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You can become a communications manager through a combination of education in a related field and approximately five years or more of experience working in a marketing or communications department. The title has a scope of responsibility and pay scale that depends on the underlying employment context. A communications manager in a corporate environment is one member of a team within a structured marketing or communications department. In other contexts, the manager title tends to indicate responsibility for all communications functions with minimal additional staffing.
A communications manager is typically a mid-level generalist with experience in most of the major functional areas that define business communications. This includes proficiency in internal and external correspondence, public and media relations, publicity, event and product support, messaging, new media, and social networking. You need a bachelor's degree in communications or a major that is typically associated with the field, such as journalism, English, public relations, or marketing, to be considered for the position. Some employers prefer a master's degree, particularly in corporate settings.
The number of years of experience you will need to become a communications manager depends upon the employer. Many employers will expect you to have five years or more of experience as a communications or marketing assistant with increasing responsibility. Some employers look primarily at proficiency and will substitute specific skills for years of experience. For example, a company looking for a communications manager to run its extensive online community might prefer someone with a proficiency using Internet applications and social networking over someone with more years spent perfecting traditional communications skills.
There are two functional paths to become a communications manager. The traditional path is into a corporate marketing or communications department. If the position reports to the head of marketing, the primary responsibilities will revolve around advertising, branding, and product support. If the position reports to the head of communications, it will typically focus on a specialty, such as managing media relations.
The other path to become a communications manager is to take a position in a non-traditional environment, such as a small company, a nonprofit, or a political campaign. These types of employers often treat a communication manager as a generalist. The manager, and perhaps an assistant, typically comprise the entire communications staff. Managing in this instance means that you will end up doing anything that needs to be done that relates to field. Conversely, a small business might hire what it calls a communication manager to handle one indispensable area of communications, such as its online presence, without being able to afford comprehensive communications management.
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