Communication Careers

The Communication major at the University of Arizona is first and foremost a traditional "liberal arts" major. The goal of the major is not to train individuals for specific careers, but rather to provide the general skills that are useful for a wide range of life trajectories.

We aim to graduate students who can speak and write clearly and effectively, who are able to do research to understand more about the world around them, who are critical consumers of information, and who are critical thinkers.

These skills provide the basis for success in many paths following graduation. However, students seeking specific training (e.g., in broadcast journalism, the law, or marketing) may want to seek out academic preparation that is targeted to those specific areas.

Below we outline some career options popular among communication graduates, and the ways in which the department at the University of Arizona might prepare you for those careers.

To teach communication in an elementary or secondary school you need to obtain teaching certification. Becoming an instructor at the college level usually requires a doctoral degree, though some community colleges will hire a candidate with a master's degree. Acceptance in advanced degree programs in communication is facilitated by having an undergraduate major in the subject. A teacher has to effectively organize and deliver material to students. Communication skills are necessary to facilitate comprehension and understanding no matter what the subject is.

Social workers, counselors, and other similar professionals must be effective communicators, and must also understand social processes. Many classes in the Communication department are focused on understanding social behavior in contexts such as the family or the organization. Therefore, knowledge from communication classes may be directly applicable to careers in social and human services.

Communication plays a vital role in the functioning of any government, business, or industrial organization. The essential skills needed to succeed and be promoted are primarily communication skills. Business leaders often look for communication skills in their workers, and individuals with strong skills are more likely to succeed. While not all courses in the Communication department emphasize the development of skills, the theories discussed in almost all of our courses provide messages about what types of communication are most effective in which contexts. Students who are able to extrapolate from such course material to daily life will be successful in business communication.

International relations and negotiations are communication-centered. Understanding the effects of globalization on communication is fundamental to dealing with others in the work arena. In a diverse work economy, essential communication skills are: problem-solving, speaking, listening, writing, and the abilities to analyze information and interact among multiple cultures. Students graduating from the Communication department will have covered course material related to these abilities.

Law involves establishing meaning and persuading others through language. A background in communication can serve as an effective beginning to a career in law, although obviously we do not provide training to be a lawyer. The emphasis on oral and written communication skills in the Communication department is a valuable starting point. Understanding modes and theories of persuasion is also important to prospective lawyers and such theories are covered in our department.

Communication is a key tool that health care providers must use in dealing with clients and patients to prevent illness, diagnose disease, and manage treatment and patient care. It is necessary for developing and maintaining trust between provider and client, their families, and other health care providers. The use of communication is important to educate and train a population in healthy behaviors such as nutrition, sexual health, and family planning. A degree in communication might be useful for those interested in teaching communication skills to health professionals, or for those who want to be involved in large-scale health campaigns (e.g., anti-smoking campaigns).

Communication skills are essential to address the issues that challenge political leaders and our systems of government. Communication is the basis for gaining understanding between people, discussing similarities and differences, and settling disputes. A communication degree would be useful for those who are interested in becoming political consultants or speech writers, for instance. As with many of the other cases described above, however, we do not offer courses designed to train these skills specifically.

Those involved in public relations are concerned with managing the public image - generally of an organization. Anyone planning to enter the field needs to be aware that effective writing is a critical skill. The Communication department offers a public relations course that covers some of the practical issues related to this process. In addition, we offer courses in theories of persuasion. Such theories are directly relevant to professions such as marketing and public relations.

Knowledge of persuasion theory will also help students who are interested in advertising. Those who are able to move from the theoretical concepts studied in communication classes at the University of Arizona, to the more specific challenges involved in developing advertising campaigns will prosper. That said, the department does not offer courses that specifically address advertising as a profession. More specific courses are available in Marketing, Retailing and Consumer Sciences, and the like. The research skills learned as part of a communication degree might be useful to individuals interested in pursuing advertising research or marketing research as a career.

The Communication department at the University of Arizona does not teach technical skills related to media production (e.g., editing, camera operation, or the like). Nor do we teach "on-air" skills like commentary or news anchoring. However, we emphasize the importance of clear and accurate communication in many of our courses, and areas such as public speaking are related to the kinds of skills that on-air talent exercise in certain media industries. Similarly, the department's emphasis on writing skills would be valuable to anybody preparing written materials. That said, more specific training in news writing, for instance, is provided by the Journalism department.

The Communication department does not offer coursework in the technical side of computer-based communication. However, we are anticipating a growth in this area, and in the future we hope to offer courses that examine the ways in which people interact with and are affected by new communication technologies.