Communications Degree

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What is a Communications Major?

A degree in communications exposes students to the methods and processes necessary for understanding a wide variety of communication. Communications encompasses many forms, including one-on-one conversations, touch, eye contact, posture, facial expressions, body language, eye contact, high-stakes communications, visual mediums, storytelling, and mass media dissemination. Individuals who study communications are studying the exchange of ideas between individuals and groups, and how they are interpreted. The major of communication offers a broad base from which many job opportunities can arise amidst varying fields.

Top Communications Major

With a number of communications degree options to digest, we performed the heavy lifting for you and provided a summary of each degree below based on expert advice.  Our goal is to help you better understand the intricacies of each type of degree, its time commitment, and how that may fit with your goals.  The college degree programs available to students in the communication studies department include a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctorate degree.  Programs are available from a number of accredited colleges and universities so make sure to collect information from the schools that you believe will fit your best prior to making a final decision.

Bachelor Degree in Communications

An communications degree online at this level is conferred as either a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA) depending on the school’s program design.  The campus-based or online bachelor degree track is a 4-year program providing students with foundational knowledge about various aspects of communication including interpersonal communication, advertising, marketing, media, crisis communication, organizational communication, persuasion, advertising, argumentation, integrated communication, and public relations.  The first two years of a BA or BS program will include general education courses in classes like rhetoric & English composition, human philosophy, critical thinking, general studies, and mathematics to help students better understand and process stimuli around them.

Whether you earn your communications degree online or in class, you will need to invest time preparing, researching, and organizing to give a variety of speeches.  Breaking down speeches into key components will help students become proficient as piece-parts of communication such as inflection, tone, pacing, deliver, and idea linking involved in quality speeches.  Classes typically found in an online bachelor’s degree in communications include:

  • Creative Problem Solving
  • Media Writing
  • Storytelling
  • Event Planning
  • Public Speaking
  • Communication Theory
  • Rhetorical Theory & Criticism
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Motivational Speaking
  • Communication in the Marketplace
  • Communication and Diversity
  • Human Communication and Technology

Master Degree in Communications

Online master’s degree programs in communications can be conferred as a Master of Science (MS) or a Master of Arts (MA) as a function of the program emphasis and design of the program.  Master’s degrees in communication will take students one to two-years of full time matriculation after all lower level requirements are met.  Upper level classes found in a master’s degree program will typically include classes like:

  • Leadership Communication
  • Communication Theory
  • Persuasive Reasoning
  • Contemporary Rhetorical Theory
  • Problem Solving & Collaborative Communication
  • Communication Research
  • Professional Communication
  • Communication Praxis

In many programs, students can select a thesis project or elect to bypass a thesis by taking additional approved communication courses.  For students who choose to organize, prepare, write, complete, and defend a thesis project a topic must be pre-approved by your advisor with defined milestones in place to ensure successful completion.   MA and MS programs in communications are offered both in class and online at many schools to provide students with the choice to determine which learning modality is best for them.

Doctorate Degree in Communications

Doctoral degrees in communications are conferred as Doctor of Philosophy in Communications which carries with it a PhD designation.  The PhD program is considered a terminal degree as no additional programs exist beyond the doctorate degree.  An on-site or online PhD in Communications is a three to five-year program depending credit hours taken and time spent on your dissertation.  Doctorate programs in communications will allow students to select an area of specialization which will determine the courses taken in the program.

The Doctor Philosophy in Communications program allows students to invest time in areas of emphasis such as corporate communications, rhetoric & culture, intercultural communications, interpersonal communications, or community & social interactions.  Graduates from the PhD program will be equipped to teach at the college level, perform research in the field, or work for businesses in the field of communications.

Educational Requirements in Communications

Communications majors are available from associate level to the doctoral, with the most common being a bachelors degree.  Students enrolled in a communications programs will be exposed to a variety of courses that will provide a well-rounded understanding of the various forms of mediums used in the field. Some courses will provide an education in theory - covering the history and development of forms; while other courses will provide information and demonstration for the practical uses of the information gained via case studies and a variety of hands-on student projects. Programs may vary in their focus, and it is recommended that students research a variety of programs prior to applying in order to ensure that the program suits their individual goals.

A curriculum in communications may include:

  • Theory of Rhetoric
  • Behavioral Science
  • Professional Communication
  • Computer Applications in Media
  • Psychological States & Media
  • Mass Communication
  • Applied Communications Technology
  • Digital Media Technologies

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Employment Opportunities & Communications Jobs

The variety of communications major jobs can open doors in your career you may not yet anticipate.  This is due to the nature of the major, which incorporates a variety of disciplines and is utilized every individual across all sectors of our economy, thus career opportunities can range from obvious vocational tracks like journalism, business administration, and acting.  Meanwhile, non-traditional communications degree jobs may include becoming a spokesperson for a sustainable energy company or public relations manager at a multi-national corporation.   The viability of entering such positions is dependent upon the individual and how said individual represents his or her skill sets. The education provided by a communications degree is fairly broad, and many programs allow for a degree of specialization through the choice of electives.

A small sampling of possible careers with a communications degree:

  • Language Specialist
  • Performing Artist
  • Scriptwriter
  • Digital Media Manager
  • Copywriter
  • Marketing Specialist
  • Personnel Recruiter
  • Disc Jockey
  • Technical Writer
  • Account Executive

In addition to the positions available to a communication degree holder, educational opportunities at the graduate-level may be open to individuals with a different undergraduate degree profile.  Likewise, students that earn a communications major may go on to earn a graduate or professional degree in law, finance, economics, or business.  With an additional investment of a few years, students can increase their career opportunities and earning potential with a graduate degree or professional certificate.  The variety of graduate programs available is numerous, particularly if the student has high grades and/or above average GRE or LSAT scores.

Careers in Communications

Due to the nature of the degree, there is no single career from which to gauge the average salary of a communications major.  With nearly two-dozen degree combinations to select across myriad industries, the a communications major salary will be as diverse as the students graduating from this educational track.  Individuals interested in possible earnings may search for specific careers that are possible through a communications degree to compare earnings potential.  Additionally, higher levels of education will pay more, especially when coupled with greater work experience gained directly or through internships.

Communications Degree Salary Overview

The variety of jobs in the communications field makes it challenging to provide a singular answer to how much a communications major will make.  The reality is the income you will make after earning a degree in communications will depend on your degree type (associates, bachelors, masters, doctorate), work experience, geographic location, population density, employer base, demand for your skills, and your effort.  To help you understand what jobs you can get with a communications degree, we have created an overview of some popular jobs below.

Announcers:  The median annual income of an announcer is $30,830 with the top 10% of announcers making $89,720 a year.  The top employers are local and national broadcasting companies followed by colleges and universities.

Sound Engineering Technicians: Sound engineering techs make $53,680 a year, on average with the top ten percent making $121,630.  Top employers are motion picture companies and sound recording entities.

Film and Video Editors: Median annual income for film and video editors is $62,720 with the top ten percent making $162,260 annually.  The biggest employers of film and video editors is the motion picture industry.

Interpreters and Translators: Mean annual wage for translators and interpreters is $51,260 with the top ten percent of professionals making $83,010 a year.  Largest employers of translators and interpreters are scientific and technical organizations followed by elementary and secondary schools.

Photographers:  The median income for a photographer is $34,070 a year with the top 10% making $76,220 on average.  Biggest employers of photographers are scientific and technical organizations followed by broadcasting companies and publishers.

Public Relations Specialists:  A public relations specialist’s mean average wage is $66,540 a year with the top ten percent making $110,560 a year.  The top employers of public relation specialists are public relations firms, consulting firms, colleges & universities, and local government agencies.

Reporters and Broadcasters: Mean annual wage for reporters and broadcasters is $49,770 with the top 10% making $86,610 a year.  The two largest employers of reporters and broadcasters are publishers and radio & television companies.

Technical Writers:  A technical writer will make $69,850 on average each year with the top ten percent making $111,260 a year.  Computer design companies, management & technical consulting firms, and architectural & engineering organizations are the three largest employers of technical writers.

Camera Operators: The mean annual wage of a camera operator is $63,200 based on the latest data available with the top ten percent making $109,200 a year.  The motion picture and video industry is the single largest employer of camera operators with radio and television broadcasting companies a distant second.

Writers and Authors:  Median annual income of a writer and author is $61,240 with the top ten percent grossing $118,640 a year.  The five largest employers of writers and authors includes: advertising firms, public relations organizations, publishers, motion picture industry, and scientific & technical consulting firms.

Graphic Designers:  Mean annual wage for a graphic designer is $52,290 with the top 10% of graphic designers making $82,202 a year.  The largest employers of graphic designers are specialized design firms, advertising agencies, public relations companies, publishers, and computer design firms.

Additional Resources for Communications Majors

Trade groups and national associations may be a great tool for students to leverage their degree in communications.  Members receive a variety of educational and professional opportunities that may be worth exploring further.  Top associations in communications include:

  • Social Media Association (SMA)
  • American Marketing Association (AMA)
  • National Communication Association (NCA)
  • Global Alliance for PR and Communication Management (GAPR)
  • American Communication Association (ACA)
  • International Communication Association (ICA)

Individuals interested in communications may also be interested in liberal arts, social work, business, public speaking, public relations, or performing arts.

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Career Summary: Communications Major




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