A communication degree can help students become effective communicators and pursue various careers in business, sales, and politics. Additionally, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers rate good verbal communication as a job applicant's most important quality.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates fewer journalism jobs in the future -- due to declining advertising revenue -- other communication careers should experience positive job growth. For example, the BLS projects employment of public relations (PR) specialists to grow by 9% between 2016 and 2026, about as fast as the average occupation in the U.S.
New media technologies also make this an exciting field to enter. Employers need advertising and promotions managers to oversee digital media campaigns and target customers through social media. Aspiring communication professionals can find out more about bachelor's in communication programs in the following guide.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Communication?
A bachelor's degree in communication prepares degree candidates to enter the workforce for the first time, pursue a career change or professional advancement, or go on and enroll in a master's in communication program. In addition to boosting general communication abilities, these programs help participants develop important writing, analysis, and problem solving skills.
A communication degree provides students with the tools needed to analyze, understand, and respond to communication problems. Degree candidates complete coursework in leadership, business communication, and persuasion. Programs typically require participants to also take liberal arts classes, such as history, English, and political science. Graduates learn how to apply communication concepts and theories, create messages for diverse audiences, and critically analyze media messages.
Earning a bachelor's degree in communication also provides learners with the chance to gain hands-on computer experience, which can provide a competitive edge in the job market. Several educational institutions also offer internship placement for communication students. These experiences provide degree candidates with the chance to put together a portfolio, which they can use during job interviews after graduation. Internships also give learners the chance to network with communication professionals already working in the field.
Undergrads may also gain experience at a student-run media outlet on campus. Employers generally prefer job applicants with previous experience working at a college newspaper or radio or television station. After earning their diplomas, graduates can pursue careers in PR, event planning, and journalism.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Communication?
Most communication professionals work full time, although these individuals often spend their work hours outside of an office setting. Communication professionals may travel to cover a news story, attend local meetings, or plan community activities outside of the office. Some occupations, such as reporters and correspondents, may need to work nontraditional hours, including working nights and weekends.
Many communication jobs require workers to meet strict deadlines. Graduates entering this field should possess strong communication, computer, and interpersonal skills, as well as stamina and persistence. The list below describes five common careers for graduates with a communication bachelor's degree.
- Public Relations Specialists
Creating and maintaining a favorable public image for an organization, PR specialists write media releases and develop social media programs. Sometimes referred to as communications or media specialists, these professionals may also respond to media requests. Employers typically prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree in public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business.
Median Annual Salary: $59,300
Working on newspapers, books, magazines, and/or websites, editors plan, review, and revise content for publication. Editors may also verify facts, help writers create more compelling content, and promote material on social media networks. To work as an editor, individuals typically needs a bachelor's degree in communications, journalism, or English, as well as previous proofreading and writing experience.
Median Annual Salary: $58,770
- Technical Writers
Sometimes called technical communicators, technical writers prepare how-to guides, journal articles, instruction manuals, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information to a variety of readers. Employers usually prefer candidates who hold a bachelor's degree in English, journalism, or communications.
Median Annual Salary: $70,930
These professionals communicate news for a media organization, such as a newspaper, television or radio station, or website. Reporters inform the public about news and events happening locally, nationally, and/or internationally. Employers prefer job candidates with a bachelor's degree in journalism or communications, as well as experience.
Median Annual Salary: $40,910
- Broadcast News Analysts
Broadcast news analysts and anchors lead news shows on television or radio. These professionals may also serve as commentators who offer opinions after analyzing and interpreting news stories. Broadcast news analysts sometimes need previous work experience as reporters and correspondents, and employers tend to prefer applicants with a journalism or communication bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $40,910
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Communication Program
When figuring out where to pursue a communication degree, students should consider many factors, including tuition cost, program type, and degree length. Some learners may need to continue working while earning their degree; attending classes part time gives students the opportunity to earn money while taking only a few courses each term. Many communication schools also provide online programs, which allows working professionals to take classes at their convenience.
Aspiring students should also consider how much they can afford to spend on their communication bachelor's degree. Regarding tuition, on-campus programs tend to charge out-of-state students significantly more than in-state learners. However, many online communication programs charge all distance learners the same rate. While distance programs are flexible, students who attend classes on campus can more readily engage in social interactions and take advantage of face-to-face networking opportunities. However, when attending an on-campus program, students may also need to account for costs related to living in dorms, parking, and transportation costs. Location can also impact the cost of living, which varies by state and city.
Students should also investigate the different specializations or concentrations provided by a communication program. Degree candidates who select a concentration complete advanced coursework tailored to a specific career outcome. For example, a learner interested in becoming a news correspondent may complete a concentration in journalism. However, not all communication programs offer the same concentrations, and some programs offer none. Degree candidates should also see if a program features capstone project requirements; some schools require participants to complete a final research project or paper before graduation.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Communication Programs
When choosing where to pursue a communication degree, students should check a school's accreditation status. At the institutional level, colleges and universities can earn national or regional accreditation. Regional accreditation, which tends to be more prestigious, is awarded based on a school's location. Alternatively, for-profit institutions or schools that focus on a specific type of education, such as technical or vocational schools, tend to hold national accreditation. A school's accreditation can also affect a student's ability to transfer credits or find employment after graduating; many schools/employers only recognize credits/degrees from regionally accredited institutions. To verify a school's accreditation status, visit the U.S. Department of Education's website.
Additionally, certain types of programs can earn programmatic accreditation. Aspiring communication students can look for programs accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC). ACEJMC evaluates professional journalism and mass communications programs at colleges and universities in the U.S.
Bachelor's in Communication Program Admissions
Most bachelor's in communication programs use similar admissions processes, although on-campus programs tend to apply stricter admission deadlines, only accepting new students once or twice a year. Applicants should pay close attention to deadlines and submit all forms on time.
Alternatively, many online communication programs use flexible admission deadlines, enrolling new students several times a year or using a rolling admissions process. A school that uses rolling admissions reviews applications on a first-come, first-served basis until it fills all seats for an upcoming term. This process may offer more flexibility to working adults.
According to U.S. News & World Report, students should try and apply to 4-8 schools. Individuals who only apply to one or two schools might not receive an acceptance letter; however, students be mindful of application fees. These can add up if an individual applies to many schools.
- Minimum GPA: Some communication schools list minimum GPA requirements, typically ranging from 2.5-3.0.
- Application: To save time and apply to multiple schools simultaneously, students can use the Common App -- a helpful undergraduate admission tool. However, not all colleges accept this form and aspiring students should check a school's website.
- Transcripts: Applicants usually submit their official transcripts as part of their application packet. Upon request, a registrar's office can send official transcripts, although this may require paying a nominal fee.
- Letters of Recommendation: Many undergraduate institutions ask applicants to submit letters of recommendation. Students typically ask previous teachers, coaches, or employers to write these letters. Make sure to contact potential letter writers at least a month before a deadline.
- Test Scores: Schools may require minimum SAT or ACT test scores. Acceptable scores vary widely by institution, but a school should list these on its website.
- Application Fee: A student usually needs to pay a fee when they submit an application, which typically ranges from $40-$50. Students with special circumstances, such as significant financial need, may qualify for fee waivers.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Communication Program?
A communication bachelor's degree provides learners with many different career options, depending on their interests. Some programs offer concentrations or specializations, which allow students to take electives and upper-level classwork geared towards a specific job or field.
|Journalism||This concentration gives learners a solid foundation in news writing and reporting for various media, including newspaper, radio, television, and the internet. Emphasizing the 24-hour newscycle, students develop advanced skills related to verifying sources for accuracy, conducting effective interviews, and repurposing the same news story for different audiences and types of media.||Reporter or journalist for newspaper, radio, TV, or web; editor; copywriter; and public relations specialist|
|Media Studies||This concentration suits students who enjoy discussing, writing about, and analyzing different forms of media, including TV, film, and advertising. Degree candidates examine the relationship between media and society and how/why media influences audience perception and behavior. Students analyze messages in historical and contemporary contexts.||Broadcast technician, editor, copywriter, film maker, media buyer, marketing director, media specialist, public relations specialist, and writer|
|Public Relations||This concentration teaches learners the strategic communication and relationship-building skills needed to succeed in public relations. Degree candidates also learn how to write, research, and use social media effectively. Emphasizing public relations as a communications process, students examine how organizations maintain mutually beneficial relationships with stakeholders.||Publicist, copywriter, lobbyist, media liaison, scriptwriter, corporate spokesperson, and public relations manager|
|Corporate Communication||Focusing on daily business communication activities, this concentration blends the traditional areas of business advertising, public relations, and marketing with newer forms of media (e.g., social media, internet videos, and blogs). Learners also study how mass media continues to change.||Journalist or reporter, marketing director, publications manager, advertising agency executive, public relations specialist, legislative staff, and public affairs specialist|
|Communication and Culture||This concentration focuses on how cultural assumptions shape communication. Learners examine the ways that communication modifies, produces, and challenges culture. Degree candidates develop skills related to information analysis and writing. Students also interpret and analyze cultural texts and practices in diverse settings.||Foreign ambassador, translator, information security analyst, journalist, photographer, professor, public relations specialist, and campaign manager|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Communication Program
Although advanced coursework can vary widely between schools, most communication programs offer similar introductory-level classes. The list below contains some common classes taken by individuals pursuing a communication bachelor's degree.
- Introduction to Mass Media
Students in this course study mass communication and media literacy to prepare for various careers. Degree candidates learn to evaluate, interpret, and produce media messages while developing critical-thinking skills. Course topics include ethics and regulations, and learners may also evaluate pervasive elements of popular culture, such as advertising, entertainment, and the news.
- Interpersonal Communication
In this class, students learn the skills and practical concepts needed to enhance their ability to communicate with others. Learners discuss and analyze interpersonal communication theories and models and cover different communication styles, feedback, and listening. Students also learn how to improve practical work relationships.
- Organizational Communication
Through readings, discussions, and assignments, this course helps learners develop knowledge, skills, and philosophies in the area of organizational communication. Students investigate how to manage interpersonal relationships and communicate within organizations and cover organizational structures and leadership. Individuals interested in management and business careers may find this class especially useful.
- Public Relations
Designed for prospective PR and marketing professionals, this course introduces degree candidates to public relations theories and practices. Learners study organizations, relationships between organizations, and major figures in the field. Using practical scenarios, degree candidates also learn how communication between communities and private entities can affect decision making and outcomes.
- Mass Media Law
In this course, students examine important legal issues related to mass media and communication. Degree candidates analyze how the law relates to politics, culture, and society. Course topics include freedom of speech, fair use, and intellectual property rights. This course suits students interested in working in law or journalism.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Communication?
A bachelor's degree in communication typically takes four years to earn and consists of 120 semester credits. However, several factors can influence a program's overall length, including whether a student enrolls full or part time and the number of classes they complete each term.
Class availability can also affect the length of a communication program. For example, some educational institutions use a cohort teaching model where degree candidates complete courses in sequence with a group of their peers. If a student fails to successfully pass a cohort-style class, they may need to wait until the next term -- or even the next year -- to resume their studies. Some programs also offer accelerated degree tracks, which allow students to earn their communication degree in less than four years.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Communication?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the total average expense for a bachelor's degree -- based on fees, tuition, and housing costs from the 2015-2016 school year -- is about $26,000 at four-year institutions in the U.S. However, students who attend private schools typically pay significantly more for a bachelor's degree; the average cost for a four-year degree at a private school totals about $40,000 (about twice as much as the cost at a public institution). Communication programs represent typical bachelor's programs and their cost generally falls near these average values.
Degree candidates should also compare tuition rates by state. While some programs -- especially online programs -- charge all learners the same tuition, costs tends to be higher for degree candidates who live outside of an educational institution's state.
Learners should also account for fees beyond tuition, including books, supplies, and housing costs. Additionally, students planning to pursue an on-campus program may want to consider parking and/or transportation fees. Finally, individuals who do not plan to live in a dorm should look into apartment rates and utility costs, such as electricity and heating, especially in colder climates.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Communication Prepares For
- Communication Management Professional
Designed for generalists, specialists, and other business communicators working as managers, this certification indicates that a professional excels at their position. To receive this certification -- awarded by the Global Communication Certification Council (GCCC) -- an applicant must pass an exam and commit to continuing their professional development.
- Strategic Communication Management Professional
GCCC also provides a strategic communication management professional certification for highly skilled professionals who hold experience providing strategic communication advice and counseling. Again, certification candidates must pass an exam and engage in professional development activities.
Resources for Communication Students
Offering awards and professional development opportunities, LPH serves as the National Communication Association's official honor society. More than 500 active LPH chapters exist nationwide.
Founded in 1925, this international organization unites student journalists and faculty advisers at schools and colleges by hosting educational conferences and workshops. The association also provides textbooks and oversees an award programs.
The Dow Jones News Fund promotes careers in journalism and digital media. This organization offers many programs, including internships and workshops, for students, educators, and media outlets.
An academic database, Communication Source offers information to degree candidates studying mass media, organizational communication, and speech pathology. Students at some schools can access this database for free.
This website serves as the largest and most-visited resource for journalism-related job listings. The site also lists fellowships and internships for journalism students.
Professional Organizations in Communication
Joining an organization for communication professionals can give students -- as well as recent graduates and experienced workers -- many benefits, including networking opportunities at annual conventions and access to job listings and academic publications. Many professional organizations also offer awards to recognize communication professionals for achievements in the field.
Supporting workers in the field who engage in research and teaching, the NCA provides academic and professional resources. Members also receive access to regular e-newsletters, publications, and an annual convention.
Founded in 1970, the IABC serves thousands of members around the world. Membership benefits include networking opportunities, webinars, and access to articles and case studies.
The AWC has supported women in the communication field for more than 100 years. Members receive access to a membership directory, online publications, and job listings.
The PRSA consists of more than 30,000 members and serves as the nation's largest professional organization for public relations. This organization also offers a career center with job listings.
Founded in 1995, the AMCP honors outstanding achievement and service to the communication profession by administering and judging several international competitions for marketing and communication professionals.