Career Directions in Speech Communication

Information on this page is taken from A Definitive Study of Your Future in the New World of Communications by John Zacharis and the Communication Career Resource File, published by Communication Resources. Both are available, among other career information, in the Department of Speech Communication main office.

You will see from the information presented here that whatever your profession, your communication skills are critical. Without these skills, you will not go far. Even if your direct role is not that of a communicator, you will be using communication skills in your everyday work--to make contact with people, to issue directions, to present ideas, to write letters, or to carry on all the day-to-day activities of your profession.

Place communication skills, therefore, at the center of your curriculum. By doing so, you will be able to relate all other subject areas to your skills, and visa-versa. Then you will be able to move out, from your core of communication skills, into many professional areas. Discuss your communication goals with your advisor. S/he will be able to help you tailor your curriculum to fit your career objectives.


(Advertising, Sales and Marketing, Public Relations, Personnel Relations). All of the occupations listed relate to each other. The skills and job experience of sales and marketing for example, will directly relate to advertising, and those experiences may provide a later career in public relations or management. Speech Communication can be viewed as the common factory which relates to all jobs. Seen in this way, each profession can be a stepping-stone to the next.

Advertising workers attempt to persuade potential customers to purchase a product or service, support an organization or event, and, in some cases, vote for a political candidate. An understanding of selling and communication (both written and oral) is essential. Businesses are turning to more sophisticated ways of surveying opinion. Whatever is discovered in the attitudes of the public may become the basis for redesigning or changing a product. Opinions surveyed from the public also become the basis for sales and advertising campaigns. Job descriptions may include: media directors, production managers, advertising managers, account executives, copyrighters, proofreaders, creative writers, salespersons, research directors. Your advisor may suggest courses outside the department such as: English, writing, psychology, sociology and a minor in business or advertising and public relations.

Public Relations.
Public relations is a key occupational area for persons trained in any or all aspects of communication. Organizations--whether they are industrial, educational, or governmental--require individuals who can communicate with the public. Normally, the function of the public relations worker is to present a favorable image of the organization. Information in the form of brochures, pamphlets, reports, speeches, articles and films is worked on by the public relations person. Consequently, very strong communication skills in speaking and writing are essential. Knowledge of the media is important. Courses suggested by your advisor outside the department may include writing, English, business, psychology, and sociology. A minor in public relations is available through the Park School of Communications. Job descriptions may include media specialists, writers, editors, account executives, speech writers, public relations managers and directors.

Sales, Marketing. and Marketing Research.
Salespersons work with the direct selling of goods and services to the public or another company. The salesperson is the company's representative; he or she describes the product or service, points out its advantages, compares it to others and talks about its price. In many situations, the customers have already purchased the product or service, in such cases, salespersons service or 'wait on' those persons. In other situations, the salesperson must stimulate a desire, or need, in the prospective customer for the product. Marketing and marketing research is closely related to sales. It is also related to advertising. The person hired in marketing may attempt to determine HOW a product can be sold and TO WHOM. This requires both research and field work. Some of the work includes: identifying markets and customers, contacting markets and customers, researching prospective customers needs and/or interests, planning sales presentations and strategies, implementing sales (such as arranging deliveries, etc.), record keeping, and more. An affable personality and a knack for salesmanship are essential.

In the booklet Have You Considered Sales? published by Catalyst, 14 E. 60th Street, New York, NY 10022, The Sales Executives Club of New York suggested the following areas of study as being important to persons in sales careers. They are ranked as follows: 1. English, 2. speech, 3. psychology, 4. marketing, 5. public relations, 6. economics, 7. advertising, 8. philosophy, 9. finance, 10. accounting, 11. personnel administration, and 12. business law.

Personnel Relations.
Personnel workers use communication skills and techniques extensively in recruiting, interviewing, testing and motivating employees. They sometimes deal with employee-management relations, including mediation, and they use communication in employee training. Communication skills may be used in face-to-face relationships, company newspapers or newsletters, home correspondence, posters and information systems, handbooks and work manuals, libraries, etc. Personnel workers are often required to have background in psychology and sociology besides communication skills in writing, speaking, and interpersonal communication. Personnel relations workers are involved in one or more of the following type jobs: hiring, employee training, psychological testing, wage determination, merit rating, union-management relations, employee motivation, benefits, counselling, safety and health. Courses suggested by your advisor outside the department may include sociology, psychology, business, economics, management, and English, among others.


A rapidly growing field is that of corporate communication, business communication, organizational communication, or management communication. Advertisements for this type of job description often include the term "generalists." This means that the person will perform several communication tasks within a business. S/he will set up channels, or ways of sending information within the company and outside. The business communicator may analyze how communication works to better the management of a company. S/he may be in charge of many public relations jobs: writing, speaking, and producing corporate communication materials. S/he may also evaluate the communication of the company to see how it may improve the company's image and/or profits. Jobs are frequently described as "public relations" but include broader communication responsibilities than many public relations positions. Positions exist with research and consulting firms, government, public relations firms, business associations, and some large volunteer agencies. Positions also exist at the training level - teaching others within a business, organization, government, law enforcement agency, etc., HOW TO communicate or HOW TO recognize communication problems. Your advisor may suggest courses outside the department in the areas of business, writing, English, psychology, management, sociology, corporate/organizational media, and a minor in advertising and public relations.


(journalism, writing, broadcasting sales, writing and management). This area encompasses a number of behind-the-scenes careers available to students of speech communication. The impact of the media in our society has broadened the field considerably.

Journalism and Writing
Persons who have prepared themselves in journalism or writing work not only for newspapers or magazines but for advertising agencies, public relations departments, government, broadcasting stations and all aspects of business. The journalist gathers information, interviews people, attends events, examines public records, and does considerable research in putting together news items and stories. Job descriptions include: reporter, feature writer, specialist writer, editor, critic, financial editor, editorialist, sports editor, movie critic, classified and advertising editor, foreign correspondent and travel reporter. Also consulting manager, copyreaders, production managers, sales managers and more. In the pamphlet, Education for a Journalism Career, the American Council on Education for Journalism states that the following are necessary for a good education in journalism: 1. A person must "know as much as possible about a wide variety of subjects." 2. A broad liberal education is essential. 3. Only one-fourth of one's education in a four-year institution should be in professional journalism. The rest of one's education ought to be in related and liberal arts science areas. 4. A person should have a "wide variety of extracurricular activities."

Broadcasting Sales, Writing, and Management.
Since a radio or television station depends on revenue from advertisers for its support, the sales department of the station is responsible for selling time to sponsors and/or advertising agencies. See "Sales and Marketing." The business manager should have knowledge of business practices, accounting procedures, management and labor relations. Similar careers exists in the fields of drama and film. Although the fields of broadcasting, production and programming are highly specialized and require specific training, many occupations exist for speech communication majors in radio and TV. Writers may be directly employed by a station or network and others work contractually. Although the writers are influenced by the opinions of producers, s/he usually works apart from the on-going activities of broadcasting. A liberal arts background and an understanding of how the media influences people is important. Students interested in specific areas should consult with their advisors on which courses to take to meet their goals.


(health, social services, government). Many students are not aware that there are communication related occupations in many fields and that communication is a tool which can be used in many occupations.

Communication in Health.
Positions are available in the medical and health related institutions and agencies to communication professionals, for example, public relations in health may include public relations within a hospital (improving the social environment for the patient through entertainment and better contact with others). One should have training and experience in public relation skills including: 1. strong communication abilities in speaking and writing; 2. knowledge of the media; 3. knowledge and background in health related subjects. Courses outside the department that may be suggested by your advisor include sociology, psychology, English, writing, medical technology, business, among others.

Communication in Social Services.
Communication is the primary tool of a social service agency or an individual who works in a social service occupation. Communication is used to: 1) entertain; 2) guide and counsel; and 3) promote social contact. Persons involved in social services will, therefore, need training in the interpersonal aspects of communication. Courses in sociology, psychology, guidance and counseling are suggested.

Communication in Government.
Communication occupations exist in government and politics in many of the jobs previously described. Media production, writing, public relations (called "public information" in government), and education are the key areas for the person trained in communication. Countless publications are produced each year in government. In addition, some specialized governmental/political job descriptions include political office (elected representative, appointed office (agency head, diplomat, secretary, etc.), speech writer, public information officer, campaign manager, public opinion expert, personnel manager, pollster, U.S. Information Agency worker. Education varies according to the job description but in addition to speech communication, courses in writing and politics are suggested.


To acquire a position in teaching one ought to prepare himself or herself in at least two related areas in communication (speech communication majors in the teaching option are encouraged to elect the English concentration). Breadth in preparation increases the possibility of employment. Advanced degrees are required by those interested in teaching at the college level. New York State Certification is required to teach in secondary and elementary schools (the B.S. in speech education leads to NY State Certification). The teaching of communication involves a wide range of possible subject areas as well as places where the subjects may be taught. Aspects of communication are taught in business, government, military services and institutions as well as in public and private schools. The prospective teacher should pay particular attention to new positions opening up in teaching programs sponsored by businesses and their affiliate institutions and organizations.

Making a decision about a career is a serious matter. There is a lot of time and money involved in preparing and educating ourselves, and we can't help but weigh the rewards of a given profession against that investment. And there is always the question, "Will there be any jobs available when I graduate?"

In one year there may be a shortage of engineers; in another year, that same profession may not have enough jobs to go around. The ultimate career of any student may be very different from the one anticipated. Any career may veer sharply from its original direction. That possibility can either be a disappointing step backwards or an exciting new challenge depending on whether or not you have background in a field with broad adaptability, a field that can be utilized in many professions, be it in business, government, the media, or in education.

Speech Communication is one such field--broad and filled with career opportunities. Whereas careers in medicine or law have specific goals, communication is everywhere. If you have a well designed plan of study, you will find that your training in speech communication is an excellent background for many careers and fields of graduate study.

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Last modified: May 19, 1996