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Study communication courses in Australia

Field of Study: Communication Course Information

The communications field can appear glamorous, especially if you can see yourself in the press pack door-stopping the Prime Minister or presenting a national current affairs show. While some do make it there, the fact is that many communications jobs are not in journalism or the media at all. After all, not everyone wants to be in front of the camera. Many communications roles are behind the scenes — producing the show, writing the press releases or even monitoring the news reporting.

For more information about careers in this field, refer to the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Communications Council, Australian Publishers Association and Public Relations Institute of Australia websites.

Other fields of study likely to appeal to someone interested in communications are humanities and social sciences and creative arts.

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VET study in communications

Courses, majors and specialisations in communication

Since VET qualifications are designed to prepare you for specific occupations, communications courses in the sector are as numerous as the careers available in this broad field. The title of a course will usually make clear which course relates to which career path. Courses are on offer in areas such as advertising, audiovisual technology, creative writing, film and television production, journalism, professional writing and editing, public relations, and screen and media. The list is so long, so you're bound to find something of interest.

In terms of choosing the right qualification level (whether it's a certificate I to IV, a diploma or an advanced diploma), it helps to look into the career outcomes that each option leads to. For example, a certificate may lead to a more hands-on career (film and television lighting operator, for example), while an advanced diploma could lead into a paraprofessional role (such as a film and television editor). This is a very hands-on field where work experience sometimes more highly valued than qualifications, so you may find that industry experience completed through work-integrated learning and voluntary internships open up doors to many careers.

Where to study communication courses

As a relatively large field of study, the great thing is that communications courses are available at a wide range of institutions — both at TAFE institutes and private VET providers. While some specific courses may be a little harder to come by, you'll find that communications courses covering the general disciplines are available just about anywhere.

When researching courses and institutions, remember to do your research as it applies to your needs. For example, if you are considering a film course, it's worth looking into the facilities and equipment available. Likewise, when looking at a public relations, look for practical opportunities and industry partnerships.

Career opportunities in communication field

The communications careers available to VET graduates are likely to be in a wide range of organisations — anything from advertising agencies, broadcasting networks and publishers to corporate organisations and government agencies.

The roles available will depend on the level of qualification attained. Although advanced diploma and some diploma graduates may gain positions in professional areas, it is often the case that VET will initially lead to mid-level roles that involve supporting professionals. VET study offers many pathways into further study to enhance career prospects.

See the Career Search for more information about your career options.

Undergraduate study in communications

Courses, majors and specialisations in communication

The following are just some of the majors you can study in this field:

  • Advertising

  • Creative writing

  • Digital media

  • Editing and publishing

  • Film

  • Journalism

  • Media studies

  • Professional writing

  • Public relations

  • Radio

While many graduates have a hard time finding work, this doesn’t make communications courses any less popular. Practical learning is one of the highlights of studying in this field. In communications faculties you might find photo journalists exhibiting their work next to aspiring advertisers drawing up campaign proposals, filmmakers screening their latest creations and campus reporters broadcasting live back to the studio.

So that's how you should learn, but first you’ll need to decide what to learn. If you’re not yet sure about which of the many different specialisations on offer will suit you best, you may consider looking into general courses in the field. As a (very) rough guide, courses with general titles like arts, communications and media are more likely to offer a broad liberal education in areas such as history, literature and political science alongside the study of the media and other forms of human communication. They are often more focused on the ‘learning about’ rather than the ‘learning to’ side of media practice, but will allow you to try out a few of the different communications specialisations. On the other hand, courses with a specific title or tag (in brackets after the degree title) — like professional writing, advertising and journalism — will offer more practical preparation for one role or another. Remember, these are generalisations and there is a good deal of variation between courses of all titles and types.

If you really have your heart set on working in one of the occupations related to this field, having one degree title or another might be less important than other factors in distinguishing yourself in a competitive industry. Finding work experience and getting involved in the industry are very important. Contacts are everything, and once you have a foot in the door (through voluntary work or internships) you will be placed in a better position to find full-time employment in a field that you are passionate about.

Where to study communication courses

As a large field of study, you'll find that all universities offer communications courses (although some, particularly those known for specialising in the field, may have more on offer than others). Many private higher education providers also offer courses in this field, and some are very prestigious and may be difficult to enter. TAFE institutes are also beginning to offer bachelor degrees in this field.

So what should you look out for? The main thing is to ensure that, wherever you choose to study, the facilities, equipment and learning opportunities are available and up to scratch. The rest will be up to you. There are a growing number of campuses offering courses in this field, so there is a lot of variation in entry difficulty, from the tough to the very easy. Some of the most popular courses have high cut-off scores or require a folio. There may be no formal prerequisites for some courses, but you can count on needing good marks in subjects such as English and media. Theatre or cinema subject results may also be relevant.

See Degree costs and loans for more information about paying for your degree.

To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.

Career opportunities in communication field

Students are very satisfied with the quality of teaching, but jobs are scarce — with 46 per cent of the graduates from 2013 still looking for work after several months — and starting salaries are low, at around $45,227. Possibly in a bid to improve job prospects, 19 per cent of 2013 graduates chose to pursue further study. Those who do get jobs are more likely to find themselves working in private industry than the public sector. Since the range of roles on offer varies so much, so too does the range of industries and organisations that attract communications professionals. Graduates find their way into the news media (newspapers, radio, television and online), advertising firms, public relations departments in government and community organisations, publishing companies, screen production companies, theatre, corporate communications departments or even based in their own homes if they choose the freelance route.

See the Career Search for more information about your career options.

Postgraduate study in communications

Courses, majors and specialisations in communication

This is a field that has grown rapidly in recent years and still continues to increase in popularity. Some coursework programs cover communications and media in general terms, but most aim to provide skills in journalism (the most common of the professions catered to), publishing, writing, public relations, advertising and related occupations. Many are career conversion programs that cater to those who do not have previous qualifications in the field, and most providers offer the very accessible option of a graduate certificate. None of the occupations concerned are closely regulated and, as a result, course entry requirements are often general and easy to meet.

Where to study communication courses

As in the VET and undergraduate sector, postgraduate communications courses are widely available.

For those already employed in the industry who are seeking a formal qualification or a skills upgrade, there are a wide range of flexible study options designed to fit around work commitments, including evening classes and distance or online programs.

Prospective students seeking to enter the industry should investigate whether programs include opportunities for practical experience and, if so, whether it is gained on-site or through an internship or work placement program. In this industry, contacts are everything, and the reputation of your provider and exposure to potential employers during the program will be a great asset. Also be sure to check what resources are offered at each campus; facilities such as a cutting-edge multimedia lab, student radio station or mock newsroom will give you a practical advantage.

If you are contemplating a research degree, you are likely to be better off looking at departments or schools that have a reputation for research in the area, as they will be better placed to open up academic networks. You are also more likely to find a critical mass of research students and better access to resources and scholarships. As always, look into the specifics, especially the strengths and weaknesses of possible supervisors. Although there are some areas of strength in both practical (sometimes called ‘applied’) and theoretical research, the research tradition in other areas is in its infancy.

To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.

Career opportunities in communication field

Recent postgraduate communications graduates were impressed with the standard of teaching but rated the skills they gained poorly, according to the national Course Experience Questionnaire survey. As is often the case in this field, job prospects and salaries were below average, with 31 per cent of graduates still seeking work four months after course completion. Among those who did find work, the average salary was $64,556 per year.

See the Career Search for more information about your career options.

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