Communication underpins our entire society. New media, digital platforms, and other technologies connect the modern world like never before. Given that the field of communication is growing and diversifying, what skills are needed to succeed? And what is a communication major, exactly?
Through their studies, students who major in communication aim to become leaders in their field, gaining competencies that are in high demand by such dynamic industries as marketing, social media, public relations, and broadcasting. Earning a degree such as a master’s in strategic communication and leadership presents an opportunity for students to develop a keen awareness of the many ways and settings in which communication impacts personal relationships, business interactions, and mass communication.
What Does a Communication Major Cover?
By majoring in communication, students learn how to become effective critical thinkers, proficient in writing, speaking, and strategic interpretation. These skill sets can then be applied to many different fields, including media, law, and business. Communication majors in both master’s degree and bachelor’s degree programs often take a range of classes that intersect with sociology, business, journalism, and other disciplines.
What makes a good communication major? A broad understanding of how the field can positively impact an organization’s operations is vital, as is a willingness to think critically about the evolving landscape of communication. Communication professionals must stay up to date on the impact of new technologies and emergent platforms. Students who seek to develop written and verbal skills, appreciate multidisciplinary work, and enjoy listening to others and cultivating relationships with them are great candidates for a communication degree. Additionally, a master’s degree in communication offers the opportunity to delve deeper into high-level topics such as strategic communication.
Strategic communication is a growing field within the broader communication landscape; it is highly goal-oriented and features intentional benchmarks and outcomes. Each communication campaign has its own contexts and markers for success, but broadly speaking, strategic communication specialists design, manage, and launch campaigns with the goal of informing and influencing a target audience. The specifics of the work are diverse and might involve persuasion to change health behaviors, market a product, or improve people’s attitude toward a public figure.
At an advanced level, communication majors seek to expand their understanding of the many ways communication intersects with effective leadership. Having a high degree of cultural awareness and deep knowledge of audience analysis, data interpretation, and presentation skills allow communication majors to create and disseminate impactful messages.
The Marketable Competencies of a Communication Major
The versatility of a master’s degree in strategic communication and leadership allows the degree to be applied to careers in many industries. Communication specialists must possess many different competencies to become leaders in their organizations.
- Understanding body language. People are constantly using body language to express intentions, show interest, and much more. Gestures, posture, and expressions all send subtle messages that many people innately understand. A comprehension of body language is vital to effective listening and communicating, as a large portion of communication is nonverbal. For communication specialists, understanding body language is not just an added skill, it is a core part of their day-to-day work.
- Negotiation. In the many leadership roles that communication majors might assume after graduation, some manner of negotiation will likely fall to them. Effective strategic communication involves working with others by compromising at times and drawing hard lines at others. Knowing how to navigate the difficult situations that often arise out of these scenarios helps communication experts strengthen their problem-solving and listening skills. This promotes better outcomes for all.
- Written and verbal persuasion. Changing the minds of others is often an objective of communication, so the ability to be persuasive with language is important for a communication professional’s success in the workplace. From presenting a project to the board of directors to submitting a résumé and cover letter to a company, nearly all the activities of a professional in this field require some persuasive communication. The elements of convincing communication include authority, consistency, and likability.
- Cross-cultural communication. Businesses and nonprofits operate in a global economy, which is just one of the reasons why it is so exciting to be a communication professional. In an increasingly connected world, to be able to communicate across cultures is vital for professionals to grow and thrive. As the field of communication increasingly emphasizes everything international, it is necessary that communication majors hone cross-cultural communication skills to prevent miscommunication or misinterpretation.
Understanding what a communication major is and the skills necessary to thrive in this dynamic field is the first step to entering the world of communication. Cultivating the skills of a top-flight communicator puts students on the path to becoming a leader in an area whose importance to industries of all types increases daily.
Skills of a Communication Major
Beyond the soft skills needed to succeed in communication, experts in the field increasingly rely on technical skills and knowledge that allow them to navigate technology, social media, and data analytics.
- Computers. Much of the work in communication requires the use of computers. Communication majors learn to work fluidly in different operating systems and software suites. Whether writing a press release, drafting a letter, or building web content, knowing how to use word processing programs, presentation software, and design programs can prove indispensable.
- Social media. Developing and maintaining an online presence has become a crucial part of how organizations function and communicate. Communication majors, particularly those pursuing careers in public relations, marketing, and advertising, need agility with social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This requires understanding how each platform works and perhaps learning social media software programs such as Hootsuite. It also involves understanding which platforms appeal to various audiences.
- SEO. Search engine optimization plays a key role in helping organizations get their messages out. Knowing how to generate traffic to a company website allows communication majors to drive media relations. Additionally, improving an organization’s online visibility by skillfully crafting SEO-relevant content ensures the public can easily find it.
- Data analytics. Data analytics offers organizations insight into what people like and dislike, as well as the type of content most suited for specific audiences. Data analytics can also improve how effectively a business uses social media. Professionals with expertise in data analytics can often craft more compelling content for their employers.
What Are Communication Major Salaries?
Career opportunities for communication majors are diverse. Whether becoming part of the media or working in public relations, advertising, or marketing, communication majors can earn competitive salaries.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), individuals working in media and communication jobs had a median annual salary of $59,230 in May 2019. However, leadership positions in communication may earn higher salaries. Public relations managers and marketing managers, for example, had median annual salaries of $116,180 and $136,850, respectively, in May 2019, according to the BLS. Salaries may also vary by industry, geographic location, experience, and education level.
Earn Your Advanced Degree in Communications
The path to becoming a capable communicator begins with an understanding of what a communication major is and a commitment to the study of strategic communication. Through Maryville University’s online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership degree program, you’ll engage in a dynamic curriculum designed to support students as they bravely prepare for success in this rewarding career.