Frequently Asked Questions, Certificate of Journalism

What is a Certificate of Journalism?

Journalism in the 21st century is a dynamic and rapidly changing field. In this online program, you can learn the fundamentals of the craft and the new media skills you need to succeed in the industry. Our innovative, nationally recognized Certificate of Journalism was named a Program of Excellence by the University Continuing Education Association. Whether you want to complete the 20-credit Certificate or take a single class, this online program offers you the opportunity to study with award-winning professors and professional journalists at the top of their field. You’ll find classes in general and specialized newswriting, Public Relations, Media Law, Ethics, and other subjects.

Earning a Certificate of Journalism at the University of Massachusetts Amherst means completing five online courses from our diverse curriculum. Visit the requirements page for more details.

A certificate is not the same as a bachelor's degree or a master's degree, and enrolling in an online class does not make you a full-time matriculating student at UMass. For information on how to apply to the University of Massachusetts Amherst as a full-time student, visit the Admissions website.

Can I take online classes if I don't want to complete the Certificate?

Yes. We welcome all students, whether they take one class or ten. Many students take an online class to learn a particular skill and have no intention of completing the full Certificate.

How does an online class work?

Classes in the Certificate of Journalism use the Blackboard Learning System online platform. You can see this system at work in this demonstration.

Every online instructor has his or her own unique manner of teaching. Most instructors will divide their online course into units, each roughly corresponding to one or two on-the-ground class meetings. These units may span anywhere from 24 hours to a week, during which time students are required to complete the unit's assignments like readings, papers, quizzes or participation in threaded conversations with the other students.

Instructors know that students are often located in different timezones around the world. For this reason most instructors will not schedule an assignment due at an exact time, but instead will give a 24-hour or longer window for an assignment to be completed. Logging in during the required windows and completing work and readings by the assigned time will be part of your grade for an online class.

Students should carefully read the course syllabus and understand the instructor's method of dividing the course into units, as well as his or her expectations for when and how long students should be logged into the online platform.

Instructors may post lecture notes for each unit, video recordings of themselves lecturing, or narrated Power Point slides. They may post links to readings and online writing exercises, or may upload relevant files in Blackboard. They may require that students participate regularly in asynchronous discussion threads. They may community with students via internal Blackboard messaging, regular email, Skype, Google Hangouts, or phone. The instructor's preferred teaching methods and expectations should be clearly stated in the class syllabus.

Can I use federal financial aid towards the Certificate?

The Certificate of Journalism is not a degree-granting program. That means that if you are not otherwise enrolled in a matriculating degree program at a university or college, you cannot use federal financial aid, such as Pell Grants, toward individual Certificate of Journalism classes.

If you are currently enrolled at UMass Amherst, including the University Without Walls program, please contact Marianna McKim at 413-545-3353 in the University of Massachusetts Amherst Financial Aid Office to determine your eligibility. If you are a student at another university, please contact your financial aid officer there for information.

Exactly how do I enroll in a class?


If you have any questions regarding registration, please feel free to contact Records and Registration in Continuing & Professional Education at or (413) 545-3653.

When does enrollment begin for the next session?

Registration for Summer 2022 courses are now open.

What can I do with a Certificate of Journalism?

The goal of our program is to provide students with diverse needs a way to access undergraduate-level journalism classes. Our classes are designed to teach you vital journalism skills and allow you the time and structure to build a portfolio of your work. Like any educational program, we cannot guarantee job placement.

I'm a current student enrolled in the UMass Journalism Program. If I take an online class, will it count toward the major?

Yes. Talk to chief undergraduate advisor Beth Wallace if you plan to use online classes to fulfill major requirements. Even if you're enrolled as a full-time student, you will have to pay the full cost of the course to enroll online.

How much do online courses cost?

The fee per credit is $390. There is an additional non-refundable registration fee of $45 per term. The registration fee is paid only once each term, regardless of how many courses a student enrolls in.

Please find more information about costs here.

Can I take an online course pass/fail?


How is the Certificate of Journalism accredited?

The Journalism Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst designs the curriculum for the Certificate of Journalism. All online courses at UMass are administered by Continuing and Professional Education. UMass is accredited by the Northeast Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

Do I need any special equipment to take an online class?

Certain classes may require or suggest equipment or computer programs in the class description and the syllabus for the course. For all courses, we strongly recommend a fast, dependable Internet connection.

I'm a veteran. What are my options?

Veterans taking our Certificate classes are eligible for veterans' education benefits.

Do I have to take all five courses within a certain period of time?

No. You can start at any time and go at your own pace. You can take one or more courses a session. You can take a course, take a break for a year, and then take more courses. To earn the Certificate, you need to complete five courses - in whatever order and at whatever rhythm work for you.

Can I have a Journalism course taken elsewhere count toward the Certificate?


What if I have more questions?

Give us a call at 413-545-5929 and we'll get right back to you.