Degrees & Careers in CommunicationsHow to Work in the Communications Field
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1.2 million individuals between the ages of 25 and 64 have graduated from a communications degree program and are employed in full-time work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This dynamic major appeals to a wide range of students due to its versatility and interest from employers in many different sectors. Whether broadcasting the news in San Diego or teaching a postsecondary course in Omaha, a degree in communications equips graduates with a skillset that is sought after by countless industries. The following guide highlights educational rcequirements for finding work in the field and reviews different types of positions available.
As is the case with any academic discipline emphasizing excellent written and oral communication skills, students who graduate with a degree in communications are competitive for jobs in the areas of journalism, broadcasting, public relations, writing, editing, public speaking and fundraising. Students who are able to leverage their foundational knowledge of communication can find work in a variety of settings, such as offices, government agencies, nonprofits or working for themselves. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many jobs in the media and communications arena are set to see impressive growth in the coming years, making it an exciting time to consider a degree in communications.
Steps to a Communications Degree & Career
One of the most prolific jobs a communications major can hold is that of a news anchor. These professionals are on the forefront of delivering the latest news to their communities and the world, and the career promises a fascinating professional life with many paths to advancement.
Either degree can be completed in four years of study and provides students with many opportunities to build their skillsets and become familiar with the world of communications. Aside from relevant internship and fieldwork experience, students should also independently seek opportunities to build their skillsets. Writing for the student newspaper is an excellent option for those looking to build a portfolio, and some campuses even have a television channel where they can gain practice in front of a camera. It’s also important to build relationships with professors at this level as they’ll often have contacts in local media.
A resume highlighting educational and professional qualifications should also be prepared, particularly as they pertain to the position. News stations understand this is your first job out of college, but being able to show how other skills gained along the way will be valuable goes a long way. First-time job seekers in this industry should be prepared to move anywhere to secure a position. Be it in a small town in Iowa or Alaska, showing your passion for the field and your willingness to be flexible will impress hiring panels.
Compare Communications Programs and Degrees
|Career Goal and/or educational needs||Online||Associate or Bachelor’s||Master’s or PhD||Certificate|
|I really enjoyed the communications and speech classes I took in high school and am interested in trying a few postsecondary courses, but I’m not ready to commit to a degree program. I also want to be able to study the topic on my own time without going to class.|
|I definitely want to study communications at the postsecondary level, but don’t have a strong sense of how I want to use it after graduation. At this level I am mostly interested in taking foundational courses that provide me with a better understanding of the scope of the field.|
|I’ve worked in the field for a few years and, while I love being at the forefront of the action, I also want to have a more traditional schedule in the future. I’ve always been interested in academics and research and want to see how to combine that with my passion for communications.|
|I currently work in communications and love my role, but want to learn a few more skills to make myself more valuable to current and future employers.|
Communications Degrees & Concentrations
Options for further education in communication abound at the postsecondary level, and students should be able to find a program suited to their needs. Whether just starting out or aspiring to move into teaching, the following degree types are sure to be a match.
Associate Communications Degrees
Students enrolled in associate degrees in communications learn about the foundations of the discipline and are introduced to the main skills and knowledge they’ll need for entry-level roles. A variety of media forms are covered, including print, online, audio, and visual mediums. Students learn about topics ranging from writing press releases and addressing public relations issues to creating video clips and developing a portfolio. Graduates of associate programs may go on to work in public relations, radio, media, or journalism. Common classes include:
Covers the basics of oral communication and public speaking, equipping students with the skills and confidence they need to effectively address a wide range of audiences. Students practice their speeches in front of classmates and receive constructive feedback from peers and professors.
Ability to create an outline and keyword list
Understanding of appropriate topics for different audiences
Awareness of different audience engagement techniques
All the skills needed to interact with many different types of people are covered in this class. Students learn about styles of communication, active listening, conflict management, and interviewing techniques.
Understanding of how factors such as age, culture, and gender affect interpersonal communications
Ability to interpret communication styles and pick a suitable option for different people
Awareness of best practices in interpersonal communication
Students gain a wider vocabulary of common business terms and learn how to speak professionally to colleagues, supervisors, clients, and other stakeholders. Different types of business environments are also reviewed to help students develop different strategies for different groups.
Ability to prepare and deliver a professional presentation
Understanding of appropriate behavior in a business environment
Awareness of different communication styles for different business settings
Bachelor’s Communications Degrees
Bachelor’s degrees in communications cover many of the same topics as an associate degree, but in more depth. Throughout four years of study, students learn practical skills to succeed in future endeavors, with special emphasis on creating clear and strong communication in a variety of mediums. Whether writing copy for a grassroots promotion, engaging audiences on social media platforms, or communicating a clear brand for a client, graduates of communication degrees have a toolbox filled with effective strategies. Many bachelor’s programs also allow students to select a concentration, including options in marketing communications, political communications, and public relations. Graduates go on to positions as speech writers, public relations specialists, journalists, and writers. Common courses include:
Being able to successfully lead and communicate with a variety of teams is a pivotal component of success, and this class provides students with the skills and tools they need to be effective mediators of group communications. Some of the topics explored include team development, crisis management, and groupthink.
Ability to facilitate communication amongst different types of people
Developing communication strategies to address stakeholders and clients
Understanding of how group dynamics affect communication styles
Students delve into different styles of writing, specifically for the myriad online and digital platforms where individuals and businesses now interact. Students learn how to craft engaging and appropriate content for different mediums and how to leverage each platform successfully.
Awareness of the different mediums available for digital communication
Ability to use different writing and communication styles based on the platform and intended audience
Understanding of how digital platforms fit into the overall communications strategy
This course helps students develop useful techniques for communication requiring persuasion or negotiation. No matter the field a student plans to enter, these skills will be valuable to future endeavors. Throughout the course, students learn how to craft thoughtful and cohesive written and oral communications to persuade their audiences
Awareness of market research and theory of effective persuasion techniques
Understanding of how to craft messages that ethically persuade individuals or audiences
Historical understanding of how persuasion can be used negatively
Master’s Communications Degrees
A master’s in communication prepares graduates for advanced and executive-level role by honing skills developed in previous degrees and fine-tuning communication strategies. Individuals looking to work as directors of communication for large national or international organizations often undertake a master’s degree, as do those hoping to assume high-level positions in the government. Coursework revolves around instilling an understanding of the methodologies and theories behind effective communication and exposing students to advanced research in the field. Common courses include:
Students come to understand how messaging can – and should – be tailored to international audiences, and how cultures perceive words and tone differently across the world. Case studies are employed to demonstrate effective and ineffective strategies and to help students develop their own voice for international audiences.
Ability to design constructive communications for international audiences
Understanding of how to evaluate the effectiveness of global communications
Awareness of how to implement a communication plan on a worldwide scale
The methodologies, theories, and tools used in communication research are reviewed in this class, giving students an insider’s understanding of how to conduct their own research in the field. Students learn about interviewing techniques, market research frameworks, and data analysis
Ability to design and implement a research study
Understanding of how different methods and frameworks elicit varied findings
Awareness of different tools used for data analysis
Whether using a blog, networking platform, or other digital medium, crafting the right message for the types of users that interact with each is crucial. Students learn about different methodologies behind content creation while also delving into theories on how to best engage with viewers.
Awareness of how different types of social media are used by a range of individuals
Ability to craft thoughtful and appropriate content
Understanding of how social media metrics can be analyzed to gain greater user insight
PhD Communications Degrees
Students who elect to pursue a PhD in communications are immersed in a curriculum that not only builds their skills in the discipline, but also draws on cultural, economic, historical, political, and social views to understand the role of communication in humanity. Ethical questions about media and journalism factor heavily, and students must be prepared to conduct significant unique research and produce a sizable dissertation prior to graduation. Those who complete this highest level of education go on to research and teaching positions at universities and institutions. Common courses include:
Covering areas of journalism, public relations, and broadcasting, this course instills an understanding of the ethical questions involved in communicating with the public. Students read numerous case studies of situations where the ethical decision is not always clear and are asked to discuss how they would proceed.
- Understanding of the ethical principles surrounding journalism, public relations, and broadcasting
- Ability to identify and address ethical issues
- Awareness of how advertising and news can be manipulated
Students learn about the quantitative and qualitative research methods commonly used in the field, including casual models, correlation, regression, and sampling. Students are also introduced to SPSS predictive analytics software.
- Ability to create analyze data gathered through research studies
- Understanding of the main techniques for gathering and analyzing data
- Awareness of the ethical implications surrounding the collection of data
Future college professors learn how to properly teach the concepts and ideas involved in communications and begin developing their individual teaching styles. Students learn about common modes of teaching, review curriculum design, and look at communications as an academic discipline.
- Understanding of the relationship between theory and practice in teaching
- Ability to design a course suitable for students of different academic levels
- Awareness of different teaching and learning styles
Communications Career Paths
From explaining how things work to telling the world about the latest and greatest invention to helping people deal with how to express themselves, careers in communications are incredibly varied. These career paths could become even more popular and needed as the years go by, thanks to technology. On one hand, technology has brought us closer together; on the other, we often feel more isolated than ever. As the world continues to evolve in its ever-changing dance with technology, communications majors will be on the front lines, facilitating conversations of all types. The following opportunities are great options for those interested in a communications career:
These professionals are the face of the news, bringing the most important events of the day to the viewer in the most succinct yet interesting way possible. The job goes beyond news to include interviews, public interest pieces, educational points and much more. They might work anywhere from the smallest hometown stations to major markets such as New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia or Chicago.
These experts with the smooth voices are heard over the airwaves at all times of day, bringing the news, weather, commentary, and announcements of the latest, hottest music. They present the things that the public cares about – for instance, a broadcaster on a sports network might call the football game, while the disc jockey on a rock station might interview a recording artist. Some radio broadcasters also find success on television.
Organizations dedicated to charitable causes need someone who is capable of tugging at the heartstrings and convincing donors to open their wallets for a good cause. The fundraising manager also keeps those in the organization in the know about what new campaigns are planned. They might work closely with other experts, such as public relations specialists, to ensure that the work of the organization is always seen in a positive light.
These professionals work with companies and businesses to combine advertising and purchasing incentives, all in an effort to drive sales. They get in touch with customers in a variety of ways, including direct mail, social media, in-store events and more. They might coordinate freebies, samples, coupons, contests and the like to get even more individuals interested in the products: the more creative, the better.
These experts represent companies, organizations and individuals who are courting public opinion. The PR specialist will draft press releases, respond to requests from the media, organize interviews and appearances, evaluate advertising to ensure that it matches the tone of the brand, and much more. The job requires someone who can think fast and has a strong handle on social media.
From small weddings to large conventions, event planners do just what their name implies – they handle all the details of planning events for clients. They choose locations, arrange for all travel and transportation, make sure hotel rooms are available, provide for catering, and so much more. The planner is often on hand during the event in order to handle last-minute details and make sure that all moves smoothly.
These professionals create content to meet a wide variety of needs; this might include content for advertisements, manuals, books, magazines, online publications, and even songs or movie scripts. They dive deep into research in order to ensure that their writing is accurate and current. Though many are self-employed, some might work as in-house writers for companies, or be under contract with publishing companies to produce work on a regular basis.
Components of a Successful Communications Career: Skills, Tools, and Technology
Professionals in the field of communications tend to have a few strong skills in common. Though many of these might be innate, they are honed during the pursuit of a postsecondary degree, and then sharpened again during the years of experience that comes from working in the field.
Written communication might be the most important medium for those in the field; therefore, clear and concise writing matters. For those who write for a living, a strong grasp of language rules is a must.
When communicating with others, being able to speak intelligently and get the point across to a wide range of people matters greatly. Speaking other languages is a nice bonus.
From crafting the perfect press release to thinking fast when the first venue chosen falls through, any job that calls for a communications major also requires creativity with words, speech, and even actions.
Those who are dealing with the public must be able to think and respond quickly and appropriately, especially if the job focuses on public relations, news broadcasting or fundraising.
Much of the work in communications careers requires a great deal of paperwork, scheduling, and more – keeping things straight can be tough, so organizational skills should be top-notch.
Working in communications means working with others on a constant basis. That requires the ability to get along with everyone, understand their positions, and be respectful of differences.
How is the public responding to a public relations campaign or a fundraising request? Having a finger on the pulse of the public’s reaction is a key point for success in the field.
Reaching individuals in today’s world often revolves around the Internet, so those in communications must have a firm grasp of social media.
Those who work in communications will use a variety of tools and technology. The most popular must-have tools are computers of all kinds – laptops, tablets, and smartphones that allow one to be connected at all times. Along with these devices come the peripherals, such as printers, copiers, fax machines, and the like. Other tools, like conference calling systems, might be a necessity for some jobs.
The technology needed in this field is based on software that allows professionals to get their message out. This might include the following:
Keep in mind that these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the number of programs, software, and tools needed for a successful career in communications. Required tools and technology can vary greatly, depending on the specific role and type of employer.
Salary Information for Careers in Communications
Among the many things to consider when it comes to communications careers, salary is often at the top of the list. The following are median salaries for the most popular job titles in communications:
Communications Job Growth, Prospects, and Outlook
Many jobs in communications are growing fast, such as that of event planners, which will grow 33 percent between 2012 and 2022. Some are growing about as fast as average, such as public relations specialist at 12 percent and fundraising managers at 13 percent. A few professions in the field will experience very slow growth, such as writers, with only a three percent increase between 2012 and 2022.
As businesses grow their global presence, event planners will be at the forefront of international convention planning. Public relations specialists will also be employed by growing businesses, and those with expertise in social media might see the best prospects. In fact, anyone who has built a good reputation and skillset in the world of social media will be more in demand and thus, have the best job opportunities in communications positions.
Geographic location matters, too. The following ten states are where those in communications can expect to see the highest growth from 2012 to 2022.
Public Relations Specialist
816.9% New York
916.2% North Carolina
517.7% North Carolina
617.2% New Mexico
916.6% New York
341.7% New York
839.8% New Mexico
Broadcast News Analyst
What Do Related Occupations Make?
Pursing a career in communications means that individuals can choose from a wide range of professional opportunities. These are just a few of the related jobs that might interest someone in communications.
Related Occupations: What You Need to Know
Looking to branch out even further in the world of communications? These jobs make good use of the skills and knowledge typically required:
Communications Degrees and Career Resources
AWP exists to provide a community where writers and teachers of writing can find networking opportunities and helpful resources.
This professional organization serves as the voice of television and radio broadcasters and advocates on their behalf. Members enjoy access to a variety of resources, continuing education opportunities, and events.
Students looking for information about careers or opportunities for further learning can find much information on the NCA website.
The PRSSA operates on many college campuses throughout the country and is open to PR, communications, and journalism majors. The society offers a variety of scholarships and group competitions and also posts information about internships and jobs.
In operation for more than 100 years, SPJ offers resources, training, and career advice to those in the field and also hosts a student community.
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