The media landscape has shifted during the past two decades due to the advent and global adoption of digital media channels (e.g. internet and social media). Today, it is impossible to understate the sheer power media has to influence thinking, behaviors and even political relationships between countries.
Mass communication is concerned with how media is created, produced, disseminated and interpreted. In short, it is the study of storytelling and narrative, teaching students how to best communicate stories to large audiences. The mass communication major is part of a four-year program of study that blends both general education coursework with focused communication classwork. Students enhance their content creation and storytelling skills through a variety of media types, such as documentaries, press releases, films, or marketing campaigns.
Unlike its sister degree program – bachelor’s in communication – the bachelor’s in mass communication focuses more on skills and concepts in message and media development for broad audiences. This encompasses content for broadcasting, public relations, journalism, marketing and advertising, and film. While bachelor’s in communication programs may include classes on mass communication concepts, they often include courses on the theoretical study of interpersonal communication, social behaviors, and strategic messaging techniques in contexts outside of mass audiences, such as corporate, healthcare, or familial settings.
Before settling on a bachelor’s in communication or bachelor’s in mass communication, students should review the program curriculum and learning outcomes to ensure their chosen track offers the course content to give them the academic and professional preparation they seek in their fields of interest.
Classification of Bachelor’s in Mass Communication Programs
Mass communication is an interdisciplinary field, bringing together an array of disciplines (e.g. journalism, writing, public relations) to study how media shapes and is shaped by varying cultural, social, political, and economic factors.
Students interested in this area of study can choose from a variety of undergraduate degree programs in mass communications. These programs can be found throughout higher education, in standalone programs, journalism schools, English departments, and more. Examples of bachelor’s in mass communication programs can be found at the following universities:
- Texas State University: School of Journalism and Mass Communication
- Tennessee State University: Department of Communications
- Purdue University: School of Communication
- University of Arkansas-Little Rock: School of Mass Communication
Colleges and universities typically offer one of two types of mass communication degree programs – the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or the Bachelor of Science (B.S.). Typically speaking, the core curriculum and general education courses mirror each other, while the electives and major course requirements are slightly different. In most cases, the Bachelor of Arts maintains a heavier focus on liberal arts instruction, while the Bachelor of Science’s curriculum concentrates on the sciences and technical instruction.
Although most universities only offer a single-degree option, some universities, such as Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville offer both a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications. Example B.A. programs include the University of Bridgeport and Sam Houston State University. Bachelor of Science programs can be found at Virginia Commonwealth University, Southeast Missouri State University, and the University of West Georgia.
Before selecting a mass communications program, students should not only research the core requirements for the B.A. or B.S., but also review the major requirements and elective options in each track as well to ensure the program meets their current academic and future professional needs.
Curriculum Details for Bachelor’s in Mass Communications Programs
Mass communication majors are part of bachelor’s degree programs that generally require between 120 and 124 credit hours of study for students to complete. At nearly every university, undergraduate degree programs divide instruction into general education classes, electives and the mass communication major requirements. Although graduation requirements vary by university, they typically fall into the following categories:
- General education courses: 60 – 66 credits
- Elective courses: 15 – 18 credits
- Major courses: 36 – 42 credits
The first two years of study in an undergraduate program are generally focused on the general education curriculum, providing students with foundational knowledge in topics ranging from English to history, foreign languages, and mathematics. During their final two years of study, students transition into their mass communication major curriculum, completing the major’s core class requirements and self-selected communication electives. Depending on the school and when students declare their major, some introductory mass communication courses may be completed during the first two years of study.
To complete their major requirements, students typically have to complete between 36 and 42 credit hours of study in communication-focused classes. They are divided between core classes (12 – 15 credit hours credits) and elective classes (15 – 21 credit hours). As noted above, students can use mass communication elective classes to personalize their education in an area of professional interest. Example topics include broadcasting, public relations, and film production. In some cases, mass communication programs allow students to earn a specialization in their major in one of these areas of interest.
Examples of common communication specialization options include the following:
- Corporate Communications
- Journalism & Media (Print & Electronic)
- Public Relations
- TV/Radio/Film Production
Below is a list of example courses students may take during their undergraduate studies in a mass communications degree program.
- Media Literacy: A course that explores various media types and environments, teaching students how to recognize, analyze and interpret media in various contexts.
- Writing for Mass Media: Serves as an introduction to writing for different media formats, providing students with practical skills in creating material for the internet, news reporting, broadcasting, film, public relations, and more.
- Film and Television Production: Offers a high-level overview of visual media production, concentrating on core concepts in video editing, camera manipulation, set design, and on-camera content delivery.
- Studio Production: A basic introduction to the foundational principles of media production in studio environments, covering production crew roles, pre-production practices, in-studio art direction, and studio equipment uses.
- Introduction to Public Relations: Examines the principles of public relations, introducing students to communication techniques and strategies to promote products and clients, respond to crisis situations, and manage messaging in an ethical manner.
- News Reporting Writing: Covers both the theory of and practical instruction in writing for news media outlets in both print and digital formats, exploring best practices in covering different journalistic topics, including government, health care, public safety, and politics.
As discussed above, most undergraduate programs in mass communications require students to earn between 120 and 124 credits to complete their bachelor’s degree. The table below outlines an example course map to complete the major course requirements for a bachelor’s degree in mass communications.
Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Mass Communication
Students seeking greater flexibility in their undergraduate education may want to review online learning options. Although not as prevalent as other academic programs, there are online bachelor’s in mass communications and media programs that offer a diverse assortment of specialization options, such as public relations, digital communication, and new media.
There are varying types of online bachelor’s in mass communications and media programs that are based on the student’s previous academic experience. For instance, some programs are traditional in nature, accepting students that possess a high school diploma and enter as new freshmen. Other online communication programs are designed for transfer students that possess a specific number of transferable credits and meet GPA requirements. Known as bachelor’s completion programs, they are aimed at students who have completed the majority of their general education coursework and can demonstrate proficiency in math, reading and writing.
Admission requirements for online bachelor’s in mass communication differ from university to university, and from program to program. For new freshman applicants, most institutions require students to submit official ACT or SAT scores, along with high school transcripts and other application materials (e.g. letters of recommendation, personal essay). For transfer students or students who have completed an associate’s degree, universities may waive the ACT/SAT requirement, and require students to meet minimum credit and GPA requirements.
Career Paths for Graduates with a Bachelor’s in Mass Communication
The field of communication is expansive, covering traditional media (e.g. newspapers), film and cinema, websites and online content, and political messaging. Bachelor’s programs in mass communication provide students with a fundamental understanding of the theory behind and modern practices in media development, creation and promotion. As content creators, graduates can use their practical skills in areas such as videography and video production, social media, and public relations writing to pursue employment opportunities in an assortment of industries.
Example industries include the following:
- Communications and Print Media
- Digital Media Production
- Media Advertising
- Public Relations
- Television News
- Video Production
Because of the focus on real-world skill development in diverse areas (e.g. public relations, video production, journalism), there is no single path for graduates of mass communication programs to take. Instead, students can select from numerous career opportunities, such as the following:
- Production Assistant: Typically working in television and film production, production assistants handle a range of tasks for producers and other staff, from answering televisions, assisting with scheduling, filing paperwork, providing transportation and more.
- Photojournalist: A visual storyteller, photojournalists work throughout the media industry, taking photographs and videos of local, national and international events.
- Film Editor: Working across the media landscape, film editors gather, review and assemble unedited film and recorded material, editing camera footage and applying graphics, dialogue, special effects to develop and enhance their intended message. They can work specifically on commercials, music videos, feature films, television shows, and more.
- Media Buyer: Applying an understanding of consumer needs and industry advertising, media buyers work with their companies or clients to negotiate and secure advertising space across marketing channels, including websites, radio stations, outdoor billboards, cinema, and more.
- Publicity Director: Working both in industry positions (e.g. entertainment) and as independent consultants for clients, publicity directors develop publicity strategies and associated messaging to promote individuals, brands and products.
- Station Manager: Typically found in television and radio, station managers are lead administrators, overseeing the day-to-day and long-term operation of radio/TV stations, ensuring compliance with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), managing staff, scheduling of content, and handling budgets.