The communications field offers many exciting opportunities for highly creative and motivated people. Graduates with an associate degree in communications can get their foot in the door and land entry-level positions in publishing, marketing, public relations, and broadcasting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for communications remains positive, with employment for public relations specialists projected to grow 9% through 2026.
Associate degree graduates can work immediately after graduation or pursue a bachelor's degree. Many higher-paying jobs in communications require a bachelor's degree. The skills students learn in associate degree programs in communications can be applied to many different occupations. Nearly every company needs workers with strong written and oral communication skills. To explore what you can do with an associate degree in communications, keep reading this comprehensive guide.
Should I Get an Associate Degree in Communications?
An associate degree in communications provides a stepping stone for graduates to enter the workforce or pursue a bachelor's degree. Students attending an associate degree in communications program complete the core educational requirements to earn a bachelor's degree. Many associate programs integrate with a bachelor's degree, allowing community college students to pursue a four-year degree after graduation. Students who choose to join the workforce or intern after graduation have valuable communication skills which can be used in journalism, business, marketing, public relations, or broadcasting.
A communications associate degree trains students how to deliver messages clearly and concisely in many styles. The degree also teaches students the fundamentals of how the media operates. Students can apply the knowledge they acquire in an associate program to a range of careers. If students choose to work directly after earning their associate degree in communications, they have the knowledge and tools to work as proofreaders, secretaries, or public relations assistants.
Professionals seeking a career switch may prefer online communications classes, which follow an asynchronous format. Students recently out of high school will likely favor on-campus communications programs that offer traditional classroom formats. On-campus classes also allow students to network in-person with fellow classmates and faculty. Communications professors also work as professionals in the field. Consequently, many professors possess intimate knowledge of new job openings or internships in communications.
What Can I Do With an Associate in Communications?
The quintessential associate in communications student exhibits extroverted traits, but many can be described as introverts. Communications attracts a range of personalities. These individuals work as secretaries in offices or behind-the-scenes as customer service representatives. Below you will find four of the many job options for associate in communications graduates.
- Administrative Assistant
These individuals assist in the daily operations of an office, performing seemingly small but necessary clerical duties. They respond to emails, answer calls, manage filing systems, and perform bookkeeping tasks. Administrative assistants do not need an associate degree, but college experience gives candidates an advantage on the job market. Some administrative assistants later become executive secretaries.
Median Annual Salary: $37,870
- Customer Service Representative
These professionals work in call centers or remotely. Almost every industry employs customer service representatives. Their daily duties include processing orders and helping customers sort out issues. Customer service representatives communicate with customers via phone, email, or in person.
Median Annual Salary: $32,890
- Food Service Manager
These workers oversee the operations of restaurants or cafeterias. They work in hotels, schools, or corporations overseeing the organization's daily kitchen and dining room functions. They process inventory, inspect food, manage food preparation, and handle customer complaints. They also manage staff and oversee the hiring process.
Median Annual Salary: $52,030
These professionals serve a crucial role at the front of an office. They multitask different clerical duties every day, including greeting visitors, making photocopies, scheduling appointments, answering phone calls, and completing data entry. Receptionists work in nearly every industry. They usually only need a high school degree, but an associate degree is a plus.
Median Annual Salary: $28,390
How to Choose an Associate Program in Communications
All communications associate programs share similarities, however, the quality of your education and how much you pay depends on where you attend school. College requires a huge investment of money and time. Before you enroll in classes, make sure you understand the different elements associated with your communications associate program.
Students must take 60-66 credits to complete an associate degree in communications. Students typically graduate in about two years, but this timeline varies depending on several factors. First, online associate programs often feature accelerated schedules which allow full-time students to graduate in less than two years. Working professionals enjoy the flexibility of online classes, which allows them to complete homework and watch lectures online when it's convenient. Online classes also usually cost less than on-campus classes, and online students do not have to pay for transportation, housing, and parking.
However, sometimes it takes longer than two years to complete an associate degree. Many working professionals and students with families must take part-time classes, which often take longer than two years to complete. Full-time communications associate students pay $186-$526 per credit, but part-time students often pay double.
Students can save time and money by transferring credits from accredited colleges. Make sure you attend a regionally or nationally accredited college. Nonprofit four-year and two-year colleges typically have regional accreditation, which is more prestigious than national accreditation.
Associate in Communications Program Admissions
Colleges use online applications that simplify the admissions process, but students should still expect to spend a month or two gathering and preparing materials for online and on-campus programs. Some supplemental materials such as high school or college transcripts need to requested in advance and mailed or uploaded online. Admissions requirements for online associate programs in communications mirror the criteria for on-campus programs.
To increase your chances of getting into college, be sure to apply to five or more programs. And also make sure to read the admissions requirements thoroughly to ensure that you are eligible. Note that some requirements are not set in stone. For example, admissions offices may, on a preliminary basis, admit some candidates who do not meet GPA prerequisites.
Keep deadlines in mind and give yourself extra time to submit your college application. If you have any questions about your application, ask a college counselor for assistance.
- Application: A college application can take weeks or months to finish. Students complete the application online and upload supplemental materials or mail them to the college. Common App may be available if your college participates in the service.
- Transcripts: Transcripts can be requested for a nominal fee from your high school or previous college. You can either have the transcripts mailed to the admissions office or upload digital transcripts with your application.
- Application Fee: You must pay $25-$35 for each application. Colleges may allow low-income students to file financial waivers. Veterans, service members, and senior citizens often do not have to pay application fees.
Educational Paths for Communications Associate Programs
For many students, an associate degree in communications marks the first step in their educational journey. After graduating with an associate degree, many students pursue a bachelor's degree, which increases their salary potential. A public relations specialist makes a median annual salary of $59,300, while a receptionist, who doesn't need a bachelor's degree, makes a median salary of $28,390, according to the BLS. If you want to pursue a bachelor's degree after completing your associate degree in communications, review the programs below.
A bachelor's degree in communications builds on the skills students learn in an associate program and prepares them to manage communications in an age dominated by social media. Bachelor's students master oral and written communication skills. They also study media law and ethics. Many communications bachelor's programs also offer concentrations in journalism, media relations, and public relations with internship opportunities.
If current events fascinate you, a journalism degree might be worth exploring. You need a bachelor's degree to work in journalism. A bachelor's degree teaches students how to objectively and fairly write, report, and research stories for publication. These skills can be applied to many other fields, including public relations, politics, and marketing.
A marketing bachelor's degree teaches students the fundamentals of marketing. Students learn the essentials of conducting marketing research and designing strategies to promote a company's products and services. Marketing programs also cover business and advertising principles. Graduates work as market researchers, advertising managers, promotions managers, and media buyers.
What Else Can I Expect From an Associate Program in Communications?
The quality of education you receive in an associate program in communications depends on where you attend college. All programs contain similar curriculum and structure, but the cost and timeframe it takes to graduate vary by college. Read on for an inside look at what you can expect from your associate degree communications program.
Courses in an Associate Program in Communications
The exact coursework required as you pursue your communications degree depends on where you attend college. No two programs are identical. However, most programs offer similar core communications classes. Below you will find six common courses which associate degree students must take to graduate:
- Mass Communications
This course provides students with an overview of the field's internal operations. Students explore communications from a theory perspective. They study the history of communications and how different media operate under the protections of the First Amendment. The curriculum sets students up to pursue a bachelor's degree or work as a public relations assistant.
- Mass Media and Society
Students learn about the history of the media and its relationship to our culture. Students explore the functions and influences of various media, including the internet, social media, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and film. This program prepares students for various jobs in media such as a public relations assistant.
- Introduction to Communication Theory
Students learn how to approach communications from a theory standpoint. The course teaches students how to think critically and conduct solid research. In addition to smaller papers due throughout the course, students usually must complete a large research project at the end of the course. The curriculum readies students for jobs as marketing assistants.
- Introduction to Public Speaking
This course introduces students to the fundamentals of effective public speaking. Students learn how to think critically about the various forms of communication. They study different communication techniques and the basic speech models to deliver effective public presentations. Students prepare and present public speeches using different multimedia components. This class prepares students for a variety of careers, including a public relations assistant.
- Intercultural Communication
This class examines discourse between a diverse array of different cultures. Students explore their own cultural identities and learn about different cultures by conducting field work for research papers. The course covers the art of communicating with sensitivity and awareness toward different cultures. The materials prepare students to work as social media specialists or public relations assistants.
- Interpersonal Communication
This course teaches students about the importance of dyadic communication on a verbal and nonverbal level. Students learn to think critically about the impacts of one-on-one interpersonal communication from a cultural and social perspective. Learners also study the struggles and barriers that come from interpersonal communication. This class helps students land jobs as office assistants and receptionists.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Communications?
Full-time students should expect to graduate from their communications associate program in two years, but programs can be delayed or accelerated. Programs can be sped up if students have transferable credits from an accredited college. The admissions office has a limit on the number of transferable credits they will accept. Similarly, online students can usually complete their degree quicker than two years because the online schedule runs on an accelerated pace.
However, programs can also be delayed. If students attend school part time, they will take longer to graduate. Part-time classes may be more convenient for students who work full time or have families, but the tuition for part-time classes costs more. Also programs may take longer to complete when students are required to complete capstone projects or finish a greater amount of credits. Typically programs require students to complete 60-66 credits.
How Much is an Associate in Communications?
Tuition cost remains one of the most common concerns among college students. How much will an associate degree in communications cost you? The answer varies depending on your chosen college. A program typically costs $800-$2,364 per semester. Tuition for each program varies. A student's status impacts tuition price the most. In-state residents enjoy the most affordable tuition rates, while tuition for out-of-state and international students costs substantially more. Part-time students and private college students also typically pay more for tuition.
To get a clear picture of your total cost of college, factor in other expenses besides tuition. Although tuition remains the most costly expense for college students, they also must consider technology fees, housing, transportation, food, and books. Students with children additionally need to factor in childcare costs while they attend classes. Many students with families decide to take online classes to reduce childcare costs. Online programs offer cheaper tuition prices, and students do not have to pay for parking, transportation, or housing. Sometimes online programs offer in-state tuition to out-of-state residents.
Professional Organizations in Communications
Networking remains one of the many benefits of going to college. The faculty members and students you meet in your communications associate program can help you throughout your educational and professional career. Joining a professional organization offers opportunities to network with working professionals. Beyond networking, joining a professional network provides students with access to job boards, discounted or free continuing education courses, and scholarship opportunities. Below you will find three organizations which may interest you:
Founded in 1993, the ACA serves as a free, virtual organization to promote academic research in communications. Members receive access to an online journal.
The AWC began in 1909 as a fraternity for women in journalism. Today the association serves women communicators. Members enjoy access to a membership directory, online publications, and job board. They also receive admittance to the biennial conference and discounted rates to the annual Clarion awards competition.
PRSSA connects communications and public relations students. Members receive access to webinars and discounts to seminars, workshops, and conferences. The organization also provides $30,000 in scholarships and awards every year.