What Is Media and Communications Law?

Media and communications law is the area of law concerning the transfer of information through all types of media, including radio, television and the Internet. To learn more about this field, including education options and potential career tracks, keep reading. Schools offering Applied Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

About Media and Communications Law

The First Amendment grants everyone the right to free speech, but sometimes questions arise about how this right should be interpreted, especially since the advent of the Internet. Media and communications law deals with this interpretation and related topics, such as libel and invasion of privacy. These interpretations address and relate to all forms of communication through all mediums, including the Internet, television and newspapers.

Media law also deals with the law as it relates to entertainment. For instance, if you worked as a lawyer on the entertainment side of media law, you might negotiate contracts for clients or protect their intellectual property.

Important Facts About Some Possible Occupations

LawyersReporters Paralegals
Entry-level Education Law degree Bachelor's degree Associate's degree.
Key skills Interpersonal, analytical, problem-solving and research skills Interpersonal skills, objectivity and persistence Organizational, communication, computer and research skills
Work Environment Office setting, often self employed Travel often necessary for fieldwork, some time is spent in news room Office setting, travel sometimes required
On-the-Job Training Work under an experienced lawyer for several years Short-term training may be provided to learn company culture Not provided, previous formal training expected

Education Options

You could enter a career related to media and communications law after earning an undergraduate degree in journalism, communications or political science. Many of these programs can be customized to include courses that relate to legal issues around media and communications. Some schools also offer minors in this area.

At the graduate level, you could study media and communications in law school; your first year would be devoted to foundational topics, but during your second and third years, you could take more specialized relevant courses, such as those about intellectual property and copyright law.

Joint Degrees

If you can't decide exactly which career you'd like, or if you'd like a background in both media and the law, you might pursue a joint law and journalism degree. Several schools offer this option, where you'll earn both a Juris Doctor (JD) and a master's degree in journalism concurrently. Upon finishing one of these programs, you'll be well-versed in practices of communication and how they're protected by and relate to the law.

Career Possibilities

Lawyer

If you're interested in media and communications law, you might wish to become a lawyer. After completing education requirements, you will need to obtain licensure by passing the bar exam in the state in which you want to practice. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2014, most attorneys in the U.S. made annual wages of $55,400 to more than $172,540. Those working in the District of Columbia, California, New York, Delaware and Massachusetts earned the highest salaries at that time. The BLS expects employment of lawyers to increase by 6% from 2014 to 2024, and strong competition for jobs is anticipated.

Reporter

Understanding this area of law could also support your acquisition of a career in the media, such as in publishing, writing, reporting or broadcasting. The average yearly salary for U.S. reporters and correspondents in 2014 was $45,800, according to the BLS. During that year, the highest wages for these professionals came from social advocacy organizations, while the newspaper, periodical and book publishing industry employed the highest number of them. If you're interested in this career, though, you may want to be aware that the BLS states that between 2014 and 2024, job opportunities for reporters and correspondents are expected to decline by 9%.

Paralegal

Another career related to media and communications law that might interest you is that of paralegal. Paralegals work under the supervision of lawyers and assist with legal research, file organization and document drafting. In 2014, paralegals earned an average income of $51,840 per year, the BLS indicates, with most making between $30,280 and $77,830 annually. At that time, the majority of these professionals worked for legal firms, but the semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing industry paid them the highest salaries, offering an average salary of $82,810 per year. The BLS projects a job growth rate of 8% for paralegals between 2014 and 2024, which is as fast as the average for all U.S. occupations.

Public Relations Specialist

Because the area of law in question concerns public communication, you might find the study of it helpful for a career in business, especially in public relations, marketing and advertising fields. Public relations specialists, for example, are in charge of developing and maintaining an organization's public image through media campaigns and releases.

BLS statistics reflect an annual average salary of $64,050 for public relations specialists as of 2014, with the semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing industry offering the field's highest wages at an average of $97,060 per year. The highest-paying states for this profession at that time included the District of Columbia, California, Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland. Opportunities for public relations specialists should increase 6% from 2014 to 2024, the BLS projects, owing in part to the rising prominence of social media.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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