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The field of communication focuses on sending and receiving ideas and information through various media and to different audiences. Professionals in this broad field work with the way we exchange information and are often hired to craft persuasive messages. The expanding digital world continues to transform the way we communicate and the way consumers access content, giving rise to a growing demand for communication and media majors.
Communication skills are needed in just about every occupation, and employers are placing a high value on such skills. A report by the World Economic Forum on digital media and its impact on society finds that employers today look for "higher-order" skills that include communication, creativity, persistence and collaboration. Online communications degree programs can help you gain the skill sets employers are looking for.
Whether you're fresh out of high school, a working professional looking to upgrade your skills, or a back-to-schooler wanting to complete your degree, the flexibility of an online degree program can allow you to work, study and fulfill other commitments at the same time.
What can communications majors do?
Communication is a broad field with many different career paths and opportunities for graduates. These are just a few examples of duties associated with jobs in media and communications.
Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts:
- Researching topics and stories assigned to them and interviewing people who have information about a story
- Writing articles for print and online publications or scripts for television and radio
- Analyzing and interpreting information and communicating it to their audiences
Public Relations Specialists:
- Maintaining a favorable public image for the organization they represent through various media
- Writing press releases and scheduling press conferences
- Evaluating advertising and promotions campaigns to assess their effectiveness
Interpreters and Translators:
- Aiding communication by converting messages or text from one language to another
- Compiling information and technical terms into glossaries and databases
Occupations and Career Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates the demand for media and communication occupations to grow arising from a need to create, edit, translate and disperse information using a variety of different platforms. The table below outlines occupations related to this field along with the job outlook, wage estimations and total employment for 2016 to 2026.
Projected Job Growth
(2016 - 26)
|Public Relations Specialists||233,730||$67,990||9%|
|Audio-Visual and Multimedia Collections Specialists||10,430||$51,290||8.7%|
|Media and Communication Workers, All Other||21,510||$53,160||8.7%|
|Media and Communication Equipment Workers, All Other||19,030||$77,520||7.9%|
Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals
Communication and media studies cover a wide range of topics, so be sure to explore the programs offered by your prospective school to determine to make sure they fit with your career goals.
Take a look at the different degree-level choices you have, the kind of coursework you can expect and the jobs you may be able to apply for with each degree.
Take a look at the education level most reporters and correspondents have:
Online Certificate Programs in Communication and Media
What can I expect to learn in an online certificate program?
Certificate programs can help students develop the communication skills they need to work in fast-evolving, information-driven careers.
Typical duration: Up to one year of part-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent
Typical coursework: Students can expect to study the fundamentals of communication along with the dynamics of interpersonal communication, cross-cultural communication, internet technologies and creating content for different multimedia platforms. Courses you may find include:
- Introduction to mass communication
- Introduction to multimedia
- Business writing
- Social media in strategic communication
- Introduction to graphic design
Possible electives: Politics and film; e-commerce; marketing principles
What can I do after earning a certificate?
Communication and media studies certificates may help individuals obtain entry-level jobs in the field. Potential jobs you may apply for:
- Advertising sales agent
- Mystery shopper
- Executive secretary
- Executive administrative assistant
Online Associate Degrees in Communication and Media
What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?
An online associate degree program in communications may suit individuals who haven't decided on a specific career path, but who are interested in developing a strong foundation in communications.
Typical duration: Two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent
Typical coursework: At the associate level, you may find introductory courses that describe different contexts of communication, such as interpersonal, intercultural and mass communication. Along with general education courses, the program may cover visual, research, and promotional techniques aimed at understanding audience reception. Examples are:
- Communication law
- Media writing
- Video production
- Broadcast performance
While practicums or internships may not be mandatory for all online associate communication degree programs, you may be able to choose an elective to gain real-world experience while studying.
Possible electives: Techniques of television; audio production; video editing
What can I do after earning an associate degree?
Earning an associate degree may allow you to apply for entry-level roles in the communications and media industry and work your way up the career ladder by gaining experience or through further education. Potential occupations are:
- Junior copy writer
- Social media communications professional
- Advertising professional
- Corporate communications manager
- Press agent
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Communication and Media
What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?
A bachelor's degree is often the minimum educational requirement for employers. At this level, you can specialize in one or more aspects of the communications industry.
Typical duration: Four years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent
Typical coursework: Students can develop sharpened writing, speaking, and presentation skills as well as gain insights into consumer psychology, market dynamics, and audience relations. Courses can include:
- Communication theory
- Organizational communications
- Multimedia journalism
- Public relations
- Media research techniques
You may need to complete an internship as a part of your program requirements. You might also have the opportunity able to develop portfolios of compiled coursework or special projects which can later be used to demonstrate competency to prospective employers.
Possible electives: Social media tools and techniques; visual communication; political communication
What can I do after earning a bachelor's degree?
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 toward building a career in this field. Occupations you may be able to apply for:
- Copy writer
- Interpreter or translator
- Market research analyst
- Production assistant
- Public relations specialist
- Social media specialist
Online Master's Degrees in Communication and Media
What can I expect to learn in an online master's degree program?
Master's degree programs in communication are generally pursued by individuals interested in management positions, but an advanced degree is also required for some technical roles, such as a conference or technical interpreter.
Typical duration: Two to three years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Typical coursework: This can consist of core courses in communications and media followed by courses in your chosen concentration. Examples of core courses include:
- Communication research methods
- Emerging media landscapes and technology
- Media, public and social change
- Integrated marketing communication
- Crisis communication
You may need to complete a capstone project, an internship and/or a master's thesis.
What can I do after earning a master's degree?
A master's degree program can prepare you for high-level or managerial roles. Potential occupations may include:
- Advertising director
- Director of corporate communications
- Marketing and advertising strategist
- Multimedia journalist
- Public relations (PR) manager
- Web content manager
Online Doctoral Degrees in Communication and Media
What can I expect to learn in an online doctoral degree program?
Doctoral degree programs in communication and media studies can equip students to assume leadership roles in diverse business and defense-based fields in communication and media. Students learn to develop their research skills in order to be at the forefront of emerging trends in the communication and media industry.
Typical duration: Four to seven years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Master's degree; GRE
Typical coursework: This can include core courses in advanced topics along with coursework in your chosen concentration. Courses you may find:
- Ideas that shape media
- Media law and policy
- Media, technology and democracy
- Instructional media solutions
- Research methods in communication, culture and media
After completing core and elective coursework, you typically need to choose a topic of research for your dissertation. You then need to complete the research and writing for your dissertation within a stipulated time period. You may be required to complete short, campus-based residencies.
Possible electives: Media ethics; media criticism; culture of cyberspace
What can I do after earning a doctoral degree?
A doctoral degree can open up high-level careers in media research, consultancy and academia. Entrepreneurial individuals may be qualified to start their own consultancy or media service businesses. You may also be able to enter the tenure track as a university professor and teach a new generation the skills behind effective communication.
The broad scope of communications and media means there can be a wide variety of concentrations to choose from during your studies and in planning your career path. Some examples include:
- Corporate communications
- Digital communication
- Journalism and broadcasting
- Public relations
- Social media
- Sports promotion
- Strategic communications
- Visual communications
Accreditation is a voluntary process that organizations and programs put themselves through in order to demonstrate their programs meet the high standards required to prepare students for the rigorous demands of the communications and media industry. Additionally, attending an accredited program is often a prerequisite for receiving financial aid, scholarships and grants.
The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) is the main accrediting body for communications programs. You may also find other professional bodies accrediting specialized programs such as National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) which accredits photography, film/video production, communication design and digital media programs. Additionally, some marketing programs may also be accredited by business-related bodies like:
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB)
- International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)
Although professional certifications may not be mandatory, some employers may prefer candidates who are certified as they can serve to demonstrate competency and commitment in a chosen profession. Examples of certifications you may be eligible for are:
- Certified Professional Technical Communicator
- Professional Researcher Certification
- American Translators Association Certification