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Starting the Conversation with Schools for Communications

Do people who have deep conversations experience more happiness in life? Is it inappropriate to use Google at the dinner table or text during labor? Do the women portrayed in children's films present positive role models for young girls?

Communications Media

Each of these questions, probed in recent articles in The New York Times, addresses a key aspect of how people communicate with each other, either face-to-face or through mass-media technologies. Issues relating to communications permeate our lives.

This is one of many reasons communications is an exciting field of study. And perhaps not surprisingly, it's also an extremely broad discipline that can lead to a wide variety of career paths.

Communication Studies: Let's Talk About It

How people communicate with each other--through public speaking, writing, interpersonal communication, media, and other formats--is the overarching theme addressed in communication studies programs.

Generally, campus and online schools for communications offer two approaches to the discipline. Some programs emphasize the academic dimension of the field--its methodological and theoretical underpinnings. Courses that fall into this camp include media studies, gender and communications, and the history of rhetoric.

Other programs focus on real-world applications, such as:

  • Advertising and public relations
  • Journalism
  • Broadcasting
  • Visual communications
  • Technical communications
  • Corporate communications

At a bachelor's level, campus and online schools for communications usually offer a bit of both, although an individual program may be weighted more heavily than the other. Most associate degrees, since they are often tailored to students seeking a faster degree-to-career path, have a practical orientation.

Communication Decisions 101

If communications--a major many students consider both fun and practical--is your field of choice, you need to make some decisions. In addition to choosing between an academic or professional orientation, you need to choose the learning format you prefer--campus, online, or hybrid degree program. Communications is a popular field of study, and there are a wide range of both campus and online schools for communications.

Is one format better than another? The answer depends on your educational goals. As far as learning outcomes are concerned, recent studies, such as one published by the U.S. Department of Education in 2010, suggest that online learners may actually perform better than students taught in a classroom. But ultimately, you need to base the decision on your own learning style, the time you have available for your education, your proximity to a campus, cost, and other factors.

In general, you may find that an online school for communications is more likely to train you in real-world skills. Many students who take online courses in communications seek to build their skills in order to advance their careers. These classes can also train you for a new career while you keep a foot in the workforce.

A Variety of Career Options

Few careers can claim to be completely unrelated to communications--just think about the number of jobs that require writing, electronic communication, interpersonal communication or oral communication (speaking) skills. Those who seek a communications-specific career, however, often work in:

  • Advertising
  • Publishing
  • Media (television, radio, film)
  • Sport communications
  • Public relations
  • Writing (journalism and technical writing)

Many of these jobs don't require training beyond a bachelor's degree, but they may require work experience. If you're exploring campus or online communications schools to enter the field, consider internships to give you the experience employers look for.

Job Opportunities: A Persuasive Argument

Few people want to spend money on an education that doesn't lead to good job prospects. Fortunately, there are several areas of communications that are projected to have good growth opportunities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  • Advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers. The BLS projects job growth of 13 percent from 2008 through 2018, and the salaries are nothing to scoff at. As of 2009, the mean annual salaries ranged from $97,690 for advertising and promotions managers to $120,070 for marketing managers.
  • Technical writers. With employment growth of 18 percent and a mean annual salary of $65,610, this writing profession is one of the most lucrative and in-demand.
  • Public relations specialists. While public relations jobs can be competitive, employment growth of 24 percent is much faster than the national average. Public relations careers come with a satisfying mean salary of $59,370.

Satisfied Workers Statement

In 2010, the Wall Street Journal's Paths to Professions project used a PayScale.com survey to assess how satisfied workers were with their current career paths. The results were sorted by college major.

The best major--chemical engineering--scored 54 percent in terms of current job satisfaction. Advertising tied for third place with 50 percent satisfaction. Communications (general) was not far behind at 43 percent. As a field of study that is both enjoyable and practical, communications can be a great educational pursuit--and a satisfying career.

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