Future of Communication (Media Studies, PR & Advertising) and Journalism Degrees in the Age of Digitization, Social Media & Citizen Journalists

After plus two, the most critical decision for students (and parents) is deciding on the right career path and a promising undergrad program. Some join totally aware of their future career trajectory, while others struggle to zero down on a course or a major till the last moment. Typically though, area of interests and wished-for career paths factor into students’ choice courses. However, with the cost of education continuing to rise exponentially, it is very important for students to think about the job market and opt for a course that greater career prospects.


Future of Mass Communication and Journalism in the Age of Digital Media


A recent survey by CareerBuilder revealed that over 50 percent of 2014 graduates—now five years into the workforce—have student debt they are working to pay off. When asked whether the rising price of education will contribute to a decline in certain majors, Michelle Armer, Chief People Officer at CareerBuilder, explained, “If people are considering a few different majors, they may be more likely to choose the path with a higher future earning potential, and we could potentially see a decline in majors that don’t set students up for clear earnings paths.” (Source- https://www.theladders.com)


Moreover, pay packages depend significantly on college majors. According to study and reports, some liberal arts majors earn better than certain engineering majors in spite of the fact that engineers do better in earning salaries, on the whole. That said, differences to occur according to companies and job locations, and also according to schools and study programs.


According to recent media reports by Kiplinger, The Ladders, ForbesMBA Crystal Ball, et al, Communication (Media Studies, PR & Advertising) and Journalism Degrees are not considered to be very promising ones as the majors in these degrees are found to struggle in finding careers and also account for high unemployment rates. The graduates have started feeling the heat as the sector has apparently become over-saturated. While a doctoral degree can be of help, most lack the tenacity to pursue a PhD in this field. Media grads are more enthusiastic towards gaining work experience (which is not bad at all) rather than opting for graduate studies/research (M.Phil, D.Litt., Ph.D.).


Exacerbating the already tricky situation is the fact that today, anyone with digital skills can become a blogger or journalist. This often leaves the core media and communication graduates with meager salaries (or freelancing rates) and/or unemployment.


A report by Kiplinger says in Advertising, the starting salary is $43,700 (Median for all majors: $45,400), mid-career salary is $86,400 (Median for all majors: $78,300) and annual online job postings are 9,188 (Median for all majors: 103,151). On the other hand, the report continues to say that majoring in public relations is an easier sell as the median pay for graduates of this field is lower, at $42,000 for starters and $75,400 for mid-career….. The number of job postings seeking people with degrees in public relations is much higher at 477,708. The difference between advertising and public relations (PR) lies in the fact that advertising deals with selling a cautiously designed image while PR works on creating an image through news and publicity.


In another article by MBA Crystal Ball named – ‘Some of the Worst MS degrees with low RoI and Declining Job Prospects’ an MS degree in Communications, Mass Media and Journalism, appears at the top of the list, with Median Salary (Age 25-29 years) at $67,000, employment change % from 2014 to 2024 at -8.5% and % Change in Salary from Bachelor’s at 24%.


In a report named 2020 Media and Entertainment Industry Outlook by Deloitte, Kevin Westcott, Deloitte’s US leader of telecommunications, media, and entertainment, explored the biggest media trends for 2020—from content re-aggregation and ad-supported video to e-sports and 5G.


Here are the predictions made in the report –


In the coming year, we expect to see the emergence of AR/VR in a wide range of enterprise apps—particularly in situations where users don’t have access to the processing power of a PC.


Another category expected to continue its rapid growth is e-sports. By 2020, the global e-sports market is expected to generate $1.5 billion in annual revenues, primarily from sponsorships and advertising to an estimated global audience of 600 million fans. Marketers bestowed more than 600 brand sponsorships on e-sport titles and events in 2017 alone.


Legalized sports betting represent an entirely new growth opportunity for telecoms and companies in the media and entertainment industry. The United States Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018. 5G is already being deployed in sports stadiums, sports bars, and other venues where such betting might take place. Media and entertainment companies like Fox announced the introduction of “Fox Bet,” an online betting app. And, mobile sports app the Score is planning to launch its own mobile sportsbook. Many TV networks are developing TV programming for sports-betting fans or placing betting content on streaming services.


In the coming year, it’s never been more important for media and entertainment companies to make data privacy and security a top priority. With the large-scale rollout of 5G, coupled with the launch of many over-the-top (OTT) streaming services, 2020 promises to be a seminal year for the media and entertainment industry. Opportunities abound for those who can capitalize on the trends we’ve highlighted while keeping a close eye on the ever-changing regulatory landscape.


Another report by Deloitte, COVID-19 outlook for the US media and entertainment industry May 2020, will greatly help job seekers in understanding the media and entertainment industry scene post Covid19.


What should Mass Communication & Journalism Students or Graduates Do to Stay Relevant in the Modern Job Market?


Now let’s take a look at the Indian perspective. According to Dr. Sunayan Bhattacharjee, Assistant Professor and Head of the Department (HoD), Department of Journalism, School of Media, Communication & Fashion (SMCF), Adamas University (AU), Kolkata, while the Indian GDP grew at an abysmal rate of 4.2 per cent in 2019, the rate of growth of the Media and Entertainment (M&E) sector stood at a considerable 9 per cent and the total value of the sector reached 1.82 trillion. This figure should be enough to indicate that a degree in Communication and Journalism puts an aspirant at a distinct advantage over others. Contrary to popular perceptions, there are innumerable opportunities in the M&E sector and more particularly in the digital domain, which is growing at an even faster rate.


Dr. Bhattacharjee agrees that the world post the Covid-19 crisis will not be the same again. He feels that physical interactions among citizens would considerably decrease and this would result in higher consumption of M&E products and consequently, there would be a quantum jump in manpower requirement in the sector, significantly increasing the number of jobs.


“In very simple terms, the M&E sector would witness increased digitization and automation in the post-Covid-19 world. Technology is set to rule the roost. Social media and digital media would soon replace traditional media. Thus, communication and journalism graduates should equip themselves with strong technological knowledge to stay relevant,” advocates Bhattacharjee.


With media pundits predicting that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are going to replace the traditional roles in the M&E sector, Bhattacharjee believes, there would be two different roles – on one hand, new technology-based jobs would spring up in a big way, on the other, being creative would constitute the other key to survival.


“To put it simply, technical skills, creativity and problem-solving abilities would determine the eventual success of communication professionals,” opines the HoD of Journalism, Adamas University.


According to Dr. Lakshmi Mohan Director ITM Business School, Navi Mumbai, education landscape post -COVID is going to be very different. “Digital learning would dominate and students will be compelled to learn new skills and acquire new knowledge to align to the dynamic change in the business world, thus going beyond their graduation. The Gen Z are tech savvy and enjoy instant gratification. Small modules, skill based learning and customized knowledge development will matter most. Creativity, innovation, critical thinking, technological expertise and communication will be corporate demands and students will have to ace up to match them. Students will have to look at short capsules that can enhance their employment capabilities. Technology today is like the garment we wear, a very essential part of us and ironically technology is fast changing like we change garments! Students have to be aware of the changing technologies, make utmost use of them for their learning and progress. Every sector demands students to be hands on with technology. Not everything would be covered in their graduation, but they can always pick up courses from EdX, Coursera, Udemy and several digital learning platforms. The universe leaves a plethora of learning opportunities, the best time for all of us to leverage,” elaborated Dr. Mohan.


Masuma Siddique, Account Manager, Adfactors PR, India’s largest PR agency believes that communication is the business-critical need now. “I would expect brands to have additional support requirements this year making PR more relevant than ever before. For the media sector, coronavirus creates both opportunities and challenges. The lockdown has led to a spike in at-home media consumption, and growing numbers are turning to news providers for timely and trusted information on the crisis. At the same time, some of the most valuable broadcast content—such as live sports (IPL) are being postponed or even cancelled, leading to a downward curve, as revenues in the media and entertainment sector depend largely on advertising spends from other industries,” she shares.


Siddique further adds that amidst coronavirus crisis new age technology has created many opportunities for teachers to provide innovative learning experiences for students. “A greater benefit is that these learning experiences can take place regardless of our current situation, time and place, and offer students more personalized opportunities for interacting with their peers and the content. I am confident that with adequate, state-of-the-art technology, school and university systems will operate more efficiently, effectively and safely despite the Covid – 19 crisis,” she concludes.


Mala Dasgupta, Founder, Grey Matter PR, feels PR activities are based on communication – and PR itself is about building a legacy of trust and capturing the mind space of the audience to eventually build a lasting impact, which makes people come back to the brand time and again.


“The novel coronavirus has brought in various kinds of disruption. Most people are harboring fears and anxieties about job losses and pay cuts, and it is expected that the new world or the “new normal” would remodel and redefine the old ways of working. All this is unavoidable, but what won’t change is how we look at basic communication. Communication as a front-line solution will readapt itself to new tools and techniques.  A good PR executive will wisely decide on a new strategy, the current modes of a platform that are in popular usage and easy reach, and ideate on how to lead the communication process in the new scenario,” envisions Dasgupta.


Dasgupta wants graduates who are pursuing this field, to first identify their own strengths and weakness and understand their own reasons for choosing this as a career option. “Next, they have to come out of the old mold of learning on the job and start their self-learning journey while they are still in the student stage by rigorously reading news and updates from print, digital media, web portals, LinkedIn, Twitter, Whatsapp groups, and from blogs. Blogs are a great way to express ideas and build up a reader base, besides also creating confidence. They need to be self-starters and independent from the very beginning. The bottom line is, Covid-19 might have brought in changes but the basic requirement of communication as a front-end tool will never become obsolete – it will just adapt itself to the changing needs and patterns of society,” states the PR old-hand.


Mohammed Zeeshan, Co-founder & CEO, MyCaptain, shares some deep insights for Journalism & Media graduates on the future of the industry.


Let’s have a look –

In this age of digital media, you can see an unprecedented change in the Journalism & Media fields. It has not only changed the way people consume news but has also seen a constant rise of citizen journalism across the globe. Here is how digitization impacted the Journalism & Media Industry.


Increased Access to Content :

With social media platforms, journalists & reporters have unlimited access to their audience, which allowed them to constantly share content and stories about things happening around the world. People no longer have to wait for prime time news to know the reality of what’s happening all around us. They not only consume content there, but easily share it across with their friends and family.


Lifespans of a News Story :

While digital media has made the accessibility of news content it has also affected the lifespan of a news story. They are much shorter than they used to be, and it is now the responsibility of the reporters to share important (& relevant) news far and wide to ensure it stays in the news cycle.


The “fake news” :

It is also easier to spread fake news, as people are constantly consuming content without taking out the time to cross-check the facts. So it becomes even more crucial for journalists and reporters to post about stories that they actually have credible sources for.


The academic degrees in these fields haven’t seen much of a change; there are very selective colleges and universities, who are providing students with insights on how they can leverage digitization to actually build their careers. While going to a college is important, we must also learn from people with on-field experience who can be our mentors. A mentor will not just impart the knowledge of how to use modern technology to build a career in Journalism, but would also share their experiences of how they converted the traditional methods and incorporated them in the digital world.


The bottom line then remains that if your love of the field is strong and energetic, nothing should deter you from studying a subject you’re passionate about, but it is always good to follow your dreams with eyes wide open.

Recommended Reading: What should Journalism Students and Graduates Do to Stay Relevant in the Digital Age?



Sources: 1, 2, 3.

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