Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Why are you a Communication Major...?


A wise Comm professor once told me, "It isn't about what job you can get with a degree in communication, but about what job you want and how a communication degree can get you there". Thanks John!

It is true, and if you ask any student majoring in Communication, they'll tell you that almost every person they've told their major to asks them the big question, or a handful of questions that all boil down to one, "But why?" or my personal favorite, "What are you gonna do with that?"

It's funny actually, because it is as if the entire world is unaware that communication is the jack of all trades. It is quite literally a major component (if not the most important) of absolutely every professional field and/or business.

I have taken this frustration and turned it into a list of popular questions that all comm majors are tired of hearing.

1. So you probably chose this major because you don't like math?
 This one is almost always accompanied by a chuckle or two. And quite frankly I'm not sure why because it isn't all that funny! No, no I do not like math. It sucks in many people's opinions and yes I would prefer to have a career where math was not required of me on a regular basis. Did I choose a major in Communication solely based on the fact that it did not require any math classes? No, it would be pretty lame to choose a future career path based on something it lacked. Is it a bonus that my major and my future career prospects don't involve a subject in which I find little to no enjoyment in? Hell yeah it is! But no don't worry, I did not spend an ungodly amount of time deciding my major based on what I would not have to study. (Hint: I chose it because of what I do get to study).

2. Don't a lot of football players study Communication?
This one seems to be one people find really funny too. (Hell, maybe all of these questions are asked because people think they are funny and that no comm major has ever heard them before). Anyway, yeah, yeah they do. I don't have the answer to everything but my guess to this would be because many college-level football players hope to land a professional football career after (or before) graduation. Wouldn't it make sense then that these football players are not interested in a specific field of study like engineering or nursing? Communication is a broad field that encompasses a variety of different things. I would guess that football players are not interested in the specifics of another major, and chose Communication because it is broad and forgiving, and also yes probably because they hate math too. And while we're at it, if this is your way of implying that comm majors are dumb, you're so terribly misinformed and I don't even have anything to say that will bring you out of your state of stupidity.

3. But what are you gonna do with it?
This one is my favorite! I love the look on people's faces when I tell them exactly what I would like to do with my Communication degree. The real answer to this question though, what can't I do with it? I mean really, have any of you had a job where effective communication wasn't a huge part of the company's success? I think our society is under the impression that unless you have a definitive, direct, and less than abstract major, then you don't actually know what you want to do with your future. And you are probably just going to college because you didn't know what else to do and you are still trying to "figure it out". This is such a stereotype that is far from the truth. I've found that Communication majors often enjoy and are good at several different fields of study and did not want to choose just one. Communication is a broad and very diverse field that can serve as a tool for several different professions.

Still don't know what Communication majors are able to do with their lives after they graduate? Let me enlighten you with a list of professions that someone with a Communication degree can hold: journalist, news anchor, sports broadcaster, broadcast journalist, film producer, film director, comedian, politician, marketing specialist, public relations specialist, human resource specialist, author, CEO, and political correspondent, to name a just a few. These famous people all have degrees in Communication of some sort: Matt Lauer, David Letterman, Matthew McConaughey, Stephen Colbert, Brian Lamb, and John Gray.

4. So you're studying something everyone already knows how to do?
This one gets me every time. It is the equivalent of thinking well everyone knows how to eat their lunch so why would anyone need to study nutrition? Communication is so much more than studying basic conversation. In fact, that is hardly what studying communication is at all. Comm majors study a variety of things like intercultural communication, conflict management, media theory, mass communication & democracy, public relations writing, gender studies, and criticism rhetoric. All of which could be majors in and of themselves because of how much there is to learn in each of them. Communication encompasses so many different things that are so useful to know and learn about in order to understand and know how society works.

5. How nice, you must have it so easy!
This back-handed compliment is so far from the truth. I dare anyone who falls victim to this myth to do research and read old comm theory and rhetoric and tell me what an easy subject it is to understand. Then write a twelve page paper on the importance of that theory and rhetoric. And then do all that while you have a presentation due tomorrow and a test to study for the next day. Communication is a reading and writing intensive major. To receive good grades and pass your classes as a comm major you must read all of the assigned material and be able to participate in class through discussion about it. So while a communication major's homework is not the same type of work as a STEM major's homework, the fact that it is different does not make it easier. It's just a different kind of hard work. 

6.  Did you major in Communication because you didn't know what else to major in?
Thank you for your concern here, but no. Why the hell would I spend thousands of dollars a semester studying a major that I chose because there was nothing better to do? Choosing to study communication was not a last resort or last ditch effort to get my degree in anything. I chose communication because the study material, learning environments, and skills learned were all aspects of the degree that aligned with my interests. Personally, I took a semester off to find my perfect major and did so much research on majoring in Communication. I found that it was exactly what I was looking for in a major and profession. Don't get me wrong though, this might be true for some people. Because receiving a degree in anything is better than no degree at all. And what better field to study than a broad and diverse one like Communication? There is nothing wrong with being unsure of what you want to do while you're in college. Communication is a great gateway into several other fields of study and can also provide students with opportunities to study journalism, public relations and marketing, media production, and advertising.

So the next time someone tells you they are a Communication major, don't bring down their spirit by asking them these questions or assuming that any of these myths are true. Without communication departments and students studying it our world would be so different. There would be no media for you to consume (news, movies, TV shows, newspapers, magazines, etc.), businesses would fail without proper branding and advertising for their companies, there would be no one to serve as a watchdog to the government, and so much more. Another thing to remember: many communication majors are studying it because they enjoy it. We don't care what you think because we know that we are in the right place and are on the right path to a career that we'll love. With that, here's what I have to say to all of the haters: