A key element in any business is communication. Communication has to happen between teams, between leaders and the rest of staff, between customers, between stakeholders, the media, and many, many more. Without proper lines of communication on all those levels, a business will struggle to thrive or even survive, because it is impossible to reach goals without proper communication. The result would be chaos because customer requirements will not likely be fulfilled because workers are not fully aware of them, corporate goals will not be reached because employees do not know them, customers are not made aware of the actual capabilities of the company so that they have unwarranted expectations, and more.
What is Communications?
But business communication is about more than that as well. It is also about sharing information, which, in part, is about transparency and openness across the board, and also about protecting sensitive and sometimes, regulated, information. For instance, during new product development, it is vital that only the right people are aware of what is being done. If the competition would find out about the development, for instance, they would be able to respond much more quickly and possibly compromise the chances of the new product.
Last but not least, business communications is about advertising. Talking to customers, encouraging them to buy products or services, discussing customer service, and so on, is all part of this. It is of the utmost importance that this is done properly, as it helps to build trust and brand recognition.
With all these elements, it quickly becomes clear why there is a great need for professionals in the field of business communication. They are charged with making decisions in terms of what can be communicated and how. They also monitor regulatory compliance in terms of information sharing and data protection. Unsurprisingly, they are also often highly educated.
There is quite a strong demand for business communications specialists in the market today. Unfortunately, there is some difficulty in finding out exactly how big the demand is due to the fact that the field is so broad. Various reports are available, therefore. For instance:
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported that demand for communication and media occupations will grow by around 4% from 2014 to 2024, which is slower than the national average. This translates to around 27,400 additional jobs. The BLS has also reported that the average annual salary for these professionals was $53,530 as of May 2015.
- Mohsen Hamoudia wrote a report, Forecasting the Demand for Business Communications Services, in which he highlighted how vital it is to forecast demand for business communications experts, but how difficult it is at the same time.
Because the field of business communications is so wide, the number of possible careers is equally broad. Some key roles that seem to be particularly popular, and their associated salaries according to Payscale.com, are:
- Marketing Manager, with average annual earnings of $77,152
- Director of Communications, with average annual earnings of $59,000
- Communications Director, with average annual earnings of $59,749
- Communications Specialist, with average annual earnings of $66,000
There are numerous factors that influence how much someone in the field of business communications can earn. While their job title is one such factor, others include years of experience, their level of education, which company they work for, and where in the country they work. Payscale.com has reported on average salaries by city:
- Los Angeles, CA, with average annual earnings of 82,500
- Atlanta, GA, with average annual earnings of $66,000
- Washington, DC, with average annual earnings of $59,500
They have also reported on average salaries by state or province, reporting salaries for the following states:
- Colorado, with average annual earnings of $104,750
- Massachusetts, with average annual earnings of $95,000
- California, with average annual earnings of $66,000
- Ohio, with average annual earnings of $62,000
- District of Columbia, with average annual earnings of $59,500
- Texas, with average annual earnings of $58,250
- Pennsylvania, with average annual earnings of $42,812
Clearly, geography has a strong impact on possible earnings for a business communications specialist. However, this is in part due to the fact that the cost of living in different geographical areas also varies, and higher salaries usually compensate for higher costs of living. A much better indicator, therefore, is the company that people work for. Indeed.com has reported on average annual earnings for certain companies and organizations, such as the:
- US General Services Administration, with average annual earnings of $101,211
- US Government, with average annual earnings of $91,616
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with average annual earnings of $91,935
- US Department of Commerce, with average annual earnings of $88,365
- US Department of State, with average annual earnings of $82,429
- US Department of Transportation, with average annual earnings of $73,229
- King County, with average annual earnings of $85,114
- US Department of Veterans Affairs, with average annual earnings of $72,147
- University of California, with average annual earnings of $69,979
- Blue Cross Blue Shield, with average annual earnings of $67,529
The key to obtaining an interesting and lucrative career in business communication is to have education. This starts with a bachelor’s degree, whereby you will learn the basics and fundamentals of business communication and all that it entails. There are numerous universities where you can now study towards a bachelor’s degree in communications, which is a bachelor of arts. Many schools, including Arizona State University, now offer this degree online. Their Business Communication BA includes courses in areas such as:
- Uses of Accounting Information
- Computer Applications and Information Technology
- Fundamentals of Finance
- Organization and Management Leadership
- Principles of International Business
- Global Supply Operations
Besides these core courses, students also have to choose a number of electives so that their degree becomes targeted at the area that they are most interested in themselves.
To really further your career, however, it is recommended to complete a master’s degree. Indeed, the aforementioned salaries as listed by Payscale.com are all salaries for those who hold a master’s degree. One such degree is the MA in Business Communications offered by Rider University. This degree helps to prepare professionals to advance and support strategy within organizations to improve leadership and communication excellence. Furthermore, they offer two possible tracts, which are the online health communication program and the on-campus business communication studies. During the program, students are equipped with an in-depth understanding of how organizational goals can be achieved through proper communication.
All schools are able to set the admission requirements as they see fit. However, they are usually pretty similar across the board, as they indicate to a university that prospective students have the capacity to grasp the content of the course. For the Rider University MA in Business Communications, the admission criteria are:
- Statement of aims
- Official transcripts
- GMAT scores
- Evidence of English proficiency for non-native English speakers
- Bachelor’s degree
- Letters of recommendation
Just as schools can set their own admission criteria, they can also set their own curriculum. It is for this reason that you must choose a school that is properly accredited. Accreditation means that the program meets or exceeds certain minimum standards expected of someone who completes the degree. The MA in Business Communications offered by Rider University is AACSB accredited, which is the gold standard in accreditation. This means that, upon graduation, you will have a degree that is recognized not just all across this country, but even abroad. Their core curriculum includes:
- Corporate & Persuasive Discourse
- Legal & Ethical Issues for Professional Communicators
- Business Presentation Strategies
- Strategic Business Writing
- Visual Communication
- Information Gathering & Analysis
- Communicating in Multicultural Workplaces
- Communication in a Global Market
- Effective Group Communication
- Communication and Organization Culture
- Business Foundation
- Fundamentals of Accounting
- Economic Analysis
- Project Management
- Electronic Commerce
Unfortunately, completing an education, particularly up to the master’s degree level, requires a significant investment of both money and time. However, assistance exists for both. Most schools now offer online courses, so that you can study at a time, place, and pace that is convenient for you. More importantly, most schools also offer some degree of financial assistance, which can be accessed through the university’s bursar’s office. There are also numerous external scholarships and grants that you can apply for, however. Some of these include the:
- NDS / DMI Education & Communication Scholarship, which is available to those looking at a career in communication. Five awards of $1,500 are made available each year.
- Dale Runnion Scholarship, which Alpha Gamma Rho members can apply for if they wish to study towards communication. One award of $250 is available.
- Feldman Fellowship, which is available for graduate students in the field of communication. One award of $5,000 is made available each year.
- Press Club of Dallas Foundation Scholarship Fund, which is available for those in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Three awards of $5,000 each are made available.
- Robin M. Urbanski Memorial Scholarship, which is made available to those who are interested in the field of public relations. One award of $1,000 is available.
- Altschul Champions for PRSSA Outstanding Internship Award, which is a $300 award for those who are members of the PRSSA.
- “Search to Learn” Scholarship, which is available to students who currently have a .edu email address. One award of $1,000 is made available.
- Gary Yoshimura Scholarship, which is made available to Public Relations Society of America members. One award of $2,400 is up for grabs each year.
- Lunday Scholarship, which is available for students at graduate level at Minot State University. Two awards of $2,000 are available.
- American Advertising Federation-New Mexico (AAF-NM) Scholarship, which is available for college juniors in New Mexico. Two awards of $2,000 are open for application.
Generally speaking, there is no legal requirement for business communication specialists to be certified or licensed in any area. However, holding licenses and certifications can be very beneficial to further your career, as it demonstrates that you are committed to improving your career and making sure that your skills and knowledge are always up to date. You do have to be aware of the fact that pursuing such certifications can be a costly endeavor. Preparation can take as much as six months, and the exam usually has high costs attached to it. Furthermore, you will need to maintain your certification through continuous education credits. That said, most would agree that you will see a fantastic return on investment.
Some of the certifications you may want to consider as a business communication professional include:
- Communication Management Professional
- Business Writing and Communication Certificate
- Professional Certificate in Business Communication
Becoming a member of professional associations or organizations is an excellent career move, and something that you should consider as soon as you start your studies, even at bachelor’s degree level. As you have seen above, being a member of certain professional organizations may make you eligible for scholarships and grants to help fund your further education. More importantly, however, it ensures that you are always at the forefront of new developments in your field, that you have tremendous networking opportunities, and that you can find information about continuous education credits if applicable to your personal certifications and licenses. Some of the professional organizations that focus on business communication that you may wish to consider membership of are the:
- International Association of Business Communicators
- Association for Business Communication
- National Communication Organization
- American Communication Association
- Occupational Outlook Handbook – Media and Communication Occupations. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/home.htm
- Hamoudia, Mohsen. Forecasting the Demand for Business Communications Services. (2013, Oct. 8). Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-1-4614-7993-2_8
- Master of Arts (MA), Communication Degree Average Salary. (2017, Apr. 1). Retrieved from http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Master_of_Arts_(MA)%2C_Communication/Salary
- Communication Specialist Salaries in the United States. (2017, Apr. 8). Retrieved from https://www.indeed.com/salaries/Communication-Specialist-Salaries
- Business – Communication (BA). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://asuonline.asu.edu/online-degree-programs/undergraduate/bachelor-arts-business-concentration-communication
- Master of Arts in Business Communication. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rider.edu/academics/colleges-schools/college-liberal-arts-education-science/liberal-arts-programs/buscom
- Communication Professional Certifications. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iabc.com/professional-development/certification/