Pursuing A Communications Major Essay

Whether you are a confused/clueless (a.k.a undeclared) freshman/sophomore in college, a declared communications major, or a college grad with a communications degree, you’ve probably asked yourself or had at least one person ask you this question:

“…WHAT EXACTLY IS COMMUNICATIONS (MAJOR)?”

And you probably hated yourself for saying,

Trust me, you’re not alone. 

The question is a tough one to answer — it’s like asking a teenager who’s going through an identity crisis what they want to be when they grow up, or a jobless senior in college what they plan to do after they graduate.

But what’s even more annoying are these seemingly belittling questions and/or comments:

“So… you learned how to talk in college?”

Yeah….. and we learned to listen as well.

“You must have it so easy!”

That’s why I only have 3 papers and 200 pages of reading due tomorrow.

“What can you even do with a communications degree”?

Oh, you know, just about anything.

But seriously.

What IS communications (as an academic discipline) and what CAN you do with a communications degree?

Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to answer right here and now, so that we can properly explain and defend ourselves (and our major) instead of face palming whenever we’re asked this question. #letsgetatit 👊

A. Definition

Wikipedia:

Communication studies is an academic discipline that deals with processes of human communication. The discipline encompasses a range of topics, from face-to-face conversation to mass media outlets such as television broadcasting. Communication studies also examines how messages are interpreted through the political, cultural, economic, semiotic, hermeneutic, and social dimensions of their contexts.

World Wide Learn:

In the modern business world, a major in communications teaches you to combine a convincing argument with the appropriate medium to effectively deliver your message. It’s the modern marriage of theory and application.

 B. “How do I know if communications is the right major for me?”

See if your answers to the below questions are yes, yes and yes (and if yes, then you might want to seriously consider communications as your major)!

  • You have aninnate desireto understand and synthesize what you hear into a message you or someone else can use.
  • You have strong verbal and writing skills.
  • You display a caring, helpful attitude; a desire to teach or inform; and a never-ending curiosity about what’s going on around you.
 C. What are some career options for communication majors?

*This is by no means an exhaustive list (the possibility is endless, especially with the continued birth of new jobs, thanks to technology!)*

Different concentrations:
  • Advertising
  • Communication and Media Studies
  • Communication Tech
  • Digital and Print Journalism
    • Broadcast Journalism
    • Journalism
    • Photojournalism
  • Digital and Print Publishing
    • Digital Imaging Design
    • Publishing
  • Graphic Communications
    • Animation,Video Graphics and Special Effects
  • Mass Communication and Media
    • Mass Communication
    • Public Relations
    • Radio and Television Broadcasting
    • Recording Arts
  • Organizational Communication
  • Speech Communication and Rhetoric

+ so much more!

Specific job titles:

+ some more ⤵⤵⤵

Communication Education:           

  • Language Arts Coordinator
  • High School Speech Forensics/Debate Coach
  • Drama Director
  • Speech Communication Department Chairperson
  • School Counselor
  • Education Researcher
  • Audiovisual Specialist
  • Educational Administrator

Electronic Media/Radio/Television/Broadcasting:

  • Broadcasting Station Manager
  • Director of Broadcasting
  • Film/Tape Librarian
  • Community Relation Director
  • News Writer
  • Engineer
  • Technical Director
  • Advertising Sales Coordinator
  • Market Researcher
  • Actor/Actress
  • Announcer
  • News and Relation Manager
  • Comedy Writer
  • Casting Director
  • Producer
  • Business Manager
  • Floor Manager
  • Talk Show Host

Government/Politics:

  • Public Information Officer
  • Legislative Assistant
  • Campaign Director
  • Research Specialist
  • Program Coordinator
  • Elected Official

High Technology Industries:

  • Television Producer/Director
  • Systems Analyst
  • Technical Copywriter
  • Language Specialist
  • Cognition Researcher
  • Audio & Visual Computer Display Specialist

Communication and Health Care:

  • Health Educator
  • School Health Care Administrator
  • Hospital Director of Communication
  • Health Communication Analyst
  • Research Analyst
  • Medical Training Supervisor
  • Health Personnel Educator
  • Hospice Manager
  • Heath Care Counselor

Law:

  • Public Defender
  • Corporate Lawyer
  • District Attorney
  • Private Practice Lawyer
  • Legal Researcher Mediation & Negotiation Specialist
  • Legal Secretary
  • Legal Reporter
  • Legal Educator

Theater/Performing Arts:

    • Performing Artist
    • Script Writer
    • Arts Administrator
    • Performing Arts Educator
    • Costume Designer
    • Scenic Designer
    • Lighting Theatre Critic
    • Makeup Artist
    • Stage Manager
    • Model
    • Casting Director

If it’s still too early for you to be thinking about jobs/careers, don’t worry.

Here are some internship roles you can take on while you’re still in college:

Marketing/PR/Social Media Intern

As a marketing intern, you will be assisting the company/organization in the development and implementation of its marketing, business development, and public relations plans. You may assist in coordinating various marketing materials and methods including (e)mail, print ads, and social media. You may also assist with CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and take part in the content creation and campaigns. Simply put, you are helping brands connect with their audience.

What companies are looking for in a marketing intern:

  • Excellent organizational skills
  • A keen eye for details
  • The ability to prioritize and multitask
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and follow- up skills
  • Leadership ability & potential (proactive problem solver!)
  • The ability to work independently as well as in teams
Editorial/Copywriting Intern

As an editorial intern, you will do one or more of the following: writing (creating content), fact checking, proofreading, copy editing, preparing publicity materials and more. Your writing may be to inform, sell, or simply attract; but whatever the purpose, your writing will be representing the brand so it’s important to learn, adapt, and speak in its unique voice. For this position/role, a knowledge of SEO and blog writing will be a huge plus – so get on those real world résumé boosters! An obvious benefit (for YOU, the intern) is that you get to build your portfolio of published writing!

What companies are looking for in an editorial intern:

  • Excellent writing, proofreading, and communication skills
  • A keen eye for details and trends
  • Strong research skills
  • Interest in current events or expertise knowledge on a certain subject
  • Ability to meet deadlines

For those seeking a liberal arts education, communications is a great major choice. You can explore the different concentrations and narrow down your career path as you discover your passions and talents throughout your college years and beyond.

Yoora Park

Yoora is the Creative Director at The University Network. She finds beauty in simplicity and grace in the mundane.

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At a college near you, at this very moment, a student is switching their major to Communication Studies. As an academic discipline, Communication Studies is posting strong growth in relation to undergraduate majors, undergraduate degrees awarded, student popularity, and number of institutions offering the degree according to a newly released American Academy of Arts & Sciences Humanities Indicator assessment. From this Humanities Indicator data it appears Communication Studies may be outperforming its humanity based peers on several measures. Perhaps equally important is that the discipline seems well positioned to maintain strong future growth potential.

"In terms of numbers, Communication Studies stood out regarding the amount of students majoring in the field. It was quite striking when we were crunching the numbers--how different it seemed in the sheer volume of students. It was much higher than the other disciplines and was certainly the largest of the disciplines we looked at," says Robert Townsend, Director of the Washington Office of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, who led the Humanities Indicators assessment.

In many ways Communication Studies is the right offering at the right time. The discipline is extremely well positioned as the digital economy, social networking and the move toward media creation rises to prominence. Concepts that may have been more abstract for students fifteen years ago such as relationship networks, group communication, and media theory are becoming vitally relevant knowledge that a wide ranging student body want to obtain. In addition, the broad nature and breadth of coursework in the discipline seems to be another attribute of academic attraction.

"I think as students become a little more careerist they search for a degree that is flexible and adaptable and I think communication provides for both of those," says Betsy Bach, Communication Studies Professor at University of Montana. This seems to be true since current enrollment statistics detail 135,190 juniors and seniors around the country choosing to pursue Communication Studies. But does this trend toward a rise in Communication Studies degrees affect other disciplines?

"It used to be that if you wanted to be a journalist you would go and take a journalism class and get an MA in Journalism. I don't think that is as likely to happen now, I think there is a stronger sense that students with Journalism degrees might be more poorly trained in the end than a Communication Degree or a Communication Degree with a Minor in Economics which prepares you to nicely operate as a journalist," says Trevor Parry-Giles, Director of Academic and Professional Affairs at the National Communication Association (NCA) and Professor at University of Maryland.

"Students across the board are realizing how important our classes are. We might pick a student up from business who realizes 'I will probably still be in business' but they want to come through the door differently," says Dawn Braithwaite, Professor and Chair of Communication Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Ethan Scott, a Senior at Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan switched his major from Pre-Dental to Communication Studies. Scott says, "I have had a lot of opportunities, and I get contacted all the time from job prospects and they say: I see you are a Communication Studies Major, I see all the different experiences you have and we would like to have you in for an interview or send us your full resume. I really do think a lot of it is the Communication Studies major--it allows me to project the best version of myself, knowing what people are looking for and knowing how people communicate effectively."

Although growth and popularity may equate to success for the discipline--not all involved feel Communication Studies is utilizing its unique placement to provide a rigorous and reaching academic profile. Robert McChesney, Professor of Communication at University of Illinois, believes that the relationship between the new digital economy and Communication Studies needs to push the discipline further toward more cutting-edge assessment of key social and political factors. McChesney says, "Ten years ago the digital revolution provided an opportunity to increase the profile and research in the field to be much stronger. The discipline could leapfrog from the margins of lightly regarded marginal research that very few people paid any attention to, to a value that might command a more broad interest. I was hopeful that our [Communication Studies] departments would seize the initiative and take advantage of this to elevate the profile, quality and importance of the research. I think there has been some movement in that direction, by a handful of schools, but for the most part I think many programs have stayed in bureaucratic mode which is do what you have done before, don't make waves, draw your paycheck, go to sleep at night, and prepare for retirement."

Braithwaite contrasts McChesney and says, "While we are all anxious to see certain areas of research grow, it is challenging for any one scholar to be able to take stock of the breadth of an already broad discipline and claim we are on the margins without accounting for the work, not only in communication technology, but also in digital rhetoric and social media, interpersonal and intergroup communication, health communication, and organizational communication to name a few. I believe the critical mass of scholars and scholarship is building and we will continue to see the growth of books and peer-reviewed research coming as many of these scholars are now at the stage of tenure and promotion."

"The raw number of job postings in Communication Studies remains robust and has rebounded nicely since the recession and at the same time the survey of earned doctorates from NSF suggests we are not over-producing Ph.D.'s. There are not more Ph.D.'s than jobs available," says Parry-Giles, which he indicates is a way to test the health of a given discipline. Parry-Giles also finds the recent reports and quantifiable data will work well for Communication Studies program directors when they go into their Dean or Provost offices, requesting new faculty hires, with verifiable evidence that nationally the discipline is strong.

It is clear that Communication Studies has more students and fewer faculty positions than many of its humanities peers, many of whom are experiencing significant decline. As universities and colleges retool to best meet the future and create the most informed and relevant future citizens, it seems that Communication Studies is destined to be high on the evolving educational roster.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the position held by Robert Townsend at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Follow Jason Schmitt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jason_schmitt

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