Advances in media technologies, the way we communicate and the way we get the news, have come at rapid-fire pace in recent decades. As a society we are now completely immersed in media. According to an article in Forbes, the average adult takes in "five times more information every day than their counterpart 50 years ago," and spends up to 12 hours a day looking at TVs and computers.
We're just beginning to understand the impacts of this kind of media consumption and information intake on our intellectual development, our society and our future. If delving into new communication processes piques your interest, or if learning how to use words, images, videos and other technologies to convey messages and information gets your brain buzzing, then a communications degree will likely be a great choice for your undergraduate studies.
Something to Consider
A communications major generally studies past, current and future media trends and their influences. Students explore the ways media and communication methods impact politics, history, art, journalism, psychology, economics and more. It's a cross-disciplinary degree with applications in many fields. Students in this major will need to sharpen their skills in writing, research, analyses, and presentation. They should be creative and willing to consider current issues from a variety of perspectives.
Due to the broad nature of communications, be sure to research specialties within a communications major, such as advertising or marketing, public relations, journalism, political communications, and digital media.
Careers in Communications
What can you do with a communications degree? The answer is pretty simple: A lot. Job opportunities for communications majors are nearly limitless. Many students go on to become reporters (print and broadcast), public relations managers/specialists, copy editors, radio hosts/producers, TV producers and technical writers. Although these may be the more obvious communications degree jobs, students may also become teachers, urban planners, lawyers, actors, physical therapists, event planners, animators and more.
Most graduates in communications begin entry-level jobs shortly after school. Having an internship or work experience while in college can be particularly useful because you may need some experience even for the entry-level positions. Students can also attend graduate school for a master's or PhD in journalism or communications. For the most part, these options are for students who have an undergraduate degree in something other than communications. However, if you want to become a university professor in communications, you'll need an advanced degree.
Where You Could End Up Living
Many of the first jobs that print or TV reporters find are in smaller cities, towns or even rural areas. Often journalists have to work their way up the ranks of the profession from smaller publications and TV outlets before they can land jobs in bigger markets like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the states with the highest level of employment for public relations specialists as of May 2020 were:
- New York (27,120)
- California (24,810)
- Texas (24,780)
- District of Columbia (19,010)
- Florida (12,880)
The states with the most news analyst, reporter, and journalist positions, as of May 2020, were:
- New York (5,790)
- California (4,100)
- Texas (2,420)
- District of Columbia (2,090)
- Florida (1,900)
How Much do Communications Professionals Make?
In general, a communications major salary will vary depending on the field. According to the BLS, as of May 2020 the median annual wage (the mid-point, not the average) for public relations specialists was $62,810. Salaries ranged, however, from less than $35,350 for those earning the lowest 10 percent, to more than $118,210 to those earning the highest 10 percent.
Reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts earned $49,300 in May 2020 for a median annual wage. Those at the lowest end of the spectrum earned less than $25,510 and at the highest they earned more than $127,370.
Job Outlook for Communications Professionals
The job prospects for communications majors will also vary to a significant degree, depending on what field they intend to pursue. Although some jobs, like those in traditional news outlets, may become increasingly difficult to find, that is far from a new graduate's only option. As noted earlier, communications is a broad field with many applications across industries.
Employment of public relations specialists—again, one of the more common job paths for those who studied communications—is projected to grow 7 percent between 2019 and 2029, according to the BLS. This is slightly faster than the growth rate for all professions, at 4 percent. Although there will be strong competition for a limited number of positions in this field, the wide and increasing use of social media, in particular, should create new opportunities for job seekers. Clients across different areas of business will likely find public relations specialists valuable to help them use social media effectively.
The BLS projects jobs for reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts to decline by 11 percent from 2019 to 2029. Decreasing advertising revenue across newspapers, radio and television is one of the major contributors to the shrinking job numbers, as is a drop in readership and circulation of newspapers. While there is growing demand for online news, revenue from digital advertising may not be enough to make up for the losses in print advertising, circulation and readership.
What this means for a communications major seeking a job as a reporter and correspondent is that competition will be stiff. Applicants who have previous work experience as well as multimedia skills—particularly audio and video—will be in the best position to find employment. That's because many journalism jobs are morphing into one. Print journalists now find themselves not only reporting on events, but taking photos and shooting video, often all at the same time. Because so many news outlets now publish content on the web and other media platforms, candidates who have experience in coding and website design will also likely stand apart.
Although these developments change the landscape for some communications jobs, mass media will always be evolving. Universities are aware and trying to stay one step ahead of the curve with new courses and a combination of majors to make graduates more marketable for jobs.