Communications graduate programs include a graduate certificate, master's degree, and doctoral degree. Students in all of these graduate programs can develop enhanced communication skills in areas of public relations, marketing, conflict management, technology, digital media or journalism. Communication laws, theories and systems will be addressed. Graduates may seek employment opportunities in public relations or advertising firms, corporations, government agencies or nonprofit organizations. They might also teach at the post-secondary level.
Graduate Certificate in Communications
Graduate certificate programs usually allow students to concentrate on one unique aspect of the field of communications. They provide the opportunity to enhance skills and knowledge learned during undergraduate study in order to improve career opportunities and professional skills. Programs are offered in such areas as integrated marketing communications, corporate communications, technical communications and strategic communications. Graduate certificate programs require a bachelor's degree for admission. Typically, certificate programs can be completed in a year or less. Curricula vary depending on the area of communications being studied. Some topics commonly covered include:
- Organizational communications
- Communications in society
- Marketing and public relations communications
- New and integrated media
Master's Degree Program in Communications
Master's degree programs in communications tend to focus on the uses of communication in our society. Students might pursue a program that deals specifically with business or political communications. In some cases, they might explore communications in an anthropological sense to understand its impact on human interactions and societies.
Master's degree programs in communications require admission to the graduate school and a bachelor's degree. Some programs require a bachelor's degree specifically in communications. However, others admit students with undergraduate study in any area.
Some programs allow students to select an area of focus, such as communications in politics or health communications. Programs generally require around two years to complete and may require a thesis or research project. Coursework might include:
- Digital communications
- Organizational communications
- Communications in conflict and negotiations
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Programs in Communications
Ph.D. programs in communications are generally designed for students interested in academic research careers or in leading communications initiatives in corporate and non-profit sectors. Most programs allow students flexibility in designing their own areas of study, which may combine aspects of many disciplines.
Students must meet the admission requirements of the graduate school. Many programs are highly competitive, and students are selected based on previous experience, research work and academic achievement.
Ph.D. programs in communications usually require students to complete and adequately defend a dissertation in their area of study. Additional coursework might include:
- Theories of communications
- Digital media and journalism
- Communications laws and policies
- Communications systems
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
A master's degree in communications can be an asset in many areas of business and industry. Some common career areas include public relations, advertising and journalism. The number of jobs for public relations managers is expected to grow by 8% from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Median salaries were $116,180 for public relations managers annually, as of May 2019.
Jobs are also expected to grow for advertising managers, although at a slightly above average rate of 6-8%, from 2018-2028. The BLS reported that advertising managers averaged $141,890 as of May 2019. The journalism business, however, is expected to see a decline in the number of jobs during the same time period, with jobs for reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts declining 10% percent. News analysts, reporters and correspondents earned a median salary of $46,270 annually, as of May 2019.
Those who pursue a Ph.D. in communications are typically interested in academic careers. The BLS expects job growth of 5%, the average for teachers at the postsecondary level from 2018 to 2028. Professors in communications earned median annual salaries of $70,630 as of May 2019.
A number of professional organizations, such as the International Association of Business Communicators and the Association for Women in Communications, provide opportunities for professional development and continuing education. Students wishing to pursue further research in communications or students looking for an academic career might consider a doctorate program in communications.
Since many Ph.D. graduates in academic positions are involved in ongoing research in their field, continuing education is inherent in what they do. Professional organizations, such as the International Communication Association, are focused on individuals interested in research and teaching. These organizations offer seminars, conventions and other opportunities for continued education.
Students interested in a graduate degree in communications have several options including a graduate certificate, a master's degree, and a doctoral degree, which will all develop communication skills in many areas. Graduate certificates normally hone in on one concentration to perfect skills in the field, while the master's and doctoral degrees are used for communication in politics or health, or for leading communication initiatives.