Answer: Earning a master’s degree in communication can help prepare graduates for jobs in corporate communication, journalism, mass media, politics, higher education, or a wide range of other fields. Students who are already employed can use the skills they acquire to advance in their current careers, with some leadership positions even requiring a master’s in communication. Those interested in changing careers can pursue their master’s in a communication specialization that aligns with their particular professional goals. A master’s in communication can also prepare graduates for doctoral studies and a career in higher education, where they will spend their time conducting research and educating students.
Theoretical vs. Applied Master’s in Communication Programs
Before discussing possible career opportunities afforded by a master’s degree in communication, there is an important distinction that needs to be made between theoretical and applied master’s in communication programs. This is a broad distinction, and while there are programs that focus almost exclusively on one or the other, there are also those that combine instruction in both fields, allowing students to tailor their studies based on their desired career goals.
Theoretical master’s in communication programs focus primarily on theory and social-scientific research. Courses in this type of program largely involve reading and performing research. Weekly classwork might entail reading three research studies, discussing them as a class, and writing a critique of one of the studies. Layered on top of this coursework will likely be a semester-long research study or research proposal. For example, students taking a course in organizational communication would have their weekly readings, but also possibly conduct a study examining the relationship between employee intention to quit and supervisor communication competence. Unsurprisingly, theoretical programs offer more value to students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. following graduation than they do to those interested in industry.
An applied master’s in communication program, on the other hand, focuses on the skills students need to succeed outside of academia. Courses in this type of program will still include reading academic research, but tend to focus more on developing corporate communication plans, marketing plans, corporate training programs, and other applied projects. An applied program is typically a better fit for students who know they want a job in industry as opposed to one in academia.
While this broad distinction can be made, there are many programs that place a shared focus on theoretical and applied skills. These “hybrid” programs offer a balance between the two extremes, giving students a strong foundation in theory and research methods while also helping them develop the specific skills needed for the workforce. As a result, these programs tend to be a good fit for students who see the value of both skillsets, or those unsure of what they want to do after graduation.
Potential Jobs for Master’s in Communication Graduates
Master’s in communication program can prepare students for many different types of careers. The following list of job titles and positions demonstrates the breadth of opportunities that may be available to graduates. Keep in mind, this list is by no means exhaustive.
- Marketing Consultant
- Marketing Account Executive
- Market Research Analyst
- Public Relations Manager
- Internal Communications Manager
- Sales Account Executive
- Learning and Development Analyst
- Human Resources Manager
- Speech Writer
- Political Campaign Manager
- Technical Communication Specialist
- Web Producer
- Fundraising Manager
- Non-Tenure Track Academic (e.g., lecturer, admissions director, academic advisor, etc.)
- Tenure-Track Professor
- Community College Professor
Clearly, there are many careers that can be pursued with a master’s in communication, so it is important that students have a tentative goal in mind as they enter their program. For students interested in careers in industry, like marketing, public relations, or strategic communication, an applied program tends to make the most sense. For students interested in careers in academia, a theoretical program would be the best fit. It is important to note, however, that a tenure-track professorship almost always requires a doctorate degree.
How Can a Master’s in Communication Advance Your Career
Master’s in communication programs help students build valuable skills for their current or future careers. Regardless of the program a student selects, they will be given the opportunity to become proficient at writing and data analysis. In theoretical programs, these skills are developed primarily through completing research critiques and conducting social-scientific research. In applied programs, these skills are developed through executing applied projects.
On top of these two primary skills, students will have the chance to advance additional skills of their choosing. For example, a student interested in public relations might be given the opportunity to develop public relations campaigns with oversight from their professor and input from classmates. This ultimately makes the student more proficient in public relations campaign development. To further illustrate, a student interested in speech writing could conduct research examining speeches given by CEOs during times of corporate crisis, analyzing the persuasive tactics in each. This would arm the student with knowledge of various persuasive tactics used in corporate speech writing and how those tactics can most effectively be used.
Ultimately, the list of skills a student can learn in a master’s in communication program is extensive. The specific skills a student develops are primarily determined by their program type, the specialization they choose, and the courses they take. That is why it is important to research programs before applying: Program selection will ultimately determine what students can do with their master’s following graduation.