Communication studies appeals to students with a highly diverse range of interests and goals. In the age of digital content, communication specialists must be fluent in both current and emerging media. They must also be dedicated to presenting information in clear and innovative ways both on and offline — they can choose to work in multiple formats and often dabble in print, online, television or film media. Content-wise, communications students have multiple specialization channels to explore, including politics, public relations, business, and mass media.
Throughout their education, communications students will be asked to engage with the public, work on collaborative projects, and hone their speech and writing skills. Communication majors can pursue degrees from the associate level to the doctorate level, and enter a range of careers, starting at entry level and moving up to management roles as editors in chief or as public relations directors.
Communications majors will spend the majority of their time taking courses that emphasize public speaking, writing, and rhetoric. In addition, programs will offer courses on effective debate and group mediation strategies. Many communications programs require advanced English composition courses, which will strengthen your abilities to share perspectives, present arguments, and communicate information clearly in prose. Example projects can include investigative reporting projects, creative essays, group presentations, and even broadcast news video productions. Students are encouraged to apply communications theories and techniques to work done outside of the major. Courses in political science, digital marketing and journalism, or business management fit neatly alongside a communications degree.
During the second half of their undergraduate career, communications majors can choose from specializations such as public policy, journalism, mass media, or organizational leadership. While specializations aren’t a given at the undergraduate level, a specific subfield of communications must be chosen by graduate students. The most popular specialities in today’s communications master’s programs are more tech-oriented than they have been in the past. Today’s graduate-level communications students specialize in areas such as IT, digital advertising, graphic design and technical writing.
Communications degrees are awarded at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Academic advancement in the field depends on the amount of time a student wants to attend school and the type of career they want to pursue. Here are the degree options commonly available to prospective students:
This degree can prepare you for entry-level jobs in radio entertainment, marketing organizations, public relations departments, customer service, and news media. It usually takes about two years to complete an associate degree. Your education will cover the fundamentals of public relations, mass media communications, and written composition. Additionally, an associate’s degree can be a great launching point for students who may someday pursue a bachelor’s or beyond.
In the field of communications, a bachelor’s degree is all but required. This degree can generally be completed within four years, and it offers students several employment and continued education opportunities. Students will have time to explore communications courses with further specification, such as social media ethics, foreign correspondence journalism, and mass media workflows.
Students who pursue communications at this level will be encouraged to choose a specialty, such as business leadership, public relations, education, IT or marketing. Earning a master’s degree can help students distinguish themselves with an expertise. It is very likely that instructors at this level will require students to write a master’s thesis on a topic within their specialty before graduation.
Students who wish to dedicate their time to teaching adults or researching communications developments, technologies, and theories typically pursue the highest degree offered in the field. Graduate degrees at both the master’s and Ph.D. level can open up leadership and administrative roles within businesses, political campaigns, and non-profit organizations.
There are several professional societies available to communications graduates with various specialty backgrounds, such as the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Professional Communications Society (IEEE PCS). These organizations provide industry professionals with networking and continued education opportunities.
Ideal Candidates for Communications
It is a given that communication majors will need to interact with others, so outgoing individuals with strong interpersonal skills, curiosity, and empathy tend to find the degree and career path to be a good fit. Students and professionals in this field should feel comfortable around people, and they should be able to engage groups of strangers. Employers and clients often look to communications graduates and professionals to deliver clear news, public relations data, verbal instructions, and marketing information via multimedia.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who graduate with communications degrees gain access to careers in several industries, such as motion pictures, public relations, radio and television broadcasting, academic administration, and government. On average, professionals who specialize in communications will earn $52,550 a year, or $25.27 an hour. States with the highest employment rates within the field include California, Minnesota, New York, Florida, and Maryland.
Communications professionals who work as radio djs or television broadcasters generally have the lowest median pay amongst industry peers, earning $27,750 annually. That said the BLS considers a broad range of careers in the field of “Media Communications” so these broadcasters are compared to the more highly specialized sound engineers, technical editors, authors, and broadcast analysts. Overall, the job outlook is unfavorable for this field, with a projected growth rate of only 2% before the year 2022. However, these roles give employees a high degree of public exposure, which can lead to new career opportunities down the road.
Technical writers tend to make the highest average annual income within media and communications, collaborating with professionals in tech industries to develop usage manuals and instructional articles. By 2022, openings in technical writing are anticipated to grow by around 15% — this is the most encouraging job growth figure the BLS cites for the Media and Communications field.