Communications Degree Ultimate Guide
Would you love to see your byline in a newspaper? Does managing a company’s social media profile sound right up your alley? Were you a member of your high school student council who was always good at figuring out ways to promote activities or raise money?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your abilities and interests might be well-suited to a career in the communications industry. Employers value people who can write, converse, persuade, explain, and create a positive impression — all skills developed in undergraduate and graduate programs in communications.
Especially good news for students earning communication degrees is that the future job market looks promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts employment in media and communication occupations to grow 14% from 2020 to 2030. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Labor includes the following on its list of Bright Outlook occupations poised for rapid growth.
- Technical writers
- Broadcast announcers
- Radio disc jockeys
- Public relations managers
- Public relations specialists
What Is an Online Communications Degree?
In addition to seeking a communications degree through a traditional program, plenty of options exist to earn one via online studies. Oftentimes, a college’s online program follows the same curriculum and employs the same faculty as its on-site counterpart. Students are held to high standards and graduate with skills employers crave.
Sometimes, accelerated options allow online students to complete their studies at a faster pace. Being able to live at home and avoid commutes saves money. Many who pursue a communications degree online like the flexibility afforded, as classes and homework can be scheduled around professional and personal obligations.
Top 10 Schools Offering Communications Degrees
Communications is a popular major offered at many institutions. In coming up with our list of the top U.S. schools that offer communications degree programs, we employed a data-first approach with the goal of creating an objective list based on sound criteria. You can take a closer look at our methodology. The perfect school for each person, of course, varies based on personal interests and needs.
Located within easy reach of Wall Street, Midtown, and the global headquarters of major companies, non-profits, and cultural organizations, Baruch presents access to a “real world” campus full of internship and networking opportunities. And like the Big Apple itself, the communications department at this public institution is bustling with activity.
The BA program in Business Communication alone enrolls more than 700 students. Another 200+ seek a BA in Communication Studies, a program that offers concentrations in interpersonal and group communication, intercultural and international communication, rhetoric and public advocacy, and digital communication and culture. Baruch also offers an MA in corporate communication.
Whether you’re looking for internships, cultural experiences, or great deep-dish pizza, you can’t beat going to school in the heart of downtown Chicago. The campus itself is full of opportunities, too. Roosevelt offers the following degrees:
- BA in Journalism and Media Studies
- BA in Digital Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations
- Master’s in Marketing Communications
Faculty model classroom assignments after actual industry work, and capstone projects enable students to put the theories they learned in class into practice.
Students might first be lured to this private institution in Orange, Calif., because of the sunny skies and proximity to Disneyland and beaches. But Chapman offers a whole lot more than just great weather and recreational opportunities. Its School of Communication houses the following undergraduate and graduate programs:
- Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
- Bachelor of Arts in Strategic and Corporate Communication
- Bachelor of Arts in Global Communication and World Languages
- Master of Science in Health and Strategic Communication
- Ph.D. in Communication
Students interested in getting the most for their tuition dollar will be delighted to know that this private institution in Pittsburgh, Pa., has a national reputation as a good value. Those interested in service to others will be likewise pleased. Catholic missionaries known as Spiritans founded Duquesne in 1878, and the university remains committed to their values.
All students complete courses in information literacy, writing, essential questions, and ethical reasoning. Students wishing to study communications can choose to major in integrated marketing communication, corporate communication, rhetoric, or communication studies. Ambitious undergrads can participate in an accelerated program to begin a master of arts degree while simultaneously finishing up their BA.
The saying “Everything’s bigger in Texas” certainly could be applied to the University of Houston, a public institution enrolling more than 47,000 students. Big opportunities exist, too. The school presents an exceptional number of internship opportunities for all five of its undergraduate communications majors:
- Communication studies
- Health communication
- Strategic communication
- Media production
The real-world experience gained can be a ticket to employment. Or, if graduate studies are in your future, the school also offers a Master of Arts in Communication with the following concentrations:
- Health communication
- Journalism and mass communication
- Global and intercultural communication
- Public relations
Students looking for a faith-based education and a respected communications degree might consider this Christian liberal arts college in San Diego. At the heart of all its communications programs is teaching students how to relay their thoughts, words, and ideas across traditional and modern mediums.
Some students stay broad with an undergraduate degree in communications studies. Others follow their passion for radio, TV, multimedia, and advertising through a major in media communication.
The school also offers a Bachelor’s in Organizational Communication, a great route for people seeking careers in the business world. And a description of Point Loma Nazarene would not be complete without mentioning that its speech and debate team is a perennial powerhouse in the NPDA (National Parliamentary Debate Association).
Back in 1880 when the school was founded in Boston, the first department created at the institution was communications. Today, Emerson continues its support of the discipline through a broad major in communications studies as well as specialized majors in political communication, public relations, sports communication, journalism, marketing communication, and writing/publishing. An annual highlight for the department is the Southwick Recital Series, one of the oldest oratory recital series in the United States. In 2020, Emerson students for the first time joined distinguished faculty, alumni, and guests as presenters.
If the thought of being around a large number of other students interested in communications excites you, this public institution in Fargo might prove to be your dream school. Roughly 350 undergrads and 50 grad students major in programs offered by the communications department.
NDSU’s active communications-related extracurricular offerings recently received a big boost with the opening of a state-of-the-art student media center that houses the Bison Information Network (TV station), The Spectrum student newspaper, and KNDS Radio.
The stated mission of the communications department at this private institution in Saint Paul, Minnesota is to nurture excellence in three skills critical to modern employers:
- Critical thinking
Many UST students hone those abilities through internships – from being a public affairs intern for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to serve as a communication specialist intern for baseball’s Madison Mallards. An annual highlight of the program is welcoming students and faculty from throughout the Upper Midwest to campus for the Undergraduate Communication Research Conference.
With a national reputation in business education, this private institution in Waltham, Mass., is an exciting place at which to pursue a major in information design and corporate communications. In addition to core classes such as effective speaking and web design, students enrich their background with choices such as content development, public relations writing, and interpersonal relations in management. The payoff for becoming a skilled communicator who can turn ideas into action: Bentley grads with this degree earn a median starting salary of $50,000 and boast a 94% job placement rate.
If you’re looking for other schools that offer Communications degree programs, check out the Find Your Perfect “U” tool. You can search over 6,000 colleges and universities with 11 different filters to find the perfect school for you!
What Can I Do with a Communications Degree?
In our information-rich world, possible job opportunities abound for good communicators. Some use their talents to explain or highlight their employer’s products or services. Others deliver news to the public in written or broadcast form.
How Much Do Communications Majors Make?
In May 2020, the median annual wage for media and communication workers as a group was $61,310, according to the BLS. This figure is nearly $20,000 higher than the median annual wage for all occupations.
As in most industries, compensation for communications professionals varies by position, educational level, and work experience. A graduate degree often can make a substantial difference. For instance, BLS statistics show that editors with a master’s degree post a median annual wage that’s $13,000 higher than their counterparts with only a bachelor’s.
Communications Job Projections
If BLS projections prove true, communications looks to be a booming field in the years ahead. The organization predicts employment in media and communication occupations will grow an impressive 14% from 2020 to 2030. This translates into about 151,500 new jobs. While projections are not a guarantee, the news does bode well for those interested in pursuing a communications degree.
Potential Communications Careers
Numerous great careers exist for people with a strong background in communications. The following offers a sample of some common jobs in the industry:.
|Career||Median Annual Salary||Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)||About the Position|
|News analysts, reporters, & journalists||$49,300||6%||News analysts and journalists present current and interesting information to the public in print, through online outlets, or in radio/tv broadcasts.|
|Editors||$63,400||5%||Editors plan and polish the content placed in a publication or media outlet.|
|Technical writers||$74,650||12%||Specialized and technical writers break down complex information into language their target audience can understand.|
|Fundraising managers||$118,430||13%||Fundraising managers communicate with current and potential donors to raise funds for their employer’s organization.|
|Public relations specialist||$62,810||11%||These professionals help the clients they represent maintain a positive public image through good communication and interaction with the public.|
Earning a Degree in Communications
The term “communications” encompasses a wide variety of areas. When selecting a degree program, students should evaluate their individual interests and career aspirations. This reflection will help them decide among the many potential pathways communications majors can pursue.
Types of Communications Degree Programs
Some students choose to major in the broad field of “communication studies.” They graduate with a wealth of written, verbal, and critical-thinking skills that can be applied to the workforce. Other students know they want to put a greater emphasis on certain skills especially needed for their future job, such as learning about crisis intervention and developing brands to enrich the potential for a career in public relations.
Some schools award a BA or a BS in Communications, but students can choose to specialize within the program. Other schools award degrees directly in specific areas, such as a BA or a BS in Journalism.
Communications Degree Specializations
There are several specializations within the field of communications. Niche areas include often seen in collegiate communication programs include:
- Public relations
- Media/news broadcasting
- Corporate communication
- Intercultural communication
- Digital communication
- Marketing communication
- Strategic communication
- Sports communication
- Political communication
- Health communication
Communications Degree Coursework
Coursework varies by school and by a student’s specific area of interest. However, some classes are generally part of the curriculum for people studying communications. These may include:
- Public speaking
- Interpersonal communication/human communication
- Media writing
- Web design/development
- Copy editing
- Research methods in communication
Skills Learned in a Communications Program
Graduates of communications programs are typically also strong writers. They know how to convey ideas in interesting, clear ways that gain attention and inform readers. Degree-holders also possess solid speaking skills. Whether talking one-on-one or to a large group, their mastery of the spoken word allows them to converse and present effectively.
Depending on the specialization, students acquire a range of other abilities that serve them well for future employment and/or pursuing a higher-level degree. These may include:
- Headline writing
- Print and web layout
- Crisis management
- Brand development
- Conflict communication (negotiation strategies, problem-solving tactics, etc.)
- Business writing (resumes, professional memos, etc.)
- Digital photography
- Web design
- Creating an on-air presence
- Play-by-play announcing
- Broadcast producing
- Creative decision-making
- Speech writing
- Social media account management
Choosing the Best Degree in Communications
The best degree in communications is the one that fits your individual interests and professional aspirations. Examine potential career outcomes to determine what educational route might be most in line with your goals.
Levels of Communication Degrees
Jobs in communication fields generally require at least an undergraduate degree. Graduate studies increase prospects and salary and may be necessary for consideration for higher-level positions. Some institutions of higher learning focus solely on undergraduate studies, whereas others include offerings at the graduate level.
Bachelor’s in Communications
Like bachelor’s programs in most disciplines, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications takes about four years of full-time study. In addition to classes required for their major, students fulfill general education requirements that ensure they graduate well-rounded.
An undergraduate communications degree helps a person become a viable candidate for entry-level positions in journalism, advertising, corporate communications, digital media, public relations, broadcasting, and similar fields. Because communication skills are so vital to a range of jobs, degree holders may generate interest from employers filling positions in other industries such as human resources, sales, and hospitality. The average salary for someone with a BA in Communications is $63,000 per year, according to PayScale.com.
Master’s in Communication
Students generally can complete a Master’s Degree in Communications in two years of full-time study. Part-time studies extend this amount but prove attractive to returning students who juggle education with job and family responsibilities. At some colleges, ambitious undergrads can start working toward a graduate degree in communications during their senior year and leave with both diplomas after five years of study.
A master’s degree helps people secure higher-level positions involving greater responsibility, leadership, decision-making, and salary. They might manage a public relations department or run an advertising campaign rather than carry out projects for others.
Some graduate students opt to study communication theory and research. This focus qualifies them for some academic positions as well as sets the stage if they want to go onto doctoral studies. PayScale.com reports the average yearly salary for someone with an MA in Communications as $65,000.
PhD in Communications
The top level in communication studies is a doctorate. Earning this degree generally takes three or four years of full-time study, and admission can be competitive. Places oftentimes require candidates to already possess a master’s degree before applying. Programs themselves consist of core communications classes, courses in a specific area of interest within communications, and sometimes classes in outside disciplines such as social science and humanities. The final requirement is a dissertation, which combines accumulated knowledge with original research and ideas.
Many who receive a PhD go on to a career in academia as a professor and researcher. Others bring their advanced skills to workplaces, where they might oversee entire communications departments or hold executive positions. While compensation varies considerably by job, the average yearly salary for someone with a Doctorate in Communications is about $73,000 per PayScale.com.
When choosing a college at which to study communications, select an institution with regional accreditation from an agency approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). You’ll gain the peace of mind that the place has met established educational standards. Plus, if you want to go on to further your education, you want to make sure your degree carries the same accreditation qualifications to get you into the master’s or doctoral program you want. Likewise, prospective students should look for programmatic accreditation to ensure what is being taught is in line with industry standards.
Paying for a Communications Degree
If paying for a communications degree seems challenging, realize that many different ways exist to fund higher education. Start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The U.S. Department of Education uses the information you input to determine eligibility for federal aid. State programs and individual colleges also look at the document to offer their own financial aid. You may receive a financial aid package that includes grants, a student loan, a work-study job, or a combination of various types.
If currently employed, check into educational benefits offered by your employer. An increasing number of organizations are helping employees pay for college as a way of attracting and retaining workers.
Some students cut expenses by living at home instead of paying for costly room and board on campus. They may attend a college within commuting distance or eliminate travel completely by enrolling in online studies.
Scholarships are a highly desirable source of college money since they do not require repayment. A variety of organizations offer this free money to deserving students. Some scholarship competitions are open to anyone. Others set specific criteria on who can apply. You can search our scholarships to find opportunities relevant to you and your studies.
Special opportunities exist targeting students studying communications. Consider throwing your hat in the ring for these scholarships:
- Speak Up! Scholarship – High schoolers who demonstrate a passion for communications through involvement in their school newspaper, debate club, yearbook, literary magazine, or similar extracurriculars can apply for this scholarship offered by the National Society of High School Scholars. The organization presents five awards of $2,500 each.
- National Press Club Scholarship for Journalism Diversity Honoring Julie Schoo – Each year, this professional organization supports a future journalist who can bring diversity to American journalism. The winner receives a $5,000 scholarship that is renewable each year.
- Student Broadcaster Scholarship Program – The Massachusetts Broadcasters Association awards various scholarships to state residents pursuing studies leading to a career in over-the-air broadcasting.
- NABJ Scholarships – The National Association of Black Journalists awards scholarships up to $10,000 each to high school and college students interested in pursuing journalism careers.
Career Resources for Communications Students
Students interested in communications careers can learn more through the following organizations:
- American Advertising Association
- American Society of Journalists and Authors
- Institute for Public Relations
- Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications
- National Association of Broadcasters
- Society of Professional Journalists
- National Communication Association
- International Association of Business Communicators
|What kind of jobs can you get with a communications degree?||All sorts of employers value the skills taught in programs leading to a communications degree. A few career possibilities include journalist, editor, technical writer, fundraising manager, public relations specialist, social media manager, marketing coordinator, and radio/TV broadcaster.|
|Is a degree in communications worth it?||Individuals must decide for themselves whether or not a degree is worth the time, effort, and cost. However, higher education typically results in greater career opportunities and earning potential. For someone interested in getting a job in public relations, corporate communications, journalism, advertising, and related fields, a bachelor’s degree or higher in communications or a similar discipline is usually necessary.|
|Should I get a communications degree?||The answer depends on your interests and career aspirations. A communications degree can hone your written and verbal skills, making you an attractive job candidate in a variety of fields.|
|What skills does a communications student gain?||People who study communications in college generally emerge with outstanding written and verbal skills.|