Updated 11 October 2020
Thanks to 24-hour news channels, social media platforms and the growing use of influencers, there has never been a better time to study for a communications major.
It may surprise you to know that there are many different careers in communications that can arise from a communications degree.
It may also surprise you to know that each communications career has its own distinct differences, allowing you to showcase your strengths and expertise, whatever your interests.
In this article, we explore what to expect from a communications major and what jobs you can get with a communications degree.
But first, let’s start with a look at what to expect from your communications degree.
At first glance, you may feel that majoring in communications may not lead to a specific career path. After all, it’s a broad and all-encompassing study area.
However, if you look a little closer, you can see that the study schedule will land you in good stead to influence and inform other people.
It will also provide you with critical analysis skills to identify media biases and help you to filter through ‘fake news’ to uncover the truth.
Careers in communications can be highly satisfying and hugely dynamic. The skills you learn during your degree can equip you with the expertise to adapt to changing jobs whether you wish to work in the public or private sector, in-house or in an agency, or even in niche sectors.
It’s truly an area that is open to everyone.
There are many different facets to a communications course:
Primarily, you’ll focus on the skills needed to become an effective communicator. You’ll learn the art of language and how this can change depending on the scenario.
You’ll spend time researching theoretical models of practice and understand more about the psychology of human behavior.
You’ll learn to identify different audience needs and understand how to research and analyze information.
You may learn how to become an effective public speaker. Or you may focus more on writing – for instance through examples such as journalism or marketing or public relations.
Different schools will have different elements. Some may look closely at communications technologies whilst others may consider it as part of business strategy.
The changing nature of a communications degree means that you should look at your preferred school and analyze the course content to determine if it is right for you.
This will depend on the area that you wish to specialize in.
Some people use their communications majors to work in jobs such as advertising, corporate management, graphic design, journalism, PR, social media or marketing.
Throughout your study, you will develop a variety of skills. Many of these will be transferrable to a variety of communications careers.
You’ll learn how people communicate with each other.
You’ll understand how to influence and inform people of your views and opinions.
You’ll be given an insight into audience segmentation and discover how and why different groups of people communicate differently.
You’ll learn how this can be impacted by new communication technologies and understand how to effectively communicate with different people.
You’ll become effective at organizing and planning projects.
You’ll learn about how effective communication strategies can make or break a plan and why attention to detail is so critical.
You’ll look at why it’s so important to consider different scenarios and how communications strategies need to be adaptable and flexible.
You’ll become an excellent problem-solver.
You’ll see how miscommunication can lead to errors and establish backup plans and strategies to overcome these issues.
You’ll learn the importance of research and analysis to create informed decisions.
During your communication major, you’ll learn how to become a persuasive speaker. Part of this skill comes from public speaking and debate but it’s also about learning how to write persuasively.
You’ll want to use your communication skills to influence people to think in the same way as you.
This is a highly transferrable skill that can be used successfully by journalists, marketing teams and PR departments as well as human resource specialists, lawyers and politicians.
Through your study, you’ll learn how to become a critical thinker.
You’ll be presented with information and taught how to identify what is fact vs fiction.
You’ll understand how to spot media bias and will be given the tools to learn how to analyze the content provided.
You’ll learn how to employ different writing techniques to suit different audiences and different needs.
As written communications can be misinterpreted due to a lack of clarity, you’ll develop exceptional written skills which will allow you to communicate clearly and effectively in a variety of different ways.
You’ll learn the differences between journalistic and editorial styles, as well as become adept at story-telling and persuasive writing.
As you can see, these skills will be highly sought after by employers.
The great thing about a communication major is that you’re not bound to a specific career. These skills can be used across a variety of sectors and professions.
To help you identify what you can do with a communications degree, we’ve researched some of the most popular careers in communications.
We’ve listed the skills that you may need as well as the average salary.
Average salary: $65,000
Further study required: n/a
Key skills: Written skills, creativity, people management, project management, graphic design
Fans of the TV show Mad Men will not be surprised to know that this career has topped the list of communications major jobs. After all, selling directly to consumers and persuading them to choose your product is a perfect definition of what a career in communications is all about.
In recent years, advertising has become increasingly diversified. It’s not just about TV or print, it’s about creating effective advertising campaigns that can work online or on social media.
To be successful in this field, you’ll understand how to use words to sell a story. You’ll be persuasive yet relatable and be able to identify a product or brand’s strengths and maximize it’s potential.
You may focus on written content or you may be more creative and be involved in developing brand visuals or imagery.
You’ll also have excellent people management skills as you project manage campaigns and liaise with clients, stakeholders and media buyers.
Average salary: $63,000
Further study required: n/a
Key skills: Teamwork, project management, strategic insights, attention to detail, creativity
Many large firms recruit brand managers who are responsible for overseeing the entire brand vision. This will incorporate marketing and PR elements, as well as sales, visuals and overall ‘experience’.
You may work within an in-house team, or you could be part of an external agency giving independent advice and guidance.
A lot of the work will be based around teamwork – you will be expected to liaise with various departments and ensure that your overall vision comes to life.
You’ll be focusing on consistency and ensuring that every aspect of your brand remains the same throughout the product lifespan. Therefore, it’s an ideal match for those with project management skills and a keen eye for detail.
Average salary: $49,000
Further study required: n/a
Key skills: Project management, written skills, public speaking, teamwork
This is another common career in communications as your study will likely teach you how to plan for and execute events for a variety of different audiences.
You must have the problem-solving capabilities to properly plan events and prepare contingencies.
You’ll also have strong written skills which will help you to make the most of your marketing collateral and you may work closely with social media specialists or PR teams to drum up much-needed publicity for your event.
Average salary: $104,000
Further study required: Master’s in human resources, MBA
Key skills: Negotiation, people management, written skills, strategic insights, business management
Human resources is all about effective communication with employees. It’s about knowing how to talk to staff to address any issues and how to communicate internal policies and procedures.
You will be expected to have excellent interpersonal and people management skills, and you may also need strong negotiating capabilities.
You may be responsible for recruitment strategies and internal communications. You may also be responsible for creating a company ethos.
HR is often closely aligned with marketing departments and IT teams, but it can also play a strategic role in working with C-suite executives.
Although you can begin an entry-level HR job with a communication degree, those with additional training (such as a master’s degree in human resources or an MBA) may find that they have better qualifications and are more likely to command higher salaries.
Average salary: $36,000
Further study required: n/a
Key skills: Written skills, people management, interviewing techniques, story-telling
Journalists are responsible for ensuring that the public is kept up to date with the latest news and information.
They have a responsibility for providing fair, balanced and accurate reporting so they must have exceptional writing skills.
They’ll have a flair for storytelling and an ability to engage readers to continue reading beyond the first few lines. They’ll also have an understanding of audience behavior, so they’ll be able to spot interesting stories that interest readers/viewers.
These days, journalists do not just rely on printed media. They also work in TV production, on podcasts, on radio and for websites. This means that there’s plenty of potential for you to test your communication skills in different styles.
Average salary: $120,000
Further study required: Postgraduate law degrees/conversion courses
Key skills: Public speaking, negotiation skills, critical thinking, analytical reasoning
It may surprise many to know that communication degrees often lead to jobs within the legal sector.
This is because the law is based on clear and consistent communications. It’s about helping people to understand complex matters in a clear and simple way.
Whilst many communication majors choose to complete further study to qualify as a lawyer (typically completing the LSAT exam), there is plenty of scope for communication degree graduates to work in unqualified roles.
You could work as a legal secretary or as an administrative assistant. You can choose to work within the private sector or governmental organizations.
Typically, law firms will be looking for applicants who may be good at public speaking or can influence people to think in a certain way – particularly if you are choosing to work in criminal law.
Other beneficial communication skills include the ability to negotiate effectively and the ability to be a strong critical thinker who can look beyond the information presented to them.
Average salary: $105,000
Further study required: An MBA is available but not essential
Key skills: Creative thinking, strategic thinking, graphic design, photography, written skills, persuasive capabilities, problem-solving, teamwork, people management, business insights
Marketing is a great career choice for those graduating with a communication major.
There are many different facets of marketing. You could choose to work in a strategic marketing role, liaising closely with the Board of Directors to align marketing strategy with business goals. Or you can think creatively to create memorable campaigns that are designed to raise awareness and increase sales of a brand or product.
Communication majors are often drawn to marketing because it links in with their academic study.
You’ll be able to use your new skills to communicate with audiences and stakeholders. Or you can use your creative talents to create social media campaigns or design brand visuals.
You can use your project management skills to facilitate event management and use persuasive content within your marketing collateral.
You can even use analytical technologies to understand audience behaviors and develop techniques and strategies which are designed to influence purchasing decisions.
Marketing is a big industry and it is continuously evolving, which means that there’s ample opportunity for continuous career progression.
You can choose to work independently or you may wish to work for an agency or within an organization’s marketing team.
Average salary: $110,000
Further study required: n/a
Key skills: Written skills, persuasive capabilities, problem-solving, crisis management, project management, organizational capabilities, storytelling, teamwork
Similar to marketing, many people are attracted to PR roles because they use all of the skills that you have picked up through your communication major.
PR is all about influencing people and helping to build positive reputations. Therefore, the ability to persuade people and influence them to think positively about your brand/product is key.
You’ll need to have exceptional written skills that can adapt to different types of content. You’ll spend a lot of time writing business and communication strategies. You’ll also write press releases, editorials, articles and thought-leadership pieces – all of which have their own distinct style.
Similarly to journalists, you’ll need to be able to identify what makes an interesting story and add your own flair to promote your brand or client.
Many PR companies also work closely with advertising, marketing and social media teams.
You could also expect to be involved in media training (helping clients understand how to talk to the media) or event planning/management.
You could also be chosen for your problem-solving capabilities – especially if your role relies on crisis management. Therefore, you will need to have strong attention to detail and the ability to remain calm at all times.
Average salary: $44,000
Further study required: n/a
Key skills: Audience analytics, written skills, persuasive capability, graphic design, photography, video editing, teamwork, business strategy, evaluation
This is a relatively new job for communication major graduates.
As social media has grown in popularity, brands have employed teams who work closely with PR, marketing and advertising colleagues to ensure that the brand vision comes to life via social media.
The role is about engaging with audiences and helping them to think positively about your brand.
It may seem like the role is based simply on sharing content on Facebook or Instagram, or sharing memes on Twitter. But the role relies on understanding what makes a post engaging and knowing the best ways to communicate with target audiences.
Many social media teams work closely with advertising colleagues to develop effective PPC/SEO campaigns which directly track how many people have reacted positively to adverts. It’s a specialized skill that combines persuasive capabilities with an innate understanding of how to bring a brand personality to life.
Salary expectations: $60,000
Further study required: Degree in education, you must apply for licensure to teach
Key skills: Public speaking, presentation skills, written skills, analytical and critical thinking
Teaching is another obvious career choice for communication majors – after all, teaching is all about communicating information to students.
You’ll be able to use your public speaking skills and understand audience insights to adapt your teaching style to different groups. You’ll also need to have strong written skills to prepare teaching lessons, presentations and be able to mark student papers correctly.
If you have a creative personality, teaching may suit you as you can adapt your teaching methods to your preferred style.
For example, if you’re working in a High School, you could use knowledge of graphic design/video editing to help create engaging lesson plans.
Academia is also an opportunity for people to change careers later in life. If you’ve worked in any of the jobs listed above, you could apply for a lecturer role at a university, helping to teach a new generation of communication majors.
This list will have given you some insight into the variety of careers in communications. There are many options open to those with a communications major and you’ll be surprised by how transferrable the skills are that you’ll learn during your study.
As technologies emerge and jobs change, those with communication degrees will be best placed to adapt to new job opportunities. After all, who could have envisaged social media managers or brand strategist roles just 10 or 15 years ago?
Everything around us is based on knowledge and understanding. So, if you have the skills to understand how to communicate this new knowledge and analyze different types of information, then you’ll be suitably positioned to have a fulfilling career regardless of what profession or sector you choose to enter.
Another positive takeaway of communication degree jobs is that many of them do not require further study.
Many professions such as marketing, PR, journalism, social media, etc. will allow you to benefit from entry-level jobs, allowing you to work your way up the career ladder to increasing responsibility and pay grades.
Of course, there are opportunities to continue academia if you desire, but it’s not always a pre-requisite. Often, employers will be looking for skills, capability and passion as well as experience.
Communication major jobs are also flexible.
You may worry if you do not see yourself as a ‘creative’ person. Whilst creativity is an important part of many communication jobs (such as social media, PR, brand strategists), it’s also important to have a business grounding.
Therefore, you may find that if you’re more aligned to business strategy than creative campaigns, there are plenty of options available for you – for example, HR, law or even marketing.
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