Tuesday, June 5, 2018

How to Choose a Communications Field

Hello, beautiful! Fun fact, but with graduation just 12 months away, I decided to change my concentration from Advertising back to the field I originally started in: Communications Studies.

At Boston University (my soon-to-be alma mater!), the Communications degree allows for a general emphasis in Communications Studies, or a specialty in either Advertising or Public Relations. To me, choosing Advertising had to do with what courses I wanted to take, and the focus on creative development and copywriting that this field had over any other.

Since I want to work in nonprofit communications during my gap year before law school, Advertising seemed like the perfect combination of satisfaction with my undergraduate coursework and adequate career preparation for post-grad life. However, in the end, my background in digital marketing led me back to Communications Studies - leaving me frustrated with the amount of soul-searching I had to do only to end up following my original intended career path!

I felt inspired to write this post comparing different concentrations in Communications Studies to help other struggling undergrads understand the difference between the various communications fields. Whether you're deciding what to focus on in graduate school or what kind of jobs to apply to after college, you should think carefully about what aspect of communicating resonates most with you: as in, you and you alone!

Trying to decide what field of communications to specialize in is one of the most critical moments for any communications major - which is why I'm here to give you the advice I wish I'd known when making my decision. So, read on to learn more about each subspecialty of communications and what it has to offer an undergrad in your position!

Communications Studies

If you love to communicate, then a basic communications degree is the perfect place to start! But with so many specializations - and even more specific subspecialties - it can be difficult to decide what area of communications is right for you. In fact, you might find yourself wanting to take a little bit of everything...which is the perfect reason to pursue a generalized Communications Studies degree like I did!

But wait, Haley: isn't it better to specialize in one thing than be a jack-of-all-trades? While it's true that some communications careers are going to be looking for you to delve deeply into a specific area of COM, others are looking for someone who's more of a generalist - aka someone who knows a little bit about everything. 

Not only does this give you serious job mobility and make you a marketable candidate to employers, but it also lends you the option of changing careers later in life. In other words, if you take a marketing job and decide you hate it, you can always take that Communications Studies degree and apply what you've learned to advertising, PR or journalism instead! 

Careers in Communications Studies

  • Director of Communications (avg. salary of $89,529)
  • Recruiter (avg. salary of $53,896)
  • Human Resources (avg. salary of $54,584)
  • Content Specialist (avg. salary of $66,609)
  • Public Relations Specialist (avg. salary of $50,107)
  • Digital Marketing Analyst (avg. salary of $54,089)
  • Strategic Planning Analyst (avg. salary of $56,620)
  • Web Developer (avg. salary of $59,413)
  • Attorney (avg. salary $91,873)
  • ...plus any career in any other field of communication!

Public Relations

So you started out in communications and realized that what you're really passionate about is helping brand companies and manage crises. What then? Well, that's a great indication that the career you're looking for can be found in a PR concentration! 

Since the early industrial age, Public Relations professionals have traditionally acted as the middleman between clients and the media. Today, their job description encompasses everything from collecting clips and writing press releases, to designing flyers and posting on social media. 

Granted, working in Public Relations is not for the faint of heart. You might be asked to handle big corporate crises, plan important events or just, you know, control an entire brand's reputation. Thus, anyone who wants to pursue a career in PR needs to be comfortable handling these responsibilities - and more! Still, PR can be an extremely rewarding career for people looking to make a difference in the lives of consumers, lobby for big changes in the government or solicit donations for a reputable nonprofit.

Careers in Public Relations

  • Public Relations Specialist (avg. salary $59,300)
  • Junior Publicist (avg. salary $49,432)
  • Junior Account Executive (avg. salary $48,389)
  • Brand Strategist (avg. salary $53,516)
  • Social Media Coordinator (avg. salary of $49,395)
  • Campaign Manager (avg. salary of $62,134)
  • Lobbyist (avg. salary of $59,300)


Ah, my old major...funny what happens when we just follow our instincts, isn't it? But that isn't to say Advertising isn't a rewarding field - au contraire

As an advertiser, you have the option of making a difference by helping companies get their message across to consumers, producing PSAs for well-known charities or even spreading awareness for important political campaigns. At first glance, advertising might seem like it's all about fame and fortune - but it's actually a degree that can be used in a multitude of ways to have a major impact on the world around you.

If you're thinking of pursuing a career in advertising, you should know how difficult it can be to get ahead. Even today, advertising is still a male-dominated field - just think of how hard Peggy had to work in Mad Men - and can foster a dog-eat-dog company culture. Still, that isn't to say that these stereotypes are necessarily the norm, or even common. I'm just saying that as in any career, you should be prepared for big challenges headed your way! 

Careers in Advertising

  • Copywriter (avg. salary $70,864)
  • Junior Art Director (avg. salary $51,980)
  • Junior Account Manager (avg. salary $50,186)
  • Media Planner (avg. salary $55,179)
  • Assistant Media Buyer (avg. salary $39,030)
  • Account Coordinator (avg. salary $44,654)
  • Marketing Coordinator (avg. salary $47,976)
  • Marketing Research Analyst (avg. salary $60,429)

What area of communications interests you most? LMK in the comments below or @haleymarieblog on social media!