Is a Communications Degree Worth It?
May 17, 2023
Is a communications degree worth it?
At one point or another, every college student has to think about what comes after they get their degree. You'll wonder what you will be doing with the rest of your life, and whether your career will be fulfilling enough as well as give you what you need to live the lifestyle you want.
Just like any other major, if you’re considering a communications degree, you will need to determine if you think it’s worth your time, effort and money to go through a communication program. At the moment, however, you’re likely trying to decide if you want to go for a bachelor's degree or an associate degree, choosing between colleges, and figuring out how you’re going to pay for all of it. You may not have the time or the resources you need to think about the career outlook for a communications major.
Not to worry—in this article we will break down the value of a communication degree, including what is special about acquiring communication skill as opposed to any other kind of skill, what a degree in communication will do to help you on your career path, and how communications professionals answer the question, “What can you do with a communications degree?”
Hopefully, you’ll find a favorable job outlook and that whether you want to be an expert in digital marketing, a technical writer, or just want to get a little more comfortable with public speaking, communication studies provide a great value for your time.
Is a communications degree worth it?
Let’s go back to this core question because it’s a loaded one. Whether a degree is “worth it” or not can mean different things to different people. Some might say that a degree was worth the investment they made in it because it led to a lucrative position that helps pay off tuition bills and makes life more comfortable.
Others might use the expression “worth it” in reference to a challenging major that required a lot of hard work but was beneficial in making them happier, better or more flexible in their chosen career.
Communications majors are among the best at answering this question because that’s what the subject is all about—effective communication gets a message across clearly, accurately and memorably. They’re also trained to see multiple sides to any issue, so they’d be able to find value in their degree from numerous perspectives.
So what is your priority? If it’s high pay and job security, you should know that communications degree jobs are often what you make of them. Communication graduates may not be as aggressively recruited by Fortune 500 companies just for their degree as those in other fields. That doesn’t mean there isn’t high demand for people qualified in professional communication, though.
According to Joy Cromwelle in My Degree Guide, “Media and communications degree jobs are projected to grow at a rate of 4% in the next 10 years (according to the) Bureau of Labor Statistics. One of the things really giving life to the communications field right now is the explosion of new media platforms and outlets. Brands need people who know how to create, disseminate, and edit media and messages across platforms more than ever.”
Communication is vital to every industry, and that’s why there are so many distinct types of communication in the professional realm. Strategic communication, business communication or corporate communication, digital communication, marketing, business administration, and public relations are each well-established communications fields that can house not just jobs but whole separate divisions at potential employers.
This brings us back to the idea of communication being worthwhile for how it trains you for your professional life. Studying communications gives you both the responsibility and the opportunity to create your own ideal scenario. You can find out what industries pay the best, offer the most generous benefits, let you work remotely or in a hybrid situation so you can spend more time at home and with loved ones, and point yourself in their direction. The key is that your education will give you a strong foundation in the basics of all those areas, which will give you the freedom to decide what fits you best.
What are the benefits of being a communications major?
Now that we’ve discussed the value of a communication education in broad terms, let’s delve into some of the more specific benefits of the degree to future communications professionals.
It can be easy to fool yourself into thinking communication doesn’t need to be closely studied because it’s something we do naturally as human beings. You may think it took your parents or guardians to teach you to talk, but once that happened, you were off and running, and you’ve been doing fine without further lessons.
The truth is that we start to communicate well before we ever speak or sign our first words, and while we do pick up cues for how to communicate from everywhere and everyone right from birth, there is a great benefit to being able to see the whole picture of communication and train yourself to be better at the process.
Explore different fields of communication
Courses and concentrations in communication studies allow you to explore the many facets of the field we tend not to think about on a daily basis. Mass communication is very different from small conversations, for example. To understand it, you have to know a lot about the human mind and the way it processes information, the subconscious influence we can have on one another in groups as compared to when we’re alone or with just another person, the power of symbols and subliminal messages, and so forth. This knowledge takes careful study to learn, but it’s vital to have for a lot of careers.
Similarly, studying intercultural communication takes into account how differences in language, customs, geography, and socioeconomic status can make exchanging information between different groups of people very complicated. Knowing that making a hand gesture that indicates “peace” in the United States can be interpreted very differently in other countries is the kind of small detail that you have to do your homework to find out, but in a business or political setting it can mean the difference between success and catastrophe. This is just a small example of how communication can help you stand out.
The National Communication Association (NCA) is charged with helping people see the value in their field. They’ve summed up the benefits of communication education into three main areas.
Getting a degree in communication will benefit you in ways you genuinely can’t imagine until you study it. Communication is a universal attribute—everyone has to do it, so we may take it for granted. But if you’re really good at it, you’ll inevitably come off as qualified, professional and intelligent, even if you don’t know your times tables or the capitals of every state in the nation.
Great thinkers and effective leaders often have the vision to come up with great ideas that will improve the world, but not the skill to present those ideas understandably or interestingly. Think about how often you’ve seen a person of importance addressing a crowd or a gathering of press and wondered how much better they’d be if they’d take a public speaking class at a community college or something.
That is precisely why communications jobs like public relations specialist and integrated marketing communications expert exist. With the right training in communication theory as well as other subjects, you can figure out how to appeal to different audiences when marketing a company’s new product, or how certain language will affect various demographics within a voter base, or how to craft a statement so it’s respectful of the beliefs of disparate social or religious groups. That way, the people in charge of ideas can stick to what they do best, and you all come off looking good.
Laura Tucker wrote about this idea in Top Universities when she said, “A communications degree is all about learning how to communicate information effectively. Good communication is essential in all industries, helping to sell products to the public, maintain strong relationships with investors, clients and customers. Your communications degree will build awareness of how to convey information to diverse audiences effectively, with specific business goals in mind.”
Whether it’s doing the talking or teaching someone else how very few things offer more relief to someone who isn’t comfortable expressing themselves than someone who is. That value leads to consistent, gainful employment and ever-increasing opportunities, especially as you climb your industry’s ladder and others discover you not only have great ideas but the ability to communicate them effectively.
Interpersonal communication skills are extremely desirable to any hiring manager or human resource department.
As the NCA put it in their article, “The ability to communicate is one of the most highly sought skills by employers. In fact, the 2018 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey of 201 employers found that the knowledge and skills taught in communication courses are essential to be hired, regardless of one’s major.”
While specialized jobs may favor particular degrees or experience, communication is more than just a major—it's a core skill that every boss wants their employees to have as a strength. Even better is that the things you learn in communications courses will improve your ability to make a case for yourself. A history graduate may not have much chance of applying for a job as a rocket scientist, but if you hold a degree in integrated marketing communication or communication management, you’ll have a good shot of talking your way into a position at an aeronautics company. That’s worth thinking about as you plan your future.
Make a difference
The NCA said that “communication majors make a difference in their workplaces every day. And they also make a difference in their communities.”
This may in fact be an understatement. Words are extremely powerful, and grouping them into messages coupled with images is essentially how we convince one another of everything. So it’s easy to see how communication skills allow you to influence others and effect meaningful social change.
No matter what you believe, nothing in this world is absolute. Particularly in an age where digital media and social media are the end-all-be-all of social discourse, we each have distinct beliefs, and debate about who is right is constant.
Skills in communication, particularly digital communication, are the way you can reach people where they are and cut through the noise. Whether you see something you believe to be hurtful and want to change minds, or you simply want to start a healthy conversation, your degree in communication will give you the tools to do it. That will certainly benefit your personal life, but since we’re focused on career opportunities, it is important to point out how much companies need communicators to keep them on message.
Cromwelle said, “Strong communication skills are invaluable in order to provide meaning and resonance to a company’s aims and to present the company and its services or products in the clearest possible way to consumers, clients and colleagues. It is important to continue to build on these skills, particularly as the field of communication is continually changing.”
Start increasing your value as a communicator
Now that you hopefully see that the answer to whether a communications degree is worth it is a definite “yes,” you can get back to figuring out where to pursue that degree. You’ll want to start your search at a place like North Central College, where talented, experienced faculty focus on teaching you the communication skills you need to succeed in a competitive job market.
According to Steve Macek, professor of communication and chair of the communication department at North Central, “If you are interested in making speeches and presentations, running meetings and trainings and communicating with people in a variety of professional contexts, developing persuasive storylines for products and services, (or) producing messaging campaigns and building brand awareness,” then a degree from North Central’s communication studies program could be the best choice for you.
Find out more about North Central’s program and get your communications career off on the right foot today.
Jacob Imm is the associate director of communication in the North Central College Office of Institutional Communication. He has 13 years of collegiate communications experience and has worked with hundreds of college students. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University.
“Is a Communications Degree Worth It? (2023 Guide),” My Degree Guide. https://www.mydegreeguide.com/is-a-communications-degree-worth-it/
“Why Study Communication?”, National Communication Association. https://www.natcom.org/academic-professional-resources/why-study-communication.
“What Can You Do With a Communications Degree?”, Top Universities. https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/careers-advice/what-can-you-do-communications-degree