Today, I’ll be discussing five important factors to consider before enrolling in a communications degree program online. I know how confusing it can be trying to decide among the dozens of online universities out there especially considering how meaningful your education is and the impact that it can have on the rest of your life.
Luckily for you I’m going to cut out all the marketing fluff and really dig into the fundamental decision factors that truly matter. So that way you can figure out which communications degree program is the right fit for your specific situation. So if you are ready let’s get to it.
Factors to Consider Before Enrolling in an Online Communications Degree Program
Goals and Objectives
The first thing that you should do is take a deep breath and really consider what you want to do with your degree in communications. In other words, what is your ultimate goal? Is it to become a social media manager, a pr specialist, a marketing executive, an hr manager, an event planner, or a sales rep?
There are a ton of different options; the point is that you first need to narrow down what exactly you want to do or specialize in. This will help you figure out which communications degree program best aligns with your personal objectives. That way, as you conduct your research you can start to figure out what I call x-factors among all these different online universities and degree programs.
By x-factors, I’m talking about the specific attributes offerings and curriculum that align with your personal goals. So think different concentration options: does the university offer a specific concentration for the career track that you are most interested in.
How many elective credits are there as part of that degree trick, that way you can focus on the topic areas that truly get you excited; are there any specific communications related certifications that are integrated into the degree program so you can further boost your resume or maybe your end goal is to earn a master’s degree after completing your bachelor’s.
In that case you will likely want to check out online universities that offer an accelerated bachelor’s to master’s pathway, Purdue University Global which is a popular national online university is a perfect example of this. Essentially, you can work towards a master’s degree in public administration, educational psychology, human services, or legal studies all while you earn your bachelor’s degree.
This way you can complete both degrees in less time and at a lower cost than completing both separately. So the big takeaway here is that by thinking about your end goals and objectives ahead of time, it’ll help you identify which programs might be a good fit for you and your career track down the road.
Once you have a good idea of what your ideal degree program looks like, you need to examine admission requirements in the application process. Online universities generally fall into one of two categories either open enrollment or selective enrollment.
Selective Enrollment Online Universities
Selective enrollment schools are the more conventional types of universities that probably come to mind when you hear the word college think University of South Carolina, University of North Carolina, Cornell, et cetera. These types of universities tend to have stringent admission requirements. You’ll likely need a minimum GPA, a good SAT or ACT score and write a personal statement among some other requirements.
So if you have a strong academic background and you don’t mind going the extra mile in order to get accepted into a top ranked online communications program then you may want to focus your research on selective enrollment schools. Just keep in mind though the acceptance rate at selective enrollment schools can be low. It can often be challenging to get accepted here.
Open Enrollment Online Universities
You may also want to consider open enrollment universities. These types of schools are great for students who might not have the strongest academic background or for people who have been in the military or workforce for a while and are now looking to go back to school since the only admission requirement depending on the program is just generally the students have a high school diploma or GED. So if this type of admissions process is a better match with your background or current situation, I would suggest checking out Purdue University Global. They are a popular national online university.
The third and quite possibly most important factor to consider is tuition cost. How much is an online bachelor’s degree in communication going to cost you. As you might imagine, there are a few factors to consider here.
Tuition per Credit
The first thing I would do is explore the university’s tuition per credit rate and the number of credits required for graduation. Doing some quick math will give you a good idea of the total cost to earn your communications degree.
Typically, national online universities will require either 120 or 180 credits to graduate and as far as tuition goes it typically ranges from $250 per credit on the low end all the way up to $550 per credit on the height. Though this does depend on the universities that you’re considering as well as other factors, like whether you’re in-state versus out-of-state, whether you’re an international student, a member of the military and more.
Then on top of the standard tuition costs, online universities usually charge other fees and assessments as well that you’re definitely going to want to investigate. These include technology fees, transcript fees, learning assessments, graduation fees, etc. Sometimes these secondary costs can really add up, so it’s worth checking out prior to enrolling.
Allowable Transfer Credits
Now while we are on the topic of affordability, there are two more factors to keep in mind; one is allowable transfer credits. You’ll definitely want to research this if you have credits left over from a previous institution. This is a great way to cut down the overall cost of your degree program.
For example, Purdue University Global allows students to transfer up to 75 of total credits required for graduation and the average bachelor’s graduate earns their degree in about two years. Of course, each online university has their own transfer policies and rules so make sure to ask about this prior to enrolling.
The other thing to look for here is trial periods. In some cases, online universities allow you to do a free trial run before pre-paying thousands of dollars in tuition. For example once again, Purdue Global offers a no financial obligation three-week trial period. So essentially, you can take classes for three weeks, get a feel for the experience and then decide whether to continue or opt out with no tuition cost. This is a pretty valuable option for students that are maybe on the fence.
The next factor to deal with when searching for the best online communications degree programs is financial aid. I’m not talking about student loans here because really pretty much anyone can secure themselves through a federal or private student loan. Instead what’s more important and compelling to look at is the average amount of institutional aid that universities provide to students directly.
In other words, what percentage of new beginning full-time students receives grants or scholarships from the university itself and not third-party sources and what is the average amount of that aid? This will give you a good idea of what your chances are of securing funds from the university to help lower the overall cost of earning your degree.
Believe it or not, this information is publicly available as you can actually get this data directly from the US Department of Education. So you can check out what the stats are for the specific university that you are interested in.
Before moving on from the topic of financial aid, I should mention that some national online universities also offer different incentives and promotions to keep students inspired after they first enroll. In most cases, these incentives are called progress scholarships, welcome grants, or something to that end.
Essentially, how they work is that if you stay continuously enrolled at the university and meet some other basic eligibility requirements, schools will often reduce your tuition rate in order to keep you motivated and on track to earn your degree.
The other item I would recommend you investigate is tuition locks. Some online universities lock in the tuition rate for the duration of your program when you first enroll. This means there won’t be any pesky tuition hikes come your second third or fourth year, so definitely make sure to ask if one of these options is available during the application process.
The final factor on my list today that you should consider prior to enrolling is program format or how these universities structure their curriculum and schedule. In my experience, most online university degree programs fall into one of three buckets. Short accelerated terms, traditional terms, and self-paced.
Short Accelerated Terms
In that first category of short accelerated terms, some online universities work off five to six week terms and when students take one course at a time or sometimes two courses max the courses move rapidly. However, the nice thing here is that you only have to focus on one class at a time; you don’t have to juggle three or four courses at once.
So if you are the type of student who maybe has trouble multitasking or staying organized and on schedule then this type of program format might be an ideal fit for you assuming you have the free time for a condensed schedule.
Now the second type of course format is the more classic college experience that you are probably used to in which you take two to five classes per term. This is your typical quarter or semester system where terms usually last anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks. I would say the bulk of online universities fall into this category.
So if you want a more classic traditional schedule even if part time i would direct your research towards these types of program formats. For instance, Purdue Global follows this format as they offer 10-week terms in which each program requires a weekly commitment of around 15 to 18 hours on average.
Self-Paced Learning Terms
The self-paced learning formats seem to be gaining in popularity in recent years. Basically, with these types of degree programs you can take courses at your own speed and move on to the next course whenever you are ready.
So if you want to tackle multiple courses at a time and move through the degree program as quickly as possible you can in as little as a year and a half in some cases or if you have other obligations like a full-time job or young children and you can only spare a few hours per week then you can slow it down and study at your own pace.
The bottom line is if you are extremely busy or have a frenzy chaotic schedule that’s regularly changing; this type of self-paced program might be a great fit. Sometimes there are online schools that actually offer both types of degree formats, Purdue University Global being one of them.
You can earn your communications degree following the traditional path that I mentioned earlier where there are 10 week terms. For select students, Purdue Global offers what they call their excel track which is a perfect example of this self-paced degree format where you are in control.
Final Thoughts on the Best Online Communications Degree Programs
I know making a decision about something as crucial as your education is extremely difficult. So I hope this was some helpful advice around online universities and gives you some guidance in finding a communications degree program that fits your specific goals, budget, and learning preferences.
If you are interested in another online degree area outside of communications, , be sure to check out the rest of our online bachelor’s degree programs. We have a ton of great content out there related to online education. Best of luck!