I remember when I told a friend of mine in high school that I planned to major in communication studies. His response was, “So you want to be one of those blonde news anchors?” I could not tell you what offended me more: that he knew me and still assumed I wanted to be on TV or that he emphasized the word “blonde.” Either way, I know he was teasing.
That was the first of many confused responses I would receive. Not many people know much about this growing field, other than the stigma that it is a “phony major” — according to The Simpsons — or that it only focuses on media or broadcasting or, my personal favorite, that really communication is just “common sense.”
I refute this by paraphrasing Voltaire that common sense really isn’t so common.
In a world that is increasing in diversity and connectedness, it is difficult to find common ground with other people. In my studies I learned about intercultural communication and high-context cultures and low-context cultures. This was a topic I later encountered again in a global leadership conference where it was said that learning cultural communication contexts would be beneficial in international relations and business meetings.
Other classes I took included Conflict Management, Analysis of Argument and Discourse, Persuasion, Interpersonal Communication, Leadership and Group Communication, Organizational Communication, Public Speaking, Writing for the Media, Introduction to Communication Theory, and Research Methods.
I perfected skills in research, writing, speaking, relating, and strategic communication. I learned how to have influence over others, how to lead and speak well, how to express complex ideas simply and succinctly, how to understand and create arguments, and yes, I learned some graphic design and corporate writing too.
When it came time for graduation, I knew I could excel in business, journalism, media, marketing, or choose graduate school or law school — all options would be open to me! While I did find that I needed to sharpen some “hard skills” like writing/editing or using Adobe Creative Cloud, I knew that I would be taking lessons with me wherever I went because communication is all about people.
While there are still plenty of family, friends, and strangers who do not understand my degree, the study of communication continues to interest many. The U.S. Census Bureau recorded 1.2 million individuals ages 25 to 64 who have graduated with communications degrees and that was reported in October of 2012, so that number has only increased.
As a self-proclaimed champion of communication and someone who holds both a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in this field, I have decided to write a short series of articles to show how useful and unique communication studies is — and you might just find it’s not all common sense.