Public Speaking Degrees: Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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A bachelor's degree covering public speaking can support a wide range of potential careers. Get the truth about requirements, courses and career options.
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Studying Public Speaking: Bachelor's Degrees and Online Class Information at a Glance

Although public speaking may not be available as a named degree, a major in communications with a speech communication concentration could help you develop rhetoric and public address skills, as well as interpersonal, group and organizational communication skills. Persuasion skills could help you succeed in careers such as public relations or advertising, education, training and development, politics, law, broadcasting and business.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for public relations managers and specialists are expected to increase by 21% from 2010-2012. Average job growth for all occupations during that time period is projected to be 14%.

Bachelor's
Who is this training for? Individuals who want entry-level positions using speech communications skills
Common Career Paths (with approximate salary) - Public relations specialist ($60,000)*
- Speechwriter ($78,000 - with 4 years of experience)**
- Lobbyist ($100,000 - with 5-8 years of experience)**
- Financial service sales ($99,000)*
- Public relations or fundraising manager ($106,000 - advanced experience may be required for this salary)*
Time to Completion 4-5 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 120 credits
- Senior paper or thesis
- Capstone, co-op or internship experience
- Creation of electronic portfolio
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Online coursework widely available; fully online degrees may be hard to find

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011 estimated mean annual wages), **Salary.com (2012 median salary).

Bachelor's Degree Covering Public Speaking

In a communications major with a speech communication concentration, you may learn how to communicate effectively with individuals, small groups or an audience of any size. These skills may support career goals in any field that requires communication for effective human interaction.

Typical programs require core general education courses followed by required communication courses and courses in a speech communication subfield. These might include public relations, rhetoric and public communication, persuasive or political communications, sales and marketing communication, theater art and performance studies or intercultural communication. Some programs may introduce you to clinical or educational aspects of speech communication so that you can help others become more effective public speakers.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Public speaking and speech communication skills may help you express and advocate for your ideas.
  • Flexible skills may be applied to many fields.
  • Subfields like speech communication and rhetoric could support public advocacy or social action careers.
  • This degree can also lay a foundation for an advanced degree in other fields, including psychology, law, education, sociology or criminal justice, or advanced study of communication.

Cons

  • Lack of focus or failure to carefully select an in-demand concentration may lead to harder-to-sell skill set.
  • Income may vary widely in a typical speech communication field, like public relations, depending on size, type and location of organization.
  • Positions may be more available in major employment markets.

Courses and Requirements

You'll probably complete liberal arts core coursework before proceeding to core requirements for your major. Your school may identify hours required in each level of coursework as you progress toward graduation. Schools may require capstone experiences, senior papers, internships or completion of online portfolios, including research papers, essays and videos.

You might take courses like these in various speech communication concentrations:

  • Fundamentals of public speaking
  • Persuasion and transmedia campaigns
  • Voice and diction
  • Argumentation and debate
  • Histories and theories of rhetoric
  • Political communication
  • Business and professional speaking

Online Class Options

Fully online courses and degree programs are available from both brick-and-mortar and virtual schools. You may want to determine how you will get some actual speaking practice in an online program if that is a concern. If you need a flexible academic schedule, taking some courses online could be beneficial, providing that you'll be meeting the same requirements as on-campus students. You might investigate mixing online core liberal arts courses with on-campus public speaking and speech communication major courses.

Standing Out with a Degree Covering Public Speaking

Internships and part-time work could boost your credentials in a speech communications field. Opportunities to assist with research may be available through centers and institutes. If you're interested in helping others speak well, you might volunteer or work in an on-campus speech center. Study abroad programs may provide intercultural communication opportunities. An outstanding senior video project or electronic portfolio could attract the attention of targeted employers.

You could pursue leadership opportunities. Your school might have student chapters of the National Communication Association, the Public Relations Society of America or other professional associations. Debate societies and theater groups could offer additional public speaking venues.

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