Communication Major: Is it Right for You?

One of the most popular majors on campus today is communication. Everyone knows how to communicate. Even the tiniest infants communicate their needs to those around them by crying and using other behaviors. As a field of study, communication is concerned with every type of communication and includes both verbal and non-verbal ways of communicating.

Communication is one of the oldest academic fields in the world, with roots that go back at least as far as the ancient Greek academies. As communication methods have evolved, the study of communication has evolved with them. Today, communication as an academic discipline is defined as the study of human interaction. A goal of the discipline is to encourage communication that is effective, as well as ethical. A degree in communication is considered excellent preparation for a number of careers, as well as a good way to prepare for further education in other fields.

Traditionally, communication majors studied public speaking and rhetoric. Colleges that focused on communication were called schools of oratory, then schools of speech. As the understanding of interpersonal communication grew during the 20th century, communication programs began to embrace the study of the interactions among people. With the growing prominence of mass media, communication expanded to cover print and broadcast media, as well. Most recently, the study of communication has come to include the study of how people communicate in the virtual world.

Typical Courses for Communication Majors

Communication majors who attend a liberal arts college typically take a wide range of courses designed to provide a broad base of general knowledge to the future graduate, as well as a number of specialized communication courses. These are usually split between those that emphasize theory and those that emphasize application. Some examples of theory-based courses are political communication, organizational communication, interpersonal communication, virtual communication, news media and popular culture. Skills-based courses include public speaking, persuasive speaking, group communication, media production, interpersonal relationships and public relations. Students who earn a Bachelor of Science degree may not be required to take as many general courses and may receive an education that focuses more heavily on research.

Many schools offer a number of areas of emphasis, and students take additional courses which focus on the career or course of graduate study for which they are preparing. It is important to learn about the schools you are considering, because communication departments from different schools often have very different programs, in spite of having similar department names. For example, some schools include journalism or drama in the communication department, while others include speech therapy and even audiology.

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Different Types of Communication Degrees

Communication majors typically earn Bachelors of Arts or Bachelors of Science degrees. These are usually four-year degrees. Students who choose to further their education often go on to earn graduate or professional degrees in other areas. Some students go on to earn masters degrees in communications, and some decide to earn doctorates.

What Personality Types Are Best Suited to the Study of Communication?

Because communication majors go on to careers in a wide variety of different fields, a variety of different personality types do well in this area of study. Typically, people who consider themselves social are a good fit, since many social people enjoy communicating with others. Enterprising people are also well suited to marketing and public relations careers.

What Career Paths are Available to Communication Majors?

A degree in communication prepares an individual for a long list of careers. Communication majors find work in the public relations departments of corporations, organizations and government entities. They work in marketing positions, social media positions and as copywriters, technical writers or journalists. Many official spokespersons hold communication degrees, as do disc jockeys, sportscasters, news anchors and many actors. Many prominent politicians received their undergraduate degrees in communication, and it is a popular choice for those aiming to become lawyers, professors or campaign directors.

What are the Potential Earnings of a Communication Major?

Earning potential for communication majors varies widely depending upon the field chosen and the highest degree earned. For example, in 2008, public relations specialists earned from just over $30,000 to just shy of $100,000. Technical writers earned between $36,000 and $97,000 during the same period. Broadcasters are often paid hourly wages rather than salaries. With the exception of employees of major networks or other media outlets, pay is often low for this field, ranging from slightly above minimum wage to more than $36.00 an hour. Editors earned between $28,000 and $95,000 in 2008.

Since communication degrees are often used as stepping-stones to higher degrees, many graduates go on to careers that are much more lucrative than the ones mentioned here. Communication majors are exposed to a broad education that has the potential for widespread application in a world that is increasingly centered upon communication and the spread of information.

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