9 Ways for Journalists to Continue Their Schooling While Working

So you’re a working journalist. But J-school undergrad degree under your belt or not, if you’re not actively seeking new ways to sharpen your digital skill set, you’re behind.

But, come on. Who wants to make a cross-country move for another degree?

Luckily, more and more online masters programs have popped up over the years to remedy that. If you happen to be thinking about going to school for a second (or third) time, or are just looking to take a course for fun via a non-degree track, here are some options:

    1. University of Florida Web Design and Online Communication Masters  — The curriculum consists of basic HTML and coding practices, as well as a solid basis of digital communication theory and branding. There’s also a certificate option.

  • American University Digital Media Skills Certificate  — This program was developed specifically for working professionals. It’s a one-year, all-online program with courses focused on basic programming skills, visual media and blogging. Students forgo a thesis for a capstone project. You can also take individual classes on a non-degree basis.
  • University of South Florida Digital Journalism and Design Masters — Located at the school’s St. Petersburg campus, this offering for full-time students can be wrapped up in three semesters. Classes cover everything from multimedia reporting principles to entrepreneurial journalism to audio/video production. Fun fact: just for applying, you have the chance to snag a USFSP-Poynter Certificate of Proficiency in Digital Technology for Journalists upon earning an 80 or better on Poynter’s exam.
  • University of Missouri Online MA  This program has four areas of emphasis, including Interactive Media (brand new program), which “investigates the psychological, social, ethical and legal issues regarding the roles and effects of digital news, advertising and public relations on society” and Media Management, developed for those interested in media leadership and business models. That one’s specifically for more seasoned journalists.
  • University of Memphis MA — Offered since 1995, this MA program is build-your-own. Everyone’s got to take some core theory seminars, but if you happen to decide on Internet journalism as your concentration, you might take Mass Media Web Site Management and Social Media – Theory and Practice, among others.
  • University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication — This curriculum is “relevant, engaging and cutting-edge.” The MA in Technology and Communication can be earned upon completion of 30 credits covering SEO, digital media economics, web design and media law. This particular track, though entirely online, requires that students travel to Chapel Hill for an orientation and one-week summer residency.
  • University of Washington Professional & Continuing Education — These individual classes are ideal if you’re looking to hone one particular skill. Need to learn Photoshop quickly with assignments to measure your progress? Maybe you need practice with CSS and Dreamweaver. This one seems low-risk – a solid choice for noncommittal journos. However, you can always put the classes toward a degree program later on.
  • Full Sail University New Media Journalism MA — There are three options: Multimedia Content Development, Interactive Media Distribution and Personal Branding (that last concentration is fairly unique among journalism tracks). The school, while known best for producing award-winning sound engineers and musicians, promises a sophisticated, engaging online experience for writers.
  • Poynter’s News University — We couldn’t leave this one off the list. It offers the world’s largest online journalism curriculum. Taking Poynter Webinars is a no-brainer; some of them are free, dirt cheap or totally self-paced. “Five Steps to Multimedia Storytelling” is one of the most popular. (I’ve got “Understanding and Interpreting Polls” on my list for a rainy Saturday.)


Now, there has been some debate regarding the value of a graduate journalism degree. Whatever side of that fence you’re on, I think we can all agree that learning more is never a bad thing. It all depends on how much time you’re willing to spend on it, and, subsequently, your long-term debt tolerance level.

What do you think? Does distance learning for digital journalism make sense, or would you rather interact with instructors face-to-face for feedback and a more immersive experience? Is traditional classroom learning about new media practices counterintuitive? You tell us.