How to Become a Communications Director

Communications directors help articulate key business messages to internal and external audiences. In general, communications directors know how to conduct research, synthesize information and write well. Big-picture strategic thinking and the ability to execute or delegate tasks can be important in communications leadership roles. Effective communications professionals can execute messaging strategies across a variety of platforms, from written publications to social media and websites. 


The Newhouse School- Online Master of Science in Communications

  • GRE or GMAT scores not required to apply
  • Specializations available in advertising, public relations, journalism innovation, and media management
  • Complete in as few as 15 months
Discover Communications@Syracuse

Why Study Communications?

Studying to earn your master’s communications can help you develop effective writing and presentation skills applicable to many careers. This versatile degree can prepare you for a career in broadcast journalism, public relations, advertising, strategic communications, multimedia communications or another area. Regardless of the type of in-person or online communications degree you pursue, you’ll learn to succinctly communicate and craft compelling narratives. 

For those who enjoy writing and speaking, the communications field teaches the skills to move audiences to take a specific action. In a communications program, students learn the art of storytelling and strategic messaging. You’ll learn how to apply theories of communication across different mediums—from print to video—and adapt your approach to reach different audiences. 

Studying communications can prepare you to organize companies’ communication initiatives. Learning to communicate effectively across platforms to different stakeholders is a valuable skill. Communications directors can help align internal and external business communications. If you’re interested in managing a company’s social media, digital media strategy or strategic communications, you may enjoy studying communications to become a communications director. 

How Long Does It Take to Become a Communications Director?

How long it takes to become a communications director depends on the education and experience required for a director position. While the specifics vary from role to role, many media and communications careers require at least a bachelor’s degree. To pursue a director position, a more advanced education may be required or preferred. Additionally, work experience is important. It can take several years to acquire the experience to become a communications director. 

Communications Director Education Requirements

 A bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum education requirement for communications directors. A bachelor’s degree could be in a related field such as journalism, English, marketing, advertising or communications. Some candidates may complete advanced degrees in one of these fields. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t provide career information for communications directors, it says public relations and fundraising managers need at least a bachelor’s degree, and some employers may prefer candidates with a master’s degree.

Advanced education can show your commitment to the field and distinguish you from other candidates. Depending on your career goals and availability, there are many in-person and online communications degrees you can pursue.

5 Steps to Becoming a Communications Director

While every journey is different, here are five common steps to a role as a communications director:

1. Get a bachelor’s degree in a related field

Some relevant fields include journalism, communications, marketing, advertising or public relations. Some undergraduate topics you may study include messaging strategy, writing for different audiences and campaign execution across a variety of platforms.

2. Gain real-world experience

Leverage your passion for communications to land an internship (paid or unpaid) to gain real-world experience and develop your portfolio, if you pursue a writing or video career. The next step is to get a job in the field. As you gain experience, consider exploring different roles, such as a reporter or paid media specialist, to see what interests you.

3. Consider developing a specialization

If you really enjoy writing, hone your craft and become the best writer you can be. If you enjoy networking and meeting new people, consider a career in public relations—as the “face” of a company, you may get to attend many networking and public events. If you have specific interests, consider developing a specialization around them.

4. Focus on results 

Have a clear goal for each communications initiative you execute. Report on the results regularly and showcase the ones that meet or exceed goals. Using analytics and data (related to website traffic or social media followers, for instance) to back up your ideas can prepare you to become a results-driven communications director.

5. Get an advanced degree

An advanced degree can give you an edge on competitors in the job market. Pursuing a formal communication education can help you develop general persuasion and more specific skills. Through an in-person or online master’s in communication program, you could pursue a specialization, such as advertising, public relations, corporate communication, political communication or journalism.

3 Skills That Communications Executives Use Every Day

Communications professionals are typically strategic thinkers with excellent writing and speaking skills. Whether you’re already in communications or plan to make a career switch into the industry, there are some transferable skills that can help you as a communications executive.

Here are three skills communications professionals frequently use: 

1. Empathy

Communications executives constantly use empathy to communicate and connect with different audiences. The ability to step into the shoes of their audiences and adapt their communication style to touch on potential pain points, concerns or fears is important. Highly effective communicators can also synthesize complex ideas into clear statements anyone can understand. All business professionals need to communicate with others to meet their objectives. Having an empathetic approach can help communications directors connect with others effectively.

2. Curiosity

Communications executives are constantly enhancing their writing and speaking skills. The desire to do this is driven by curiosity. Curiosity also helps them conduct research from trustworthy sources. These professionals benefit from a natural curiosity and inclination to back up their work with credible research. 

3. Data savviness

Communications professionals need to measure the success of their campaigns. They set goals and measure campaign performance against those goals. Being data-savvy can help communications executives analyze results and report on the effectiveness of campaigns. Using reporting tools and platforms is also helpful

Why Become a Communications Director?

As a communications director, you’ll play a strategic role in the execution and promotion of an organization’s mission and products or services. Communications directors work with others, including media professionals, digital marketers, design professionals and writers or content creators to execute strategies across print, digital and other channels. You’ll work with your team to craft messages for your audience. 

If you’re a big-picture thinker, you also may enjoy becoming a communications director. Communication directors have to manage multiple competing priorities on a daily basis. They may switch between tactical execution and strategic thinking regularly and will need the ability to plan and adapt plans at a moment’s notice. Anyone who enjoys collaboration, creativity and high-level strategy may enjoy a career as a communications director.

Communications Specialist Careers and Salary

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for media and communications jobs was $59,230 in 2019. Some of the media and communications careers noted by the BLS include editors, photographers, public relations specialists, and writers and authors. As you gain educational and work experience, you may be able to move into a manager or communications director position. The BLS reports the 2019 median annual wage for management occupations was $105,660.



The Newhouse School- Online Master of Science in Communications

  • GRE or GMAT scores not required to apply
  • Specializations available in advertising, public relations, journalism innovation, and media management
  • Complete in as few as 15 months
Discover Communications@Syracuse


Last Updated August 2020