At the graduate level, a communications degree is available at the Certificate, Master's and Doctoral levels. As a broad field, communication studies graduate programs and communications graduate programs examine five key top aspects of how people communicate.
These are written, oral, interpersonal and group, social media and digital technology.
Given the wide variety of majors and areas of study, students often customize their degree in communications to best apply their know how to a specific area. Corporate communications, health services, public relations, strategic communications, marketing and advertising are just a few examples. As a result, graduates of Communications Graduate Programs may be prepared to initiate or advance a professional career in a wide range of industries.
Communication studies degrees tend to provide a cross-section of courses that mix theory and application. One of the goals is to provide students with the ability to function in roles where they make decisions at the managerial level. Also, to help them develop integrated marketing capabilities (public relations, advertising, marketing). On top of that, students might learn how to navigate computer technology to construct images and texts for public communication. Moreover, they might enhance their skills in persuasion, conflict management, mediation and resolution.
|M.A. Communication||Bethel University||MA|
|Communication Studies - Doctorate||University of Minnesota||PhD|
|Master of Science in Communication||Purdue University||MCM|
|Master of Arts in Communication||Johns Hopkins University||MAC|
|M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education||Grand Canyon University||MA|
When surveyed, 24% of Marketing managers reported they had a Masters degree, 11% a professional degree.ii
Applicants to most communications studies degree programs need to have earned a Bachelors degree from an accredited institution and may be required to furnish MAT or GRE scores, letters of reference, and a personal essay. Full time students might be able to complete a Masters in Communication within one year in some schools, two to three years in others.
Most full-time PhD students who enter with a masters degree might complete their degree in about four years while candidates who enter with a bachelor's degree might need about 7 years to complete their program. Keep in mind that program lengths vary by university.
Students who want to learn about new media and technology without the length and commitment of a full degree might work towards a graduate certificate in communications studies. Often, coursework targets a specific area in about 18 credits. Students who want to continue to fulfill the requisites of a full Master's degree later are often able to transfer their credits. Meanwhile they may have developed a specific skill set in topics such as fundraising, strategic digital communication or mass media.
Masters in Communications degrees take the study of how people synthesize information to a new level. Students typically focus on strategic ways to relay messages. Some programs may entail the completion of about 36 credits, a capstone internship, research project, thesis, or comprehensive examination. Most often, a course of study includes a few elements. Core courses, research, and electives. While each school has unique course names, topics may draw from the sample below.
The highest degree in the field is a PhD in Communications. Commonly, the PhD is a research-focused program that may draw from both the humanities and social sciences. Usually, designed for those who want to pursue a faculty or research career in higher education, students commonly select an area to focus their own independent research.i In addition, they may take upper level courses in rhetoric and public culture to help them develop new strategies or viewpoints.
Students who pursue a graduate degree in communications studies may develop the skills to create, transmit and interpret messages through the lens of their area of emphasis. Some of these broad categories are listed below.
A journalism and media major might help students develop journalism ethics and copywriting skills. Some programs may offer coursework in feature writing, news reporting, photojournalism, and digital media
The Health Communication major may help students grasp specific marketing theories and practices that can be applied to health products, services and campaigns. Students may also learn how to design (brand) and deliver media support services for health media productions.
An Integrated Marketing Communications major may help students develop the skills to craft strategy and communicate it strategically to the public. Students might also expand their grasp of public relations, promotions, and interpersonal communications. Often, all these areas are needed to help companies build and maintain their brand or reputation.
A public Relations major might help students develop relationship building skills across media platforms, government and target markets. Students might explore topics such as media relations, persuasion and crisis communications as well as enhance their written skills.
The digital multimedia production major may help students turn their creativity into real-world projects. Students may develop a broad skill set. Photography, Videography, TV Production, Studio Management, Multimedia Production, Post-Production Video and Editing are a few possibilities.
A major in speech communication may help students expand their skills in research and rhetoric. Programs of this nature often take a theoretical point of view to the study of communication from social scientific and humanistic traditions.
Students who pursue a major in strategic communications may examine the different elements of public communication strategies. Programs of this nature typically explore a wide range of topics.
For instance, they might cover communication campaigns, public opinion, the media, and the role of research. In addition, they might help students identify and audience, develop a message and deliver it across to various publics.
How did earning your graduate degree in communication studies kick start your career?
I would advise anyone with an interest in a communications career to strongly consider a graduate program in communications, particularly in today's ever-changing high-tech environment.
A communications degree may prepare students to pursue a wide range of career paths. Per the BLS, Advertising, Promotions and Marketing Managers can navigate the digital world have the best prospects.ii
The median annual wage for Marketing Managers was $131,180 in May 2016 and employment growth is forecasted to increase 9 percent to 2024.i Other possible careers may include some of the avenues below.iii
Prospective communications degree grad students might choose a program or institution that is accredited. Many universities that offer communications degree programs are regionally accredited which means they meet established standards. Also, some communications graduate programs may be professionally accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. The ACEJMC is the agency responsible for the evaluation of professional journalism and mass communications programs in colleges and universities.vii
Sources:[i] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/management/advertising-promotions-and-marketing-managers.htm | [iii] onetonline.org/link/summary/11-2021.00 | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/management/public-relations-managers.htm | [v] bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/reporters-correspondents-and-broadcast-news-analysts.htm| | [vi] bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/editors.htm | [vii] acejmc.org