Online Degrees in Communication and Media

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Communication students study the exchange of information through media. Professionals in this broad field work with the way we exchange information and are often experts in crafting persuasive messages. While pursuing communication degrees, students study topics such as media laws and regulations, consumer psychology, and innovative methods of persuasion. These courses focus on the business of approaching the public with information. Students should also gain a firm understanding of various media platforms and how each communicates with its audience.

Both "communication" and "communications" are terms that apply to programs in this broad field. To ensure your school's program matches your career ambitions, contact them directly for details. To learn more about a Web and Multimedia degree program, visit that page directly. This page covers general communication online liberal-arts degrees.

Choosing the Right Communication Degree

Most online colleges offer a range of degrees in communication. Below are some examples:

  • Certificates in Communication: Certificate programs may take up to one year to complete. This program might be helpful for those who want to learn more about the field, but are unable to commit to a degree program. Certificates are usually offered in areas such as contexts of communicating, marketing, or translating and interpreting, which may be supplementary to a communication degree.
  • Associate Degree in Communication: Typically, an associate degree in communication is pursued by a student who aims to combine field-specific elective courses, or a degree in another field, with a communication degree. This degree usually takes one to two years to complete. In some cases, an associate degree can qualify graduates for an entry level job, such as junior copy writer or translator.
  • Bachelor's Degree in Communication: Completion of this degree typically takes between three and four years. Most occupations within the field of communication require a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's degrees may be specialized to match a student's personal career goals. For example, a student may earn a bachelor's degree in communication with a specialization in emerging media, which could help him or her acquire a job in a field such as social media marketing.
  • Master's Degree in Communication: This program generally takes about two years to complete, depending on the program and diligence of the student. Though master's degrees in communication are generally pursued by individuals interested in management positions, an advanced degree is required by some technical roles such as a conference or technical interpreter.

Careers in Communication

As mentioned, communication is a broad field with many different career paths and opportunities for graduates. Common career opportunities may include:

  • Advertising: Create messages to promote products, businesses, or services to the public. Develop a keen understanding of market needs and sales strategies.
  • Marketing: Create and sell products to fulfill market needs, employing branding techniques.
  • Public Relations: Work for individuals or organizations on campaigns that promote public image or brands.
  • Copy Writing: Write advertising copy for publication or broadcast media to promote products and services.
  • Technical Writing: Produce materials related to science and technology. Use writing skills to clarify technical language to intended audience and instruct on a variety of topics.
  • Journalism: Write or report information for publication or broadcast. Apply skills in research, interviewing, and editing.
  • Interpreting and Translating: Use knowledge of other languages and subtext of cultures to relay information.

Employment and Salary Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov), from 2010 to 2020 the rates of change in employment for various areas of communication are projected to grow as fast as the national average, which is 14 percent. Other areas can expect slightly faster growth. For example, technical writers can expect 17 percent growth between 2010 and 2020. Some fields of communication should grow much faster, such as interpreting, where employment rates are projected to grow as much as 42 percent by 2020. Growing diversity of the U.S. population and an ever-growing global marketplace will drive the need for translators.

Marketing and public relations are two areas of communication that are projected to have employment rates well above the national average from 2010 through 2020 as well, according to bls.gov. The growing popularity of social media serves as a major driver of this promising outlook.

Some fields, however, may not be as prosperous. According to bls.gov, copy writers will experience below-average employment growth through 2020. Still, copy writers may find opportunities working on the Internet. The cheap prices of web publishing, popularity of electronic books, and creation of online services have spiked the demand for content creators with experience in web and multimedia settings.

The field of communication focuses on sending and receiving messages through various media. An associate degree in communication can equip a student with a basic understanding of topics such as media impact, consumer behavior, and persuasive techniques. With such insight into the fundamentals of communication, this program can help students secure an entry-level position in a variety of careers within the field.

Admission Requirements

Requirements vary across colleges, so prospective students should review a program's specific admissions requirements before applying to their school of choice. In most cases, students must complete a high school diploma or GED to become eligible for admission. Some online colleges require candidates to consult an admissions adviser who can determine their eligibility. Applicants may need to exhibit proficiency in fundamental areas, such as reading, writing and math. Sometimes, if a student exhibits a deficiency, colleges will prescribe placement exams or foundational coursework that can help place the student in the right class level. If English is not the student's primary language, he or she may need to prove proficiency by means of a TOEFL exam score or equivalent, prior to arrival.

What Does an Associate Degree Program in Communication Entail?

Online communication associate degree programs usually include core classes, as well as elective courses that give an overview of topics within the communication discipline. Major classes may include introductory courses that describe different contexts of communication, such as interpersonal, intercultural and mass communication. Other classes might cover visual, research, and promotional techniques aimed at understanding audience reception. If students want to focus their studies on the field of marketing, they can study topics such as merchandising, sales, and consumer psychology. Examples of communication courses may include:

  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Information Strategies
  • Advertising and Promotions
  • Mass Communication
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Marketing Research

Be sure to investigate what courses are offered by your prospective school to determine whether the program you are interested in will help you achieve your goals.

Competencies and Continued Education

The typical time it takes to complete an associate degree in communication is one to two years. This time frame is dependent upon program specifics and individual progress. After earning an associate degree in communication, graduates should be equipped with skills in research, writing, and speaking. Such skills should help students in language usage and conflict resolution. Courses may also train students to assess and analyze information sources as well as evaluate the impact of evolving media platforms.

Once an associate degree is completed, a bachelor's degree may be pursued. Transferring credits can be possible between different schools and programs. Students should research credit transfer options for all schools they are considering to make sure their credits will indeed transfer towards a bachelor's degree program. Typically, if associate degree coursework can be transferred in full, a bachelor's degree may be earned within two years.

Career Outlook for Graduates of Associate Degree Programs in Communication

An associate degree may signify that one is qualified for employment as, for example, a junior copy writer, translator or interpreter. Research shows, however, that more opportunities may be available to those with a bachelor's degree in communication. Some careers in communication that may be pursued with additional work experience or further education include:

  • Marketing Associates
  • Public Relations Specialists
  • Advertisers
  • Technical Writers
  • Journalists

Earning a bachelor's degree in communication can help open doors in this broad field. Since most employers desire a candidate with knowledge and experience, acquiring a bachelor's degree in communication, with focused coursework in a specialized field, is a great first-step towards pursuing these opportunities. Graduates often pursue careers in fields like advertising, writing, or interpreting.

Admission Requirements

Because requirements vary across colleges, so students should consult admissions policies or speak with a counselor at their desired school for specific details. Generally, however, admission into a bachelor's degree program is dependent on the student having completed several things: a high school diploma or GED, an interview with an advisor, and proven proficiency in prerequisite skills.

Typically, colleges ask to arrange consultations between candidates and admissions advisers to determine whether they are eligible for the program. Proficiency in basic skills, such as reading writing or math, will be evaluated during the admissions process. In some cases, placement exams or foundational coursework are offered to ensure students are adequately placed in classes. If English is not your primary language then you may need to prove proficiency in English prior to arrival by providing TOEFL test scores or completing an equivalent assessment.

What Does a Bachelor's Degree Program in Communication Entail?

Coursework in communication tends to be broken into three sections: core basics, major coursework, and electives. This variety presents students with the opportunity to tailor their education to a particular interest or career objective. Since the field of communication is broad, students should be prepared to make decisions about an area of focus early on in their studies to ensure that they take courses that match their career goals.

While cores and elective courses may differ between schools, typical courses can be broken down into four types:

  • Theory or basic skills of communication: These courses can be thought of as Communication 101. Students will be introduced to the field and will gain basic understanding of the importance of language. Examples may include Theories of Communication, Concepts and Skills in Communication, and Practical Uses of Theoretical Communication.
  • Communication in different contexts: Courses like these will teach the role location, or context, plays in communication. The same way you would adjust your language for a small child, you will learn how to change the way you relate and communicate with different audiences. Examples may include Interpersonal Communication, Organizational Communication, Gender Communication, and Leadership and Managerial Communication.
  • Speaking and writing techniques: In these courses, students will sharpen their language skills, both written and verbal. Examples may include Media Writing for Communication, Business and Professional Writing, and Persuasive Communication.
  • Technology and media: Here, courses will specialize in recent technology and media platforms as they relate to the evolving field of communication. Examples may include Communication Technology and Tools for the Digital Age.

Competencies and Continued Education

The length of online bachelor's degree programs in communication vary between colleges, but can typically be completed within three to four years. However, because many programs are self-paced, program length is also dependent on individual diligence. Once they have completed all coursework and requirements, bachelor's degree graduates typically have a firm grasp of various media channels, including their impact and efficacy. Upon graduation, students should have sharpened writing and speaking skills as well as insight into consumer psychology, market dynamics, and audience relation. Students should have refined their professional presentation abilities as well as learned various techniques of persuasion and conflict resolution.

Often, graduates will have a portfolio of compiled coursework or special projects. This portfolio may be shown to prospective employers as proof of competency. Specific degree programs also offer capstones, seminars, or internships which offer students real life, hands-on experience in the field.

A bachelor's degree in communication could prepare you for pursuing a master's degree in the field. After successful completion of a bachelor's degree, a master's degree may be attained within another two years of study, in most cases.

Career Outlook for Graduates of Bachelor's Degree Programs in Communication

Employers in the following fields often require candidates to have a bachelor's degree in communication:

  • Marketing
  • Public Relations
  • Advertising
  • Interpreting and Translation
  • Technical or Copy Writing
  • Journalism

Industry trends show that job opportunities are on the rise in the fields of public relations and interpreting. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment rates in the field of public relations are projected to grow between 20 and 28 percent through 2020. Due to the rise in social media, employers are likely to look for public relations specialists who can use these new media channels effectively. The rate of employment in the field of interpreting and translating is expected to grow 42 percent by 2020, much higher than average. An ever-growing global marketplace will sustain the need for individuals who are multilingual and understand cultural context.

"Communication Occupations," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/home.htm
"Interpreters and Translators," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/interpreters-and-translators.htm
"Public Relations Specialists," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Management/Public-relations-managers-and-specialists.htm

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