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What can I do with a degree in communications?

The ability to understand subtle signals and communicate more effectively is one benefit of earning a degree in communications, particularly as it relates to employability and workplace effectiveness. The soft skills learned as a communications major can help graduates find work in a wide range of positions, including some of the fastest growing occupations in the country.

Salary info for graduates with a degree in communications

Studies by Georgetown's Center for Education and the Workforce (CEW) indicate that a degree in communications may not immediately lead to a high-paying job, but graduates do tend to earn better-than-average salaries over time. Here's a 2013 breakdown, originally reported in "Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment, and Earnings":

  • Recent graduates with a degree in communications earn an average of $33,000 per year
  • Graduates with a degree in communications and some workforce experience earned an average annual salary of $54,000
  • Professionals with a graduate degree in communications or journalism reported an average yearly income of $64,000

Also, according to the Center's report "What's It Worth: The Economic Value of College Majors," the median salary for communications and journalism majors was $50,000 in 2011. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an average national full-time median wage of $34,466 the same year. The CEW reports that more than 80 percent of graduates with communications degrees worked full time in 2011.

Industries and careers for communications majors

Here were the industries that employed the highest percentages of communications majors in 2011, according to a CEW report:

  • Information services: 14 percent
  • Professional and business services: 13 percent
  • Education: 10 percent
  • Retail: 9 percent
  • Financial services: 9 percent
  • Health services: 8 percent

Marketing and public relations careers are among the hottest available to communications and journalism graduates in 2014, according to BLS data. Market research analyst positions are expected to experience 32 percent job growth between 2012 and 2022 -- a rate much faster than average -- and the ability to clearly communicate the results of a market analysis can help a candidate land one of those emerging positions.

The median annual salary recorded for market research professionals was $60,800 in 2013, although salary expectations vary based on experience and location. Here are the five states that paid the highest average 2013 annual salaries to market research analysts:

  1. Washington: $78,920
  2. Delaware: $78,470
  3. California: $77,420
  4. New Jersey: $75,720
  5. Colorado: $75,180

Although they're not growing as fast as positions in market research, the BLS reports that writer and author jobs are still on the rise and tend to be most accessible to graduates with a bachelor's degree in communications, English or journalism. Job growth of 3 percent is expected between 2012 and 2022, with most positions focusing on content development for books, magazines, newspapers, Web properties and advertising firms.

California was the highest paying state for writers and authors in 2013, offering an average yearly salary of $97,000. New York and Washington, D.C., ranked high on the list also, with reported yearly wage figures of $80,500 and $84,150, respectively. The 2013 median annual salary in the profession was $57,750, and that year's top 10 percent of writers nationwide earned $117,050 or more.

For communications graduates who specialized in the "soft skills" of interpersonal awareness and emotional literacy, a career as a human resource manager could be the sleeper hit career of the year. Uncommon insight in recruiting, interviewing, screening and placing new hires within an organization is a rare and valuable talent, and exceptional HR managers can command impressive salaries at the upper end of the national range.

The BLS reports a median annual salary of $100,800 for HR managers in 2013, with the top 10 percent taking home more than $177,460. New Jersey, Delaware and Washington, D.C., were reported as the highest paying regions for HR managers that year, each offering average annual wages of $136,000 or higher.

For more information on potential careers for communications grads, and a full list of sources, check out the visual below.

What Can I Do With a Degree in Communications?
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