Mass communications, also referred to as mass media, is one of the most versatile four-year degrees in higher education.

Career opportunities in the field of mass communications include exciting jobs in public relations, journalism and international reporting, to name just a few doors open to you. Society depends on mass media specialists to convey honest, timely and relevant information. As a professional communicator, you will play an important role in helping people stay informed.

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Mass media course duration varies depending on the type of job desired. Typically, a four-year bachelor’s degree is required to work professionally in mass communications, but you can find skilled jobs with a certificate or two-year associate degree.

Jump-Start Your Career

If you are eager to work in mass communications and think you have special talent, you may land a related job with a postsecondary certificate that can be completed in less than two years. For example, the 31-credit certificate in mass media offered at schools like Rock Valley College prepares students to work as production assistants, sound engineers, video technicians and public announcers. Vocational training is ideal for students who prefer hands-on learning to daily lectures.

In the digital age, mass communication specialists must be proficient in the use of technology. Emphasis is placed on honing skills through working with modern equipment in state-of-the-art production studios. Popular certificate courses include classes like multimedia writing, public relations and video editing.

Pursue an Associate Degree

Earning an associate degree with a concentration in mass media generally involves two years of college instruction. With an Associate of Art or an Associate of Applied Science degree, you have the option of pursuing an entry-level job or applying eligible credits toward a four-year degree. Along with technical courses, your degree will include general education electives such as English composition, psychology, sociology and public speaking.

Two-year degrees prepare students to succeed in the job market. For instance, enrolling in an Associate of Arts degree in multimedia includes training in animation, Photoshop, web design and video production. Such skills are needed in many industries. Students work independently and in teams to develop a portfolio of their work to show prospective employers. After completing an associate degree, you could find employment as a special effects animator, video game developer, DJ/sound mixer or film editor.

Open Doors With a Bachelor’s Degree

Most jobs in mass communications require a four-year degree. A mass communications degree can help you achieve your dream of being a news anchor, investigative reporter or radio personality. Mass communications is also a good choice for students who see themselves working in advertising, marketing or public relations for a major corporation or nonprofit agency.

The mass media course duration is designed to be completed by most students in four years or less. Accelerated degree programs can be completed in three years by taking a heavy course load each semester and enrolling in summer classes.

However, some students take up to six years to finish an undergraduate college degree in mass communications. Students who are employed may find it difficult to attend school full time, keep up their grades, participate in college activities and complete an internship while holding down a job. Students in private schools who are receiving scholarships are more likely to finish in four years or less.

Courses in Mass Communications

Studying for a four-year degree will introduce you to communication theories and types of media channels. Your first two years will include courses in your major as well as required general education courses in arts, culture, social behavior and human diversity. Liberal education classes will broaden your perspective and deepen your appreciation of the media’s role in informing, influencing and persuading the public. Courses in media ethics are included to stress the importance of objective reporting. Other core subjects include media law and media analysis.

English composition is another subject required for mass communications and mass media students. Students must master basic grammar and punctuation before attempting to write ad copy, news releases or public service announcements. Classes in broadcast journalism will teach you how to articulate your words and project confidence in front of a camera.

In the course of your studies, you may discover a passion for a particular aspect of mass media that you hadn't considered before, such as screenwriting, film making or blogging. Many schools encourage or require an internship or a practicum to gain real-world experience in an area where students hope to secure employment after graduation. Many employers look for job applicants who are familiar with emerging technologies and social media platforms.

Consider a Double Major

If you already know your niche in the mass communications field, you may want to contemplate a double major. With help from your academic adviser, you can stay on track to graduate in four years. A dual major can offer a competitive edge in the job market. Majoring in different but complementary disciplines gives you a unique set of skills that other applicants may lack.

Examples of Dual Majors:

  • If you are passionate about becoming an environmental journalist, you may want to double major in mass communications and natural resources.

  • A double major in mass communications and business can help you acquire a job in marketing, advertising, public relations or strategic communications.

  • A double major in mass communications and film studies could launch your career as a movie critic.

  • If you are thinking about a career in international journalism, a major in mass media and political science would sharpen your understanding of global conflicts. 

Explore Mass Communication Colleges

Many fully accredited colleges across the country offer associate and bachelor’s degrees in mass communications. Two-year programs tend to be highly specialized, with a vocational focus that aligns with local workforce needs. Four-year programs often offer tracks that allow students to concentrate their studies in areas such as broadcasting, journalism, photojournalism, global communications, telecommunications, advertising communications and public relations. When researching colleges, inquire about opportunities to work for the campus radio station or college newspaper to gain experience.

Accelerated online programs can be found that accommodate busy working adults who want a flexible schedule and a fast track to degree completion. If you are interested in online education, choose a school that offers supervision and feedback as you work on assignments such as graphic design, music videos and short films.

Immerse Yourself in Graduate Studies

If you are looking to become an expert in mass communications, you may be wondering how long it takes to get a master’s degree in mass media. No doubt you and your parents also want to know what you could do with a master’s degree after spending all that time and money on an education.

Earning a master’s degree in mass media typically entails two years of graduate school. After passing required courses, taking oral examinations and writing a thesis, you can seek community college teaching jobs or hold a leadership position in an organization focused on digital marketing, health communications, international relations or political correspondence, for instance.

A Doctor of Philosophy is needed for most university teaching positions. In addition to classroom and advising responsibilities, professors conduct research studies, publish findings in professional journals and act as media consultants. Students seeking a doctorate take courses in quantitative and qualitative research techniques and embark on research studies. The length of Ph.D. programs vary. Generally, students take doctoral classes for three years after finishing their master's degree and spend another year writing a mass communications dissertation.

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About the Author

Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of students whose job includes student conduct, leading the behavioral consultation team, crisis response, retention and the working with the veterans resource center. She enjoys helping parents and students solve problems through advising, teaching and writing online articles that appear on many sites. Dr. Dowd also contributes to scholarly books and journal articles.