What Is a Mass Communications Degree? (And Other Common Questions)

Mass Communications student in class

Mass communications refers to the dissemination of information to a broad audience. It’s an incredibly versatile field. This makes it an ideal option for students who aren’t quite sure which career they want to pursue after graduation. A mass communications degree can lay the groundwork to pursue a career in any sector: public, private or nonprofit. In addition, graduates may choose from a variety of subfields in mass communications, such as broadcasting or publishing.

What Exactly Is Mass Communications?

Mass communications is the distribution of information to a large volume of people. Today, mass communications is at the heart of print journalism, radio and TV broadcasting, publishing, blogging, social media posting, podcasting and similar media. Although most of these are modern inventions, mass communications actually has ancient roots. Over time, the discipline of mass communications has been greatly refined. Today, communications professionals rely on modern technology to spread information and ideas.

What Are the Main Functions of Mass Communications?

The field of mass communications has multiple functions. As technology has evolved during the past decades, the way in which people consume media has also changed. This has created new functions and new ways of interacting with information.

  • Surveillance: The first traditional function of mass communications is surveillance. That is, newspapers, TV and websites allow people to surveil the world around them by exploring the latest events—whether in their hometown or on the other side of the globe.
  • Correlation: The correlation function acknowledges that, although facts may be objectively verified, the way in which information is presented is often not entirely without preconceived biases. These biases are often evident through acts of omission—or the information that a news outlet or medium chooses not to report on.
  • Transmission: The transmission function refers to the use of mass media to establish social norms and values. Norms, values, habits and trends are subject to change over time. As an example, consider reading an edition of a local newspaper in your town from the 1950s. You’re likely to find community announcements such as, “Mrs. Jones visited her daughter in Stony Brook yesterday.” You’d be hard-pressed to find announcements such as these in modern newspapers. Instead, people turn to social media for gossip.
  • Entertainment: Another function of mass communications is entertainment. Some outlets exist solely for entertainment, such as celebrity gossip websites. Others offer limited entertainment, such as the culture page of a newspaper’s Sunday edition.

What Are the Major Ethical Issues in Mass Communications?

The ability to communicate to an incredibly large number of people simultaneously brings with it certain ethical dilemmas and moral questions. Is it the responsibility of the communicator to verify that information is true before releasing it? How can information recipients sort truth from falsehoods, fact from opinion? Students majoring in mass communications can expect to discuss ethical issues, such as these, in class.

Beyond fact verification, mass communications presents other ethical challenges, such as those involving diversity. A lower degree of diversity, both in entertainment media and news reporting, can arguably cause the mass communications field to suffer from a lack of broad perspective. There is also a greater likelihood of the perpetuation of racial stereotypes in both entertainment media and news reporting when diverse voices are not heard.

What Topics Does a Mass Communications Degree Cover?

Undergraduate students can typically choose from multiple types of mass communications degree options. For example, you might choose to major in advertising and public relations, journalism, graphic design or video production. All of these disciplines can be part of the mass communications field.

Often, however, students interested in this field might enroll in a Bachelor of Arts in Communications with an Emphasis in Broadcasting and New Media degree program. This type of degree will focus on new media—any interactive medium that is dependent on computers—as well as broadcasting and journalism. The curriculum can vary from one school to the next. In general, however, you might expect to study the following topics:

  • Ethical issues in communications
  • Intercultural communications
  • Digital video production
  • Media theory
  • Argumentation and advocacy fundamentals

What Can You Do With a Mass Communications Degree?

With a mass communications degree, you will be prepared to pursue a wide range of exciting careers across different industries. Since this degree program teaches a wealth of transferrable skills, you’ll likely be an attractive job applicant to various organizations. Some possibilities include the following:

Advertising/marketing

  • Graphic design specialist
  • Copywriter
  • Public relations specialist
  • Publicity director
  • Advertising account manager

Journalism

  • Reporter
  • Editor
  • Columnist
  • Photojournalist
  • Proofreader
  • Assignment editor

Broadcasting and production

  • Broadcast journalist
  • Anchor
  • News director
  • Producer
  • Production manager
  • Station manager
  • Scriptwriter or Video graphics artist

Publishing

  • Author
  • Acquisitions editor
  • Developmental editor
  • Literary agent

These are just a few of the possible career paths you might pursue. There are also opportunities within the greater corporate world for people with excellent communication skills. For example, you might consider becoming an account coordinator or customer service manager.

Some students use a mass communications degree as a springboard to pursue careers that require additional credentials. For instance, you might go on to law school or pursue a teaching certificate.

Grand Canyon University invites students to explore our extensive array of bachelor’s degree options. In addition to the Bachelor of Arts in Communications degree, we offer numerous specialization options. Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to learn more about joining our Christian learning community.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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