Communication Arts Degrees: Associate, Bachelor & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a communication arts 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 Communication Arts: Degrees at a Glance

Communication arts is an interdisciplinary academic field involving subjects such as journalism, media studies, rhetoric and communications. This relatively new discipline is designed to expose you to the myriad forms of written, visual and oral communication that exist in the modern world.

One goal of these programs is to enable you to engage and interact with digital modes of communication, such as blogs, videos and websites. You can also study more traditional forms of communication, such as print media, speechwriting and advertising. In the field of visual communication, you can study photography, animation, film and graphic arts.

Upon graduating, you can pursue a range of communication careers. Depending on the structure of your degree program, you may be eligible for entry-level positions in advertising agencies, news media outlets, website design studios, public relations firms and more.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in pursuing an entry-level position in a field such as advertising, journalism, web design or graphic arts Those interested in pursuing various careers that require communication skills (sales, broadcasting, politics and more)
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Media production assistant (salary information unavailable)
- Human resources assistant (salary information unavailable)
- Journalist (*$44,000)
- Human resources manager (*$108,000 not an entry-level salary)
- Advertising manager ($103,000 not an entry-level salary)
Time to Completion 2years full time 4 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements Some programs require students maintain a portfolio of their graphic art and design work Internship
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability Rare Yes (some are degree completion programs)

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

Associate's Degree in Communication Arts

These programs are designed to provide you with a basic understanding of how to communicate ideas visually, vocally and in writing, which can give you a good foundation for careers that require you to prepare documents, speak in public or create videos. If your program focuses on graphic design,ome of your class time will be spent in computer labs, developing your visual sense. Here you will study topics such as color, form and composition. You'll also learn how to use photo manipulation software, along with other video editing techniques.

In the classroom, you might study typography while you learn how to write and edit a script or article. You couldl look at advertising techniques, marketing strategies and the art and science of public relations. Some programs allow you to choose a concentration within the degree program, such as digital filmmaking or advertising. A bachelor's degree might be necessary for many jobs in the field.

Pros and Cons


  • These programs can give you a solid foundation for a variety of careers.
  • You can finish your studies in two years.
  • Affordable tuition and the ability to transfer credits makes an associate's degree in communications a good start toward further education.


  • You might need a bachelor's degree for entry-level jobs in journalism, graphic design and other careers in the field.
  • You are likely to make less money in your field than if you had a bachelor's degree.
  • Jobs in this field that require an associate's degree may be declining at a rapid pace.*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statitics (2012 figures)

Courses and Requirements

Your coursework will be divided between traditional classroom lectures and course time spent in labs working with the latest in design and graphic arts software. General education electives, such as English or social science courses, round out your curriculum. Below are some sample core course topics.

  • Design fundamentals
  • Digital editing
  • Art and advertising
  • Intercultural communications

Online Course Info

Associate's degree programs in communication arts that are completely online are rare. There are a handful of programs offered by for-profit schools; these schools may or may not have the institutional accreditation that you'll want should you ever decide to transfer your credits to a 4-year school. Research your college of choice carefully.

There are community colleges that offer general liberal arts associate's degree programs online. Some of these programs allow you to choose communication arts as a concentration. Here again, you'll want to do your research carefully. An online program is probably not going to afford you the chance to spend time in labs working with cutting edge software.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Even more so than with most degree programs, how you stand out from the pack within the field of communication arts depends on your career objectives. If you want a career In journalism, try exploring internship opportunities at your local radio or television studios. You could also consider taking writing courses other than those required by your degree program. Journalists need to be able to convey ideas with the written work quickly and cogently. The more practice you get, the better your chances of becoming proficient.

Bachelor's Degree in Communication Arts

In this program, you can learn the theory and practice of effective verbal and non-verbal communication while studying how these forms of communication are affected by media, individuals and society. Similar to the associate's degree program, this program utilizes an interdisciplinary approach. You'll study topics in fields ranging from sociology and business to graphic design and art history. Most programs feature an internship as a degree requirement. Internships take place during the regular semester or over the summer.

These programs can differ substantially between institutions. Some programs may place more of an emphasis on the study of graphic arts, while another program may stress rhetoric. As with all decisions concerning where you go to school, be sure to research the programs carefully and have a firm idea of what you want to accomplish.

Pros and Cons


  • Will help develop both your critical thinking and communication skills.
  • The required internship will provide valuable work experience.
  • Some programs are offered in a 5-year format, awarding successful degree candidates with both a bachelor's and master's degree.
  • Can often advance your career in the communications field with a bachelor's degree and work experience.


  • Some career paths within the communication arts field, such as news reporter or correspondent, are expected to experience a decline in job opportunities over the coming decade.
  • High stress can be a complaint of communication arts careers such as advertising and promotions managers.
  • Jobs in non-technology areas of communications may grow slowly or decline between 2010 and 2020.*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012 figures)

Courses and Requirements

Along with your required communication arts courses, you can also enroll in liberal arts or humanities electives. These include courses in history, math, science and the social sciences. Below are core course topics you're likely to encounter.

  • Mass media
  • Speech communication
  • History of broadcasting
  • Digital imaging

Online Course Info

Online bachelor's degree programs in communication arts are available. However, these programs may not be right for everyone. Some are geared toward students who have completed some college and want to pursue a bachelor's degree. If your goal is to pursue a communication arts degree to study digital filmmaking, you'll most likely have to attend a traditional campus-based program. You'll need the studios, cameras and other physical resources not traditionally offered by distance learning programs. On the other hand, if you want to concentrate on something like speech communication, you are more likely to find an online program that meets your needs.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Regardless of the particular field you wish to pursue in the communication arts, a strong understanding and ability to use technology will be key in advancing your career. Graphic artists could see much higher job growth between 2010 and 2020 in the areas that rely strongly on computers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Journalists and other media professionals increasingly use Web tools like blogs, news aggregates and streaming videos to reach their audience. Taking courses in online media and Web design while you're in school could greatly enhance your career prospects.

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