Study Communication: Bachelor, Associate & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in a communication degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Communication Associate's and Bachelor's: Degrees at a Glance

If you're often complimented on your voice or way with words, an associate's or bachelor's degree program in communication could help you put your talent to work.

A couple of bright spots are expected in the communication field, but some careers most identified with communication degrees are likely to experience either slow job growths or declines. Even areas with more jobs are expected to be very competitive. One growing field is public relations. Public relations specialists could expect to see a 23% increase in job growth over the 2010-2020 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, demand was expected to decrease by 8% for news reporters and correspondents. Graduates of associate's degree programs may find employment in advertising sales, while public relations and reporting careers are more suited for those with bachelor's degrees.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want entry-level positions in communication or those who plan to transfer into 4-year programs Individuals who want to move into analyst or specialist roles in communication
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) A degree may not be required for some positions:
- Advertising sales agent ($45,000)*
- Public address system announcer ($26,000)*
Experience may be required for some positions:
- Broadcast news analyst ($56,000)*
- Public relations specialist ($53,000)*
- Public relations manager ($93,000)*
- Reporter or correspondent ($35,000)*
Time to Completion 18 months to 2 years (full-time) About 2 years with an associate's degree, 3-4 years without (full-time)
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 15-21 courses (general education/core requirements)
- Satisfactory grade point average of 2.0
Students entering with an associate's degree may have already fulfilled some core requirements:
- Roughly 12-13 university core courses
- Roughly 28 area and elective courses
-Grade point average of at least 2.0
-Internship/practicum encouraged
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent, placement tests High school diploma or equivalent, acceptable SAT or ACT scores
Online Availability Yes, limited Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's Degree in Communication

If you decide to earn an associate's degree in communication, you'll probably do so through a community or technical college. The purposes of associate's degree programs in communication vary. Some are designed to prepare you for entry into a profession, while others are specifically intended for students who plan to transfer to a university and complete a bachelor's degree program. It is important to know your careers goals ahead of time in order to choose the right type of program.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • As an advertising sales agent, you'd have opportunities to advance into supervisory and managerial positions with experience
  • You'll be able to start working and gaining experience in only 2 years
  • If you later decide to continue your education after earning your associate's degree, a bachelor's degree will take only 2 years to earn

Cons

  • Many analyst, specialist and managerial positions in the communication field require a bachelor's degree and some work experience
  • A degree may not be required for some of your career options, such as advertising sales
  • Some community college programs may be designed to help you transfer into a bachelor's degree program rather than start a career

Common Courses and Requirements

For an associate's degree in communication, you'll be required to complete courses in both speaking and writing. Examples of courses you may take include:

  • Interpersonal communication
  • Mass communication
  • Public speaking
  • Communication theory
  • Journalism

Additionally, you might take courses introducing you to other related topics, such as marketing and advertising. You'll also be required to take general education courses to enhance your skills in writing, history, science and math.

Online Degree Options

While not plentiful, completely online programs granting associate's degrees in communication are offered, but tend to be designed for students planning to transfer into bachelor's degree programs. Options include accelerated programs that allow you to complete your associate's degree in 18 months. No differences in courses or requirements were found when compared with on-site versions of the program at the same community or technical college.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Since most careers that you can enter with a communication degree are highly competitive, it's important to showcase your skills to potential employers and let them know you're a better fit for the job than your competition is.

  • While completing your degree program, take courses that increase your ability to work in online media. Many news outlets have both print and online versions. The Internet and social media have also become important for other fields in communication, such as advertising.
  • Even if you don't complete an associate's degree program designed for transfer, choose transferable courses as often as possible to make it easier if you decide to earn a bachelor's degree later. A bachelor's degree is required or preferred for many communication careers, according to the BLS.
  • Even if not required for graduation, consider assembling a portfolio to illustrate your skills and versatility. It might help you stand out in a competitive field and is a convenient way to show employers what you're capable of.

Bachelor's Degree in Communication

Are you interested in learning how to use your verbal and writing skills to inform or persuade others? Whether you already have an associate's degree or are just beginning your education, earning a bachelor's degree in communication will offer the coursework and training needed to help you turn your talent for words into a career. If you've been working in an entry-level job in a communication field, earning a bachelor's degree could help you advance into a higher-level position.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Earning a bachelor's degree could qualify you for an analyst or specialist position, especially if you've completed an internship to gain some experience
  • In a bachelor's degree program, you'll be more likely to have an opportunity to complete an internship than you would in an associate's degree program, which provides valuable experience in the field
  • A bachelor's degree could make you more competitive for many positions that don't formally require a degree, according to the BLS

Cons

  • Some employers may prefer a master's degree as well as work experience for management jobs
  • Competition for most positions is fierce
  • You may have to relocate to a small town to find a job

Common Courses and Requirements

You'll be required to take a wide variety of communication courses focusing on different aspects of the field, including visual and technological communication, along with more specialized forms of communication, such as nonverbal, persuasive or argumentative. You'll also complete more research-based coursework. Common courses in a bachelor's degree program in communication are likely to include:

  • Dispute mediation
  • Political communication
  • Intercultural communication
  • Public relations
  • Interviewing

You'll also have to fulfill your university's core general education classes. In some programs you may be required to complete an internship or practicum.

Online Degree Options

Online programs leading to a bachelor's degree in communication are readily available. Programs completed online have the same courses as their on-site counterparts at the same college or university. The exception is that some programs may require online students to take an extra class that demonstrates how to use the school's virtual course platform. Another difference between online communication programs and on-site programs is that the latter often include the option of completing an internship.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Stand out by becoming an expert in the virtual frontier of the media and honing your public relations skills.

  • Focus on increasing your skills with online news sources and social media through your choice of electives. As print media declines, online media is experiencing increased demand and the ability to work in an online environment could be helpful.
  • Write for your school's newspaper and complete an internship. Any experience you can gain will be helpful in landing a job in the field after graduation.
  • Consider membership in a professional organization for communication professionals to gain access to valuable networking and professional development opportunities. There could be a chapter of at least one organization on your campus.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Communication Studies
      • B.A. - Journalism and Mass Communication
      • B.A. - Public Relations and Marketing
      • BA/Public Relations and Marketing - Information Systems
      • BA/Public Relations and Marketing - International Management
      • BA/Public Relations and Marketing - Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Regent University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Rhetoric and Public Culture
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Strategic Communication
      • Bachelor of Arts in English - Communication
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Communication Studies
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Advertising and Public Relations
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Communication
  • Campus and Online Programs
    4. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Fine Arts - Creative Writing for Entertainment
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BBA: New Media and Internet Marketing
  • Philadelphia, PA

    University of Pennsylvania

  • Nashville, TN

    Vanderbilt University

  • Stanford, CA

    Stanford University

  • Ithaca, NY

    Cornell University

Featured Schools

Ashford University

  • B.A. - Communication Studies
  • B.A. - Journalism and Mass Communication
  • B.A. - Public Relations and Marketing

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Rhetoric and Public Culture
  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Strategic Communication

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts - Creative Writing for Entertainment

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • BBA: New Media and Internet Marketing

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