Best Communication and Media colleges in the U.S.

Written by Matt Cates
Expert review by Tien Rooney

Communication and media studies encompass a wide range of multimedia platforms such as broadcast journalism, movie production, scriptwriting, and more. Professionals in the field can fill roles in advertising and content production and are essential to the creation of media in both print and written form. 

Communication and media studies majors typically need a Bachelor of Arts in Communication to apply to entry-level jobs after graduation, though many pursue a master’s program with a specialty such as journalism or mass media studies to further their understanding of the subject matter and be competitive in the job market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that opportunities in this field will grow by 14 percent in the next decade, so future graduates can anticipate a healthy job outlook once they complete their degrees and clinical experience. 

Whether you're interested in how movies or shows are made, or if you enjoy telling a compelling story, communication and media studies could be the right degree for you. 

 

Best Communication and Media colleges in the U.S. for 2023

Boston University
Boston, MA

Founded in 1839, Boston University is a private research school with a vibrant 140-acre campus and one of the largest student housing systems in America. Its prestigious College of Communication launched the “world’s first degree in public relations” and features an accomplished faculty including best-selling authors and Pulitzer prize winners. There’s something here for everyone, with undergraduate major options in advertising, film & television, journalism, media science, and PR, plus 11 diverse master’s options and a PhD in Emerging Media Studies.

Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY

When you become a member of the Syracuse Orange community, you’ll find yourself in a smaller city filled with New York-style opportunities to commune, communicate, and accumulate line items for your perfectly fine-tuned resume. Communication is not only huge at Syracuse University; it’s renowned. Why? Students at all levels are encouraged to engage on all levels and take their skills outside of the classroom, whether you’re at the pub on M Street, studying abroad in Dubai, or networking through Lambda Pi Eta, the nation’s official honor society for communication students. Communication-related majors take second place for the most popular fields of study at Syracuse U, representing 13 percent of 2013’s graduating class. All of the various communication programs at Syracuse are split into three places: the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the famous S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and the College of Arts and Sciences. With a cross-campus spread like that, Syracuse covers communication all the way from A to Z.

Savannah College of Art and Design was founded specifically to offer degrees in majors that weren’t accessible to local students in Georgia. Touted as the “University for Creative Careers,” SCAD now has 40 programs spread across 11 creative schools such as the School of Fine Arts, School of Liberal Arts, and School of Visual Communication. Students can choose from over 100 programs, including several related to communications in some form or fashion. There are also plenty of online options through SCADnow, such as the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing.

Who would have thought that the world's first School of Journalism was founded in the Heart of America? Walter Williams established the school in the quiet little town of Columbia, Mo., in 1908. He also established the Missouri Press Association in 1867. Both have played big roles in the world of newspapers as we know it. Graduates go on to earn national and international awards for their work in Journalism. In fact, several Missouri graduates have gone on to win Pulitzer Prizes and Silver Anvils. Media is evolving. Missouri's School of Journalism is up for the challenge. The school focuses on innovationthrough multi-media labs, entrepreneurship courses, and internships. Students are encouraged to pick up new tools including social media to embrace an ever changing industry. They gain real-life experience through the school’s nine multi-media news operations, including television, newspaper and online publications and two advertising and public relations agencies. Now that's hands on experience.

Full Sail University
Winter Park, FL

Winter Park, Florida is home to the 200-acre Full Sail University campus, just a few miles from sunny Orlando. Featuring several sound and film facilities, Full Sail is known for its focus on media, arts, entertainment, video game design, and animation. Many programs are accelerated, allowing students to finish an on-campus bachelor’s in 20 months or online in 29 months, so they can start working sooner. Programs include a BFA in Creative Writing BFA, a Bachelor’s in Media Communications, a Master’s in New Media Journalism, and much more! 

 

The University of Texas at Austin offers 9 Communication and Media degree programs. It's a very large, public, four-year university in a large city. In 2020, 750 Communication and Media students graduated with students earning 708 Bachelor's degrees, 28 Master's degrees, and 14 Doctoral degrees.

American University
Washington, DC

American University offers 10 Communication and Media degree programs. It's a large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large city. In 2020, 331 Communication and Media students graduated with students earning 199 Bachelor's degrees, 126 Master's degrees, 5 Doctoral degrees, and 1 Certificate.

University of Southern California offers 13 Communication and Media degree programs. It's a very large, private not-for-profit, four-year university in a large city. In 2020, 630 Communication and Media students graduated with students earning 442 Master's degrees, 183 Bachelor's degrees, and 5 Certificates.

Image by @killi_s

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign offers 7 Communication and Media degree programs. It's a very large, public, four-year university in a small city. In 2020, 402 Communication and Media students graduated with students earning 378 Bachelor's degrees, 17 Doctoral degrees, and 7 Master's degrees.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers 9 Communication and Media degree programs. It's a very large, public, four-year university in a small city. In 2020, 481 Communication and Media students graduated with students earning 437 Bachelor's degrees, 39 Master's degrees, and 5 Doctoral degrees.

What is Communication and Media?

Where would society be without communications? Communications is a vital area of study which can propel students into a wide range of exciting career choices. From broadcast technicians to PR specialists, reporters, writers, and more, job prospects are solid across the board and look promising in the future, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Would you love to see your byline in a newspaper? Does managing a company’s social media profile sound right up your alley? Were you the member of your high school student council who was always good at figuring out ways to promote activities or raise money?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your abilities and interests might be well-suited for a communications degree!

Communication and Media Degree Overview

During the 2019-2020 academic year, American universities conferred a whopping 91,752 degrees in areas of communications, journalism, and related fields. A degree in communications is a regular favorite because it offers professional paths within a multitude of exciting disciplines and industries, making it a great choice for students seeking versatility.

Especially good news for students earning communication degrees is that the future job market looks promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts employment in media and communication occupations to grow 6% from 2021 to 2031. 

Keep reading to learn about common jobs available after graduation, the pros and cons of studying online, and how to pick the best program based on individual needs and desired outcomes.

Types of Communications Classes

Coursework varies by school and by a student’s specific area of interest. However, some classes are generally part of the curriculum for people studying communications. These may include:

  • Communication Law and Media Ethics
  • Copy Editing
  • Ethics
  • Interpersonal Communications
  • Media Writing
  • Public Speaking and Presentation
  • Research Methods in Communication
  • Strategic Storytelling
  • Visual Communication and Design
  • Web Design

Skills Learned in a Communications Degree Program

Communications degree students will pick up several marketable skills that can help them secure jobs in a wide range of industries. These skills are also invaluable for those pursuing higher-level degrees. 

Depending on your area of specialization, here are just a few of the skills you’ll learn from a communications degree program:

  • Ability to convey ideas in interesting, clear ways
  • Ability to gain readers’ attention quickly 
  • Brand development
  • Broadcast producing
  • Business writing (resumes, professional memos, etc.)
  • Conflict communication (negotiation strategies, problem-solving tactics, etc.)
  • Copy editing
  • Creating an on-air presence
  • Creative decision-making
  • Crisis management
  • Digital photography
  • Headline writing
  • Play-by-play announcing
  • Polling
  • Print and web layout
  • Reporting
  • Social media account management
  • Solid public speaking skills
  • Speech writing
  • Strong writing skills
  • Web design

How Long Does it Take to Get a Communications Degree?

The amount of time a learner spends working toward their communications degree varies based on several factors, such as: 

  • Which degree type you’re going for?
  • How much (if any) college you’ve already completed?
  • Whether or not you’ll attend full- or part-time?
  • Whether you take an online or accelerated program?

Those who already completed an associate degree can often transfer their credits to a four-year college and graduate within two years of full-time study. All communications bachelor programs consist of general ed classes, core major classes, and electives. Many schools offer minors and areas of specialization, as well. 

A bachelor’s student with no prior credits who is enrolled on a full-time basis usually needs four years to complete ~120 credits. Part-time students often spend six years earning their communications or undergraduate degrees.

In general, a Master’s in Communications requires you to complete 30 credits of coursework, and full-time students traditionally complete this academic track in 15-24 months. Enrolling as a part-time learner can significantly increase the amount of time you’ll spend in grad school. 

Undergraduate students who are confident in their desire to earn a Master’s in Communications can sometimes enroll in an accelerated program where bachelor’s and master’s requirements can be completed together in just five years.

Certification and Licensure in Communication and Media

Some communications positions require additional certifications or training to become fully qualified for the job. 

  • For example, an employer looking for a public relations specialist may prefer to hire a candidate with an Accreditation in Public Relations from the Public Relations Society of America. 

  • Someone applying for a job working special events may want to complete a Certified Special Events Professional credential from the International Live Events Association to be more competitive for the job. 

What Can I Do with a Degree in Communication and Media?

Communications Degree Specializations

There are several specializations within the field of communications. Niche areas often seen in collegiate communication programs include:

  • Journalism
  • Advertising
  • Public relations
  • Media/news broadcasting
  • Corporate communication
  • Intercultural communication
  • Digital communication
  • Marketing communication
  • Strategic communication
  • Sports communication
  • Political communication
  • Health communication
  • Rhetoric

In our information-rich world, possible job opportunities abound for good communicators. Some use their talents to explain or highlight their employer’s products or services. Others deliver news to the public in written or broadcast form. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the following communications and media-related occupations: 

  • Announcers and DJs
  • Broadcast, Sound, and Video Technicians
  • Editors
  • Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators
  • Interpreters and Translators
  • News Analysts
  • Photographers
  • Public Relations Specialists
  • Technical Writers
  • Writers and Authors

Below are a few common graduate-level specializations and careers associated with each:

Digital Communication
  • Degree: Master’s in Digital Communication
  • Potential Career Paths: Professional roles within various online media providers

Courses and Skills Studied: Emphasizes digital communication or strategy to offer students the theoretical and practical knowledge needed for online marketing and communication. Students also cover topics spanning from branding to web development.

Marketing Communication
  • Degree: Master’s in Marketing Communication
  • Potential Career Paths: Marketing manager and public relations managers

Courses and Skills Studied: Theoretical topics and practical tools that assist students in developing effective marketing campaigns. Students also gain leadership skills, like organization communication and brand management, that prepare them for various roles.

Political Communication
  • Degree: Master’s in Political Communication
  • Potential Career Paths: Campaign communications directors, strategists, and media consultants

Courses and Skills Studies: Effective communication, political strategy, digital media, and speech writing.

Public Relations
  • Degree: Master’s in Public Relations
  • Potential Career Paths: Public relations managers, public relations specialists, and brand representatives

Courses and Skills Studies: Personal and business branding, crisis communication, and strategic writing.

Next Steps to Get Started in a Communications Program

Communications programs are in high demand, so you’ll want to do your homework and make sure you are competitive before applying. But where do you start? 

Whether you’re still in high school or already graduated, you can set yourself up for success by following the below steps based on where you are now!

Step One: Take Communications Prep Classes in High School

If you plan to major in communications, you can lay the groundwork by taking high school classes in English, creative writing, media studies, journalism, psychology, marketing, graphic design, speech, and computer science. You’ll need to build up your soft skills, too, so volunteer for extracurricular activities that expose you to opportunities where you can practice communication and teamwork. 

Step Two: Engage with the Audiovisual Club, Debate Team, or Student Newspaper

Anything you can do to get some real-world communications experience under your belt will be beneficial to prepare you for college. Whether it’s helping with the audiovisual club, the debate team, or working with the student newspaper, these experiences will come in handy later. 

Step Three: Teach Yourself 

If your school doesn’t have the communication degree prep courses or activities you’d like, you might be able to find them online or in your local community. There are tons of study material available via sites like edX, Coursera, Udemy, Khan Academy, and others, depending on the area you want to focus on. Meanwhile, local community organizations always need volunteers for things like blog writing, social media videos, giving tours, and other activities that connect with the public. Reach out and offer your services! Plus, this will help you if you decide to study online or through an asynchronous program.

Step Four: Apply to College Programs

Step Four actually applies to either high school students or graduates. Thoroughly research the communications major college programs that interest you. Make a list and note the schools’ application requirements, costs, and deadlines to apply…then start applying to the programs (and to financial aid, as needed). Plan ahead as far as you possibly can, and follow a timeline that fits your goals. 

Step Five: Apply for Scholarships and Financial Aid

College costs add up fast! Tuition, fees, books, supplies, tech equipment or software, room and board—the combined price tag of all these expenses can often make the difference between going to the school you want or not. Luckily, there are numerous scholarships, grants, tuition discounts, fee waivers, and other financial aid available. The key is finding it and applying for as much help as you can get! 

Step Six: Earn Your College Certificate or Degree 

With some hard work and a bit of luck, you’ll get accepted into the communications degree program you want. Ideally you’ll have an idea in mind for what career you wish to pursue after getting your undergrad certificate, associate, or bachelor’s degree (unless you want to keep going and earn a graduate degree, of course!). 

Work closely with an academic advisor to make sure you’re taking the classes you need to graduate on time (and with a strong GPA!) Take advantage of all the opportunities the program offers, including any internships or other real-world experiences they offer. 

Step Seven (Optional): Internship 

Speaking of internships—many communications programs offer internship experiences, but not all do. When feasible, it’s usually suggested to do one because of the practical hands-on training you can get. It’s also a nice way to make connections that may come in handy later. Lastly, internships look great on resumes!  

Step Eight (Optional): Complete a Certification

There are a large number of non-academic organizations that offer specialized certifications related to communications careers. For example, the Public Relations Society of America offers an Accreditation in Public Relations that “certifies your drive, professionalism, and principles, setting you apart from your peers and positioning you as a leader and mentor in the competitive public relations field.” Certifications are generally optional but may be needed to qualify for some positions, or they can help boost your credentials in a competitive job market. 

Step Nine (Optional): Complete a College Certificate 

If you have a degree already but want to spruce up your credentials a little more, consider finishing a college certificate. Note, this isn’t the same as a third-party certification (which is done by studying for and passing an exam). College certificates require ~12-18 credits’ worth of classes in an area of specialization (such as Digital Marketing). They are designed to augment your existing education.  

Step Ten (Optional): Complete a Graduate Degree

Students who completed a bachelor’s often start working before they decide if they want to go for a master’s or PhD. Others transition straight from their bachelor’s into a graduate program with no break, sometimes through a combined degree pathway. There are many options out there, including online and hybrid programs. 

Note, not all graduate-level communication students majored in the communications field during their undergraduate studies. That’s fine as long as you meet the prerequisites. If not, you might have to take some makeup classes to qualify, but may be eligible for conditional acceptance as you knock those courses out. 

Admissions Requirements for Communications Degree Programs

Admissions requirements vary depending on whether you’re applying to a bachelor’s or graduate program, but let’s do a quick review of the most common ones!  

  • Application - Typically filled out online; requires basic demographic details such as your name and address:
  • Transcripts - From high school, plus any colleges/universities attended; helps admissions officers confirm your GPA and review prerequisite coursework, if needed
  • Minimum GPA - Differs from school to school, but remember—just meeting the minimum doesn’t mean you’ll get in if it is a competitive year with lots of applicants 
  • Minimum grades in specific classes - Regardless of your overall GPA, a program may require you to have a minimum grade in certain foundational courses
  • Standardized Test Scores - Many schools still require SAT/ACT scores, though some have done away with this component in recent years
  • Class rank - Some schools want to see how well you fared against your peers
  • Personal statement - The school will list what they want to see on this
  • Statement of purpose - Many programs, especially at the graduate level, request a statement of purpose explaining in your own words why you want to study architecture at their school. An essay prompt may be provided 
  • Essays - Communications degree programs may request an essay from the applicant, explaining to the admissions committee why you're a good fit for the program
  • Writing sample - Some programs want to review your current writing skills via a brief writing sample
  • Letters of recommendation - Usually from people familiar with your work or academic background related to architecture or to study habits in general. Can be from previous teachers, supervisors, school advisors, or coworkers
  • Resume (or CV) - Graduate programs often want to see a resume (or CV) outlining your work history and accomplishments 
  • GRE - Many graduate programs require a GRE score, but this can be waived in some cases

Bachelor’s degree - Obviously, graduate school applicants need to have first completed a bachelor’s! Applicants who don’t have the necessary undergrad prerequisite credits will need to sign up for those classes, but may be granted conditional acceptance until those are done

Earning an Online Communication and Media Degree

Online communication degree programs make sense for students who need the flexibility of learning without sacrificing the quality of the degree. There are many good reasons to pursue an online communications degree, ranging from easy access to excellent career options after graduation. 

But before you commit, make sure you understand the benefits and potential drawbacks. An example “pro” of online learning is that online is more convenient for students with busy personal schedules. However, a “con” of online learning might be the lack of in-person learning experiences, such as giving a speech in front of a live classroom full of peers.

How Long do Online Courses Take to Complete?

When it comes to online classes, there is no “one size fits all.” Some classes are conducted synchronously, meaning online students remotely attend a live class being held on a campus somewhere else. If that live class runs for a full term, then online students will need to attend for the whole term, too. 

Note, college terms are either semester-based or quarter-based. 

semester runs about 15 - 17 weeks, so there are just two semesters per academic year—Fall and Spring (there may be a brief Summer term, but it’s not part of the traditional academic year). 

Schools using the quarter system have three 10-week-long terms—Fall, Winter, and Spring (and, again, there may be a brief Summer term that falls outside of the traditional academic year).

QUARTER SYSTEM (1 quarter credit = 0.67 semester credit)

Fall Term

10 weeks

Winter Term

10 weeks

Spring Term

10 weeks

SEMESTER SYSTEM (1 semester credit = 1.5 quarter credits)

Fall Semester

15 weeks

Spring Semester

15 weeks

-

Asynchronous courses (i.e., classes you complete on your own time) may or may not be compressed, depending on the program. Many asynchronous classes follow a typical timeline, because all students in the class are more or less working at the same pace and may need to work together on group activities. 

Hybrid courses or programs feature elements of both online and in-person learning. Because of the in-person component, these classes are more likely to follow a traditional term schedule. Accelerated online courses are, as the name implies, designed to allow students to finish them faster than average. These may feature less peer student engagement. Some classes are essentially self-study, with learners able to work and turn in assignments as quickly as they want. 

Communication and Media Career and Salary Overview

In our information-rich world, possible job opportunities abound for good communicators. Some use their talents to explain or highlight their employer’s products or services. Others deliver news to the public in written or broadcast form. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the follow communications and media-related occupations: 

  • Announcers and DJs
  • Broadcast, Sound, and Video Technicians
  • Editors
  • Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators
  • Interpreters and Translators
  • News Analysts
  • Photographers
  • Public Relations Specialists
  • Technical Writers
  • Writers and Authors

How Much Do Communications Majors Make?

In January 2023, the median annual wage for media and communication workers as a group was $62,340, according to the BLS. This figure is over $16,500 higher than the median annual wage for all occupations!

As in most industries, compensation for communications professionals varies by position, educational level, and work experience. For instance, while the median annual wage for an editor is $63,350, the highest 10% of earners bring in over $129,420. Meanwhile, writers and authors have a median annual wage of $69,510 though top earners can make over $133,580.

Communication and Media FAQ

  • Is communications a good degree?
    • Communications is a great degree for students who want to communicate in both verbal and written forms on a variety of topics. These programs translate well to many different subjects, making it a versatile degree.
  • What jobs can I get as a communications major?
    • Jobs for communication majors are vast, with options spanning areas such as public relations, marketing, mass communications, event planning, and public administration. It's a great fit for students seeking a degree in-demand by multiple industries.
  • Is a communication degree worth it?
    • A communications degree is worth it for students who feel strongly about working within this discipline. It trains learners on various communication channels and forms. That said, the technology in this field can change quickly, so you must participate in continuing education to stay aware of new innovations.
  • What is a communications degree good for?
    • A communications degree is good for several entry-level positions in a wide variety of industries. Some graduates may run PR for a local business while others may decide they want to write speeches for industry leaders or work in social media content production. There are many options.
  • What kind of jobs can you get with a communications degree?
    • All sorts of employers value the skills taught in programs leading to a communications degree. A few career possibilities include journalist, editor, technical writer, fundraising manager, public relations specialist, social media manager, marketing coordinator, and radio/TV broadcaster.
  • Is a degree in communications worth it?
    • Individuals must decide for themselves whether or not a degree is worth the time, effort, and cost. However, higher education typically results in greater career opportunities and earning potential. For someone interested in getting a job in public relations, corporate communications, journalism, advertising, and related fields, a bachelor’s degree or higher in communications or a similar discipline is usually necessary.
  • Should I get a communications degree?
    • The answer depends on your interests and career aspirations. A communications degree can hone your written and verbal skills, making you an attractive job candidate in a variety of fields.
  • What skills does a communications student gain?
    • People who study communications in college generally emerge with outstanding written and verbal skills.

 

List of all Communication and Media colleges in the U.S.

School Average Tuition Student Teacher Ratio Enrolled Students
Boston University Logo Boston University Boston, MA
5/5
18 : 1 32,718
Syracuse University Logo Syracuse University Syracuse, NY
5/5
19 : 1 21,322
Savannah College of Art and Design Logo Savannah College of Art and Design Savannah, GA
5/5
22 : 1 14,265
University of Missouri-Columbia Logo University of Missouri-Columbia Columbia, MO
3/5
23 : 1 31,089
Full Sail University Logo Full Sail University Winter Park, FL
5/5
32 : 1 24,627