Communications is a broad field of study that crosses into a range of disciplines from journalism to public relations and political communications. At the bachelor’s level, most programs focus on giving students a well-rounded view of the subject matter, though students will likely focus on a specific area of communications—be it broadcasting, PR, or digital media. A bachelor’s is often an entry-level degree for those who use it to start their career, whether they end up in a communications position or not.
Earning a bachelor’s degree is practically essential in this day and age if you want to work in a professional setting. A degree in communication can open the door to a wide range of careers, from copywriter to reporter to marketer. This degree doesn’t come with a roadmap for success, as you’d find with a lot of STEM programs, but nearly all jobs require excellent communication skills. Many graduates work in media, digital marketing, advertising, or business; sectors with potential for high earnings and a lot of variety.
Communications degrees have a reputation for being easy or not worth the money. Like any degree within the humanities, arts, or with an emphasis on soft skills, communications doesn’t give students a set career path to focus on—you could find success through several avenues—which might be overwhelming for someone who needs structure and a defined set of steps they need to complete. It’s worth pointing out that media jobs can be quite competitive, so locking down a first job post-graduation might be challenging.
Certificate vs. Bachelor's
A certificate is a good option if you already have a bachelor’s degree, but you want to stay up to date with what’s going on in your field. For instance, if you’ve worked in communications for several years, but want to learn more about digital marketing or paid advertising because it wasn’t part the curriculum when you earned your degree. A certification is also a good choice if you have a bachelor’s degree in another field of study but want to advance in your career or change careers.
What Communications Bachelor’s Degrees are Available?
- Public Relations:
Public relations majors will learn to develop excellent written and oral communication skills, as well as the ability to work with the media and help companies with reputation management.
- Marketing and Advertising:
Bachelor’s degrees with a marketing and advertising concentration focus on communications as they relate to the business world. This degree will teach you how to create marketing materials, advertise companies, and more. Marketing communications may have some overlap with public relations and journalism, but may still be a good path for those who have a clear idea of what they want to do with their communications degree.
- Radio and TV Broadcasting:
Students may also want to prepare for a career in broadcast, which like journalism, focuses on preparing students to communicate information in an ethical, informative fashion. Broadcasting—be it podcasting, radio, or television and film—is a competitive, hands-on field of study. Students will learn to operate video and audio equipment, learn the ins and outs of what it takes to produce a broadcast program and develop an on-air presence.
Different schools have different requirements but, in most cases, you’ll need to have earned your high school diploma or GED to gain entry into a bachelor’s degree program. You may need to submit an essay to gain entry into a specific communications program and/or have a certain GPA to qualify.
How long does it take to earn a Communications Bachelor's?
Most bachelor’s degree programs take four years to complete. Factors like whether you decide to take courses online or off, attend full-time or part-time will have an impact on how long it takes to finish your degree. It’s also worth noting that you may want to take an internship to further your post-graduate career options and that might also add on a bit more time.
Potential Careers in Communications with a Bachelor’s
Before we dive into some career paths with potential, communications majors can find their place within a wide range of careers. Anything within the sales and marketing verticals, as well as human resources might be a good fit—as communications is all about conversations. Here, we’ve compiled a few options that your degree could prepare you for.
- Organizations of all kinds need to make sure they put their best face forward when it comes to dealing with the public. PR specialists work with brands and non-profits alike, helping them position themselves in a way that has a positive influence on public perception. PR pros need to be skilled in getting the right message out at the right time, responding to crises, and generating publicity.
Public Relations Specialists – Average Income: $47,300
- Social media managers must be skilled at writing, as well as creating posts that create interest in a client or company. In this role, you’ll also need to be able to analyze social media performance, create a strategy that consists of paid ads, organic content, and likely both video and written language. Additionally, social media managers need to know the ins and outs of their platforms. For example, marketing on LinkedIn looks different than how you’d choose to approach an Instagram campaign.
Social Media Managers – Average Income: $49,500
- Event planner may seem like an unlikely career choice for a communications major, but your education will prepare you well for pulling off a successful event. Event planners need public speaking skills, the ability to negotiate the best prices for venues and vendors, and writing skills for creating content, descriptions, and biographies to highlight the event and its speakers. Additionally, this person needs to be able to smooth over conflicts, meet the needs of speakers and attendees, and generate interest so that people show up.
Event Planners – Average Income: $46,700
- This public-facing role is all about relaying information in the most concise, engaging way possible. News analysts work in TV news stations and may conduct interviews, report on public interest pieces and current events, and make educational points. This person typically has a degree in communications or journalism and must be a skilled communicator who feels comfortable in front of a camera.
Broadcast News Analysts – Average Income: $55,300
Options to Advance
Becoming a successful communications professional means that you’ll need to be a skilled researcher, strategist, and have polished written and oral communications skills. In general, after graduating from a bachelor’s program, you’ll enter the workforce. Taking on an internship during your undergraduate years may be able to give you a leg up, but you’ll likely begin in an entry-level role.
Communications, unfortunately, isn’t one of those majors that gives you a clear road map for what you’re supposed to do after graduation. So, you’ll want to learn as much as you can - whether that’s how to write for an online publication, operate podcasting equipment, or write and deliver speeches - and look for job opportunities that allow you to learn more on the job. You might start in a role such as marketing assistant or public relations associate, and from there, can work your way into more specialized functions.
Some students may choose to advance their career by taking digital media classes, earning a certification, or returning to school for a master’s degree in communications or potentially, an MBA.
Best Bachelor of Science in Communications Programs
Most traditional colleges offer a communications program, though access to certain specializations will vary based on the school you attend. Below, we’ve included a few schools known for their undergraduate communications programs.
The Ohio State University
Ohio State University offers three specializations for communications majors: Communication Analysis and Practice, New Media and Communication Technology, and Strategic Communication. According to the school’s website, students can expect to learn practical and analytic skills, develop their written and spoken communications, and participate in labs, internships, and networking opportunities.
Pennsylvania State University
Penn State’s communications program is an excellent choice for students interested in studying advertising, public relations, film, journalism, or telecommunications. According to the school website, students will be able to compete for a range of internships at top media companies, as well as participate in campus television and radio broadcasts, and access a variety of career-building resources. Penn’s program is best suited for students who wish to work in media, not in corporate communications or communications studies.
University of Southern California
USC is a top-ranked college in Los Angeles, CA and offers a few choices for prospective communications majors. There’s a traditional communications studies, as well as journalism and public relations concentrations. At USC, students will begin their studies by focusing on general communications concepts, then down the road they will specialize by enrolling in various electives such as health communications, digital media, public speaking, campaign communications, and more. In all, students can expect a well-rounded approach to communications that allows them to explore interests and take advantage of interning opportunities.
Traditional Schools Offering a BS in Communications
Many students today choose to earn a degree online, as this allows then to get an education that fits in with a busy schedule. While some subjects, such as biology or engineering, require hands-on lab time, many of the required classes a communications student might take can easily be done from home. Marketing, writing, and business coursework can easily be adapted for an online program. As such, this may be a good choice for students with children or full-time work.
The main thing to consider if you’re looking at an online bachelor’s degree in any discipline, is accreditation. Many traditional universities, state and private institutions where most students take classes on campus, also offer online programs or individual classes. So, if you’re thinking about online schools, an excellent place to start looking is at schools with a good reputation or those in your state.
Here are a few reputable online communications programs from around the country.
Arizona State University
Arizona State University is a large, state university with a substantial on-campus population. However, they also provide a lot of options for prospective students concerned about earning an accredited degree but are looking into online programs due to time constraints or lack of physical access. Students can specialize in business journalism, technical communications, mass communications, media studies, and more.
University of Florida
University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communication offers a couple of options for online learners including public relations and telecommunications. Online students don’t have their pick of the school’s in-person majors, but either program is a solid choice. The Journalism and Communications school is among the nation’s top ten in this area, and it’s relatively affordable. In either program, students can expect to study advertising, marketing, digital media, and writing.
State University of New York Oswego
SUNY Oswego provides several different concentrations for students interested in the communications field, from mass communications to digital marketing and social media. The school offers some online learning options, as well as opportunities to obtain credit for working in a hands-on professional environment and take on an internship. Coursework centers around a blend of communication and interaction theory, as well as professional development. Students will learn to construct informed arguments, improve written and oral communications, and more.
Northwestern University is a top-ranked school, better known for its traditional, on-campus academics. Northwestern’s major in communication studies allows students more flexibility than they’d find in an on-campus setting and, according to the school website, aims to prepare students for a range of career paths from marketing and advertising to law and public policy. Students can expect to study theory along with practical skills that prepare them for the future.
University of Illinois – Urbana-Champagne
Students can choose from a number of concentrations including Communications and Culture, Interpersonal Communication, Communication and Health, and more. Students will have the opportunity to develop skills they can transfer to the workplace, while at the same time they’ll study theories and organizational behavior.
Business Degrees & Career Paths