Radio Communications Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a radio communications 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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Studying Radio Communications: Degrees at a Glance

Radio communications professionals use their creative talent to write stories, entertain and circulate information through radio broadcasting. The field is competitive and persistence and a strong tolerance for rejection are important qualities. Colleges and universities typically offer radio communications programs through a department of communications or radio, television and film.

If you are interested in becoming an announcer, voice and diction are traits employers find important. Radio announcers often begin their careers at small local stations to develop their broadcasting persona and build, maintain and entertain an audience. You may need to first take a job in a small market to build your reputation and later relocate to a larger market to increase your earnings.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that salaries for entry-level positions are relatively low, despite the degree level you choose, although radio announcers who advance to opportunities as hosts greatly increase their earnings. In addition, some occupations are experiencing a moderate decline or slower than average job growth.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in working as public address announcers People who want to work as a radio announcer or begin a career track toward radio broadcast production
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Public address announcer ($40,000)*
- Editor ($60,000)*
- Radio announcer ($41,000)*
- Reporter or correspondent ($44,000)*
- Producer or director ($92,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 4 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credits in general education and core classes
- Internship
- Roughly 120 credits
- Foreign language proficiency
- Upper-division coursework
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

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

Associate's in Radio Communications

Associate's degree programs offer a general education coupled with core courses in radio performance, technology and broadcasting business. The program will prepare you for entry-level opportunities at local stations. Many employers prefer job candidates with a bachelor's degree in a related discipline for radio announcer and editor opportunities. The BLS reveals that announcers can expect slower than average job growth (7%) from 2010-2012.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Program length will prepare you for quick entry into the field
  • Many programs offer courses that branch out into journalism
  • Internship opportunities provide valuable work experience

Cons

  • Competition with bachelor's degree holders will be keen
  • Some salaries are relatively low despite degree level
  • You may not gain access to work as a producer

Courses and Requirements

Radio communications students learn a range of broadcasting concepts. The program offers a unique combination of business and performance coursework. Some schools require the completion of an internship or the production of programming for the student-run radio station. Following are some common courses:

  • News writing for radio
  • Radio broadcasting
  • Radio management principles
  • Voice-over
  • Media performance
  • Introduction to mass media
  • Audio production

Online Degree Options

Several colleges offer the associate's degree in communications in an online format. Online programs usually provide coursework similar to campus-based curricula. Schools design programs for working professionals, individuals seeking advancement or people who want a career change. You may need access to a variety of computer and broadcasting technologies to complete the degree.

Stand Out with This Degree

Voice, diction and personality are imperative to success as a radio announcer. Many colleges offer courses to assist you with developing your voice and persona. You may consider taking advantage of voice training courses outside your college's offerings. Many entertainment markets expect announcers to handle technical tasks, such as social media. Taking a course in social networking or Internet technologies will give you an edge when you're pursuing a position. In addition, announcers handle broadcasting equipment and related computer technologies. Seeking the appropriate training in advance will help you stand out.

Bachelor's in Communications

The bachelor's degree in communications program offers a robust learning experience. Universities structure programs to support a well-rounded education through coursework in culture, natural sciences and fine art. The bachelor's degree program will prepare you for work as a reporter, radio announcer or correspondent. Some programs offer internships and opportunities to travel to locations important to the industry. The BLS reports that reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts can expect a moderate decline (-6%) in job growth over the 2010-2020 decade. Despite this, the bachelor's degree can pave the way for work as a producer or director with the appropriate experience.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Employers seek candidates with a bachelor's degree
  • Programs incorporate internships, mentoring programs and special projects
  • You will be prepared for positions in production, programming and on-air talent

Cons

  • Entry-level salaries are similar to those for public address announcers, who don't need a 4-year degree (public address announcer $40,000 vs. radio announcer $41,000)
  • Gaining access to a higher-paying position may require specialization early in your studies
  • Some programs are competitive and may require writing examinations prior to admission

Courses and Requirements

The major coursework of the bachelor's degree is similar to the associate's degree. Despite this, programs offer more electives and advanced classes in radio communications. You can expect to take roughly 18 credits in upper-division courses. The program prepares graduates to analyze critical issues in the industry and remain ahead of changes in the structure of radio and related media. You will take courses in communication technology, global media, history of radio, narrative strategies and sound as a medium. You may also participate in a special projects course, which requires intensive project development and working with a university professor.

Online Degree Options

The online bachelor's degree program in communications offers a purely online learning experience. Coursework for online programs is similar to the campus-based experience. You may be required to send your credentials, such as college transcripts for transfer students, directly to the university's admissions offices. Some schools require a satisfactory grade in specific communications coursework prior to admission to the program.

Stand Out with This Degree

Your personality and communication skills are the key components in receiving employment offers. In addition, meeting people who work in the industry during your studies will provide a solid network. The radio communications field is competitive and you can take the following steps to set yourself apart:

  • Participate in internships to advance your knowledge of how the industry works
  • Select a mentor to gain valuable advice and start your network in the industry
  • Take elective courses in broadcasting technologies

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