Former ABC "Nightline" anchor Ted Koppel, NBC "Today Show" anchor Matt Lauer and Playboy creator Hugh Hefner are three famous and well-paid communications majors. In addition, former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb and actor Denzel Washington hold communications degrees. However, this degree alone is not a guarantee of financial success. Communications majors often experience many years of lean salaries as they grow in their careers, develop industry expertise and gain needed experience.
The broadcast industry can be lucrative for communications majors, but the big paychecks do not come quickly or easily. Many communications majors who enter broadcasting spend the first years of their careers in smaller markets and possibly working two jobs to make ends meet. However, those who rise to the top of their profession eventually see a financial payoff. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. broadcast news analysts in the bureau's 90th wage percentile make more than $186,260 as of 2013. Broadcasters who make the "big time" can expect a seven-figure salary. For example, "CBS Evening News" paid its anchor $15 million per year at one point, according to the Bloomberg website.
Communications majors who enter advertising have a good chance of a healthy paycheck. According to the BLS, advertising manager salaries in the bureau's 90th percentile earn at least $187,199 per year as of 2013. Median annual salaries come to $93,880, and starting salaries are around $45,140, according to the bureau. The top-paying advertising jobs are in New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Communications majors can find a robust paycheck in marketing if they are willing to work in certain industries, live near a metropolitan center and obtain a graduate degree. According to the BLS, marketing managers in the 90th wage-earning percentile make at least $187,199 per year as of 2013. The highest-paying industries are company management, computers, scientific and technical consulting and insurance. Adding a Master of Business Administration to a communications major can increase the paycheck. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the top 25 percent of MBA or master's degree in management grads received starting pay of $80,700 per year or more in 2013. New graduates with a bachelor's degree in communications received average starting salaries of $43,924 annually.
Public relations has top-dollar salaries for communications majors who have experience, specialized expertise and proven results. According to the Public Relations Society of America, the nationwide average for executive vice presidents in public relations is $164,500 per year as of 2014. Entry-level salaries are attractive as well. The nationwide average for account executives is $56,100.