Communications Career Guide | Salary & Schools 2024

Written by James Mielke
Published on January 16, 2023 · Updated on June 30, 2023

Communications Career Guide | Salary & Schools 2024

Written by James Mielke
Published on January 16, 2023 · Updated on June 30, 2023

What is Communications?

In its simplest form, communication refers to the exchange of information. Given this definition's broad meaning, it should be no surprise that communications is a vast, diverse, and evolving field employing millions of professionals in both the public and private sectors each year. Students who complete communications degrees work in numerous areas, making it a highly transferrable degree.

This page looks at the different types of communication degrees available, explores common jobs for graduates, highlights top communications programs, and answers some of your most frequently asked questions. Keep reading to learn about this exciting field and see what it can do for you.

Communications Careers

Communications degrees remain a popular academic option for students because there is a broad spectrum of jobs that graduates qualify for. Corporations, governments, and nonprofits all rely on communications professionals as well as many other sectors. Whether working in crisis communications for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as a public relations professional for a professional sports team, or as a communications director for a nonprofit focused on housing insecurity, countless jobs rely on the skills you'll gain in your communications degree.

What Can I Do With A Communications Degree?

Communications degrees open a world of possibilities and allow graduates to work in areas they find personally and professionally fulfilling. Someone with a passion for sports may find a career as  a sports journalist while those interested in healthcare may pursue a career at a hospital or clinic as a health education specialist.

The best communications graduates possess clear and concise verbal and written communication skills, an ability to communicate with diverse populations, and a commitment to continued education and professional development.

Some top-paying roles currently available include:

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers
  • Median Salary: $133,380 
  • Career Outlook: +10% (2021-2031)
  • Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers
  • Median Salary: $119,860 
  • Career Outlook: +8% (2021-2031)
  • Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
Public Relations Specialists
  • Median Salary: $62,800 
  • Career Outlook: +8% (2021-2031)
  • Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
Technical Writers
  • Median Salary: $78,060 
  • Career Outlook: +6% (2021-2031)
  • Required Education: Bachelor's Degree
Writers and Authors
  • Median Salary: $69,510 
  • Career Outlook: +4% (2021-2031)
  • Required Education: Bachelor's Degree

Communications Degree

Communications degrees exist at every academic level, making it easy for learners to find a degree that matches their interests and career goals. These programs can range in length from two to seven years, depending on the degree. In this section, we explore each type of communications degrees offered.

Associate degrees in communications are introductory programs that teach students the foundation of the discipline. Most of these programs consist of approximately 60 credits and require two years of full-time study. Learners can enroll online or in person at community colleges. Topics commonly explored include:

  • Intro to Mass Communication
  • Public Speaking
  • Communication and Technology
  • Digital Communications

Students also complete general education courses that can transfer over to a bachelor's degree if they choose to further their education.

A bachelor's degree is the most commonly required degree for a communications careers, and requires approximately 120 credits completed over four years of full-time study. Available online or in-person, these programs serve both first-time learners and those entering after completing an associate degree. Some of the classes usually taken include:

  • Media, Culture, and Society
  • Communication Research Methods
  • Media Processes and Effects
  • Communication Policy and Regulation
Many programs also include a semester-long internship component, allowing degree-seekers the opportunity to gain real-world experience and networking opportunities before graduation.

Earning a Master's Degree in Communications allows graduates to apply for administrative and leadership roles and can often boost salary potential. These programs usually require one or two years of study and comprise approximately 30-42 credits. Many students opt to complete their master's degree in communications online, but campus-based programs also exist. Common coursework includes:

  • Communication Theories and Models
  • Crisis Communications
  • Communication in Global Contexts
  • Conducting Communication Research

These programs typically include either a comprehensive capstone project or an original thesis.

Students who complete a Doctorate in Communications typically desire to teach at the postsecondary level, engage in research, and/or work in various leadership roles. Programs can take between three and seven years, depending on coursework, graduation requirements, and whether students engage in part-time or full-time learning. Common classes include:

  • Information Retrieval Theory
  • Interpersonal Communication Research
  • Communication Theory
  • Organizational Communication Networks

Online Communications Degree

Online communications degrees appeal to many students as they provide flexibility, allow learners to look at schools further afield, and can cost less. Rather than visiting campus multiple times per week and taking face-to-face classes, online programs allow learners to watch lectures, engage with peers and professors, complete readings, and submit assignments from any location with a reliable internet connection. 

These programs work well for learners juggling personal and professional responsibilities alongside academics and those who may not live close to a university offering a communications program. Many schools offer online communications degrees at varying academic levels. Highly regarded colleges currently offering online communication programs include:

1. Pennsylvania State University's World Campus

Long regarded as a leader in distance learning, Penn State provides Bachelor's Degrees in Organizational and Professional Communication, Strategic Communications, and Digital Journalism and Media as well as a Master's Degree in Strategic Communications. An undergraduate certificate in organizational communication also exists. Learners can choose from several start dates throughout the year and benefit from professors with professional work experience and outstanding academic credentials.

2. University of Central Florida

UCF provides online communication degrees at the bachelor's and master's levels. Students seeking a four-year degree can choose from studies in technical communication or communication and conflict, while graduate students can choose from programs in technical communication or emergency and crisis management.

UCF has provided online degrees for more than 25 years. Students based in Florida pay $180 per credit while out-of-state learners pay $716 per credit.

Communications Areas and Specializations

Given the broad nature of the communications field, universities and colleges commonly offer specializations that allow students to focus their studies in a particular area. Concentrations can vary from school to school, so learners should find a program that focuses on their area of interest. Some common options include:

Mass Communication

This concentration develops skills in communication with large, diverse audiences using varied communication platforms and methods. Students learn how to exchange information as part of advertising, journalism, and other disciplines focused on communicating to large populations.

Public Relations

Public relations concentrations teach students how to develop and manage public images of companies and individuals. Learners develop skills in areas of strategic communications, brand management, crisis communications, and public relations campaigns. 

Best Colleges for Communications

  1. Boston University

Established in 1839, Boston University is a private research institution that plays home to multiple communication degrees. BU's College of Communication is home to undergraduate and graduate programs covering fields such as advertising, journalism, media science, and public relations. Additionally, graduate programs include MFA tracks in screenwriting and film and television studies. 

  1. Syracuse University

Based in upstate New York, Syracuse University is a private school that consistently ranks among the best institutions in the United States. Among its standout academic schools is the Newhouse School of Public Communications. This top communications school offers a relatively expansive list of majors, including graphic design, photography, public relations, advertising, and journalism. In addition to a sizable list of in-person master's programs, Newhouse also offers online Master's in Communications and Communications Management.

  1. Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is not only one of the best art schools in the United States, but it's also home to their standout visual communication school. Established in 1978, SCAD offers BA, BFA, MA, and MFA programs in illustration, photography, and sequential art. In addition to campus-based options, SCAD also offers online programs in advertising, photography, and social strategy and management. 

  1. University of Missouri-Columbia

The University of Missouri at Columbia is the state's flagship public institution. Mizzou was established in 1839 and is home to bachelor's, master's, and PhD programs in communications. Additionally, this large public school is home to one of the best journalism programs in the United States. Alongside in-person degrees, Mizzou offers top online undergraduate and graduate programs in areas such as communication, health communication, interactive media, media management, and strategic communication.

  1. Full Sail University

Founded in 1979, Full Sail University is a Florida-based, for-profit institution that's home to a deep roster of online and on-campus degrees. Full Sail offers undergraduate degrees in areas including creative writing, sportscasting, media communications, and sports marketing. In addition to graduate programs in new media journalism and public relations, Full Sail's communications school offers online certificates for creative writing and media strategy. 

Communications College Financial Aid

Earning your communications degree can get expensive, but it's a worthy investment of both time and money. Thankfully, you have access to financial aid opportunities, including federal loans, private loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study programs. When preparing for the admissions process, you'll be required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will determine your eligibility for federal financial aid and institutional awards.

We've spotlighted a few communications-based scholarships to get you started on your financial aid search. Also, take a moment to review our scholarship tool to search for potential scholarships.

How To Earn A Communications Degree - Next Steps

  1. Earn a high school diploma or GED

  2. Identify several schools offering communication degrees that fit your academic, financial, and professional goals—as well as budgetary requirements

  3. Apply to schools that meet your requirements, carefully reviewing each application to ensure it is free of any mistakes

  4. Select an online or in-person school based on acceptance letters and begin taking courses

  5. Look for ways to enhance your experience while in school through internships, networking opportunities, and job shadowing programs

Communications FAQ

  • What can I do with a communications degree?
    • Graduates with a communications degree can utilize their skills in numerous career fields. From business and politics to journalism and content creation, communications majors work anywhere that relies on effective client relationships, brand management, and public relations. Common jobs include public relations specialists, journalists, and marketing managers.
  • How much can I make with a communications degree?
    • Your earnings potential can vary wildly depending on your role. Additionally, elements like experience, job title, and geographic location can impact how much you earn. Whether in PR, marketing, politics, or business, those with advanced degrees that hold leadership roles tend to make the highest salaries.
  • Is communications hard?
    • The level of difficulty students can expect depends on the individual and their skills and work ethic. Common communications classes include topics such as mass communication, technical writing, public relations, and foundations of communication.
  • How long does it take to complete a communications degree?
    • The time it takes to earn your communications degree can vary. Full-time undergraduate students can typically graduate in about four years, while part-time learners will take longer. Additionally, online students can often fast-track their college experience through accelerated online programs.
  • Can I complete my communications degree online?
    • Communication degrees are often available online, affording working and non-traditional students the chance to earn their degrees while keeping up with personal and professional responsibilities. In addition to an online program's inherent flexibility, virtual degrees often cost less than in-person options while providing the same quality instruction available to in-person learners.
  • Is communications a good degree?
    • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs in media and communications are projected to grow by 6% between 2021 and 2031, leading to nearly 70,000 new roles. Professionals in this field earned median annual salaries of $62,340 in 2021, substantially higher than the national average of $45,760 for all occupations. Given this data, earning a communications degree makes sense for students looking for a promising career with higher-than-average earning potential.
  • What is the most popular communications degree?
    • The vast majority of communications roles require a bachelor's degree, making this a popular option for students. All of the jobs we've highlighted require a bachelor's degree in communications or a related field. These programs also serve as a great stepping stone for completing graduate-level education later on.

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