, such as computer networking or industrial production.
Median Annual Salary: $69,850
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- Broadcast Technician
These communication professionals work for television channels/shows, film companies, or at a particular venue like a recording studio or stadium. They help create media products through various tasks, from drafting and proofreading to operating lighting and sound equipment. You can become a broadcast technician with an associate degree in communications and learn more advanced skills on the job.
Median Annual Salary: $42,550
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
- Public Relations Specialist
Public relations specialists cultivate and maintain a favorable public image for their client, creating campaigns to increase awareness of a company's services or products. They also work for individuals such as celebrities and politicians. Most PR specialists hold a bachelor's degree or higher.
Median Annual Salary: $58,020
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
- Marketing Manager
These communicators work in advertising and promotions, generating public or private buyer interest for a business or organization. They lead teams through the process of creating, implementing, and evaluating social media campaigns and other marketing projects. As one of the top professionals in their field, marketing directors must earn at least a baccalaureate degree (and usually a master's) and possess years of experience.
Median Annual Salary: $131,180
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Human Resources Manager
These professionals maintain the interpersonal functions of an organization, serving as the link between the company and its employees. They recruit and train staff, develop business plans, and handle HR issues like sexual harassment cases or an employee's benefit plan.
Median Annual Salary: $106,910
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
While you can work certain jobs with an associate degree in communication, the majority of related careers require at least a bachelor's. Obtaining baccalaureate credentials not only widens your potential opportunities, but also enables you to advance beyond entry-level positions and earn a higher salary. For example, marketing professionals who start out as marketing coordinators can become specialists, improving their pay by more than $5,000 per year.
- Bachelor of Arts/Science in Mass Communications: Drawing on core topics from associate programs, this bachelor's degree teaches students to apply communication theories to a variety of media, such as broadcasting, print journalism, and advertising. Students usually select a specialization.
- Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing: This concentrated BBA provides students with training in advanced topics like pricing theory, buyer behavior, and importing/exporting. Students also develop leadership skills that empower them to manage teams and create effective marketing campaigns.
- Bachelor of Arts in Journalism: In addition to cultivating research, writing, editing, and digital communication skills, journalism students study the ethics and laws at work in the field, including their First Amendment rights.
- Bachelor of Arts/Science in Human Resource Management: This bachelor's tackles advanced topics like recruiting, training, and employee incentivization. Students learn to develop organizational strategies and conduct research that identifies and resolves complex HR challenges at the management level.
- Bachelor of Arts/Science in Digital Media: This degree teaches students to create virtual communication products using visual, audio, and written design elements. Digital media emphasizes computer skills, and students complete coursework in Adobe, Apple, and other design software.
Employment Outlook for Associate in Communications Graduates
Associate in Communications Salary
Most communication careers require at least a bachelor's, though some -- such as copywriting, editing, and broadcast production -- allow entrance at the entry level with an associate degree. However, additional academic training and certification typically leads to higher salaries. The table below details five careers and their pay ranges over a professional's lifetime.
|Job Title||Overall Median Salary||Median Salary for Entry-Level||Median Salary for Mid-Career||State|
|Social Media Strategist||$51,054||$47,911||$62,933||$78,787|
|Advertising Broadcast Producer||$65,875||$59,359||$71,503||$83,970|
|Corporate Communications Manager||$77,166||$65,122||$78,574||$87,364|
Networking and project funding serve as crucial tools for the success of professionals in any field. Associate degree in communications students should consider joining an organization that provides its members with these kinds of resources. Though most memberships come with an annual fee, the pay-off can be invaluable. In addition to research, award, conference, and leadership opportunities, some professional organizations also offer a wealth of professional development services such as skill-specific webinars facilitated by the Public Relations Society of America.
- Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications: With more than 113 partner institutions, the ACEJMC serves as the primary professional accreditation organization in communications. Members enjoy social opportunities and access to the council's enormous library of research and strategic plans.
- Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals: Founded in 1995, the AMCP recognizes and supports excellence in marketing and communication. The association also provides members with access to work opportunities through its business partners.
- National Communication Association: Dedicated to advancing the field through research, inquiry, and public advocacy, the NCA also holds conferences and provides students with opportunities to join honor societies and engage in academic discourse and research.
- Public Relations Society of America: The PRSA is the largest community of public relations and communication professionals in the U.S. Members can access benefits such as research sponsorship and scholarships, professional development training, and a resource library.
- The Association for Women in Communications: With a mission to empower female communication professionals, the AWC boasts over 1,100 members and offers up-to-date research, conferencing, networking events, financial support, and a job board.
Financing Your Online Associate in Communications Program
When researching prospective online associate degree in communications programs, look at both the price and funding and consider how a program matches your personal interests and future goals. Doing the proper financial legwork enables you to greatly minimize student loan debts, and you might even end up earning a degree that costs you nothing. The Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) provides a convenient way to sign up for multiple scholarships and grants at the same time. You should also look into awards offered by community programs and private organizations like ACES: The Society of Editing.
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