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  • Communications is a versatile, rapidly changing major with many career opportunities.
  • Communications studies past, current, and future media trends and their influences.
  • There may be specializations within the major, such as broadcasting, journalism, or public relations.
  • Where you live and what type of outlet you work for will likely affect your salary.

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. Today, communications includes social media and emerging technologies like virtual reality. Studying communications isn’t just learning how to create content. You may also study how media affects people, explore topics like censorship and freedom of information, and study up-and-coming communications technology. In this way, communications encompasses politics, history, literature, philosophy, psychology, and engineering.

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 major could be a great choice for your undergraduate studies.

What is a communications major?

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 society. It's a cross-disciplinary degree with applications to 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 wide-ranging 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. Because communications can be such a broad and hands-on degree, it can be helpful to experience multiple internships and jobs in different areas so you have an idea of which aspect of communications you’d like to pursue. It may also be helpful to regularly check in with the career development office at your school to help find your niche.

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, and even animators.

Having an internship or work experience while in college can be particularly useful because you may need some experience even for entry-level positions. Students can also attend graduate school for a master's or PhD in journalism or communications. For example, 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. Communications is a major that can take you anywhere. While bigger markets include New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, a remote work environment and digital news outlets don’t necessarily mean budding PR specialists, reporters, or broadcast professionals need to necessarily live in a large city to start their careers. Still, it can be helpful to know which cities have the highest level of employment for communications specialists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has employment data for different professions—looking up some popular communications pathways can help you assess what the career might look like. Below are just a few example of paths you may take as a communications major:

According to the BLS, the states with the highest level of employment for public relations specialists as of May 2021 were:

  • New York (25,540)
  • California (25,050)
  • Texas (21,720)
  • District of Columbia (17,750)
  • Florida (17,380)

The states with the most news analyst, reporter, and journalist positions, as of May 2021, were:

  • New York (5,170)
  • California (3,740)
  • Texas (2,640)
  • Florida (2,250)
  • Georgia (2,040)

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 2021 the median annual wage (the mid-point, not the average) for public relations specialists was $62,800. Salaries ranged, however, from less than $37,020 for those earning the lowest 10 percent, to more than $124,620 to those earning the highest 10 percent.

Reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts earned $48,370 in May 2021 for a median annual wage. Those at the lowest end of the spectrum earned less than $29,210 and at the highest they earned more than $120,590.

Job outlook will depend on your specific field

The job prospects for communications majors will also vary 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. 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 11 percent from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS. This is faster than the average rate for all professions. 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, could 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 grow 6 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the general occupation average and may be connected to the recovery from the 2020 COVID-19 recession. But declining advertising revenue across newspapers, radio and television combined with the drop in readership and circulation of newspapers may affect long-term demand for these jobs. 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—may 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 trying to stay one step ahead of the curve with new courses and a combination of majors to make graduates more marketable for jobs. But it can also be a good idea to be proactive as well, staying on top of industry news, connecting with alumni, and exploring internship opportunities with the career development office of your school.

Visit our Free Scholarship Search to find college scholarships for communications majors.

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