Degree programs in communication arts are interdisciplinary programs that give students a background in areas including journalism, advertising, public relations and performing arts. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs offer instruction in mass communications, with classes covering topics including persuasive writing, news writing, public speaking and communication theory. Many programs call for an internship. Master's degree programs are aimed at students who intend to pursue doctoral studies. Master's programs are often focused on research, and the student usually chooses a particular area to study. A thesis is required, and internships are common.
Associate's Degree in Communication Arts
Associate's degree programs in communication arts focus on the many ways that people communicate with each other. Some programs include a broad introduction to journalism, advertising, digital media and performing arts. Other programs are highly customized, offering students a few core courses followed by the opportunity to select electives from a number of communication disciplines. Some schools offer a combination communication arts and design program that focuses heavily on visual design. These programs also include classes in writing for mass media and journalism.
In most cases, the credits earned in an associate's degree program can transfer into a bachelor's degree program at a 4-year college or university. Typically, these programs only require a high school diploma or GED equivalent for enrollment.
Communication arts associate's degree programs can be customized with electives in many communication-related areas. In addition to general education classes, possible course topics may include:
- Mass communication and society
- Speaking in public
- Writing for mass media
- Understanding the media
- Issues in advertising and public relations
Bachelor's Degree in Communication Arts
Bachelor's degree programs in communication arts are interdisciplinary programs, meaning many different types of communication arts are studied. Students enrolled in these programs are exposed to speech communication, news writing, photography, graphic design and, in some programs, performing arts. Training in the technical aspects of communication is included, along with the theories behind the methods and mediums of communication. Similar programs are available in communication, or communication arts and media studies. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED.
Like the related associate's degree program, communication arts bachelor's degree programs also feature many electives to customize the coursework. In addition to general education classes, most programs include an internship. Some course topics may be:
- Communication theories
- Critical thinking in communication
- Theory and practice of persuasive speaking
- Mass media writing
- Health communication
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Master's Degree in Communication Arts
Master's degree programs in communication arts are geared primarily toward those who want to go on to further study on the doctorate level, with the goal of research or teaching. Most master's degree programs focus on research methods in communication, along with different communication styles and theories. Schools often offer several concentrations within a communication arts graduate program, such as media and cultural studies, communication science, rhetoric and film.
A bachelor's degree is required, though not necessarily in communication arts. Applicants also should have completed at least 18 credit hours in communications-related courses, with most of those being upper-division coursework.
Some course topics may include:
- The development of research and practice in communication
- Political communication
- Social influence in communication
- Information technology and communication
- Historical roots of communication theory
Popular Career Options
Earning an associate's degree in communication arts can prepare students for entry-level work in a number of fields, depending on the program. Some possible job titles include:
- Freelance writer
- Desktop publisher
- Graphic design assistant
- Public relations specialist
- Broadcast production assistant
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Earning a bachelor's degree in communication arts may prepare graduates for a job as a public relations specialist, who uses communication tools to help an organization communicate with the public. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for the field will increase by 6% between the years of 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The median annual salary for a public relations specialist, in May 2015, was $56,770, according to the BLS.
The Public Relations Society of America offers an Accredited in Public Relations credential that can be earned by completing a degree along with work experience and passing an exam. The organization also offers professional resources, including conferences, for those wanting to learn more about the field.
Ph.D. programs in communication arts or communication are typically 3-year programs that involve a dissertation and student teaching. Programs focus on communication theories and research, and prepare students for careers with teaching and research institutions.
To summarize, associate's and bachelor's degree programs provide an overview of the field of communication arts in addition to a general education, while master's degree programs focus more specifically on research in the field.