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What Does Majoring in Communications Mean?

by Marion J. Herbert, studioD

The field of communications, which students often can pursue degrees for at liberal arts colleges and universities, explores the many facets in which humans communicate with each another either in business or through the media. Olivet College in Michigan describes the field in its degree program as a major that “focuses on how people use messages to generate meanings within and across various contexts, cultures, channels and media.” Communication programs often feature a strong emphasis on writing, public speaking, persuasion, public relations, media studies and verbal and nonverbal messaging. Students who major in communications will most often receive a bachelor of arts degree.

Fields of Study

Many sub-fields exist within the field of communications. Students can focus on advertising, public relations, journalism, sports communications, and media studies, among the popular concentrations offered at many colleges. While each concentration incorporates aspects of others, the coursework prepares students specifically seeking experience and a career in that field. North Carolina State University offers three concentrations through its communications department, for example: communication media, public and interpersonal communication, and public relations and organizational communication. Communication media examines the social effects of the role the media plays in society, for instance.

Learned Skills

Across all concentrations that fall under the umbrella of communications, students gain a variety of essential skills that equip them for careers within this field. These skills might include writing, editing, public speaking, persuasion strategies, digital media and marketing. Communications students also exhibit other skills, such as creativity, problem solving and leadership abilities, which a broad range of employers strongly seek.


Many colleges and universities strongly encourage, or even require, students participate in at least one internship before graduation to give them on-the-job experience in the field they are pursuing. Marist College, for example, requires its communications students to participate in an internship. Through its program, students earn college credit for doing real work in a field that interests them. Communication students at Marist College have interned at organizations such as MTV, Madison Square Garden, Fitness magazine, IBM, Major League Baseball and Radio City Music Hall. Having this hands-on experience at respected organizations helps new graduates network for job opportunities and stand out among other applicants.

Career Paths

Many career paths can stem from a degree in communications. According to the Open Education Database, the 10 fastest-growing careers for communication majors in 2012 were advertising managers, advertising sales agents, broadcast news analyst, interpreters and translators, meeting and convention planners, photojournalist, public relations manager, public relations specialists, technical writers, and writers and authors. Careers in communications might not be booming, but they are steadily growing and were expected to expand by 13 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

About the Author

Marion J. Herbert is an experienced writer, editor and communications professional based in the greater New York City region. She is a graduate of Marist College and has worked for "District Administration" magazine and is currently the communications manager of a large Connecticut-based nonprofit organization.

Photo Credits

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