3 answers

communications major vs. a journalism major?

although i'm not set on anything yet, i've been considering pursuing journalism as a major. however, would a communications degree be more "useful" than a journalism degree since it's more broad?
what is taught in for communications majors? what jobs could one get with a communications degree?
#communication #journalism

3 answers

Kathleen’s Answer

Updated Atlanta, Georgia

Hi Susan,

From my own background, I’d suggest that a mix of both — communications and journalism — can be helpful for a career. Learning about the core curricula available can also tell you a lot about any institution’s program. In my case, I took extra courses when I saw they were available but maybe not part of my directed core studies.

Key to both communications AND journalism is having a good command of the basics: spelling, grammar, writing, research skills, an intellectual curiosity to ask questions when you want (or need) to learn more about a topic that is new to you. All of these things you can start doing now — and hopefully you’ve been doing several of them (spelling, grammar, sentence construction) since grade school.

I’ve told students on this platform before that the basics cannot be underestimated. Having a good command of those allows you the ability to learn new things you can master. You don’t want to be in college or working in a newsroom or writing a press release and still have spelling errors, poor writing skills, or an ineffective command of actual facts.

That said, it’s also helpful to be focused on what you want to do. It will enable you to identify opportunities, activities (even in school), and paths that can offer you valuable experience. For example, if you want to be a journalist, get involved in your school newspaper. Or get involved with a public relations or marketing club.

When I was in grade school and high school, I loved working on reports - gathering information, doing the research and conveying what I found. As I’ve progressed in my own career I’ve realized that I am still doing that today. In college, I got involved with the campus radio station, SGA, and other projects. I also got an internship to learn more about jobs in TV media. Don’t underestimate the value of every step you take in life to prepare you for your future! I’ve even marveled that my time working as a bank teller on summers and holiday breaks in college taught me very valuable skills in customer service that I’m still using today.

Do you like to design, too? Utilize available programs at school - now and college - to gain experience on Adobe platforms. More and more roles are asking for these skills today. They are valuable in communications jobs and journalism.

My experience is that if you work hard hard, you will find that obtaining valuable skills, knowledge and experience can be valuable to careers in communications and journalism. I know journalists that moved in to communications jobs. Key is how you’ve prepared yourself for those roles.

I have a B.A. in Communications (PR) with a minor in Journalism. I’ve worked in TV News, Radio, written and researched a book and numerous articles for international B2B magazines, and more. I’ve also written press releases, ghostwritten quotes and full length Op-Ed articles. I’ve obtained added success with Facebook Ad campaigns and Google Ads strategy, plus social media. My lifelong passion for photography and history has also served me well.

What I’ve learned in my career is you never stop learning. Technologies change and there will always be new methods and tools for doing things. The key is to keep learning, be relevant and always be curious to know more.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I doing all I can now to gain skills and knowledge that will benefit me no matter which path I choose?
  • Are there university programs that offer coursework in both areas? What sort of research do I need to do to make sure that I’m fully informed of my options?
  • Can I get exposure to certain professions now to help me see what people actually do in these jobs — sitting with a school career counselor can be helpful for this. Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking adults who have interesting careers about what they do and how they got there. Would they do anything different?
  • How will all of this information I’ve gathered now help me plan my future and what I want to do?

Kathleen recommends the following next steps:

  • Do your research! Look at the questions I provided above as a start. Assess your options and identify areas where you can take some action now.
  • Make sure you have a good command of the basics!!! If you still need improvement, seek help and get those skills up to speed.
  • Make a commitment to yourself to never stop learning — being adaptable is part of that equation and can serve you well no matter what you decide to do.

Katie’s Answer

Updated Atlanta, Georgia

Hi Susan,

Either way you'll need to go to graduate school. I know someone who got a bachelor's degree in communications during the 1990's. After graduation she got a job offer from CNN but they offered her $12,000 a year and so she had to turn it down. My cousin has a bachelor's degree in journalism. After graduation he got a job at Reuters in the customer service department. Years later he's still in the same job. There is a woman who got a bachelor's degree in literature. About six months after graduation she got a job as a personal assistant at The Atlantic.

While you're in college take internships at well known reputable media outlets. Avoid those that have a strong political bias, or cover celebrity gossip, because they will limit your future options. Someday you may want to cover the global economy or national politics, and they won't hire you if your resume makes you look like a wacko celebrity/politician stalker.

After you become a reporter, don't be surprised if you accidentally stumble into a romantic relationship with someone who works in the political realm, such as a high ranking senior naval officer. They need a trusted friend who they can confide in who is a journalist at a major media outlet. They use dating as a sort of secret "back door" to get into a space where they normally can't go. Reporters think that they're getting the same thing - secret back door access to a world where journalists are not allowed. Trust me, it's a one-way relationship. He's using you. And he's probably married.

It's good to have platonic relationships with trusted sources, but don't fall for the romance stuff because it's a dead end. He doesn't want his coworkers to find out that he's dating a reporter and so your relationship will always be a secret, and he's probably married anyway.

They say that reporters are at risk for getting injured in the war zones that they cover, which is true, but you're a million times more likely to get your heart broken by someone famous who says that he loves you. I've heard of only one exception, which was when Jackie Bouvier, a reporter, met congressman John F. Kennedy at a dinner party. During that time period, and for that particular generation, Jackie was an excellent candidate for the role of a politician's wife. She was a champion equestrian, she grew up at an elitist boarding school, she spoke perfect French and was well traveled, she was college educated, fashionable, and articulate.

Be careful out there. Don't get hurt.

Katie recommends the following next steps:

  • While you're in college take internships at well known media outlets. Avoid those that have a strong political bias or put too much emphasis on celebrity gossip.
  • Research the media outlets and decide which ones you want to work for.
  • Go to graduate school!

Mr. Ernst’s Answer

Updated Newark, New Jersey

Susan F,

A degree in Journalism is a world of its own as far as broadcasting, magazine, and media coverage (reporting). A degree in Communications deals with the exchange of information orally, written and marketing wise (advertising). A data entry job would prefer someone with a Comm degree over a journalism degree. The two degrees are interchangeable. In today's economy many students with degrees in Comm suffer the most and barely find any jobs in their fields of study. Journalism has more leeway because of blogs, vlogs and podcasting. You can find jobs in E-Commerce with a degree in Communications. Also look into lingusitics and grammarian as well oratory positions. If I may add this, the best way to move up in the world is networking and volunteering. I wish you the best on your journey.