Today’s globally connected, information-based society requires individuals who can critically process information and effectively communicate with both internal and external audiences. With the internet and social media altering how humans communicate, digital literacy is currently at a premium. At its heart, the study of communication is to understand human behavior. The communications major teaches students not only how to become strategic communicators who can leverage various media formats (e.g. oral, non-verbal, visual and written), but also how to do so with a knowledge of the underlying social, economic, political and cultural influences that shape how messages are shared and received.
Typically a four-year program of study, the bachelor’s of communication introduces students to a liberal arts curriculum with a specific set of communication-based courses that prepare students for diverse career paths throughout public, private, nonprofit and government business, organizations and agencies.
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Classification of Bachelor’s in Communication Programs
At first glance, undergraduate communication programs may all seem to be the same. However, there are diverse tracks for students to consider, depending on their academic needs and professional goals. Students may find communication majors throughout university departments, such as journalism, mass communication, media studies, English, and more.
As a field of study, the communication major is offered through either a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.A.) degree track. Although core curriculum courses remain largely the same, the B.A. and B.S. often diverge slightly in their elective areas of study. In the B.A. track, students are exposed to a greater number of liberal arts courses (e.g. English, social sciences, history), while the B.S. includes a more technical-focused curriculum in the sciences. Below is a sample list of programs in communications:
Bachelor of Arts
- California State University Long Beach: Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
- University of Arizona: Bachelor of Arts in Communication
- University of Colorado Colorado Springs: Bachelor of Arts in Communication
Bachelor of Science
- Drexel University: Bachelor of Science in Communication
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University: Bachelor of Science in Communication
- The University of Texas at Austin: Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies
Before settling on a program, students should research the specific course requirements for the B.A. or B.S. in communication programs that interest them, to see if the course content meets their academic needs.
Curriculum Details for Bachelor’s in Communications Programs
The communication major typically falls into a larger bachelor’s degree program of study that – at nearly every university – requires between 120 and 124 credit hours to complete. In most cases, the curriculum plan is spread across general education courses, electives, and major classes. Course requirements vary from university to university, but generally follow the pattern below:
- General education courses: 60 – 66 credits
- Elective courses: 15 – 18 credits
- Major courses: 36 – 42 credits
To graduate in four years, students usually must take five to six classes each semester (15 – 16 credit hours). In their first two years, students complete the majority of their general education classes (e.g. history, foreign languages, natural sciences, math, English) and are introduced to a handful (4 – 5) of classes in communication. The third and fourth years are spent taking electives and focusing on the remaining major requirements in communication.
Elective coursework in communications can be tailored to the student’s interests. Topics of study may range from public relations to digital communication. Further, many degree programs allow students to take specialization courses in their major – areas of concentrated studies in communications. Examples of specialization options at different universities include the following:
- Technical writing
- Science writing
- Media studies
- Public communication
- Organizational communication
- Environmental communication
- Intercultural communication
- Digital communication
Below is a sample list of courses a student may encounter as an undergraduate student majoring in communication.
- Emotive Communication: A study of emotion’s role in communication, examining the theoretical background in emotional expression in human communication across the various emotional classes (e.g. social, joyful, etc.).
- Introduction to Public Speaking: An overview of the history and principles of public communication, studying oral communication in terms of the speaker-listener relationship, speech selection, and use of presentation devices.
- Interpersonal Communication: This course focuses on dynamics of interpersonal communication, considering various contexts (e.g. family, social, work) and how those contexts can impact message delivery and interpretation.
- Mass Communication: Mass communication considers the role of communication in society, exploring how outside influences (e.g. culture, economics, politics) can shape how messaging in film, social media and other institutions are delivered, interpreted and accepted.
- Technical Communication: A review of communication (specifically written) in technical and professional industries, teaching students about writing practices and formatting for white papers, manuals, product proposals, and more.
- Intercultural Communication: A high-level study of the social, cultural and historical influences on intercultural exchanges, investigating both theoretical and practical applications in various communication arenas (e.g. personal relationships, private business, nonprofit organizations).
As noted above, undergraduate communication programs typically require students to complete between 120 and 124 credit hours of study to earn their bachelor’s degree. The number of credits can vary based on the university’s credit system, academic calendar (e.g. quarters versus semesters) and course requirements (e.g. electives, core classwork).
Below is a sample course plan for the major requirements for a bachelor’s degree in communication that requires 36 credit hours to complete:
Online Bachelor’s in Communication Programs
For many students, pursuing an undergraduate degree can be prohibitively expensive if they do not also work concurrently with their studies. For these students, online bachelor’s in communication programs may be a good option that allows them to afford school while gaining helpful work experience. There are numerous schools that offer online bachelor’s in communication degree programs with a wide variety of concentrations, from business communication to technical communication, rhetorical criticism and media studies, and mass communication.
Online bachelor’s in communication programs are available in different formats to fit students’ needs and their previous educational experiences. For example, there are traditional bachelor’s in communication degree programs that accept applications from students who have a high school diploma, which require students to complete general education requirements in addition to classes specific to communication. There are also undergraduate programs in communication that require or allow students to transfer credits from an associate degree program. These programs, often known as bachelor’s completion programs, are designed for students who have fulfilled the majority of their general education classes.
Admissions requirements for online bachelor’s in communication programs depend on whether students are applying as freshmen or transfer students. For freshmen applicants, many programs require students to submit an SAT or ACT score along with their personal statement and high school transcripts. For transfer students, ACT or SAT scores may not be required, but applicants will often be expected to have upheld a minimum GPA in their previous post-secondary coursework that proves their readiness for college-level coursework in communication.
Career Paths for Graduates with a Bachelor’s in Communication
Communication studies is a broad field, one that spans politics to marketing, government to education, entertainment to professional sports. The main focus of communication programs is to equip students with a firm understanding of communication theory and processes. That knowledge allows students to evaluate and analyze various messaging mediums (e.g. written, oral, social media), identify audience-based communication needs, and craft targeted, well-conceived communication materials in different contexts.
Because of their background in critical analysis, audience targeting and written/oral communication skills, graduates with a bachelor’s in communication are prepared to join any number of professional fields, such as the following:
- Advertising and marketing
- Information systems
- Event marketing
- Culinary and hospitality
- Media and public relations
- Internet, radio and social media
- Human resources
Although there is no single career path for communication professionals, communication degrees can lead to the example employment opportunities below:
- Communications Officer: Working across the public, private, nonprofit and government sectors, communication officers help plan, execute and implement strategic communication activities and content that reach internal (employees) and external (consumers) audiences, including press releases, event coordination, scheduling interviews and hosting conferences.
- Event Planner: Event planners work with clients to design and coordinate events, such as weddings, trade shows, and conferences, handling every task – both large and small – including managing budgets, booking entertainment, selecting flowers and décor, and running the event.
- Public Information Officer: Traditionally working for government agencies, public information officers are tasked with creating and disseminating organizational information and managing public relations activities, such writing speeches, launching advertising campaigns, planning promotional events, and managing website content.
- Publicist: Publicists work for clients in nearly every industry (e.g. music, film, sports), helping promote their clients by generating media coverage through press releases, press kits, interviews, social media content, video and photo shoots, and more.
- Speech Writers: Traditionally working in politics, speech writers help plan and write speeches for political candidates, incumbent politicians, spouses and staff members across the local, state and national stage.
- Market Researcher: Market researchers use surveys, focus groups and other data gathering techniques to gather consumer sentiments about companies, products and services that are used to improve and better target advertising efforts.