Interested in the art of storytelling and wish to learn the skills to effectively drive the message home? Then a degree in communications might be what you’re looking for. From insights into effective messaging, to equipping you with skills to kickstart a successful career in fields like public relations, journalism, marketing, and media management, this degree helps you gain an understanding of various communication disciplines. 

A communications degree not only sharpens your proficiency in public speaking, but also helps you master the art of conveying your message adeptly.
In this article, we’ll gain a thorough understanding of how you can pursue a degree in communications, the different types of programs offered in this field of study, and various career paths that you can explore with communication studies.

Consider a communications degree to be your ticket to understanding the intricate world of human interaction and information exchange. This field can help you explore verbal and non-verbal communication techniques to deliver the right information to your audience.

What Does a Communications Degree Teach:

With a degree in communication, you could learn:

  1. Strategic Communication: Crafting messages with purpose and impact.
  2. Media Literacy: Analyzing and understanding media content critically.
  3. Interpersonal Communication: Seamless navigation of face-to-face interactions.
  4. Digital Communication: Harnessing the power of online platforms and social media.
  5. Public Relations: Building and maintaining a positive professional image.
  1. Visual Communication: Using visuals to enhance and complement messages.
  2. Crisis Communication: Responding effectively in challenging situations.
  3. Communication Ethics: Understanding and practicing ethical communication principles.

A communication degree, in a nutshell, offers a skill set that is crucial for success in various professional fields.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of what you study in a communications degree, let’s look at the different degree levels that you can pursue in this field of work.

Communication degree levels

As a communications student, you can pick from a number of degree levels. If you’re just starting out, you could consider an associate or bachelor’s degree. However, if you do have an undergraduate degree, and wish to gain an expert-level understanding of communication, a master’s or a doctorate in communications could be your preferred choice. Let’s dive deeper into the details of each degree program:

Undergraduate Degree in Communications
(Associate and Bachelor’s degree):

Associate’s Degree in Communications:

An associate’s degree in communications is a two-year program that provides foundational understanding of communication principles. In this program, you’ll explore introductory courses in verbal and written communication, media studies, and interpersonal communication. The curriculum of this program may cover basic journalism and digital media concepts, offering a taste of various aspects of communication. As a student, consider this degree to be a  stepping stone for entry-level positions in communication, or as a transferable credit towards a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s Degree in Communications:

A bachelor’s degree in communications is a four-year program that offers a more in-depth exploration of the field. As a student of this program, you would gain comprehensive knowledge on communication theory, public relations, journalism, and digital media production. Some curriculums also include specialized study on topics such as advertising, corporate communication, or social media. This degree in communications often incorporates internships or practical projects, giving you a taste of real-world application of concepts learned. Upon graduating, you would be equipped with a well-rounded skill set suitable for a number of career paths, from journalism to marketing and beyond. The bachelor’s degree is a wonderful way to set the stage for advanced studies or immediate entry into the workforce.

Graduate Degree in Communications (Master’s degree):

A graduate degree in communications, often a master’s program, offers a deeper dive into specialized areas. The duration of this type of communications degree is around two years beyond the bachelor’s degree. While programs can vary as per concentrations, the common ones include concentrations like strategic communication, public relations, marketing communications, and digital media management. If you’re a student of this degree, you get a chance to engage in advanced coursework and research, and could be required to complete a thesis or capstone project. As a communications major student, you would be honing important skills like strategic communication, leadership, public speaking, and working with the ever-evolving media and technology tools.

Doctoral Degree in Communications (Ph.D.):

For those aiming for the pinnacle of academic achievement, a doctoral degree in communications could be the route. This rigorous program includes extensive research, culminating in a dissertation. The duration of pursuing a Ph.D., post your master’s degree can range from 4 to 7 years.
If you’re a doctoral candidate, you would get the opportunity to explore advanced communication theories, contribute to the academic discourse, and may specialize in areas such as media psychology or communication ethics. Upon graduation, you would be prepared for academic roles or leadership positions in research, shaping the future of communication scholarship. For most doctoral programs in this field, the emphasis, typically, remains on original contributions to the field through in-depth research and critical analysis.

When thinking about applying for a degree in communications, remember that requirements may vary depending on the institute you are applying to. The common list of requirements to apply for different levels of communication degrees include:

Associate’s Degree in Communications:

To apply for an associate’s degree in communications, you typically need a high school diploma or equivalent. Usually, the application process involves submitting a completed application form, transcripts, and, in some cases, a personal statement that highlights your interest in the program. There may be instances where some community colleges may have placement tests or prerequisites for entry-level courses. While letters of recommendation and standardized tests are not very common at this level, it’s best to check the specific requirements of the institution you’re applying to.

Bachelor’s Degree in Communications:

If you want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in communications, you generally need a high school diploma or equivalent, along with a completed application form. Just like the associate degree’s process, the application often includes submitting transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Some universities may require standardized test scores like the SAT or ACT. Be sure to check if the program has specific prerequisites or additional requirements, such as a writing sample or interview.

Pro Tip: A portfolio showcasing relevant work or extracurricular activities may strengthen your application.

Master’s Degree in Communications:

The first requirement to apply for a master’s degree in communications is a completed bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, along with a GPA above a certain minimum. However, for certain masters programs, a bachelor’s degree in communications with a specific major would be beneficial.
The next steps may include submitting transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume, along with a personal statement that details your academic and professional goals. Applying for a master’s degree may require you to submit the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) or equivalent standardized test scores. Some institutes may also ask for a writing sample or a portfolio showcasing relevant work. As always, check for any additional requirements specific to the program or university.

Doctoral Degree in Communications (Ph.D.):

To pursue a doctoral degree in communications, you generally would need a completed Master’s degree in a related field. The application process is considered highly competitive and typically involves submitting transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume, a research proposal, and a personal statement outlining your research interests. In most cases, standardized test scores are requested. Another crucial requirement is a writing sample demonstrating your academic capabilities. Additionally, some programs may require an interview or an on-campus visit. When applying for this degree in communication, it’s best to carefully review and adhere to the specific requirements of the doctoral program you’re applying to.

If you want a flexible and accessible pathway to acquiring the skills required to succeed in the field of communication, you could consider online communication degree options. These programs, available at various academic levels, allow you to pursue your studies without the constraints of traditional campus attendance. Available via virtual classrooms, multimedia resources, and interactive platforms, you get to engage in coursework that covers the wide spectrum of communication disciplines. From public relations and social media management to digital journalism and interpersonal communication, online programs offer the same education as their on-campus counterparts.

The flexibility of online communication degrees can accommodate diverse learners, including working professionals and those with other commitments. These programs help you hone your  digital communication skills, which is a valuable asset in today’s tech-driven world. With collaborative online projects, discussions, and real-world case studies, the learning experience of these online programs is quite enriching, thereby preparing you for diverse career paths in the communication landscape. The online format ensures that aspiring communicators like you can tailor their education to fit their schedules.

A degree in communications opens doors to a plethora of opportunities that can be explored to find your true calling. Some of the common arenas where you could use the knowledge and skills gained with a communication studies degree include:

  1. Marketing: A communication degree equips you to understand consumer behavior and create compelling messages. In marketing, you can apply your skills to develop effective advertising campaigns, manage brand communication, and engage with target audiences across various channels.
  2. Human Resources: Communication skills are pivotal in HR roles. With a degree focused on communication studies, you’ll learn how to excel in employee relations, conflict resolution, and organizational communication. Your ability to convey policies, provide training, and foster open communication can make for a positive and effective workplace.
  3. Digital Content Creation: With a strong foundation in communication, you can excel in content creation. Whether you’re writing blog posts, creating videos, or managing social media, your ability to craft engaging and impactful content will prove to be valuable in the digital landscape.
  4. Customer Success: Communication is at the core of customer success. A degree in communication will allow you to leverage your skills to build relationships, address customer needs, and ensure satisfaction. Your ability to communicate effectively contributes to customer loyalty and business growth.
  5. Political Campaign Management: In the political arena, communication is key. As a campaign manager, you could use your expertise to shape messaging, engage with voters, and manage public relations. Your skills contribute to the success of political campaigns and advocacy efforts.
  6. Training and Development: Apply your communication knowledge to design and deliver effective training programs. Your ability to convey complex information clearly and engage learners can contribute to the professional development of employees.
  7. Health Communication: A communications degree equips you to apply your skills to convey health information effectively. You could use your communication skills to create materials that promote public health campaigns, and improve patient understanding of medical information.
  8. Education: As a communications major graduate, you’ll learn how to apply your communication skills to support educational institutions. You could contribute to curriculum development, improve student engagement, and provide training for educators. Your expertise can enhance the overall educational experience.

A communications degree is a versatile degree that can open doors to multiple career options in a number of industries. From automobile and sports, science and technology, to entertainment and media, the knowledge you gain with the degree can be applied to almost any industry.
Being adept at driving the message home could make you a highly marketable resource for potential employers across industries.  Here’s a list of some popular career options available to students who choose purse communication studies: 

1. Public Relations Specialist:

As a public relations specialist, you would be responsible for crafting and maintaining a positive image for individuals, companies, or organizations. These professionals develop communication strategies, write press releases, and engage with the media to manage public perception. As of May 2022, the median annual wage for public relations specialists was $67,440.

2. Social Media Manager:

If you choose to become a social media manager, your primary goal would be to oversee an organization’s online presence. You would be responsible for creating content, developing social media strategies, and engaging with the audience across various platforms to build and maintain a positive online brand image. The average salary of a social media manager was $113,110 as of November 2023. 

3. Corporate Communications Manager:

Another dynamic field of work in communications, if you want to enter the corporate world, is corporate communications. Corporate communications managers are responsible for internal and external communications within a company. These professionals develop messaging, manage public relations, and ensure consistent communication to employees, stakeholders, and the public. As of November 2023, the average salary of a corporate communications manager is $123,500.

4. Broadcast Journalist:

Broadcast journalists, one of the most common professions for graduates with a communications major, are required to report news through television or radio. If you enter this line of work, you would be researching stories, conducting interviews, and presenting news to the public. Broadcast journalists usually specialize in areas such as politics, entertainment, or investigative reporting. On average, broadcast journalists earn about $48,800 per annum, as of November 2023.

5. Advertising Copywriter:

Yet another interesting industry to explore after your degree in communications is advertising. Typically, advertising copywriters create compelling and persuasive content for advertisements. As a professional in this field, you would be required to work closely with creative teams to develop slogans, taglines, and other written materials that effectively communicate the message of a product or service. As of November 2023, on average, an advertising copywriter earns about $53,062 per annum.

6. Event Planner:

Planning events, personal or corporate, require professional will essential skills like effective communication, time management and leadership. If you’re someone who likes organizing events, you could consider becoming an event planner where you would be required to coordinate and execute all kinds of events, ranging from conferences to weddings. Your responsibilities would also include handling logistics, budgeting, and working closely with clients to ensure the smooth execution of events. Recent data shows that the average salary of an event planner is around $49,548. However, the salary range typically falls between $41,348 and $57,895.

7. Media Analyst:

If you have an analytical mind and have earned a communications degree, you could consider becoming a media analyst. Media analysts assess the impact of media campaigns and strategies. As part of this professional community, you would be collecting and analyzing data to evaluate the effectiveness of communication efforts. Once done, it would be your responsibility to provide valuable insights that can help organizations refine their future communication strategies. Most media analysts work in public relations firms or the marketing departments of corporate organizations. As of November 2023, the average salary of a media analyst is $65,381. The typical salary range, however, falls between $55,456 and $75,569.

Embarking on a communication degree journey opens doors to a wide range of exciting career possibilities. From crafting compelling messages as a public relations specialist to navigating the digital landscape as a social media manager, the field offers diverse avenues.

Every industry, organization – public or private, profit or nonprofit – needs effective communicators. With a degree in communications, you could channel your skills into marketing, human resources, or even education. Communication, as a field of study, offers seamless transition from an associate’s to a doctoral degree, tailoring your education to suit your aspirations. The degree’s adaptability shines as it leads to roles in corporate communication, journalism, and even healthcare. The versatility of a communication degree allows you to combine it with almost any interest or passion, laying the foundation for a dynamic and impactful career in a variety of industries.

Why is communications a great major?

Communications is a great major due to its versatility and relevance in today’s interconnected world. The field equips you with essential skills like effective verbal and written communication, critical thinking, and media literacy. These skills are invaluable across various industries, making communication graduates sought after in fields such as public relations, marketing, journalism, and corporate communication. With businesses and organizations prioritizing clear and effective messaging, a communications major becomes a strategic asset. Moreover, the constantly evolving digital landscape ensures that communication professionals remain at the forefront of innovation, making it a dynamic and future-proof choice for a rewarding career.

Can I make a successful career with a degree in communications?

Yes, absolutely! A degree in communications opens diverse pathways to success. It equips you with essential skills in messaging, media, and interpersonal communication, highly valued in today’s professional landscape. You can find success in public relations, marketing, journalism, digital media, and beyond. The adaptability of communication skills ensures relevance across industries, making it a foundation for career growth. As businesses prioritize effective communication, your expertise becomes a valuable asset. With the right blend of skills and passion, a communications degree paves the way for a fulfilling and successful career.