Students looking to study communications are often faced with one of two dreaded questions: “what are you going to do with that degree?” and “doesn’t everyone already know how to communicate?” Yes, it’s true, most of us have been developing communication skills since infancy, but it takes practice, creativity and a strong command of language to turn those skills into a profitable art.
The study of communications is ultimately about understanding people and how they create, send and receive any type of message (verbal, non-verbal, visual, written, body language, etc.). It also studies how the medium (social media, television, radio etc.) affects the overall message and how mediums are best suited for sharing specific types of information. There are several major fields within communications each with their own array of subfields. If you’re an outside-the-box thinker with superb communication skills, rest assured, you will find your place within communications industry.
Public relations (PR) is a communications field concerned with organizations’ public personas and brands. PR professionals take a holistic approach to developing plans for organizations to craft and share their messages with the public. A PR professional may craft a message that portrays the organization’s image and personality, while another message could be about a campaign promoting special event or initiative. As a PR professional, you may choose to focus your career on any number of specialities such as: branding, crisis management, or event promotion. Many PR firms also offer marketing and advertising services under their public relations umbrella because these fields are closely related.
Marketing is similar to PR, but there are specific skills as a marketer you’ll want to master. For instance, writing in both short and long forms, being able to make sense of analytical information and thinking creatively in a “big picture” way. Marketing professionals tend to focus on target audiences, building brand recognition and developing two-way conversations with the organization’s audience. In this career field you may also be responsible for developing new personalities or “re-branding” organizations entirely. There is quite a bit over overlap between marketing and PR, so be prepared to wear many hats in the workplace.
Advertising, while similar to marketing, focuses more on the power of persuasion with the ultimate goal of selling a specific product or service. Advertising professionals use the research of their marketing counterparts to create advertisements for print, television, radio, billboards, and many other unique “guerilla” style tactics. The advertising professional’s responsibilities may resemble or even cross-over into marketing roles.
Journalism is not all breaking news reporting, and it is certainly not all television broadcasting. Those jobs make up only a fraction of this career field. There are as many beats (specialties) in journalism as there are topics of conversation: politics, money, food, arts, crime, science, technology, the list goes on. Journalists may work for television news networks, magazines, newspapers, or for themselves as freelance writers. No matter their beat or medium, journalists tell real-life stories from your hometown, to the other side of the world. This career path may offer unique opportunities to travel, interview different people and investigate stories.
Media is one of the larger fields within communications. The three biggest media subfields are radio, television and film. Each of these three media subfields have countless job positions to choose from: writing, producing, directing, media buying and more.
So, the next time someone asks “what are you going to do with a communications degree?”, kindly explain that a career in communications offers opportunities in multiple fields, and every other industry requires some type of communication specialist. Once you’ve made your point, send them to Next Step Academy’s “Careers in Communication” course. A career in communications could be right for them, too!