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Communications Major Overview

Every day we convey ideas and information through text, visuals, and audio. From advertisements and movies to podcasts and social media, communication is a fundamental part of our society. In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about majoring in communications. We’ll discuss what it is, typical coursework, potential career paths, and more. 

Also see: Guide to double majoring

What is a communications major?

The field of communications is broad in scope, covering everything from film and television to journalism and public relations. Communications majors learn how to inform and entertain through a variety of mediums such as video, radio, articles, press releases, social media, graphics, website design, and photography.

Because there’s so many areas within communications, students usually choose a specific track to pursue. Regardless of their particular focus, all communications majors develop strong writing and speaking skills. Put simply, students in this field learn how to effectively convey ideas and information through a range of formats. 

Coursework to expect

Coursework varies depending on the specific track you choose to pursue. Many schools offer majors such as journalism, public relations, and film that fall under the general umbrella of communications. For instance, journalism majors take a lot of reporting and writing classes. Meanwhile, film students take video and audio production courses. Some schools offer a degree specifically in communications, which covers a broad range of topics such as journalism, public relations, and marketing. Although course requirements vary between programs, most communications students are required to take writing and public speaking classes. 

Below are some potential courses you may encounter as a communications major:

  • Communications in a Global Age
  • Creating Multimedia Content 
  • Public Speaking
  • Media Writing
  • Corporate Publishing
  • Film and Television Aesthetics
  • Cinema Production
  • Web and Mobile Publishing
  • Visual Communication 
  • Fundamentals of Design 

Opportunities after graduation

A communications degree opens doors to a wide variety of jobs in the industry. From producing TV shows to managing social media, there’s countless opportunities. For now, here’s just a few career options related to the field of communications: 

  • Public relations specialist
  • Social media manager
  • Journalist
  • Event planner
  • Video editor
  • Camera operator
  • Technical writer
  • Producer
  • Director

Also read: What is the average starting salary out of college?

Jobs you can get with a communications degree

In today’s age of information, communications jobs are more prevalent than ever. Professionals in this field convey information through spoken, written, visual, or digital mediums. Below are some popular career choices for communications majors, along with median annual salaries according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

1. Public relations specialists and social media managers

PR specialists create and maintain a positive public image for companies, brands, or individual clients. They write press releases, manage social media posts, and handle face-to-face engagement at special events with journalists and media professionals. Some PR coordinators may specialize exclusively in social media. 

2020 Median Pay: $62,810 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 7% (faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

2. Journalist

Journalists research and produce news stories for television, newspapers, radio, and websites. They keep the public informed on important local, national, and international stories. Some write articles for print and online media, while others produce videos for television, documentaries, and websites. 

2020 Median Pay: $49,300 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): -11% (decline)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

3. Event planner

Event planners organize a variety of professional and social events including weddings, business conventions, and educational conferences. They handle all the important logistics such as finances, venue inspection, guest registration, catering, and transportation. 

2020 Median Pay: $51,560 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 8% (Much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

4. Video editors and camera operators

Camera operators and editors are both directly involved in the video production process. Camera operators shoot and record TV shows, films, music videos, documentaries, and news and sporting events. Video editors organize and arrange the footage to create a final product. 

2020 Median Pay: $61,900 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 18% (Much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

5. Technical writer

Technical writers compose instruction manuals, help sections of websites, and other documentation regarding the use of products and services. They use precise language to make complex and technical topics easier to understand. 

2020 Median Pay: $74,650 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 7% (faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

6. Producers and directors

If you become a producer or director, you’ll create films, TV shows, commercials, music videos, and live theater. Producers handle the logistics of the production, ensuring the project stays on schedule and within budget. Directors handle the creative aspect of the production, overseeing lighting, design, and performances by actors. 

2020 Median Pay: $76,400 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 10% (Much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Frequently asked questions

Are communications majors in demand?

In today’s economy, there’s a fairly healthy demand for communications majors. However, certain fields within communications are faring better than others. Newspaper and magazine jobs are on the decline, for instance, while jobs in the film industry are expanding alongside the rise of streaming services. As a whole, though, the communications industry is expected to grow over the next several years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that media and communications jobs will grow by 4% by 2029. 

Is communications an easy major? 

That depends on your individual strengths and preferences. Some students gravitate towards communications because of the lack of advanced science and math coursework. In this sense, communications majors aren’t as difficult as fields such as engineering and computer science. However, students who struggle with writing and public speaking may find a communications major to be more difficult. 

Also see: How to pick a major

How do I know if this major is right for me? 

If you’re considering a major in communications, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do you value clear communication? 
  • Are you curious about the news and/or entertainment industries?
  • Do you enjoy creating content and sharing information? 
  • Are you passionate about drawing, writing, or talking to people? 

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then a communications major could be right for you!

Also see: Top communications scholarships