Careers in Communications

October 26, 2021

Careers in Communications

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Discover the Multiple Careers for Communications Majors

Professionals in communications careers create and convey messages sent through spoken, written, visual, or digital mediums with the goal of conveying information and meaning. Good communicators understand how to connect and engage with people in spite of demographic or cultural differences, and employers in all industries value communication skills. If you enjoy and appreciate the art and science of creating and sharing information through speaking, writing, or digital or visual mediums, consider a degree in communications.

Communications majors can work in nonprofit, corporate, or government jobs. Communications career professionals may also specialize in areas of personal interest, like education, healthcare, or social justice. Although some communications degree graduates work in highly visible public roles, such as broadcast journalists or corporate communications executives, others work behind the scenes. With a communications degree, you can also work as a writer or editor, at an advertising agency, for a nonprofit organization, or in education.


Questions to Help Pursue a Communication Career

Q. What kind of job can you get with a communications degree?

Communications degree-holders work as technical writers and broadcast journalists. They also work as public relations specialists; in advertising, marketing, or education; or in nonprofits.

Q. Are communications majors in demand?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for those with communications degrees to increase 4% through 2029.

Q. What are the different fields of communication?

Communications career fields include organizational communication, mass communication, strategic communication, and advertising. Other fields include public relations and interpersonal communication and mediation and dispute resolution.

Q. What does a career in communications involve?

Communications careers may involve long-term projects and public-facing, creative work performed on deadlines. A key function involves publishing written or visual information to audiences on behalf of an organization.

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Communications Specializations


Schools may call communications degree specializations a concentration or track. Depending on the academic program, these concentrations may be optional or required. Some schools allow students to customize their academic program after completing foundational courses to align with areas of personal interest or career goals.

Communications is a broad field with many specializations. Examples include journalism, public relations, organizational communication, entertainment, law, social justice, and technical writing. Performance studies and rhetorical studies also fall under the broad scope of communications studies. Performance studies learners often advance to careers involving public speaking, speechwriting, or persuasive communications. Rhetorical studies learners may enter legal or political careers.

Media Production

In a media production concentration, students learn how to design, edit, and produce multimedia video, audio, and web content. Students take courses in video production techniques, sound design, web design, and social media content production. With a focus on hands-on skills, media production concentrations attract people interested in video production, podcasting, or traditional broadcasting on TV or radio.

Strategic Communication

Strategic communication concentrations teach students to use traditional and digital media marketing techniques to advance organization-driven goals and objectives. Coursework includes the theory and practice of developing a brand voice or marketing campaigns. Many students in this concentration also take a public speaking class to practice delivering persuasive messages in front of an audience. People who thrive on interpersonal engagement may enjoy a career in corporate or nonprofit communications, advocating on behalf of a cause about which they care deeply.

Marketing

People energized by selling a product, brand, or experience excel in marketing. Marketing professionals lead customer communications for businesses or nonprofits. Coursework includes developing marketing strategies and campaigns, and learning how to raise awareness of an organization's presence, products, and services. Marketing communications also centers on developing and promoting brand awareness and identity. Understanding consumer behavior is a key component of this specialization.

What Are the Education Requirements for Communications?


Colleges and universities offer communications degrees at the associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral level in online or in-person programs. The associate- and bachelor's-level undergraduate degrees typically focus on essential communication theories and practical skills. Graduate-level programs incorporate additional theoretical analysis and practical application.

Associate

Students who earn an associate degree in communications typically possess the skills necessary for careers in video production, graphic design, or public relations. Typical coursework includes studies in professional writing composition. Additional coursework includes interpersonal or business communication theories. Students also practice hands-on skills in print and digital media design. Most associate programs require about 60 credits to graduate. With a full-time course load, students can complete the program over four semesters in two years.

Bachelor's

Most students choose or are required to declare a major when pursuing a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's programs often include additional theoretical and hands-on coursework. For example, students may practice broadcast-style, web-based, or advertising-focused writing. Many bachelor's programs also require students to complete a practicum or internship for credit. Journalism employers favor candidates with a four-year degree and internship experience. Bachelor's degrees typically require 120 credits for graduation.

Master's

A master's degree in communications usually requires 30-40 credits. Whether online or in-person, students typically complete a master's program in about two years. Master's-level programs focus on creating and presenting accurate, persuasive communications. Students also study and apply advanced communication theories and techniques. The curriculum also includes coursework in conflict resolution or nonverbal communication. Students seeking graduate degrees in communications find work in executive-level positions such as corporate communications, social media, or public relations leadership.

Doctorate

A doctorate in communications, like all other academic subjects, focuses on research, theory, and data analysis. Doctoral-level coursework includes developing problem-solving strategies for high-level organizational communication issues and challenges. Students who earn this degree typically pursue academic teaching positions or top executive roles at businesses or government agencies, where they shape an organization's communications strategy and culture. Students typically complete doctoral programs in 2-3 years by earning 60 credit hours.

The cost of a communications degree varies. Tuition and fees per semester for an in-person or online associate degree can start at about $3,412 per year. Annual in-person tuition costs for an associate degree can exceed $10,000 when room and board and fees are included, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Associate degree-level tuition at private non-profit and for profit schools was $25,596, according to the NCES.

For a bachelor's degree, EducationData.org reports in-state tuition ranges from $9,308 annually to $43,139, for a four year degree at a private school, according to the NCES. The NCES reports the median annual graduate-level tuition was $11,495 for the 2018-19 academic year at public schools.

Online students save money by not living on campus, eliminating room and board and commuting costs. But overall costs depend on the school and in-state or out-of-state tuition rates. And regardless of degree level, online programs do not always cost less than on-campus programs. Some online programs charge technology fees to support the overhead of delivering classes digitally.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree


The Affordable Colleges Online affordability calculator can help determine the cost of college. Enter your current after-tax income, total living expenses, and financial aid information. You will get an estimate of how much monthly tuition you can afford for an associate, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in communications.

Break down your current financial situation, and receive a college tuition estimate you can afford to pay.

How Much Do Communications Majors Make?


Communications majors work in a variety of creatively driven fields. Employees in media and communications earn a median annual salary of $61,310, according to BLS data. People in technical roles, such as broadcast and audio engineers, earn a median salary of $47,420 per year. Careers in this field include photographers, who earn a median annual salary of $41,280.

Communications majors can also work as announcers, reporters, and broadcast news analysts. Broadcast news analysts earn median salaries of $49,300 annually. Editors and public relations specialists earn salaries in the midrange of the industry with annual salaries of $63,400 and $62,810, respectively. As some of the highest-paid professionals in the field, technical writers earn annual median salaries of $74,650, according to the BLS.

Organizations that employ communications professionals value internships, related work experience, and graduate-level education. Employers also prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree.

Career and Salary Outlook for a Communications Degree


The BLS projects communications careers to grow 4% through 2029. Career paths in communications include anywhere from entry-level positions at small local news outlets to senior leadership positions at major broadcast news outlets. Communications professionals also work behind the scenes as camera operators, broadcast engineers, and video editors. Translators, technical writers, and freelance writers also often hold communications degrees. Below, we list some other specializations in this field.

Public Relations Specialist

Public relations specialists work to enhance the positive perception of the organizations they represent. They create and publish news releases, and respond to media and public inquiries. Public relations specialists also help develop and maintain an organization's brand image. They may also manage a company's social media presence and work directly with customers. Employers often prefer candidates who hold a bachelor's degree in communications, journalism, English, or business.

Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analyst

Reporters research, write, and publish or broadcast news stories about local and national events. They review content for accuracy and adherence to professional style standards. Reporters often work live at the scene of important news events. No matter the media outlet, most journalists work in a multimedia capacity by producing stories combining text, images, and video on digital platforms. Employers value internships and experience at college media outlets.

Public Relations and Fundraising Manager

Public relations managers direct and maintain an organization's brand image and identity. They may serve as the lead spokesperson for an organization and also provide communications training for company executives. Public relations managers also identify financial donors, write grants, and design promotional programs. These professionals need at least a bachelor's degree, though some employers prefer a master's degree. Requirements typically include several years of related work experience.

Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Public Relations Specialist $62,810 7%
Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analyst $49,300 -11%
Public Relations and Fundraising Manager $118,430 9%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Certifications and Licensure for Communications


U.S.-based communications professionals do not need certification or licensure. But some professional certifications do equip students with skills and knowledge directly relevant to communications careers. The certifications below may enhance graduates' appeal to employers.

Adobe Certified Associate


Communications professionals worldwide use Adobe's industry-standard software. Professionals use Adobe programs, such as Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and Illustrator, to digitally edit images, create video, and do print and web-based graphic design. Available through an online exam, this performance-based certification indicates that learners possess technical proficiency, project management abilities, and basic design skills.

Accreditation in Public Relations


The Public Relations Society of America's accredited in public relations credential identifies industry professionals who adhere to high standards. Earning this credential indicates that professionals follow ethical, industry-standard best practices for public relations. This designation "signifies a high professional level of experience and competence," according to the society.

Global Communication Certification Council


The GCCC's certified communications professional program caters to mid-level professionals with at least six years of experience. It signifies communications knowledge and expertise in areas such as strategy, analysis, and ethics. This certification serves generalists, specialists, and mid-career professionals.

Resources for Communications Majors


The American Communication Association focuses on how technology influences the teaching and practice of modern communication. Membership is free and open to academics and professionals. The organization also publishes a peer-reviewed journal. The International Communication Association advances excellence in the academic study of human communication. This international association boasts more than 4,500 members in 80 countries and publishes six peer-reviewed journals. PRSA advocates for excellence and ethical conduct among communications professionals. The organization hosts 110 chapters. PRSA is also active on nearly 400 college campuses through its student organization, the Public Relations Student Society of America. SHRM elevates the human resources profession by providing guidance and leadership on issues that affect workplaces. SHRM contains 300,000 members worldwide. Students in HR-related programs qualify for student-level membership.

Nate Delesline III

Nate Delesline III is a Virginia-based writer covering higher education. He has more than a decade of experience as a newspaper journalist covering public safety, local government, business, transportation, and K-12 and higher education.

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