Communications is a field of study that offers many career possibilities. It can lead to jobs in broadcasting, writing and public relations. While duties vary by occupation, communications schools teach skills that can be used in the following ways:
- Writing press releases and distributing information to media and the public.
- Creating educational campaigns about issues and products.
- Developing marketing materials for a business.
- Drafting speeches for business executives and public officials.
- Interviewing others for articles, television or radio broadcasts.
What can you do with a communications major? That's what everyone who is thinking about the field wants to know. Since communication is an essential part of many occupations, you can put the skills you learn in a degree program to work in a number of jobs. However, the following are a few of the more common communication studies careers:
- Public relations specialists coordinate communications for a business or organization. They are responsible for promoting positive stories and responding to any negative press. These professionals may also be called communications specialists or media specialists.
- Reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts all work to bring the day's news to the public. They may cover a specific beat, such as politics or sports, and they usually focus on a particular medium such as television, radio or newspaper.
- Announcers are the on-air talent for television and radio broadcasts. They may read news stories, provide commentary and host guests.
- Editors polish the work of reporters and other writers. They may also be responsible for planning the content of a publication. Film editors have a similar job, and these professionals piece together footage for television and movies.
How to Become a Communications Specialist
Not all communications studies careers have the same requirements. However, each follows roughly the same steps.
- Earn a high school diploma or GED.
- Enroll in a postsecondary education program. Common options include a career certificate, associates degree in communications or a four-year degree.
- Select a specialization. Decide whether you want to work in public relations, broadcasting or another field and enroll in courses or internships related to those.
- Advance your career. Join a professional organization or continue your education to stay on top of industry trends and hone your skills.
As part of becoming a communications specialist, you may take classes in the following subjects:
- Public Relations
Communications certificates and degrees
The level of education you choose will depend on the specific communications career you select. Typically, communications schools offer the following:
- Certificate: Certificates are short-term programs that provide an introduction to communications studies or teach students about a specific aspect of the field, such as business communications. These programs can often be completed in just a few months, and you'll find that many schools offer their communications certificate online.
- Associate Degree: A step up from a certificate, an associates degree in communication provides an education that may include both introductory classes and electives. Students learn critical thinking and public speaking skills while also having the opportunity to learn about journalism, visual media or other specializations. Although traditionally completed in two years, an accelerated associate degree may be earned in 18 months or less.
- Bachelor's Degree: Many communications professionals choose to earn a bachelor's degree. These four-year programs offer greater opportunities to study elective courses and learn specialized skills.
Community colleges, four-year colleges and universities may all offer certificates or degrees in communications. What's more, there are many online communications schools. These can be ideal for adult learners or those with work or family obligations. Using multimedia resources, online programs offer students the chance to study at a time that is convenient for them.
Career advancement in communications
Communications professionals may advance their careers in different ways. Some start out in entry-level positions and then advance as they gain experience. Others may return to school for further education in order to move into a more specialized job or supervisory role. Thanks to online communications schools, it can be convenient for professionals to work during the day and study at night.
Skills and Qualities for Communications Specialists
To be successful in the field of communications, you should hone the following skills and abilities.
- Speaking: From setting up interviews to responding to media inquiries, communications professionals need to be comfortable talking to people on the phone and in person.
- Speech Clarity: Not only do communications specialists need to be comfortable speaking to others, but they must be able to clearly and concisely convey information.
- Writing: Even if you don't plan to work as a journalist or editor, you'll need to good writing skills to draft emails, memos and press releases.
- Problem Sensitivity: This skill is particularly important for those working in public relations who need to be ready to respond to negative press. Problem sensitivity refers to being able to anticipate when something may go wrong.
- Time Management: Almost everyone in communications works under a deadline - whether that be to prepare a report before a broadcast or issue a press release before a product launch - and good time management skills are essential.
Career Outlook and Salary Information for Communications Specialists
When it comes to a communication specialist salary, income can vary depending on a person's specific job title, experience and education. To give you an idea of what to expect, the chart below shows some national averages for the industry. Job growth can also depend on your specific occupation and geographic location. However, you can see below the expected growth nationwide for careers that could stem from studying communications:
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage||Projected Job Growth Rate|
|Media and Communication Workers, All Other||20,420||$52,430||8.7%|
|Public Address System and Other Announcers||7,480||$39,040||3.2%|
|Public Relations Specialists||239,030||$68,440||9%|
|Radio and Television Announcers||27,780||$51,630||-10.9%|
|Reporters and Correspondents||37,140||$55,530||-10.7%|
Professional Resources for Communications Specialists
Following or joining an industry group can be a good way to stay on top of current trends, develop professional skills and make networking connections. Here are three organizations that serve communications workers.
- National Communication Association - The NCA offers comprehensive resources that serve communications students, practitioners and researchers. It publishes 11 academic journals, maintains an online career center and holds an annual convention that attracts thousands.
- Public Relations Society of America - This is the organization for those planning a career in public relations. PRSA provides networking opportunities, professional development events and webinars and maintains a code of ethics for PR professionals.
- International Association of Business Communicators - IABC is specifically for communications professionals working in the world of business. The organization offers professional development resources, events and an online community
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Public Relations Specialists, Accessed March 2019, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/public-relations-specialists.htm
- Media and Communication Occupations, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accessed March 2019, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/home.htm
- What Can I Do With a Major in Communications Studies? University of Minnesota, Accessed March 2019, https://cla.umn.edu/wcidwami/communication-studies
- Contemporary Communications Certificate, UMass Lowell, Accessed March 2019, http://www.umassonline.net/degrees/online-certificate-contemporary-communications
- Associate in Arts in Communications, Waldorf University, Accessed March 2019, https://www.waldorf.edu/academics/degree-programs/associates/aa-communications
- Public Relations Specialists, O*Net Online, Accessed March 2019, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/27-3031.00