When it comes to the most popular college majors, communications regularly ranks in the top 3, according to the Princeton Review. It’s not hard to see why; communications programs, which focus on verbal and non-verbal storytelling, how to refine and inform audience reactions, and different methods of conveying messages and information, train students for a wide array of public-facing careers.
But because a communications degree doesn’t leave you with a highly-specialized set of skills (as a pre-med or pre-law degree might), it can be challenging to parlay what you’ve learned into a real-life job search.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of promising career paths ideal for an ambitious professional armed with a communications degree.
How much can you make with a communications degree?
Jobs at all seniority levels and income brackets can prove a great fit for someone with a communications degree. In most cases, recent grads will come aboard as assistants, interns, and associates, but can rise through the ranks and eventually make sizable salaries in leadership positions.
According to Glassdoor, an editorial assistant earns an average income of $42,715, while a senior editor takes home $76,344. Public relations assistants can make $60,474, and PR directors expect incomes close to $90,484 per year. Human resources assistants start out with $46,159 as an average annual income, while HR managers earn $86,186 per year.
Careers in Media
Because communications degree programs teach students how to use written documents to deliver information, journalism is often a natural career progression for degree recipients. Journalists write features, reports, interview pieces, and columns for print and- increasingly- digital publications, and they’re usually either paid on salary or by the piece. These media professionals generally launch their careers as freelancers, editorial assistants, and as staff interns, but can rise to staff writer or editor positions.
Editors, the media professionals who assign and review the work of contributing writers before publication, hold more senior positions at most outlets than the journalists themselves, and they’re paid accordingly. A communications major offers a keen viewpoint on audiences and what they’re interested in reading, making candidates with these degrees strong fits for editorial roles.
As media moves increasingly in the digital direction, video production becomes integral to the continuing relevance of many publications. Video producers do need some background in filmmaking, but a former communications major with an interest in the technical side of film and a clear knowledge of how to market videos via contacts and social media can evolve into a successful video producer.
Careers in Education
Many job seekers assume that an undergraduate degree in education is essential to a teaching career, but because most states offer their own teacher-certification programs, a bachelor’s degree in any subject will suffice. That said, a communications degree gives prospective educators valuable tools that allow them to thrive in a classroom.
Teachers, particularly at the middle school and high school levels, must constantly use clear communication to transmit information to their students. In the 21st century, teachers must also possess a strong understanding of how to use the internet and social media to fortify their lessons and keep their classes engaged, all of which can be gained from a communications course of study.
Because upper-level school administrators regularly address families, board members, and community leaders to advocate for their school’s needs, an educational background centered around presentations and direct addresses will help these professionals excel at their jobs. Also, administrators typically earn higher salaries than teachers, making this a lucrative career shift.
If you’re interested in teaching but would prefer to avoid a traditional classroom, corporate training provides an appealing alternative avenue. Corporate trainers visit offices to engage employees in curriculums designed to promote professional development. They may teach new skills, host seminars about corporate policy, or create and execute team-building exercises.
Careers in Politics and Government
One of the most public-facing industries possible, government and politics requires individuals trained in the art of conveying messages to large groups of people. Luckily, communications majors are already a few steps ahead on that front, which can help their job candidacies.
While not a technical “government” job, lobbying makes clear and constant use of a comm major’s ability to promote themselves and their causes through speech. Lobbyists work for large organizations (sometimes for-profit industries, sometimes non-profit groups) and seek to influence politicians to vote on legislative matters that benefit their employer’s interests. It’s a job that involves lots of networking, research, and a keen knack for persuasion.
If you feel strongly about a candidate or a party and want to use your communications skills to get a politician elected, joining a campaign staff is an effective move. Once you have sufficient experience, you can pursue a career as a campaign manager, overseeing the staffing, messaging, and public face of your candidate and her election pursuits.
Once a high-profile political office like the presidency or a governorship is filled, the elected official needs a press secretary to coordinate interviews, to directly represent the administration at press briefings, and to manage the official’s public image as it’s conveyed through the media.
Professionals with keen imaginations, sharp eyes for aesthetics, and entrepreneurial spirits can use their communications degrees to strike out on their own in high-level creative roles like PR management, event planning, and film and TV production.
Public relations associates and managers promote events, products, and creative projects for a wide range of clients, from film companies to fashion houses to hospitality brands to individual artists. PR careers typically start with internships or entry-level associate roles, but successful staffers quickly ascend to managing their own client portfolios and, in some cases, opening their own firms.
If you pride yourself in throwing excellent shindigs for your friends and family, a career in event planning could be a perfect fit for you. Event planners must coordinate all details of a large-scale party, including managing the venue staff, making food arrangements, overseeing the decor, and staying in close touch with the client to ensure that everything proceeds according to her vision. Communications majors with excellent organizational skills and the ability to maintain amicable relationships with staffers and clients alike will excel in this position.
Careers in the corporate strata requiring strong interpersonal skills and impressive capabilities with large-scale communication are plentiful, and these talents can help you rise all the way to the top of the corporate ladder.
A communications degree provides a strong foundation for a career in human resources, a department specializing in employee relations, workplace conflicts, and retention. Therefore, HR reps need to be great listeners and able to express the company’s perspective even under pressure. HR professionals frequently begin as assistants before their promotions to generalist, manager, and/or director roles.
Communications is frequently a suggested major for undergrads interested in marketing and advertising, and if a recent alum pursues a marketing job in the corporate world, they’ll have the opportunity to put their skills directly to work. Corporate marketing frequently focuses on attracting clients and investors, and marketing assistants, associates, managers, and directors help devise strategies and proposals to capture the attention of these groups.
Another option is to become a communications consultant. While some people choose to take this role the freelance route, working for a variety of companies and organizations, there are companies that hire for this specific position. Job duties can include coordinating paid advertising, earned media, public relations. high-level strategy development and more.