Communication students learn to present diverse ideas in different settings. Most communication programs include required courses in public speaking, small group communication, organizational communication, and cross-cultural communication. Throughout these programs, learners build listening skills and learn to explain ideas in engaging and clear ways.
Communication graduates can pursue careers in which they connect with and influence audiences. Potential job titles include marketing manager, public relations specialist, and news reporter.
This page provides an overview of common communication careers, professional resources, and continuing education opportunities.
Why Pursue a Career in Communication?
Communication professionals enjoy interacting with people and know how to engage audiences. They think creatively and can express complex ideas through written documents and oral presentations. The best communicators are active listeners who are confident when speaking to large groups.
Companies in many industries hire communication professionals for tasks like building brands, marketing, and community engagement. Professionals can also work in areas of personal interest, like medical writing and sports reporting.
Communication Career Outlook
Communication careers are in high demand, due in part to the field's versatility. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) highlights projected market growth and the rise of social media websites as reasons for future growth in communication positions.
The following table provides average salaries for a few popular communication careers based on a worker's experience level.
|Job Title||Entry-Level (0-12 months)||Early Career (1-4 Years)||Midcareer (5-9 Years)||Experienced (10-19 Years)|
|Marketing Communications Specialist||$42,210||$49,470||$56,130||$59,890|
Skills Gained With a Communication Degree
A communication degree builds high-level skills applicable to almost any industry. Communication professionals can further develop their skills through many avenues, including online coursework, on-the-job training, and professional certifications.
Below are several skills that students typically develop during a communication program.
- Interpersonal Communication
Communication programs explore how individuals and groups exchange information. Students examine what creates effective interpersonal communication and where problems and misunderstandings occur.
- Public Speaking
Communication programs explore persuasive speaking, compelling arguments, and the strategies that speakers can use to reach audiences.
Communication students learn to organize and present their ideas in writing, gaining skills that are valuable in many types of careers.
Communication students examine the factors that lead to problems and determine strategies to fix them. Learners also explore the role information plays in problem-solving and determine strategies to combat misinformation and miscommunication.
- Analytical Thinking
Communication professionals must analyze various types of information and draw conclusions. Analytical thinking makes it possible to see an issue's many sides and devise solutions to problems.
Communication Career Paths
Communication graduates may write political speeches, plan community events, and work as college recruiters. The following list explores a few specific career paths in this field.
Advertising uses communication skills to reach and influence consumers. Advertisers design new ad campaigns and revamp companies' public images. These professionals also determine how to best market products and devise innovative ways of engaging with consumers through technology and social media.
Good journalists do their best to communicate the news in a fair and ethical manner. They perform research, interview sources, and create compelling news stories that convey information efficiently. Journalists can publish their work through print, television, radio, or online media.
- Public Relations
Public relations professionals maintain a positive public image for organizations, ideas, or individuals by communicating favorable information about their clients. Responsibilities include writing press releases and organizing focus groups.
- Sports Communication
Sports communication professionals may work for professional teams and leagues or sports broadcasting organizations. Workers in this field must understand marketing and public relations.
- Digital Filmmaking
Communication majors study the skills needed for effective messaging, including visual communication and media literacy. Digital filmmaking professionals work on commercials, promotional videos, films, and television programs.
- Visual Communication Design
This field focuses on communicating with audiences through images. Relying heavily on multimedia technologies, these professionals may work on billboards, online campaigns, and television advertisements.
How to Start Your Career in Communication
An associate degree may be enough for some entry-level positions, but it will not typically allow you to ascend to managerial roles. In general, a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for careers with advancement potential, although leadership positions often require a master's degree and many years of experience.
It may be possible to pursue further education while still maintaining a career. Additionally, some companies help pay for employees to earn advanced degrees for professional development.
The following tables outline some of the most popular positions for each degree level.
Associate Degree in Communication
An associate degree in communication is a great first step toward finding a job or earning a bachelor's degree. Students can sometimes complete an associate program while working full time, especially if they enroll online.
What Can You Do With an Associate in Communication?
- Office Manager
Office managers organize an office's basic functions, such as scheduling meetings, ordering office equipment, and maintaining facilities. Communication majors can employ their problem-solving and analytical thinking skills in this position.
- Client Services Representative
These professionals serve as a liaison between upper management and a company's clients, determining the needs of both parties and maintaining productive relationships. Client services representatives must understand effective communication practices to correctly identify clients' needs.
- Sales Associate
Sales associates interact with customers, operate cash registers, respond to questions, and serve as the public face of a retailer. They use their communication skills to determine the needs of customers and interact with them in an accommodating, respectful manner.
Bachelor's Degree in Communication
Most competitive communication positions require at least a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's programs move beyond introductory courses and into more specialized areas, such as organizational communication, public relations, rhetorical analysis, and media communication.
Graduates with a bachelor's in communication can find employment in several industries, and the degree can lead to competitive salaries and the potential for career advancement.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Communication?
- Communications Specialist
These specialists develop and maintain an organization's relationship with the public. They produce press releases, manage information output, maintain public relations, and determine social media strategies. At lower levels, they may focus on just one aspect of an organization's communication strategy.
- Public Relations Specialist
Public relations specialists focus on an organization's relationship with the public, with an emphasis on maintaining a positive public image. PR specialists develop image-building strategies, write speeches, and create press releases.
- Marketing Communications Specialist
These specialists coordinate an organization's public communication strategies, managing relationships with clients and customers. Workers promote their organization during events, develop marketing strategies, coordinate promotional materials, and organize social media efforts.
- Online Marketing Content Writer
These writers create digital content for blogs, websites, and social media. They must have strong written and verbal communication skills, which they use to determine the needs of consumers and organizations.
- Social Media Specialist
Social media specialists help companies develop strategies for online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These professionals must stay current on developments in social media, as techniques for reaching consumers constantly evolve.
Master's Degree in Communication
Moving beyond the foundational knowledge of a bachelor's program, a master's in communication explores advanced communication theory, preparing graduates for high-level analysis and oversight of an organization's communication strategies.
A master's track often includes the option to focus on a specific area of communication, which can lead to specialized career pathways like media communication jobs or organizational communication jobs.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Communication?
- Communications Director
These highly trained specialists are responsible for organizing and directing most aspects of an organization's communication strategy. They typically oversee many other employees. Directors concentrate less on individual aspects of communication strategies and more on the big picture. They frequently interact with other executives.
- Marketing Communications Manager
These managers oversee marketing strategies and devise plans to increase their organization's market share. Typically responsible for the most important aspects of a company's marketing strategy, they commission market research studies, direct market analysis processes, and make the final call on strategies for pricing and budgeting.
- Public Relations Manager
PR managers are responsible for maintaining a company's public image. They typically direct a team of PR specialists. Their duties include organizing press conferences and answering public questions, developing PR strategies, and writing speeches for company executives.
- Senior Copywriter
Typically working at the highest levels of an organization's creative department, senior copywriters develop ideas for communication campaigns and dictate an organization's written voice. They often serve in an editorial capacity, supervising junior copywriters and helping them develop their writing skills.
- Community Relations Manager
Community relations managers develop and maintain an organization's relationship with community members. They interact with the media to create a positive public image for their organization. These managers often oversee a company's charitable contributions and volunteer programs.
Doctoral Degree in Communication
A doctoral degree in communication typically prepares graduates for positions in corporate research and academia. Students interested in exploring the psychological, social, and economic processes underlying communication can pursue a doctorate.
Graduates develop new methods and concepts for organizations to use. After earning this degree, many communication majors enter academia, performing their own research and teaching classes.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Communication?
- Postsecondary Professor
At the beginning of their careers, professors typically spend more time teaching and training future communication professionals. As they progress and gain tenure, professors may spend more time on their research.
- Senior Researcher
Senior researchers develop new ideas and strategies, examining the effectiveness of existing practices and exploring new approaches through qualitative and quantitative research. Researchers work at colleges, think tanks, nonprofits, and private companies.
How to Advance Your Career in Communication
Professionals can advance their communication careers by pursuing advanced degrees, certificates, and certifications. These programs may explore the field in general or focus on a specific area, such as marketing.
Individuals should choose their own advancement path based on their career goals. Professionals who want to earn a management position, for example, can enroll in an organizational communication certificate program.
The following sections explore some of these advancement options, including specific certifications and online courses.
The Society for Technical Communication offers three certifications for technical communicators: foundational, practitioner, and expert credentials. Candidates must earn these certifications in sequence by taking exams.
The Global Communication Certification Council provides two certifications. Specialists and generalists can pursue the communication management professional credential, which requires at least six years of fieldwork and 40 training hours. Advanced business communicators may qualify for the strategic communication management professional certification if they have at least 11 years of fieldwork, 20 training hours, and a recommendation letter.
Certification for careers with a communication degree may also focus on a specific profession. Technical writers, for instance, can earn a medical writing credential from the American Medical Writers Association.
These certifications are not required, but can help with career advancement.
Some professionals may opt to pursue an advanced degree to improve their job prospects, although many communication careers only require a bachelor's. Professionals can also pursue certificates in communication from universities and colleges — certificate tracks are less involved than graduate degree programs, but can still improve a worker's career prospects by demonstrating a deeper knowledge in a specific communication area.
Additional continuing education options include training, workshops, and conferences hosted by industry organizations. Professionals can also take free online classes or participate in fellowships.
Lorman Education Services offers continuing education courses on topics like event planning and workplace communication. Additionally, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Communications Society delivers training courses.
Earning certifications and completing continuing education activities are good ways to keep your communications skills sharp. These opportunities held individuals stay abreast of current communications standards, technologies, and professions. Online courses, training, and workshops also cover current trends and issues in the field.
Individuals should also consider joining professional organizations. These groups help connect members to resources and networking events.
Professionals can also use online communication groups and social media websites to extend their networks. They can also follow field experts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to learn more about new communication strategies.
How to Switch Your Career to Communication
Switching to a communication career may require a new degree. For example, aspiring reporters may need an undergraduate degree in journalism or communication.
However, companies looking to hire communication professionals often accept candidates with degrees in different fields. Public relations specialists, for example, often have a background in business, communication, English, public relations, or journalism. Career changers should research job requirements to determine if they need more education.
Companies also look for field experience for communication positions. Candidates can obtain this experience through internships or by volunteering with school/local radio stations and newspapers.
Where Can You Work as a Communication Professional?
Most organizations interact with the public and need guidance on brand-building and public engagement. Professionals can also work in journalism or news reporting for pop culture magazines, political columns, and sports broadcasts. Communication graduates can also become speechwriters, spokespeople, and lecturers for scientific, academic, and political organizations.
The following section examines common industries for communication careers. Students should consider their preferred career path and industry to make sure their degree complements their goals.
- Information Technology Services
IT services professionals manage IT projects, develop software, oversee upgrades and installations, coordinate training, and provide help desk support.
Average Salary: $79,680
- Advertising, Branding, and Sales Promotions
Communication majors often excel in the advertising industry, where they can apply their talents to improve consumer engagement, public relations, and brand development.
Average Salary: $58,770
- Marketing and Media Management
This field focuses on strategies for reaching consumers through digital channels. Communication professionals in media management often focus on social media content, viral marketing, and other innovative methods for consumer engagement.
Average Salary: $75,330
- Financial Services
Communication professionals in the finance industry distinguish their firms from the competition by creating a positive brand identity and exploring strategies to meet the financial needs of clients.
Average Salary: $79,060
Healthcare uses communication methods in many ways, including attracting clients and informing patients of new treatment options.
Average Salary: $64,870
Interview With a Professional in Communication
Rich Lawry studied journalism and media communications with a minor in public relations at Asbury University. His first job out of college was at a tech and marketing company in Charlotte as a corporate communication specialist. After 18 months, he moved to Atlanta and worked at a chemicals manufacturing company — also in corporate communications. Earlier this year, he joined VALEO — a startup in Atlanta with three employees and a passion for embedded communication.
- What do you find most fulfilling about a career in communication?
Everyone has a story to tell. My main goal as a communication professional (and the reason I work long hours and drink way too much tea and coffee) is helping my clients tell their stories at the right time to the right people in the right place.
I get to wear many different hats during the process of telling these stories, from social media expert to investigative journalist. At the end of the day, I am helping someone share what's important to them. That's what gets me excited. I'm crazy about unearthing and sharing a good story.
- What types of people excel in this field?
I wouldn't consider myself the "stereotypical" PR person. My idea of a good day is wearing jeans, reading super long articles about current events, and planning weekend hiking trips.
If you have good people skills, are passionate about writing, and can multitask, you're going to do great. Focus on creating an online image via LinkedIn, a blog, and a portfolio. Network like crazy. Write every day. And learn how to interview well for jobs. It makes all the difference.
- What was the job search process like after earning your degree?
There's a lot of competition for communication jobs. That's why networking is paramount. Just do it.
My first job was a result of keeping up connections with a company where I'd interned my junior year in college. I reached out to a mentor I'd met during my internship, and she created a job for me in corporate communications. That I know of, I was the only one who interviewed for the job, and I got it.
My other two jobs came from emailing the recruiter or hiring manager directly with examples of my work and a pitch for why I'd be an excellent fit for the company. They were personalized, persuasive emails.
- What challenges do you face at work on any given day?
It's hard for me at times to keep up with so many moving pieces and projects at different stages. I've had to learn to be more organized and better at project management. That's something I'll keep learning as I become more advanced in my career. I'm still a newbie by some standards (I have four years of experience).
- What additional advice would you give to a student considering a career in communication?
Most communication jobs are not glamorous. But it is so much fun. I love my job. I love interacting with so many people and learning about companies and industries I didn't even know existed before.
If you're passionate about public relations or storytelling of any sort, you're going to do great. Don't be discouraged if you don't get the first job you apply for. Keep applying and keep reaching out to your network. Eventually, something will appear. It's going to be a crazy ride. Have fun!
Resources for Communication Majors
Resources for communication students and experienced workers include professional organizations, open courseware, and publications. The following sections explore each of these resources.
- Professional Organizations
National Communication Association: NCA offers a yearly convention, a speaking series, and public programs on topics like political communications. The association also publishes 11 journals that examine cultural, educational, and media influences on communication.
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication: AEJMC is a nonprofit group that hosts regional meetings and a yearly conference. The association provides resources on digital journalism, teaching, and research. Members can access journals, including Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly.
American Marketing Association: AMA offers training opportunities through bootcamps and webinars, and it also delivers conferences and symposia. These experiences allow participants to explore concepts like higher education and social media marketing. Individuals can pursue AMA's professional certifications in digital marketing and marketing management.
Rhetoric Society of America: RSA oversees conferences and institutes and connects members to scholarly resources like journals, libraries, and writing resources. The society also maintains a list of graduate programs and gives awards to members for publishing books and articles.
Public Relations Society of America: PRSA offers professional development opportunities like webinars, workshops, and certificate programs. Members can get resume guidance, take career-building classes, and browse career opportunities through the society.
International Association of Business Communicators: IABC provides continuing education opportunities like leadership institutes and webinars. The association also offers professional development experiences that cover topics like business acumen, corporate communications, and content marketing. IABC offers professional certifications in communication management and strategic communication management.
Association for Women in Communications: AWC offers monthly webinars that are designed for female communication professionals. The association also reviews resumes for members and maintains a list of available careers.
- Open Courseware
Public Speaking - University of Washington: Offered through Coursera, this course examines how to organize and deliver ideas for large audiences. The class emphasizes clear and succinct delivery and addresses common difficulties with public speaking. Participants study models for public speaking and argumentation and learn to craft strong speeches.
Writing in the Sciences - Stanford University: The first half of this course deals with general writing topics, like paragraph structure and concision. Learners then focus on ideas that are relevant to scientific writing, such as peer review and idea simplification for mass audiences. The course lasts eight weeks and includes quizzes, writing submissions, and peer editing.
Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking - Harvard University: Offered through edX, this self-paced course prepares students to craft persuasive arguments for editorial pieces and public presentations. This process involves determining an argument's merit and recognizing logical fallacies. The class references figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. as examples of persuasive communicators.
Effective Communication in the Workplace - The Open University: This class trains students to communicate clearly and positively to prevent workplace conflict. Students explore examples of effective verbal, nonverbal, and written communication in various environments.
Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies: This journal — hosted by NCA — reviews books on communication and offers essays on the relationship between communication and culture. Essays address topics like economics, politics, and history as they impact cross-cultural communication, as well as technology and globalization.
The Communication Review: This quarterly, peer-reviewed journal delivers articles that explore new media and culture in connection to communication. Content also examines ways that communication can influence various disciplines, such as politics, education, and technology.
The Public Relations Journal: This peer-reviewed journal provides articles and case studies that address innovative ideas in public relations practices. Previous articles covered topics like influencer relationships, Facebook strategies, and employee engagement. Readers can access this journal for free.
Journal of Communication: This publication explores current research and theories for a variety of communication practices through book reviews and articles. The journal focuses on topics like narrative communication and social influences on organizational choices.
International Journal of Communication: Articles in this public access journal address the influence of communication on various disciplines. The journal's scope includes communication across the globe. The University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism finances this peer-reviewed publication.
IEEE Wireless Communications: This magazine focuses on wireless communications topics, such as policy and technology. Articles include tutorials on new technology for all types of wireless communications.
Technical Communication: This quarterly includes book reviews and articles that examine technical communication practices, such as rhetoric choices and strategies for creating summaries.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is a communication degree worth it?
The BLS projects healthy growth for several communication careers between 2019 and 2029. Communication careers are a good fit for people who enjoy interacting with others and engaging audiences. If this sounds like you, a communication degree may be worth it.
- What kind of jobs can you get with a communication degree?
Many communication careers require at least a bachelor's degree, including public relations specialists and technical writers. A graduate degree allows professionals to ascend into managerial roles or teach postsecondary communication courses.
- Is there a demand for communication majors?
Yes. Between 2019 and 2029, the BLS projects 7% job growth for public relations specialists, 6% job growth for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers, and 7% job growth for technical writers.
- How much do communication majors make?
Factors like experience level, location, and job title impact salaries for communication careers. Lucrative options include public relations directors and marketing and communications directors. Each of these positions offers an average annual salary above $80,000.