Pathways to Careers in Communication


Choosing the best educational path to a satisfying job and successful career can be difficult for a student. And the choice is a serious one. The pathway you choose and the decisions you make will profoundly shape your future. This publication is designed to help you make that difficult choice by providing clear information about communication education and possible related jobs and careers.

Students frequently ask: “What is communication and what can I do with a communication degree? What kind of job can a communication major get and how do I choose the right school?” If you are asking these questions, the table of contents is designed to take you directly to the answers. If you need more information than what is contained here, you’ll find a list of electronic and printed resources.


A Description of Communication
What is Communication?
Why is Communication Important?
History of the Communication Discipline
Areas of Concentration in the Communication Discipline

Communication as an Academic Discipline
Growth of the Discipline of Communication

Departmental Approaches to the Field of Communication
Unit Designations
Special Departmental Services

Communication in Higher Education
Undergraduate Education
Graduate Education

Communication and Careers
Careers in the Field of Communication

Communication Education
Electronic Media/Radio-Television/Broadcasting
Journalism (Print or Electronic)
Public Relations
Theatre/Performing Arts/Dramatic Arts

Careers in Fields Related to Communication

Health Careers
International Relations and Negotiations
Social and Human Services

Getting a Job in Communication
Representative Careers in Communication

Resources for Investigating Communication Studies
Electronic Resources
Directories to Communication Programs
History of the Field of Communication



What is Communication?

Communication is a learned skill. Most people are born with the physical ability to talk, but we learn to speak well and communicate effectively. Speaking, listening, and our ability to understand verbal and nonverbal meanings are skills we develop in various ways. We learn basic communication skills by observing other people and modeling our behaviors based on what we see. We also are taught some communication skills directly through education, and by practicing those skills and having them evaluated.

Communication as an academic field relates to all the ways we communicate, so it embraces a large body of knowledge. The information relates to both verbal and nonverbal messages. A body of scholarship all about communication is presented and explained in textbooks, electronic publications, and academic journals. In the journals, researchers report the results of studies that are the basis for an ever-expanding understanding of how we all communicate.

Communication teachers and scholars, in 1995, developed a definition of the field of communication to clarify it as a discipline for the public:

The field of communication focuses on how people use messages to generate meanings within and across various contexts, cultures, channels, and media. The field promotes the effective and ethical practice of human communication.1

Why is Communication Important?

Oral communication has long been our main method for communicating with one another. It is estimated that 75 percent of a person’s day is spent communicating in some way. As a college student, 69 percent of your communication time is spent on speaking and listening. You spend 17 percent of your communication time on reading and 14 percent writing.2  Put another way, “We listen a book a day, we speak a book a week, read the equivalent of a book a month, and write the equivalent of a book a year.” 3

Not only do we spend considerable time communicating, communication skills also are essential to personal, academic, and professional success.  In a report on fastest growing careers, the U.S. Department of Labor states that communication skills will be in demand across occupations well into the next century.4  In a national survey of 1000 human resource managers, oral communication skills are identified as valuable for both obtaining employment and successful job performance.5  Executives with Fortune 500 companies indicate that college students need better communication skills, as well as the ability to work in teams and with people from diverse backgrounds.6  Case studies of high-wage companies also state that essential skills for future workers include problem solving, working in groups, and the ability to communicate effectively.7  When  1000 faculty members from a cross section of disciplines were asked to identify basic competencies for every college graduate, skills in communicating topped the list.8  Even an economics professor states that, “. . . we are living in a communications revolution comparable to the invention of printing . . . In an age of increasing talk, it’s wiser talk we need most.  Communication studies might well be central to colleges and universities in the 21st century.” 9

History of the Communication Discipline

The communication discipline has a long history of accomplishments.

The ability to speak clearly, eloquently, and effectively has been recognized as the hallmark of an educated person since the beginning of recorded history. Systematic comment on communication goes back at least as far as The Precepts of Kagemni and Ptah-Hopte (3200-2800 B.C.). Under the label “rhetoric,” the study of the theory and practice of communication was a central concern of Greek, Roman, medieval, Renaissance, and early modern education. In the United States, rhetorical training has been a part of formal education since Harvard’s founding in 1636.10

Modern day communication studies also stress the role of citizenship in a civil and democratic society, especially as related to freedom of speech. The 20th century has seen the field of speech and rhetoric grow to include communication in the workplace, in families, in mass media, and in advertising, to name a few.  Contemporary students of communication draw on theories and practices common in the fields of: anthropology, psychology, sociology, linguistics, semiotics, and rhetoric.  The study of communication today includes all forms of: interpersonal, small group, organizational, intercultural and international, and public and mass communication.  The field of communication considers how people communicate as individuals, in society, and in various cultures.

Areas Of Concentration in the Communication Discipline

Many subject matters are encompassed in the field of communication. While areas of emphasis differ from one school to another, some of the most common include:

Applied Communication: The study of processes used to analyze communication needs of organizations and social interaction, including the design of training to improve communication between supervisors and employees.
Communication Education: The study of speech communication in the classroom and other pedagogical contexts.
Communication Theory: The study of principles that account for the impact of communication in human social interaction.
Family Communication: The study of communication unique to family systems.
Gender Communication: The study of gender and sex differences and similarities in communication and the unique characteristics of male-female communication.
Health Communication: The study of communication as it relates to health professionals and health education, including the study of provider-client interaction as well as the diffusion of health information through public health campaigns.
International and Intercultural Communication: The study of communication among individuals of different cultural backgrounds, including the study of similarities and differences across cultures.
Interpersonal Communication: The study of communication behaviors in dyads (pairs) and their impact on personal relationships.
Language and Social Interaction: The study of the structure of verbal and nonverbal behaviors occurring in social interaction.
Legal Communication: The study of the role of communication as it relates to the legal system.
Mass Communication and Media Literacy: The study of the uses, processes, and effects of mediated communication.
Mediation and Dispute Resolution: The study of understanding, management, and resolution of conflict in intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intergroup situations.
Performance Studies: The study of communication as performance, including its components, that is performer(s), text, audience, and context.
Political Communication: The study of the role that communication plays in political systems.
Public Address: The study of speakers and speeches, including the historical and social context of platforms, campaigns, and movements.
Public Relations: The study of the management of communication between an organization and its audiences.
Rhetorical Criticism: The study of principles that account for the impact of human communication between speaker and audience.
Semiotics: The use of verbal and nonverbal symbols and signs in human communication.
Small Group Communication: The study of communication systems among three or more individuals who interact around a common purpose and who influence one another.
Speech Communication: The study of the nature, processes, and effects of human symbolic interaction. While speech is the most obvious mode of communication, human symbolic interaction includes a variety of verbal and nonverbal codes.
Theatre and Drama: The study and production of dramatic literature.
Visual Communication: The study of visual data, such as architecture, photography, visual art, advertising, film, and television as it relates to communication.


Growth of the Discipline of Communication

Instruction in communication is widely available in the United States and is growing rapidly in Canada and in other countries.  An online database on the communication discipline in higher education shows approximately 118,000 communication majors pursuing undergraduate degrees and 16,000 seeking graduate degrees in communication.11 ( Depending on the school, you can earn: a certificate of proficiency, associate degree, bachelor of arts and science, masters of arts and science, and/or a doctor of philosophy or education. The number of undergraduate and graduate communication degrees conferred on students has been rising steadily throughout the 20th century.  (Click here to see Table 1)

Departmental Approaches to the Field of Communication

Communication departments vary from school to school in focus, courses offered, and types of programs and degrees available.

Some schools offer degrees in specific areas of communication such as public relations, radio-TV-film, journalism, advertising, theatre, organizational communication or communication education. At such schools you would receive, for example, a B.A. in advertising.

Some colleges offer a communication degree with an emphasis, concentration, or track in a specific area (such as public relations, rhetoric, mass communication, interpersonal communication). At such institutions you would receive, for example, a B.S. in communication with an emphasis in public relations.

Some schools offer a communication degree without a particular emphasis. At such colleges you would receive a B.A. in communication.

Some community colleges offer associate degrees in communication. These schools would grant, for example, an A.A. degree in communication.

Some schools don’t offer a degree in communication but do offer one or more courses. At these institutions, you would receive a degree in another major but have communication courses as part of the units taken. For example, you might obtain a B.S. in Psychology, with five courses in communication (possibly a minor).

Departments of communication also may differ according to the theoretical approach and research methods they favor. They may emphasize: rhetorical, critical, interpretive, scientific, applied, and/or performance perspectives.

Undergraduate programs at most schools cannot and do not offer all possible courses or majors in all areas of communication. Each school generally specializes in one or perhaps several areas of study under the broad umbrella of the communication field. The areas of study available to students include an interesting array of possible choices.  A variety of courses and majors in communication are available, but not all are offered at all schools. A national survey of 1,508 colleges and universities reported how many of those schools offer communication courses and how many offer a major in communication (Click here to see Table 2).

Unit Designations

In reviewing school catalogues, you’ll notice that not all colleges and universities use the same title for listing their communication programs. Some communication offerings are listed as part of a School or College (e.g., School of Communication, College of Communication). Some institutions will offer communication courses through departments with such titles as Communication Studies, Speech Communication, Communication Arts, Communication and Theatre, and Speech and Mass Communication. Some schools merge communication offerings with other academic areas, and designate the grouping with such names as Humanities or Language Arts (e.g., Division of Humanities, Language Arts Program).

Special Departmental Services

Some departments offer activities and services in addition to their academic courses. These offerings include intercollegiate speech and debate competitions; communication clubs and honor societies; opportunities for participation in on-campus radio, television stations, and theatres; and off-campus experiential training.

Forensics and debate offer opportunities for those interested in learning to speak or perform before audiences to gain experience. This is excellent training for entering fields like law, theatre, and teaching.

Communication clubs allow those who have similar interests in the field to meet, have social interactions, go on field-trips, meet the professors who teach the courses, interact with practitioners, and participate in activities of mutual concern. National Communication Association Student Clubs (NCASC) are official units associated with the National Communication Association.

Honor societies award special recognition to students who have achieved high academic standards in the field. Lambda Pi Eta is the accredited undergraduate communication honor society of the National Communication Association. Membership in this honorary is not only a means of gaining recognition for communication expertise. It also can be included on a resume so prospective employers know that you are a respected member of the academic community. Complete details on Lambda Pi Eta are available on the web at

Student-operated radio stations, television stations, and theatres are available on many campuses. These activities allow a student interested in the field to gain practical experience.

Internships can be an important stepping stone on the pathway to a career in communication. Internships are paid or unpaid positions within a company or organization that are arranged for a fixed period of time and may be assigned college credit. Because the communication field is so broad, an internship in communication can help you define an area of interest. It is also a way to show a future employer that you have obtained on-the-job skills. For example, someone interested in a career in political communication may be offered the opportunity to participate in a candidate’s campaign, or a public relations major may spend a period of time working in a public relations agency.

If you declare communication as your major, consult with your advisor or the head of the department about an internship opportunity.

Internships are available in other academic disciplines, but the relationship between interning and the communication field is particularly close.  In recent years, internships for students have taken a turn toward what is now called service learning.12  Students are given the opportunity to practice what they are learning, but in community settings where their work benefits others and society. Communication theory and skills are important in the kinds of internships that fall under service learning.


Undergraduate Education

Post-secondary education in communication is offered at technical schools, community colleges, colleges, and universities. Cost and program content are usually the most important factors involved in choosing a school for undergraduate studies.

Two considerations in selecting a school are whether or not it offers course work in your chosen major, and the quality of those offerings. Do not assume that all colleges and universities offer communication majors. Research is needed to determine the breadth and quality of various programs. Referring to such sources as The Communication Disciplines in Higher Education13 and Peterson’s Guide to Four-Year Colleges14 should assist in the search. On-campus interviews with counselors and members of the communication department should also be considered.

Another consideration may be the cost comparisons among schools. Be aware that tuition at a public school in your state of residence tends to be less expensive than out-of-state costs for colleges and universities. Private colleges and universities tend to be more expensive than public schools; however, many private institutions give scholarships and grants which may balance out the cost differences. If there is a community college in your area, it can also be part of your pathway to a degree as it may grant an associate degree in communication, or offer a substantial number of courses in the field. If you use a community college as a stepping stone on the way to a B.A., be sure that your credit hours are transferable to the school to which you plan to transfer. To conserve finances, you may also consider technical institutions. Only a few of these institutions offer programs in communication. Those that have such programs favor technical training in such fields as media technology and electronic communication.

Scholarships, grants, and student loans are available. Information about financial aid is available from school career centers or the reference section of a library.

Graduate Education

Graduate school might be an option if you’re interested in acquiring additional knowledge and skills in communication beyond the undergraduate level. Selecting a graduate school requires forethought. Graduate studies in communication can be undertaken at the masters’ and doctorate levels.

Many graduate students in communication are interested in pursuing a career in college teaching and research. With the exception of some community colleges and private schools, a Ph.D. is usually preferred, if not required, for employment as an entry-level instructor. There are, of course, good nonacademic positions in public and private organizations for someone with an advanced communication degree. For example, a master’s degree in organizational communication might lead to a career in management or in human resources training.

Graduate level courses vary from school to school, just as at the undergraduate level.  Contact schools you are interested in attending and request information regarding their major field offerings or consult such sources as: NCA Directory of Graduate Programs15, Journalism and Mass Communication Directory16, and Peterson’s Guides to Graduate and Professional Programs: An Overview17.

After narrowing your list of prospective graduate schools, the next step is to contact the schools that interest you for a copy of their graduate program guide. Look through the guide to analyze each department’s course offerings, any financial assistance that is available, and job placement trends for recent graduates in your desired area of concentration. There are no regularly updated official rankings of the proficiency of communication programs.  You might want to do your own investigation by seeking recommendations from professors or other experts in the field or researching the publication record of faculty members on the staff of the prospective schools.

In planning for graduate education, whether at the master’s or doctoral level, be aware that many schools give stipends and/or a waiver of tuition for being a graduate, research, or teaching assistant. Graduate assistants aid professors in their research projects, coach forensics/debate teams, or assist in departmental projects. Research assistants  help professors pursue inquiry into one of the areas of communication. Teaching assistants instruct in speech courses, usually under the supervision of a full-time faculty member.


Careers in the Field of Communication

When investigating a possible career in communication, it is important to know the possible positions available in the field, potential career opportunities, and educational offerings available at the school you choose.

The discussion in this section describes some of the careers and jobs available. These careers and jobs originally were derived from a survey of communication graduates from 16 colleges and universities.18  That list has been supplemented with other jobs clearly in the speech communication field. In this ever-changing economy, there are job titles and descriptions which are not included but which might open up for the communication graduate with the right skills, knowledge, and experience.

Not all colleges and universities offer all of the subjects listed for each career area. In addition, many colleges have general education requirements (that all students must take, regardless of major) which may prevent a student from taking all of the subjects listed.


According to Bruce Vandenburg of Michigan State University, “Advertising is a field that demands good oral and written communication skills. Someone who plans a career in advertising should be a people person.” 19  Obtaining a degree in advertising includes learning about the research involved in developing advertising strategies, how advertising campaigns are produced, how marketing plays into advertising, and, of course, related computer skills.

Vandenburg projected that advertising will be one of the top growth career areas for the year 2000 and beyond. There should be a high demand for new graduates. This growth appears to be based on the role of advertising as it relates to new electronic, computer-based technologies, including the Internet and CD-ROM.

Advertising programs are typically housed with journalism or mass communication departments, although they may be a part of a communication or business program.

Careers in advertising include: advertising or marketing specialist, copy writer, account executive, sales manager, media planner, media buyer, creative director, media sales representative, and public opinion researcher.

Communication subjects that can enhance an advertising career include: marketing, copy writing, research methods, persuasion, advertising and society, mass media, interpersonal communication, mass media law, media production, public speaking, and small group communication.


Communication educators are hired at all educational levels—elementary and secondary schools, community colleges, colleges and universities. Most communication faculty members are found at the collegiate level.

To teach communication in an elementary or secondary school you need to obtain certification. Each state has its own regulations, but almost all require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in the field you will be teaching.

Becoming an instructor at the college level usually requires a doctoral degree, though some community colleges will hire a candidate with a master’s degree. Community colleges tend to prefer graduates who have a general communication degree so they can teach a variety of courses. Four-year institutions, especially research and graduate level universities, prefer candidates trained in a specific area, such as organizational communication, rhetoric and public address, or interpersonal communication.

One question often asked by students is, “What are the job opportunities at the college level for teaching communication?” According to a study, “more than 80 percent of those institutions currently advertising for new faculty to fill communication positions prefer or demand the Ph.D. However, only half the number needed to fill those vacancies will be available in the years ahead. . . . These trends will be more severely felt in the communications discipline than in many other academic fields, because Ph.D. production in communication per undergraduate to be served has been declining steadily for a number of years.”20

Careers in communication education include: language arts coordinator, high school speech teacher, forensics/debate coach, drama director, college or university professor, and speech communication department chairperson.

Communication subjects that can enhance a career in communication education include: oral communication, public speaking, interpersonal communication, introduction to media systems, communication theory, research and methodology in communication, communication in the classroom, cross-cultural communication, teaching the language arts, linguistics, sociolinguistics, developmental communication, nonverbal communication, small group communication, oral interpretation and performance studies, forensics, family communication, conflict resolution, argumentation, ethics of communication, rhetorical theory and criticism, listening, discussion, and persuasion.


The field of broadcasting is going through a period of rapid change. One of the trends is the combination of radio and television with computers and interactivity. Even the title of the field is shifting from the present emphasis on broadcasting to electronic media, according to Louisa A. Nielsen of the Broadcast Education Association.21

It is further anticipated that there will be a major job shift in the field from radio and television positions to non-broadcast video. Non-broadcast video includes the activities of corporations, health care centers, and educational organizations in producing newsletters, training materials, videos, commercials, and educational materials. Careers will encompass not only performance, but technical skills, including video graphics. Students will need to be thoroughly trained in the use of media.22

Often considered to be a glamour industry because of the attention given to electronic broadcasters—network newscasters and talk show hosts—the radio-television field actually has more jobs off-camera and off-microphone than on-air. Many of these technical, sales, and administrative positions pay as well or better than those held by performers.

Those interested in on-air performance should be aware that many of the jobs are in small or rural communities at local stations and in independent production facilities, rather than with the networks. It is fairly common for performers to find their first job at one of the small broadcasting or production sites. Initial pay is often low or even unpaid as volunteer work or internships. Even at that, competition for jobs is often high.

Undergraduate and graduate enrollments in electronic media are increasing. Electronic media/radio-television/broadcasting programs can be found in departments with such diverse names as Communications, Mass Media, Mass Communication, and Radio-Television-Film.

Careers in electronic media/radio-television/broadcasting include: broadcasting station manager, director of broadcasting, film/tape librarian, community relations director, unit manager, film editor, news director, news writer, transmitter engineer, technical director, advertising sales coordinator, traffic/ continuity specialist, media buyer, market researcher, actor, announcer, disc jockey, news anchor, public relations manager, comedy writer, casting director, producer, business manager, researcher, account executive, floor manager, and talk show host.

Communication subjects that can enhance a career in electronic media/ radio-television/broadcasting include: oral communication, public speaking, print communication, interpersonal communication, introduction to mass communication, media research, studio and field production and direction for television/radio/film, script writing, editing, persuasion, nonverbal communication, media performance, oral interpretation, public relations, listening, media theory, media criticism, advertising, media law, communication ethics, campaigns, interviewing, and acting.

JOURNALISM (Print or Electronic)

Journalism involves researching and gathering information and communicating it to the public through writing, speaking, visual, or electronic means. Collegiate enrollment in journalism programs remains fairly steady.  Approximately 50 percent of journalism graduates find employment in the field within six to eight months after completing their undergraduate degree.

Careers in journalism include: reporter, editor, newscaster, author, copy writer, script writer, publisher, news service researcher, technical writer, acquisitions editor, media interviewer, and talk show host.

Communication subjects that can enhance a career in journalism include: interviewing, oral communication, public speaking, print communication, interpersonal communication, editing, persuasion, nonverbal communication, oral interpretation, listening, media theory, media criticism, advertising, media research methods, media law and ethics, acting, radio-television production, and announcing.


Public relations typically involves managing the public image of an organization or an individual. According to Carl Botan of Purdue University, the field has been growing at a fast rate because (1) the information society allows the reaching of specialized audiences which opens up the public relations field to new and ever-expanding approaches, and (2) public relations has been strongly affected internationally by changing economic structures. It is expected that employment trends will continue to rise as the conception of public relations continues to broaden into areas of international communications and training and development.23

Botan advises anyone planning to enter the field to be aware that “effective writing is absolutely a critical skill.” And with the advent of video newsletters and video production as an important aspect of public relations, a background in media production is a necessity for career planning in this area.

This academic major can be found in a journalism, mass communication or communication department. It is sometimes housed in the business school.

Careers in public relations include: publicity manager, advertising manager, marketing specialist, press agent, lobbyist, corporate public affairs specialist, account executive, development officer, fund raiser, membership recruiter, sales manager, media analyst, media planner, creative director, audience analyst, news writer, and public opinion researcher.

Communication subjects that can enhance a career in public relations include: business and professional communication, public speaking, print communication, interpersonal communication, introduction to media systems, organizational communication, media production, listening, interviewing, ethics of communication, persuasion, visual communication, and nonverbal communication.


Theatre, along with mass media, is considered a glamour industry. Some individuals who are interested in entering into a career in the theatre perceive it as a pathway to becoming a “star.” Although stars do exist, the majority of people in the field do not reach that level. Successful careers as performers may be had by people who recognize that there are opportunities outside of New York and Los Angeles. There are professional, community, and educational theatres operating throughout the country.

In planning for a career in the theatre keep in mind that individuals who were “stars” in their community or high school productions, will be competing with others who have had similar experiences. The jobs are few, the competition intense. It takes a great deal of dedication, along with talent, to become a successful performer.

It should also be kept in mind, when thinking about a career in drama, that there are off-stage jobs in areas such as theatre management, instruction, technical and production positions.

Degree programs in theatre/performing arts/dramatic arts are sometimes found in a communication department, but more often they are housed in a theatre or performing arts department. Depending on the institution, the  focus of the program may include: theatre history/literature, acting, stage speech, stage movement, design, directing, makeup, costuming, theatrical/arts criticism, and theatre/stage management.

Careers in theatre/performing arts/dramatic arts include: performing artist, script writer, producer, director, arts administrator, performing arts educator, costume designer, scenic designer, lighting designer, theatre critic, makeup artist, stage manager, model, theatre professor, and casting director.

Communication subjects that can enhance a career in theatre/ performing/dramatic arts include: theatre criticism, arts management, acting, directing, lighting design, designing for the stage, costume design, theatre appreciation, history of the theatre, oral communication, public speaking, and nonverbal communication.

Careers in Fields Related to Communication

Knowledge of communication can be beneficial to any career. If you enjoy studying  communication, but do not plan on pursuing it as a career, consider taking as many communication courses as you can fit into your elective selections. If your school permits it, you might choose to double major or minor in communication. Here are some career fields and occupations in which communication is important.


It is well recognized that communication plays a vital role in the functioning of any government, business, or industrial organization. A national study indicates that the essential skills needed by a competent employee to get a job and to succeed and be promoted are primarily communication skills.24

Careers in business and communication include: sales representative, executive manager, personnel manager, public information officer, industrial and labor relations representative, negotiator, director of corporate communication, customer service representative, newsletter editor, communication trainer, human resources manager, mediator, and buyer. (Also see Law, Media, and Public Relations and Advertising.)

Communication subjects that can enhance a business career include: public speaking, interpersonal communication, introduction to mass media, business and professional communication, organizational communication, small group communication, interviewing, and listening.


A teacher of any subject has to effectively organize and deliver material to students. Communication skills are necessary to facilitate comprehension and understanding no matter whether the subject is math, science, reading, or English. Great teachers are great communicators. Besides teaching, there are other education-related careers.

Careers in education include: teacher (elementary and secondary), school counselor, educational researcher, audiovisual specialist, educational administrator, school/university information specialist, director of college news, director of a collegiate information center, educational tester, development officer, educational fund-raiser, alumni officer, college placement officer, college admissions director, and college recruiter.

Communication subjects that can enhance an education career include: oral communication, public speaking, interpersonal communication, introduction to media systems, communication theory, communication research methods, communication in the classroom, intercultural communication, teaching the language arts, linguistics, sociolinguistics, nonverbal communication, small group communication, performance studies, forensics, family communication, conflict resolution, argumentation, communication ethics, rhetorical theory and criticism, listening, persuasion, and communication disorders.


Communication skills are essential to address the issues that challenge political leaders and our systems of government. Communication is the basis for gaining understanding between people, discussing similarities and differences, and settling disputes.

Communication and government/political-related careers include: public information officer, speech writer, legislative assistant, campaign director, research specialist, program coordinator, negotiator, lobbyist, press secretary, and elected official.

Communication subjects that can enhance a government career include: public speaking, journalism, interpersonal communication, introduction to media systems, mass communication, communication theory, communication research methods, organizational communication, argumentation and debate, rhetorical theory and criticism, political communication, persuasion, media performance, listening, communication ethics, performance studies, and acting.


The link between computerization and communication has become the subject of extensive research by communication specialists. Many departments of communication offer a specialization in information sciences, human information theory and processes, or communication technologies, often dealing with communication by computer, compressed video, and teleconferencing.

Careers in technology and communication include: trainer for communication technologies, closed circuit television producer/director, systems analyst, technical copywriter, language specialist, speech synthesizer, cognition researcher, audio and visual computer display specialist, and performance assessor.

Communication subjects that can enhance a high technology career include: oral communication, public speaking, interpersonal communication, introduction to media systems, communication research methods, communication theory, listening, communication ethics, and organizational communication.


Communication is a key tool that health care providers must use in dealing with clients and patients to prevent illness, diagnose disease, and manage treatment and patient care. It is necessary for developing and maintaining trust between provider and client, their families, and other health care providers.

Equally important in health careers is the use of communication to educate and train a population in healthy behaviors such as nutrition, sexual health, and family planning.

Careers in health and communication include: health educator, school health care administrator, medical grants writer, hospital director of communication, clinic public relations director, health communication analyst, research analyst, medical training supervisor, communications manager for federal health agencies, health personnel educator, medical center publications editor, hospice manager, drug rehabilitationist, health care counselor, activities director, marketing director, and health facility fund raiser.

Communication subjects that can enhance a health career include: health communication, interpersonal communication, family communication, interviewing, business and professional communication, public speaking, research methods, small group discussion, conflict resolution, public relations, listening, nonverbal communication, persuasion, and communication ethics.


International relations and negotiations are communication-centered. Understanding the effect of internationalism and how it affects communication is fundamental to dealing with others in the world arena. In an increasingly diverse world economy, essential communication skills are: problem-solving, speaking, listening, writing, and the abilities to analyze information and interact among multiple cultures.

Careers in international relations and negotiations include: on-air international broadcasting talent, corporate representative, translator, student tour coordinator, diplomat, foreign relations officer, host/hostess for foreign dignitaries, and foreign correspondent.

Communication subjects that can enhance an international relations/negotiations career include: intercultural communication, international communication, nonverbal communication, public speaking, interpersonal communication, introduction to mass communication, communication theory, language and social interaction, public relations, political communication, and conflict resolution and negotiation.


Law is a profession which is essentially about communication. It involves establishing meaning and community through language. With a field so steeped in verbal and nonverbal skill requirements, a background in communication can serve as an effective beginning to a career in law. Communication training, or a degree in communication, can be useful for admission to law schools, as well as providing skills for use after law school. It is also valuable to paralegals and legal secretaries.

Careers in law and communication include: public defender, corporate lawyer, district attorney, public interest lawyer, private practice lawyer, legal researcher, mediation and negotiation specialist, paralegal researcher, legal secretary, legal reporter, and legal educator.

Communication subjects that can enhance a legal career include: public speaking, interpersonal communication, legal communication, media law, media regulation, argumentation and debate, listening, small group communication, conflict resolution and negotiation, persuasion, interviewing, communication ethics, nonverbal communication, performance studies, and acting.


The way human services are communicated can affect how people use and evaluate those services. Social workers, counselors, and other similar professionals must be effective communicators.

Careers in social and human services include: public administrator, social worker, recreational supervisor, human rights officer, community affairs liaison, park service public relations specialist, philanthropic representative, religious leader, and mental counselor.

Communication subjects that can enhance a social services or human services career include: public speaking, business and professional communication, interpersonal communication, introduction to media systems, family communication, discourse analysis, cross-cultural communication, organizational communication, listening, relational communication, small group communication, communication ethics, crisis communication, and nonverbal communication.

Getting a Job in Communication

Your job search should include reading want ads, going to the college or university job placement service, listing with an employment agency, and networking with people who may be aware of possible job availability.  Other suggestions for communication majors include:

Become a member of the National Communication Association’s Placement Service. Members can place their credentials on file which include a resume and letters of recommendation. Upon request the materials are sent to any prospective employers. A listing of openings in the field appears in Spectra, the monthly NCA newsletter. Most of the members of the placement service are graduate students who are pursuing careers in college or university teaching, and most of the job listings are for academic positions.
Internships, part-time jobs, and volunteer positions while you are a student often lead to future job placements. These positions often build networks in which you get to know people who hire or know of possible openings. It is strongly recommended that communication majors obtain a position, whether paid or voluntary, which allows for “hands-on” experience in the field.
Talk to your department’s instructors. They often are aware of job opportunities.
Do informational interviews. Make appointments with people in your field who hold positions similar to your career desires. Ask them to describe the pathway they followed to obtain their position.
While studying for your degree assemble information that shows your talents. A portfolio of writing samples, audio and video tapes, and copies of reports and group projects, all can be valuable in showcasing your talents.
Get to know your professors well enough so that they will be able to write recommendation letters for you that contain personal information.
When asking anyone to write letters of recommendation, provide them with the documentation they will need to write about you with examples and illustrations. At a minimum, give them a résumé which lists your school activities, work record, and other information that they may not have about you.

Representative Careers in Communication

Are you still wondering about your best pathway to career satisfaction and success? Are you still asking the question: “But what will I do with a communication degree?” Other students may have some answers for you. (Click here to see Table 3) In a survey of communication graduates, students just like you identified their first job after graduating and their present job.25 The career advancement of these students with a communication degree speaks for itself.


Electronic Resources

National Communication Association (NCA) Home Page:

Under the “Communication Programs” section on the NCA web site, information is available to help students in their search for a communication program:

Directory of Graduate Programs. A survey of institutions offering Masters and Doctoral programs in the United States. Organized by state and concentration within the communication field.

Reputations of Doctoral Granting Programs in Communication. NCA completed a study in April 1996 that measured the reputations of doctoral programs in communication in the United States. This online paper offers a listing of the top-ranked schools, and provides a description of the methodology and analysis procedures behind the rankings.

Links to Communication Departments and Programs. NCA provides links to communication departments at many colleges and universities.


Created by Garland C. Elmore, this site offers a comprehensive online database of academic programs in communication. CommuniQuest has a clickable map for reviewing programs in certain states or provinces, and a selection form may be used to identify programs that meet your requirements.

Communication Ring:

The Communication Ring (or “Comm Ring”, for short) is a group of communication sites that are linked together. You can follow from one communication site to the next with ease. Comm Ring offers links to sites that are communication organizations (like NCA), communication departments at colleges, personal home pages, or discussion of projects in communication.

Communication Research and Theory Net (CRTNET):

CRTNET is the daily electronic newsletter serviced by the National Communication Association. With over 2500 subscribers, communication scholars and students may post queries about communication topics, job announcements, grants and fellowships, and hold discussions on important topics. You may subscribe to CRTNET by following the instructions provided on the NCA Home Page.

Directories to Communication Programs

National Communication Association. (1996). Directory of Graduate Programs. Annandale, VA.

A compiled list of masters and doctoral communication programs in the United States. The Directory is available on the NCA Home Page (please refer to the “Electronic Resources” listed above.)

The Communication Disciplines in Higher Education. (1993). Garland C. Elmore. Annandale, VA: Association for Communication Administration.

A guide to communication programs in the United States and Canada.

Journalism and Mass Communication Directory – 1994-95. Columbia, SC: Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication).

A list of journalism and mass communication departments and descriptive information about their programs.

Peterson’s Guide to Four-Year Colleges. Susan Dilts and Mark Zidzik. Princeton, NJ: Peterson’s Guides.

An alphabetical listing of colleges and universities by discipline, accompanied by a list of financial and enrollment information for prospective undergraduate students.

Peterson’s Guides to Graduate and Professional Programs: An Overview. Amy Lefferts, et. al. Princeton, NJ: Peterson’s Guides.

An alphabetical listing of colleges and universities by discipline, accompanied by a list of financial and enrollment information for prospective undergraduate students.

History of the Field of Communication

Speech Communication: Essays to Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Speech Communication Association. Gerald M. Phillips and Julia T. Wood. Annandale, VA: National Communication Association, 1990.

A collection of essays written as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of the communication field.

The History of Speech Communication: The Emergence of a Discipline, 1914-1945. Herman Cohen. Annandale, VA: National Communication Association, 1994.

A detailed and comprehensive volume investigating the history of the academic discipline of communication.



Association for Communication Administration. (August, 1995). Summer Conference on Defining the Field of Communication. Annandale, VA.


Barker, L., Edwards, R., Gaines, C., Gladney, K., & Holley, F. (1980). An investigation of proportional time spent in various communication activities by college students. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 8, pp. 101-109.


Buckley, M.H. (December, 1992). Focus on Research: We listen a book a day; speak a book a week: Learning from Walter Loban. Language Arts, 69, p. 623.


U.S. Department of Labor Report (1995). Career Projections to 2005: Fastest Growing Careers. Chevy Chase, MD.


Winsor, J.L., Curtis, D.B., & Stephens, R.D. (1997). National preferences in business and communication education: A survey update. Journal of the Association for Communication Administrators, 3, pp. 170-179.


Graduates are not prepared to work in business. (June 1997). Association Trends, p. 4.


Murane, R. & Levy, F. (1996). Teaching the New Basic Skills. New York, NY: Free Press.


Diamond, R. (August 1997). Curriculum reform needed if students are to master core skills. The Chronicle of Higher Education, B7.


McCloskey, D. (1993). The neglected economics of talk. Planning for Higher Education, 22, pp. 11-16.


Friedrich, G.W. (1991). Essentials of speech communication. In Morreale S., Janusik, L., Randall, M., & Vogl, M. (Eds.), Communication Programs: Rationale and Review Kit. (1997). Annandale, VA: Speech Communication Association, p. 125.


Communiquest. (1997). Elmore, G.C. The communication disciplines in higher education: A guide to academic programs in the United States and Canada.


Applegate, J. & Morreale, S. (1998). Service learning in the communication discipline: A natural partnership. In Droge, D. & Ortega Murphy, B. (Eds.) Voices of strong democracy: Service learning and communication studies. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.


Elmore, G.C. (1993). The communication disciplines in higher education: A guide to academic programs in the United States and Canada, (2nd edition). Annandale, VA: Association for Communication Administration and Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication.


Peterson’s Guides to Four-Year Colleges. Princeton, NJ: Peterson’s Guides.


National Communication Association. (1996). Directory of Graduate Programs. Annandale, VA.


Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. (1994-1995). Journalism and Mass Communication Directory. Columbia, SC.


Peterson’s Guides to Graduate and Professional Programs: An Overview. Princeton, NJ: Peterson’s Guides.


What Can You Do with a Communication Degree?. (1984). Scott Foresman Publishing.


Telephone interview with Bruce Vandenberg. (March 1995). Chair, Department of Advertising, Michigan State University.


DeFleur, M.L. (May, 1993). The Forthcoming Shortage of Communications Ph.D.s: Trends That Will Influence Recruiting. New York: The Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University, p. 4.


Telephone interview with Louisa A. Nielsen. (March 1995). Executive Director, Broadcast Education Association.


Telephone interview with Allan J. Kennedy. (March 1995). Professor of Media, Morgan State University.


Telephone interview with Carl Botan. (March 1998). Public Relations Specialist and Professor at Purdue University.


Winsor, Curtis, and Stephens (1997).


Wolvin, A.D. (1998). Careers in communication: An update. Journal of the Association for Communication Administration, 27, pp. 71-73.

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