As a communications major, I am often asked what I am studying to do. Many people, including those who are just beginning to study communications, wonder what exactly a degree in communications can prepare you for. Unlike, say, an education or pre-medical program, both of which prepare students for fairly specific career paths, a communications program can prepare students to work in any number of fields. Here, I will try to decipher some of these different paths and talk about a few of the many different types of communications careers.
One of the more common communications careers, public relations personnel at various types of companies and organizations work to maintain and improve the public image of the entity they work for. Public relations offers one of the widest arrays of jobs in communications, as nearly every type of company has a public face and voice to be maintained and shared, from small summer-stock theaters to the White House.
If you’ve already started your college search, you have probably talked to at least a few college admission counselors recently. Admission counselors are representatives from colleges and universities whose job it is to share the school with prospective students and help them through the college application and decision process. They are often the representatives at college fairs, the ones who visit individual high schools to talk to students, and the ones you are most likely to meet with when you visit a college.
High school college and career counseling
Similar to a college admission counselor, high school college and career counselors help students with the transition to college; however, they represent a particular high school rather than any prospective college(s). These counselors often coordinate visits from college admission counselors; help students prepare for AP, ACT, and SAT testing; and can guide students with all the paperwork that comes with applying for college, from admission applications to the FAFSA.
When people hear “communications” in regards to college majors, they often think of journalism and other roles in the media. If you read articles in newspapers or on many websites, you are reading the work of journalists. Journalists are writers that can work for any number of organizations, from newspapers and TV stations to websites that report on everything from world events to the newest technology.
TV and radio
As we move away from the more writing-based jobs, we take a look at careers you may not realize colleges usually consider as “communications”: TV and radio. These also get lumped in the “media” category. Depending on what students study in school, they can work in TV and radio in an array of capacities, such as news anchors or other on-air talent, audio or video engineers, producers, or any number of other behind-the-scenes jobs. Keep in mind though that when it comes to TV and radio careers, most deal with that behind-the-scenes work, and competition for being the on-air “talent” is fierce!
In an age where nearly everyone has a social media presence, companies large and small are no exception. Depending on the size of a company or business, they may hire only one part-time social media representative or they may have a whole team of several full-time employees. These employees often keep track of a company’s various social media pages, work on their website, send out newsletters to customers and patrons, and even help with other marketing efforts on radio or television, depending on the nature and size of the company.
Everyone needs to know how to communicate well, and there will always be a need for teachers to show them how. Teaching communications can vary in its setting, whether it be in a public speaking course in a high school or a bachelor’s program at a college or university. When it comes to the latter, teachers are usually required to have a master’s degree or higher in order to teach.
As you can see, there are plenty of fields in which a recent college graduate with a degree in communications can work. Keep in mind, however, that this list is by no means comprehensive. If you want to look into other career paths in communications, looking at job descriptions and qualifications for jobs that sound interesting to you is a good place to start, as well as talking to your communications professors about what they do when they are not teaching. You can also try interning or shadowing in a communications field you are considering. Though there are many different career paths for those studying communications, from public relations and social media to journalism or college counseling, only you can decide what area of communications is best for you.
P.S. you can also learn more about current media and communications careers, including job growth and average salaries, at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website.