What Can I Do With A Communications Degree?

"I am one of those freshmen who have no idea what they want to major in or do with their lives. It seems like my elective courses are leading me toward Communication, but I don’t even know what that is. Is it like journalism, or is it something else? I definitely feel a “push” in that direction, but is it going to be useful to me after school or not?"

asked by Wade from Santa Fe, NM

Communications is the major that is largely replacing a major in journalism. The reason for this is that journalism is a bit outmoded, not because we don’t still communicate using the written word, but because we also communicate through so many other means. We speak to others using television, radio, and the internet. These types of multimedia are literally transforming the way we relate as human beings, and thus the change from journalism to communication.

Most communication programs cover a pretty wide range of coursework and possible future careers. Usually communication programs have a set of different concentrations. You’ll probably find a journalism major, which is the same as taking a traditional journalism major course.

A concentration in public relations or sales may also be offered, and possibly a concentration in broadcasting. Some schools may also offer you the opportunity to major in communication theory, which examines the ways in which emerging technologies have changed the way we communicate over time. Another common concentration is interpersonal communication, which has to do with conflict management.

So as you can see, there is a lot of diversity here. When you major in communication, you’re typically required to take at least a couple classes from every aspect of the field. This is to help you figure out what you might want to do. A lot of people start out with one concentration only to switch to another later on when they realize what a broad field it is.

So what you do with your communication degree is largely going to depend on your concentration. If you concentrate in journalism, then you can become a journalist. If you concentrate in interpersonal communication, you’ll probably aim for a career which has something to do with conflict management, or you might teach.

Communication theory majors will probably go on to teach as well as the postsecondary level. Those who focus on broadcasting may go on to become radio or television announcers, broadcast engineers, news reporters, media production specialists, or so on. If you pursue public relations or sales, you’ll probably go into marketing or PR.

If you enjoy public speaking, writing, editing, promotion, and related topics, you may like the communication major. The best career potential is definitely in PR and sales right now. Journalism jobs are fairly rare and hard sought after. Broadcasting jobs typically don’t pay particularly well, though at the higher levels they can be very lucrative. As usual, I’m going to recommend that you have an in-depth conversation with an advisor in the communication department at your school.

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