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What Do I Do With a Communications Degree?

October 11, 2010

Written by Mandy Boyle

When first beginning our college careers, some of us were faced with this dreaded question:

“So, what do you exactly do with a communications degree?”

If asked, you probably felt a little embarrassed because you didn’t quite know what you wanted to do. Some of us know right from the start, but as our education and experience progresses, we tend to change our minds. Maybe you were thinking about public relations in the fashion industry but discovered your true calling is community relations. Maybe you discovered your passion is in production. Maybe you just weren’t sure if your focus wanted to be marketing instead of advertising.

That’s the beauty of a career in communications. Unlike many other industries, you have choice and a variety of focuses in which you can stretch your legs and develop your talents. As a young professional, the job outlook may be competitive, but it’s most definitely varied.

Let’s take a brief look at some of the most common career focuses in communications:

Media Relations: This is the area of communications that most people associate with public relations. Media relations involves developing strong connections with the media on behalf of your client in order to secure coverage. You’ll pitch, write, and pitch some more as you look to gain exposure for your client’s brand, products, or services.

Government and Community Relations: Facilitating two-way communication between a government and the community it serves can be difficult, but that’s the beauty of government and community relations. If you’re passionate about civic involvement and want to serve your country, state, or local community, this may be a strong fit for you.

Public Affairs: Relaying policy messages and serving as a bridge between the organization and the media is the chief function of a public affairs communicator. Governments, non-profits, universities, and many businesses use public affairs officers to ensure that the right information gets to the right destination.

Crisis Communications: BP and Toyota have something very much in common: the need for professionals in crisis communications. Should you choose to focus yourself in this high intensity area of communications, be prepared to communicate with a variety of constituent groups under pressure to minimize damage to your client’s brand. Organization and a cool, clear head will be key.

Digital Media: Are you passionate about technology? Then digital media might be the best fit for you. In this area of communications, be ready to engage and interact through video, web, podcasting, interactive advertising, and other various media.

Social Media: If you’re the kind of person who loves to have conversations, then you’ll love taking part in the social media sphere. Should you choose to engage yourself in social media communications, you’ll need more than just savvy with the platforms. You’ll also need to know how to build, engage, and grow a community around a brand.

Marketing Communications: Communicating to consumers is the chief function of a marketing communications professional, so it’s important to know how to best convey the brand itself, value propositions, and other important information through a variety of media channels to drive sales. You’ll use a blend of marketing, advertising, and public relations to get your message across.

These are just a few fields one could go in with a communications degree, so feel free to explore them and more to find the one that’s best for you. But no matter which field you choose, it’s important that you have the right skills to get the job done. Every communications professional who wants to succeed must have:

Having all of these skills will give you a competitive edge when it comes time to enter the professional world.

So, in the meantime, if you’re not quite sure of where you want to land when you hit the ground running, continue to develop these valuable skills. No matter where you end up, they’ll undoubtedly make you a valuable asset to any organization.

 About Mandy Boyle: Mandy Boyle is a graduate student and freshly-minted communications professional. As a Search Engine Optimization Specialist for Solid Cactus and published freelance writer, Mandy is no stranger to compelling storytelling. When she’s not at her laptop or in the classroom, you can usually find her in the kitchen. Cupcakes are her specialty. Follow Mandy on Twitter at @mandyboyle or visit her website (

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