Media Communications Degree: Definition, Careers & Salary

in Research   Posted on February 5, 2021  Author: Imed Bouchrika,

In today’s increasingly globalized and connected world, the social media and mass media industries are rapidly changing. Amidst all these changes, organizations are constantly looking for talented individuals to help them understand the trends, detect risks, and make wise moves in the media arena.

Consequently, many exciting (and emerging) career opportunities are up for grabs. As such, whether you want to be a journalist, PR professional, digital marketer, reporter, filmmaker, or editor, doors are sure to open up for you. But, to break the barrier between you and that great career, you must endeavor to acquire the required skills and knowledge. This means, you first have to earn a degree in a relevant field such as media and communications.

To help you start on the right foot, this guide explores media communications studies from all perspectives. It discusses the requirements, costs, duration, potential jobs, and salary for media communication graduates. By laying bare all the details, this post aims to abridge your decision-making regarding the academic and career journeys in this field.

media communications

Media Communication Degree Table of Contents

  1. What is Media Communications?
  2. Key Media Communications Statistics
  3. What are the Requirements to Study Media Communications?
  4. How Much Does it Cost to Study Media Communications?
  5. The Best Universities to Study Media Communications
  6. Possible Careers for Media Communications Majors
  7. How Much Do Media Communications Earn?
  8. Famous People Who Studied Media Communications.

What is Media Communications?

First things first, what is media communications? In a nutshell, media communications studies impart valuable skills and knowledge that students need to launch a thriving career in the media-related industries. It develops and sharpens student’s analytical skills to help them critically visualize ways in which the media represents, reflects, and influences the world.

As the name suggests, media communication is made up of two dynamic fields. First is media studies, which is rich and exciting partly because it is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on fields as diverse as social science, political science, sociology, economics, computer studies, cultural studies, psychology, law, ethics, and so on (Branston & Stafford, 2010).

Due to the broadness of this field, media courses vary significantly both in terms of the content and approach to the subject. But, in most cases, they offer a blend of practical disciplines to prepare students for various media careers, and opportunities to analyze media representations from a moral, political, and historical perspective.

Second is communication studies, which is comparatively broader as its scope transcends areas typically covered within the “media” domain. It deeply explores human communications, allowing students to critically analyze messages and articulate characteristics of mediated and non-mediated messages (National Communication Association, 2015). Communication studies generally consist of liberal arts, humanities, media practice, international relations, law, politics, business management, and social sciences.

Ultimately, students who graduate with a degree in media and communications are expected to have the ability to:

  • Research and analyze media content and materials.
  • Comprehend media from global, economic, political, social, and ethical perspectives.
  • Create high-quality media in oral, written, and visual forms.
  • Apply media and communication expertise in the rapidly changing real-world environment.

Key Media Communications Statistics

The statistics below, culled from DataUSA (2020), offer a glance at the media communication discipline. They reveal crucial details about the degrees awarded in recent academic years, the distribution of these degrees by gender, and the average cost of attaining them. Moreover, they offer details into the media and communication career outlook.

  1. In 2017, a total of 68,683 degrees in media and communication were awarded in the U.S.
  2. Out of the total degrees awarded in 2017, 83.2% were bachelor’s degrees, 7.6% associate degrees, 6.36% master’s degrees, 2% 1-year post-secondary certificates, and 0.735% research doctorate degrees.
  3. On average, there are 2.27 million people working in the communication and media industry in the U.S.
  4. Additionally, 77.9% (1.7 million) of people in communications are bachelor’s degree holders. Moreover, 3.14% have professional degrees, 17.5% (397,999) are master’s degree holders, and 1.43% (32,563) have doctorate degrees.
  5. The average wage for people working in the communication and media industry in the U.S. is $72,366.
  6. The median in-state public tuition in the U.S. for media communication majors is $6,894, whereas the median out-of-state private fee is $30,500.
  7. Interestingly, 65.3% of degree holders in the media and communication field in the U.S. are women.
  8. In 2018, 54% of workers in communication-related fields had a bachelor’s degree.

Source: DataUSA

What are the Requirements to Study Media Communications?

If you are fascinated about how communication channels (internet, radio, or television) impact the perceptions and opinions of society, communication and media studies majors is a program you should consider. Besides, if you are creative in nature and passionate about media-related roles, a course in this field can help unlock your potential.

What awaits at the end of this fascinating academic journey is a fulfilling and rewarding career in a position of influence that contributes to society. The chances of making it to this end, however, rests solely on whether or not you can gain admittance in a program that will impart relevant knowledge and skills.

Whether you are enrolling in a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree, there is a set of bare minimums you need to meet. The requirements are as follows:

Bachelor’s Degree Requirements

In the 2017-2018 academic year, the media communication program was the 16th most popular degree in the U.S. (CollegeFactual, 2020). The competition for admission into media and communication programs is not very high, but even so, you still have to meet the basic requirements to earn admittance. The requirements include:

  • A minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.0. Applicants who post lower GPA may be considered if they post exemplary scores in other areas such as standardized test scores, class rank, and advanced placement coursework.
  • Pass SAT and ACT standardized college admission tests. Typically, each school posts the minimum score requirements for these tests online.
  • Proficiency in the English language. International students will need to pass the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test.

Note: Each university outlines its basic requirements for a bachelor’s degree in media and communication. For this reason, the requirements may vary across institutions and it is always wise to inquire about the exact details from your college or university of choice.

In addition to the aforementioned basic requirements, the following characteristics are ideal for students that want to excel in media and communication studies and career:

  • Solid interpersonal and communication skills
  • Creative and critical analytical skills
  • Storytelling
  • High level of curiosity.
  • Command of oral and written English or other relevant languages.
  • Self-oriented

Master’s Degree Requirements

A master’s degree in media and communication can be a gateway to an exciting world of media production, management, research, or teaching in higher education. The specific admission requirements for master’s degree may vary by accredited programs, but the majority of programs require the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree in media communications. There are programs that accept students coming from other related fields such as marketing and business. Also, students who do not have a bachelor’s degree, but have racked up valuable experience working in the media and communication industry, may be accepted into select media communications programs.
  • Minimum GPA score of 2.5. It is good to note that many schools will require a minimum GPA score of as high as 3.0. While, on the other hand, there are institutions that may offer conditional admittance to students with a lower GPA score.
  • Minimum Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) score. The GRE score, which is used as a standardized measure of aptitude, is mandatory for select master programs. You should research individual programs to learn whether GRE is a requirement and what is the minimum score.
  • TOEFL score. Besides, non-native English speakers are required to pass the TOEFL test to earn admission to master’s programs in the U.S.
  • Work experience. In cases where the program is focused on applied skills development, students may be required to meet a minimum work experience to be eligible for admission.
  • Other requirements include a letter of recommendation, a personal statement, and academic writing samples.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

The doctoral degree is the pinnacle of media communication studies. At this level, students specialize in a discipline where they can extensively research and engage in rigorous critical and historical studies of various media cultures.

Applicants to doctoral programs in media and communications should meet the following entry requirements for admission:

  • A master’s degree in media and communications, or proof that you are in the process of completing the master’s program. In addition, many doctoral programs require students to have completed a thesis as part of their master’s study.
  • Minimum GPA score. Typically, the required GPA scores entail 3.0 for a bachelor’s degree and 3.5 for a master’s degree.
  • GRE score, not older than 5 years.
  • IELT or TOEFL score. Moreover, international students are required to take these English language tests to earn admission.
  • Other basic requirements include letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, academic writing sample, and curriculum vitae (CV) or resume.

How Much Does it Cost to Study Media Communications?

If you have met the requirements for admission to a program in media communication, the next thing you need to consider is the cost of education. What you ought to know is that the cost of earning a degree in this field depends on various factors, including:

  • The type institution is chosen, and its geographical location
  • Nature of the program (on-campus or online).
  • Level of study (Bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral).
  • Specialization of the course.
  • Other factors such as transport, accommodation, and entertainment charges.

To help you better understand the cost to study media communications, this section reveals the average cost of college education in the U.S. According to Education Data, during the 2019-2020 academic year, the average annual cost of college education was $30,500 (Educational Data, 2020). Needless to say, the cost varied widely based on the type of institution as shown in the table provided.

Average Annual Cost of College Education in the US for A.Y. 2019-2020

Type of institutionTuition + FeesRoom + BoardAverage Total cost
Public 2-year in-state institution$3,730$8,990$12,720
Public 4-year in-state institution$10,440$11,510 $21,950
Public 4-year out-of -state institution$26,820$11,510 $38,330
Private nonprofit 4-year institution$36,880$12,990$49,879

Moreover, the average annual cost to study a four-year degree in the US is estimated to be $122,000 (Educational Data, 2020). Like in the case above, the price varied by institution type.

Source: Educational Data

These averages assume that the student is able to finish the degree within four years. Interestingly, this is not always the case since only 39% of students are able to do so (Educational Data, 2020). The remaining students (more than 60%) take up to six years to complete the four-year degree, which definitely leads to increased cost.

Even though college is seemingly very expensive, students have different ways to waive the overall cost. Financial aid options such as scholarships, grants, and loans help offset the cost, ultimately making college more affordable.

The Best Universities to Study Media Communications

College and universities are effectively positioned to deliver literacy education as they are the last step of formal education for many people (Cubbage, 2018). In this regard, every institution is, at the very least, expected to impart knowledge and skills that increase the student’s chances for a better career and improved financial stability.

Interestingly, though, this is not always the case. Actually, not all universities are the same, and thus the quality of educational programs can differ widely among similar institutions. To be the best you can be in media communications, you have to study in institutions that offer high-quality education.

But, with so many institutions in the world, where do you start your selection? The QS World University Rankings by media communications seeks to unravel this puzzling conundrum (Top Universities, 2020). The list below includes the top universities in the world that have built a remarkable reputation in teaching media and communication studies.

University of Amsterdam

University of Amsterdam (UvA) is a modern, public research-led institution located in Amsterdam, Netherlands and its roots date back to 1632. Overall, UvA is a prominent institution that is among the top 20 universities in Europe and the top 65 universities in the world. When it comes to media communication studies, the institution has built an enviable reputation and is currently ranked number one in the world.

If you are ambitious, open-minded, and independent, consider pursuing a course in media and communications at UvA. It does not matter which corner of this world you are from. The institution is home to more than 34,000 students drawn from over 100 countries around the globe.

Media communications degree levels offered at the University of Amsterdam include:

  • Undergraduate programs: Bachelor of Arts (BA) media and culture and BA media and information.
  • Masters programs: Masters of Arts (MA) film studies, MA television studies and MA new media, and digital culture.

University of Southern California

University of Southern California (USC) is a world-class research institution located in the heart of Los Angeles, California. USC is the oldest private research university in the west, and over the years, the institution has consistently delivered remarkable educational experience.

Among the institution’s schools, the USC Annenberg school for communication and journalism stands out, and for a good reason. The school delivers some of the best undergraduate and graduate programs in media and communication. It is therefore unsurprising that USC is ranked second amongst its peers as regards media communications studies.

The media communications degree levels offered at USC include:

  • Undergraduate programs: BA communication, BA journalism, and BA public relations.
  • Master’s programs: MS communication data science, MCG communication management, MA global communication, Master’s of Science (MSc) global media, MS journalism, MA specialized journalism, MPD public diplomacy, and MA public relations and advertising.
  • Doctoral programs: Ph.D. communications.

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Billed as a place of cutting-edge research and genuine intellectual excitement, LSE is, without a doubt a reputable institution of higher learning. Located in one of the world’s greatest capital cities—London, United Kingdom—the university has established itself as one of the world’s leading centers for communication and media studies.

Currently, the institution is ranked first in the U.K. and third globally in media communications programs. The degree levels offered at LSE include:

  • Masters programs: MSc media and communication, MSc politics and communications, MSc strategic communications, MSc gender, media and culture, and MSc global media and communications.
  • Doctoral programs: Ph.D. media and communications and Ph.D. data, networks, and society.

Stanford University

Stanford University is a world-class institution of higher learning founded in 1885 and it is located in the heart of Northern California’s dynamic Silicon Valley. The university is renowned for fostering creativity and the arts, and it is not surprising, then, that it ranks fourth in the world in media and communications studies.

The department of communication focuses on media in all its forms and offer different degree programs including:

  • Undergraduate programs: BA communication
  • Masters programs: MA communication, MA journalism, and Coterminal master’s program in communication.
  • Doctoral programs: Ph.D. communication

The University of Texas at Austin

Overall, the University of Texas at Austin is ranked 25th in the U.S. and 71st in the world. But, when it comes to media communication studies, the institution stakes its claim at a spot in the top five universities in the world. This is a huge statement to the excellent education experience it offers in this field. The institution’s success in this arena is largely due to the Moody College of Communication.

Among the degree programs that you can take at the University of Texas at Austin include:

  • Undergraduate programs: BA communication and Bachelor’s degree in communication and leadership.
  • Masters program: MA advertising, MA communication, MA journalism, MFA file and media, MFA screenwriting, and MA media studies.
  • Doctoral programs: Ph.D. advertising, Ph.D. communications, Ph.D. journalism, and Ph.D. media studies.
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Top 5 Universities to Study Media Communications in 2020

(University's overall score)

Top 5 Universities to Study Media Communications in 2020
University of Amsterdam: 96.5%

University of Amsterdam

96.5%
Top 5 Universities to Study Media Communications in 2020
University of Southern California: 92.9%

University of Southern California

92.9%
Top 5 Universities to Study Media Communications in 2020
The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE): 92.6%

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

92.6%
Top 5 Universities to Study Media Communications in 2020
Stanford University: 91.8%

Stanford University

91.8%
Top 5 Universities to Study Media Communications in 2020
University of Texas at Austin: 91.6%

University of Texas at Austin

91.6%

Source: QS World University Rankings (TopUnviversities.com)

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Possible Careers for Media Communications Majors

Communication keeps the social world ticking and is collaborative, relational, symbolic, strategic, and adaptive (National Communication Association, 2015). To suffice, human beings crave connection and socialization, two activities firmly anchored on good communications (Audsley, 2019). For this reason, communication, whether verbal or non-verbal (through email, text, or otherwise), is indispensable to a properly functioning society.

For as long as communication continues to be an underlying need for everyone, the need for talent in this field will never cease. Further, as technology continues to deliver sweeping transformation in the way information is shared, the demand for talent in the media and communication will remain high. A few of the notable career opportunities for media communication majors include (BLS, 2020):

Public Relations Specialist

Media Annual Pay: $61,150

Across the globe, organizations in all verticals are incessantly concerned about how the public perceives them. No one wants to step a foot wrong when it comes to public relations, and for this reason, many hire public relations (PR) specialists.

PR professionals are tasked with analyzing and remedying the influence of public perceptions through the media. In this regard, they exert great effort to create and maintain a positive public image for the organization they represent (BLS, 2020). Typical PR tasks include writing press releases, making conspicuous the journalist merit of media stories, and organizing press conferences.

Reporter, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts

Median Annual Pay: $46,270

A fascinating career for people who love the idea of working for a mainstream media corporation. If you dread the idea of being confined to an office desk for eight hours a day, then, working as a reporter or correspondent is for you.

Generally, reporters research stories and topics assigned to them by the news editor or director. They traverse the nation, continent, or world investigating stories in-depth and interviewing people to unearth valuable information about a topic.

In addition, they analyze information and present it in a timely and accurate manner to inform the public about events and the latest happenings. Moreover, they write articles for blogs, magazines, and newspapers, as well as create news scripts for radio and television.

Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators

Median Annual Pay: $59,810

This group of professionals handles the soup-to-nuts process of creating different types of media for entertaining audiences. Camera operators handle the first half of this task, capturing materials for movies, TV shows, and other media. While, on the other hand, editors manipulate the footage shot by camera operators, and coordinate with directors and producers to deliver the final content.

Technical Writer

Median Annual Pay: $72,850

Technical writers routinely work with technology experts to coordinate the flow of information through the organization. They write journal articles, how-to guides, instruction manuals, and other vital materials to disseminate complex, technical information more easily. The demand for technical writers is poised to increase, especially because of the continuing expansion of technical products which has escalated the need for web-based product support.

Interpreter and Translator

Median Annual Pay: $51,830

Interpreters and translators are important people in the modern, interconnected world. Generally, this cohort of professionals converts information from one language into the target language(s). While there are professionals that can do both, translating and interpreting are two distinct professions. Translators convert written information, whereas interpreters work with spoken communications. Keep in mind, however, that pursuing this particular job might require some form of certification in a foreign language course or program.

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Average Annual Pay of Media Communications Professionals

Average Annual Pay of Media Communications Professionals
Technical Writer: $72,850

Technical Writer

$72,850
Average Annual Pay of Media Communications Professionals
Public Relations Specialist: $61,150

Public Relations Specialist

$61,150
Average Annual Pay of Media Communications Professionals
Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators: $59,810

Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators

$59,810
Average Annual Pay of Media Communications Professionals
Interpreter and Translator: $51,830

Interpreter and Translator

$51,830
Average Annual Pay of Media Communications Professionals
Reporter, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts: $46,270

Reporter, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts

$46,270

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

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How Much Do Media Communications Majors Earn?

The current media landscape is evolving pretty fast, propelled by the transformative wave of web 2.0 (participative and social web). As such, people working in this field are required to possess a unique set of competencies that range from mastery of technical skills for managing new tools to the assimilation of content production strategies marked by a transmedia logic (Scolari, 2013 cited in Calvo & Cervi, 2017).

As media communication students embark on an academic journey, the hope is to acquire the set of skills mentioned previously. But, even as they concentrate on their education, one eye is usually fixated on key aspects of employment. In particular, the salary and the overall outlook of the career they expect to pursue is a major point of consideration for many.

Generally, professionals in the media-related fields are well remunerated. On average, as of May 2019, people working in the media and communication earned $59,230 annually. Their earnings were conspicuously higher than the median annual pay for all occupations of $39,810 (BLS, 2020).

average salary of media communications professionals

The salary, however, may vary based on various factors, such as the particular industry, area of focus, and experience level. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the projected annual starting salary for communication majors in the class of 2020 is $56,484, which is much higher than the 2019 salary projection of $52,056 (NACE, 2020). Besides, data from ZipRecruiter show that experienced communication majors can earn up to $135,500 annually (ZipRecruiter, 2020).

Famous People Who Studied Media Communications

Generally, students, regardless of their educational discipline, have many role models to look up to, and media communications students are no exception. In fact, this arena has many famous people on the front row. While not all of them studied media communications, there are quite a few well-known individuals you can draw inspiration from.

The list below comprises three of the most popular media communication majors who have gone on to use their knowledge in various extraordinary ways.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

Best known for the Oprah Winfrey Show (1986 to 2001), Oprah Gail Winfrey is one of the most celebrated people in the world. Born January 29, 1954, she has walked an indelible career path, and widely followed and viewed as a prime role model for young people looking to make it in the media arena.

Oprah has successfully applied the knowledge and skills learned at Tennessee State University. As a speech communication major, she has, without a doubt, been an example to espouse for the current generation of media personalities.

Much of her success has come through the extremely influential Oprah Winfrey Show. The show discussed topics that popularized pop culture and is responsible for bringing many young celebrities to the limelight. In addition, Oprah created a successful book club that is highly regarded for propelling many author’s books to best-seller lists.

Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld

Jerome Allen Seinfeld (popularly known as Jerry Seinfeld) is an American actor, director, producer, screenwriter, and stand-up comedian. Born on April 29, 1954, Seinfield has had a successful career in the media arena. He has without a doubt, put to use all the knowledge acquired as a communication and theater major at the University of New York.

Seinfeld is best known for his role in the sitcom, Seinfeld. Using his talent in tandem with knowledge and skills, Seinfield exceptionally played a tad outsized version of himself. Owing to his brilliance, he went on to make the show one of most popular sitcoms of all time.

Al Roker

Al Roker

Albert Lincoln Roker Jr. (popularly known as Al Rocker) is an American journalist, weather forecaster, actor, television personality, and author. Born August 20, 1954, Roker has for so long been the face of weather forecasting on National Broadcasting Company (NBC). He has a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in communication, which he received from the State University of New York in 1976.

Since graduating, Roker has been doing weather forecasts, first at an independent station, and then at NBC in 1978. During his enthralling career, he has achieved many accolades but the subtle one is breaking the Guinness World Record for uninterrupted live weather reporting. In this case, Roker reported nonstop for 34 hours.

Pick your Media Communications Program Wisely

There you have it, a comprehensive media communications guide. Hopefully, by now, you have no doubt in mind about this increasingly popular field of study. You know what it is, requirements to pursue a degree in the field, and best of is all, you have a clear understanding of the potential careers. With all these details at your fingertips, the ball is now in your court to decide which career to pursue.

What you ought to know is that the media and communication sector is tipped to become more diverse and dynamic. Consequently, degrees in this field will grow in popularity, and most probably, the field will experience an influx of students. The good news is, there will be plenty of employment opportunities going forward since the occupation is projected to grow 4% from 2018 to 2028 (BLS, 2020).

The demand for media communication occupation is poised to emanate from the need to edit, translate, write, and disseminate information via a number of different platforms. For this reason, you need to pick your program wisely and take into account the transformative potential of technology. This is because media communications have always been impacted in massive ways by technological development since its essence is based around technology-enabled production and distribution processes (Bartosova, 2011).

 

References:

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  4. Calvo, S. T., & Cervi L. (2017). Analysis of the journalism and communication degree programs of the world’s top-ranked universities. Competencies, objectives, and subjects. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 72, 1,626-1,647.  https://doi.org/10.4185/RLCS-2017-1238en
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