In general, coursework in communications programs will touch on topics such as content editing, problems in public relations, mass communication history and information management. Degree concentrations are common in bachelor's and master's programs, and may include public speaking or persuasive writing. Programs at all levels may include internships or field experiences with local media organizations.
For associate's degrees and bachelor's degree programs, admission requires a high school diploma or equivalent. Master's degree programs require a bachelor's degree and, in some cases, satisfactory GRE scores. Graduates of a bachelor's or master's degree program may be eligible for professional certification in the field.
Associate Degree in Communications
An associate degree program in communications will introduce students to mass media, written and oral articulation and the impact of communication on society. Offered as a 2-year program, the curriculum includes studies in the fundamentals of writing, marketing, public relations and methods for improving interpersonal and group communications. Some programs culminate in a field practicum where students work in a communications setting, such as a local newspaper or radio station.
Communications courses are writing-intensive and include electives in broadcasting, newspaper writing and film studies. Program curricula may contain several topics, including:
- Mass communication
- International cultures
- Commercial media
- Writing and editing
- Public relations
Bachelor's Degree in Communications
These interdisciplinary 4-year bachelor's degree programs combine studies in communications, film, journalism and public relations. Students participate in article and speech writing, literary review and broadcast journalism. Some schools offer an emphasis in public speaking, and students are required to give oral presentations and speeches in a variety of formats and topics. An internship may also be mandatory during the last semester of the program.
Coursework generally consists of studies in mass media consumption, communication theory, listening techniques and communications data analysis. Other focus areas may include:
- Media exposure
- Conflict resolution
- Human relations
- Communication ethics
Master's Degree in Communications
Generally a 2-year program that focuses on leadership and management, graduate studies in communications consist of traditional coursework, group projects, seminars and an internship. Students learn technical and persuasive writing, communication theories, methods of improving workplace communications and the influences of technology on mass communication. Some programs offer you the opportunity to choose a concentration area, such as advertising, public relations or human resources.
Graduate coursework covers topics in ethics, management and workplace communications. Other study areas include:
- Global business
- Information technology
- Media history
- Internet privacy
- Information management
Popular Career Options
After graduating, you'll typically qualify for entry-level jobs in many industries. Assistant, support and administrative positions at television stations, public relations firms and print organizations may provide graduates with an introduction to several career options. Some common job titles for those with an associate degree include:
- Customer relations representative
- Sales representative
- Research assistant
Career options for graduates of bachelor's degree programs exist at advertising agencies, film studios, magazines and a variety of other settings. These positions are often entry-level, though bachelor's-level training and practical experience completed in an academic program may qualify graduates for more advanced specialist job duties. Possible careers for graduates include:
- Public relations specialist
- Multimedia producer
- Advertising specialist
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that jobs for public relations specialists would grow 7% during the 2019-2029 decade (www.bls.gov). In 2020, the BLS reported that public relations specialists held 244,550 jobs and earned a median annual salary of $62,810. Advertising and promotions managers earned an annual median wage of $133,460 in 2020.
Continuing Education Information
Bachelor's degree-holders with five years of public relations experience may pursue professional certification through organizations such as the International Association of Business Communicators or the Universal Accreditation Board. Accreditation requirements include a professional portfolio and passing scores on a qualifying examination. Other industry-specific credentials may include marketing and journalism certifications.
Communications degree programs are available at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. After graduating, students may wish to start careers as sales representatives, journalists or publicists, among others.