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What Are the Different Types of Communications Degree Programs?

By Bobby R. Goldsmith
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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At the college and university level, there are several types of communications degree programs that are available to students seeking an associate's, bachelor's, or master's degree. Generally, doctoral degrees with a specific communications focus are not available, as PhDs in communications tend to revolve around teaching in the communications field rather than directly working within the field. The types of communications degree programs include journalism, public relations, mass media study, broadcast television and radio, theory, and technical communication. The coursework required varies by institution, but, within the United States, most are similar.

Community college communications degree programs include basic print and broadcast journalism, though introductory courses on mass media communications may be offered as well. Generally, coursework will involve practical application of the subject being taught in each class, usually a student newspaper, magazine, radio or television show, the latter two generally being closed circuit stations available only to students and faculty of the college. Other community college programs may offer communications degree programs in public relations and technical writing. The degree programs at a community college often culminate in an associate's degree in communications, with an option to transfer to a four-year college or university upon completion of the program.

In an undergraduate university, the communications degree programs also involve coursework and practical application in the form of a student newspaper, magazine, radio show, or television program. Unlike a similar program at a community college, a radio show or television program at the university level is not usually closed circuit, meaning that the broadcast is available to the communities in closest proximity to the school. A communications degree program at the university level will offer a breadth of theory related courses that investigate the relationship between mass communication and culture and how that relationship affects a particular society. Ethics and law and policy courses for journalists and broadcast programmers are also offered.

For post-graduate students, communications degree programs become much more narrowly focused, requiring the student to select one or two related aspects of mass media, broadcast communications, or journalism to study. The coursework will require the student to complete about 30 credit hours in the selected area as well as the completion of a thesis project that thoroughly discusses one aspect of the student's area of concentration in great detail. Some universities also require communications students seeking master's degrees to successfully pass a comprehensive examination that may last several hours spread over a couple of days.

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