How many times have you gotten tripped up by a poorly worded assignment or exam question? How many times have you run into problems because people weren’t on the same page or didn’t understand something? And on the flip side, think about the things you like most: your closest relationships are probably with people you understand well and vice versa. Your favorite book, movie, or game is often your favorite because of what meaning it gets across to you. It’s all communication. Being able to communicate well is one of the most important skills that humans need—both at work and outside of it.
Good communication skills allow us to share information with others, form lasting and meaningful relationships, and be active and engaged global citizens. It’s no surprise that communications classes—and communications majors—are popular among college students. In fact, it’s one of the top ten most popular areas of study, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, with 5% of students earning communications, journalism, and related degrees during the 2019-20 academic year.
“Communication skills are vital to every organization’s success, so companies in every industry recruit communication graduates,” explains Muse career coach Kristine Knutter, who has a lot of experience coaching clients with communications degrees in addition to working in communications herself. “With new ways to share information and convey ideas in the digital era, communication graduates who possess these skills are more vital than ever.”
As a communications grad, you have plenty of career options before you. In this article, we outline 10 jobs you might excel at—as well as the transferable skills you have that will help you succeed.
What exactly is a communications degree?
Before we look at what types of jobs are best suited for communications majors, it might be helpful to define what a communications degree is. Many colleges offer communications degrees with a variety of possible concentrations—from media studies to public relations and strategic communications to publishing. Communications departments might offer classes in media and public relations, social media, broadcast writing, digital marketing, advertising, journalism, and video storytelling.
“Students who choose a communications major learn about effective communication at an interpersonal and organizational level,” Knutter says. Typically, “Communications majors complete interdisciplinary coursework in the social sciences and humanities in subjects such as marketing, sociology, business, media studies, and journalism.”
Top skills communications graduates bring to the workplace
A communications major is well equipped to become a great asset to any organization in a wide range of roles and industries because of the skills and knowledge they gain and hone during their studies, including:
- Excellent verbal and writing skills: Communications graduates are able to make sense of challenging ideas and can write well on a variety of topics. “Time and time again employers request students and graduates who excel in written and verbal communication,” says Kerry Shackett, career advisor at Champlain College’s Division of Communication and Creative Media. They want employees who “can draft a strong email, have thoughtful discussion with colleagues and clients, think critically about issues, and propose creative solutions.” Because of the many writing assignments communications majors complete and the presentations they’ve likely given during the course of their studies, they’re ready to bring these communication skills they’ve honed to the workplace.
- Media literacy and marketing knowledge: Successful businesses rely on marketing to gain customers, engage with their current ones, and drive success. Many communication grads are well versed in marketing principles and can identify and analyze media trends because marketing and media studies classes are often included in their major. Whether they’re pursuing jobs directly under the marketing umbrella or roles in other departments, communications majors can draw on this basis of knowledge and experience studying shifting trends to thrive in their roles and build productive working relationships with their coworkers. “Communications grads are uniquely equipped to adapt with market changes,” Shackett says.
- Emotional intelligence: Employees and leaders need emotional intelligence in order to work effectively with their colleagues and inspire and motivate their teams. Communications grads typically have had to work with their peers on group projects and have had a chance to hone the kind of emotional intelligence that will be invaluable in a business setting.
- Organization, time management, and project management skills: As a communications major, you’ll frequently need to complete assignments small and large—some individually (such as writing a paper) and some in groups (such as working with your peers to complete a research project and give a joint presentation)—and juggle your various deadlines. The organization, time management, and project management skills you develop will help you no matter what career path you choose to pursue.
Armed with valuable skills, communication graduates are poised for successful and meaningful careers in a broad range of roles. Here are 10 jobs that might be a great fit for a communications graduate—along with salary information from PayScale.
Average salary: $44,151
Journalists are storytellers who share information. Journalists investigate events, interview sources, and collect and present noteworthy information for newspapers, magazines, websites, podcasts, television, and radio. The field of journalism is wide and includes video journalists and photojournalists who share content across video and visual platforms; data journalists who collect and analyze large data sets using code and other tools to drive their reporting; and more. Some may specialize in particular areas, such as news, arts and culture, sports, politics, education, economics, wellness, or human interest.
Journalists generally are curious about people, events, institutions, and systems, and communications majors often have experience studying the interplay among them. Journalists need to understand what a good story is, find the right sources to help them tell it, and be able to communicate effectively with those sources as well as with their target audience, so the verbal and written communication skills and emotional intelligence communication majors gained as students are crucial for the job.
If you’re interested in working as a journalist, try taking one or more journalism courses as part of your major, writing for a campus publication, or looking for a journalism internship.
2. Social media specialist
Average salary: $48,822
A social media specialist creates and manages accounts on digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok for organizations including startups, corporations, and nonprofits. They plan out creative campaigns and create copy, photos, graphics, videos, and more that share the story of an organization and promote its products and services to potential customers. Social media specialists work closely with other marketing and branding specialists and are also responsible for brainstorming strategies, monitoring posts and campaigns using various performance metrics, and responding to user comments and questions. You’ll rely heavily on your written communication skills, your media literacy, and any social media or broader marketing knowledge you may have gained in your classes.
If you’re looking to work as a social media specialist, try volunteering with a local nonprofit or asking a local business if they need help with their social media. You can also pursue social media or broader marketing internships to get your foot in the door.
3. Sales manager
Average salary: $65,804
Sales managers typically supervise a team of other sales professionals in a retail or office setting, setting goals for growth and helping their teams hit those goals. They might develop strategies to increase revenue, analyze data, and train new team members. In some cases, sales managers also continue to pitch and close deals themselves. So they have to feel comfortable representing the products and services they’re selling, understand potential customers’ needs, and be able to persuade prospects that these products and services can fulfill their needs.
When I worked for a website provider, I watched the sales team become the bridge between the technical builders and the users. Members of the sales team were able to explain the technical aspects of the website building process to the users in ways that were relatable and easy to understand, a skill many of them had learned as communications students.
If you’re interested in sales, start looking for sales training programs or internships. It helps if you’re passionate about the industry and the specific products or services you’d be selling.
4. Nonprofit program manager
Average salary: $56,392
A program manager develops and implements initiatives at a nonprofit organization. Because all nonprofit organizations have different missions—whether it’s to eliminate homelessness or to introduce children to the arts—program manager job descriptions vary. But they’re typically responsible for planning and implementing new programs and developing ways to make existing programs more successful. Their day-to-day tasks might include staffing a program, liaising with any volunteers to run the program, coordinating delivery and activities of the program, and evaluating the program’s success. Depending on the size and budget of the nonprofit, along with its mission, the program manager might be planning a nationwide education initiative or a small-scale community health awareness event.
Nonprofit professionals, including program managers, are champions of their organizations and tend to be passionate about the mission. They can draw on their written and verbal communication skills, emotional intelligence, and creative thinking, as well as their organizational and time and project management skills to help get programs off the ground and keep them running successfully.
To become a nonprofit program manager, start by looking for internships in the nonprofit sector.
5. Human resources (HR) manager
Average salary: $71,612
Human resources (HR) managers are responsible for hiring and onboarding staff, overseeing employee benefits (such as health insurance), handling employee complaints (including around discrimination or harassment), and resolving conflicts among colleagues. They’re also the stewards of organizational culture, supporting diversity and inclusion, creating training and professional development programs, and planning team building activities. HR managers are often juggling several tasks, projects, and questions at once. During the coronavirus pandemic, HR professionals helped organizations quickly adjust to a new work-from-home setup and may be overseeing the creation of longer-term remote and hybrid work models.
Due to the high volume of writing and interaction with employees across all teams and at all levels involved in any HR job, a communications major will be helpful. Additionally, HR professionals may deal with sensitive topics with their employees, such as employee mental health issues, and a communications major can draw on their emotional intelligence to support employees.
If you’re interested in working in HR, you could start as an HR intern and then move into an entry-level role before pursuing an HR manager job. You might also want to explore certification programs.
Average salary: $89,825
A professor teaches classes in their subject matter to graduate or undergraduate students on a college or university campus. They teach one or more classes a semester and are typically responsible for creating a syllabus for each one and putting together all course materials. Professors are experts in their chosen fields and have spent years researching and studying their topics—often a core part of the job in addition to teaching. Many have published papers in academic journals and/or written books. They might also advise students on their own research projects, papers, and academic careers.
A university is an exciting place filled with opportunities to work with students and research a subject you’re passionate about. To become a professor, you’ll need to have stellar written and verbal communications and to have extensively studied a particular subject, such as English literature, religion, philosophy, or art history. Professors typically have advanced degrees—most often a PhD—in the field they teach.
7. Event planner
Average salary: $53,325
From a large fundraising dinner to a fancy cocktail party to the opening night of a dazzling theater production, event planners are the behind-the-scenes folks who make sure events go off without a hitch. Event planners might book speakers, secure venues, arrange transportation, hire caterers, handle decorations, liaise with the press, create invitations, and manage vendors. Because of the many intricate details involved in event planning, planners must be highly organized and able to speak calmly and effectively with clients, colleagues, donors, vendors, attendees, and anyone else who has a stake in the event even in high-stress moments.
Communications majors have practice understanding different audiences and working collaboratively, so becoming an event planner could be a good fit. Event planners might run their own business; work for a large event planning company that specializes in putting on particular events for clients, such as weddings, conferences, or trade shows; or work in-house for organizations that put on their own events.
If you think you might be interested in pursuing event planning, try volunteering to help plan an event for a local organization or student group on campus to see if you have what it takes!
8. Customer service representative
Average salary: $41,865
Customer service representatives offer assistance to an organization’s customers over phone, email, text, or even video chat. Customer service representatives may answer questions, troubleshoot, help resolve complaints or confusion, and process returns. They also keep records—sometimes called tickets—of all customer interactions, transactions, comments, or complaints.
Customer service representatives talk to people all day so they must have stellar communication skills and understand how to stay calm in stressful situations. Due to the varied methods of communication in today’s digital world, a good customer service representative will need to communicate effectively across different mediums in real time and call upon the interpersonal and critical thinking skills they may have gained at school.
There are many entry-level openings for customer service jobs, but you can also hone your customer service skills working a part-time or summer retail job.
9. Public relations (PR) manager
Average salary: $74,197
Public relations (PR) managers create and maintain a positive public image of their employer or client by sharing select information with the media, preparing press releases and media kits, arranging for coverage and interviews, developing speeches for organization leaders, preparing corporate newsletters, and more. They also deal with any negative publicity and handle crisis communication.
Public relations professionals work closely with the media and need to tailor their media pitches to different types of audiences, skills they undoubtedly gained when learning about market research and completing writing assignments as communications majors. PR managers might work in-house for an organization (a tech startup, for example, or a major corporation) or work for a large PR firm that serves many different clients. They might be called upon to work in an industry that they aren’t familiar with (such as the time I was asked to write a press release for a nautical company), which means PR pros will need to keep their research skills sharp.
If you’re looking to start a career in PR, secure an internship to begin learning the ins and outs.
10. Editorial assistant
Average salary: $40,098
One of my first jobs was an editorial assistant for a teen magazine and it was a great introduction to an editorial career. An editorial assistant works to support the publishing of magazines, newspapers, books, and more. They provide assistance to editors and work closely with publishers, designers, writers, copyeditors, photographers, publicists, and others to ensure a beautiful, polished final product and a smooth launch. An editorial assistant might be asked to proofread content for spelling and grammar errors, fact-check, write publicity or social media copy, and take on various administrative tasks to support their editorial managers (such as maintaining correspondence with writers or answering phones).
Editorial assistants use their communication skills on a daily basis when reviewing text, interacting with various stakeholders, presenting ideas, and more. They also get to immerse themselves in the production of a meaningful piece of content and follow the impact it has on readers.
If you’re interested in working in publishing or journalism, becoming an editorial assistant is a great way to get started. Editorial assistant roles are typically considered entry-level jobs, though having an internship under your belt at the kind of organization you’re interested in working for (such as a book publisher, magazine, or online publication) can help.
Regina Borsellino also contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.