Dispelling myths about majoring in communication


Adam Zhang

Michal Cylwik, a sophomore in Communication, studies at the Communications Library located at Gregory Hall. Over 600 students major in communications, but it is still often misunderstood.

By Pari Apostolakos, Staff writer

Although over 600 students are pursuing a major in communication at the University, there’s a bit of confusion as to what communication majors actually study. There tends to be a misconception that a communication major is easy when that is often not the case.

William Barley, an assistant professor of organizational communication at the University, said one of the tricky things about a topic like communication is that all people communicate. So, Barley explained, there’s potential for a faulty assumption: everyone communicates, so it must be easy to study.

However, Barley disagrees.

“Some students outside of the communication major aren’t quite sure what communication is from an external perspective,” Barley said.

He described communication as a social science which is both broad and applied at the same time. He believes one of the hardest challenges a communication major will have to face throughout their undergraduate journey would be finding a focus and sticking to it, due to the many different specialties within communication.

John Caughlin, head of the communication department at the University, agrees with Barley.

“I think the greatest challenge of the communication major is the greatest strength,” Caughlin said. “We have a very broad department … that allows (each student) to tailor what they want, and that’s also a challenge because we don’t tell people ‘these are the five courses you need to take, in this order.’”

According to the Illini Success report for the college of LAS in 2015-2016, communication has the highest percentage of graduates that have found employment, at 80 percent, with seven percent of communication majors pursuing graduate level education.

“Communication gives people skills that can help them in any job,” Caughlin said. “There’s not any one job.”

Some of the jobs communication majors usually acquire are in sales, public relations, nonprofit organizations and health services.

Caughlin said the students who are most successful in the communication realm are self-driven learners who are willing to put together their own program and decide independently what would be most beneficial to them in the long run.

“I am planning on going to law school, and some of the courses that I’ve taken in communication have actually helped me solidify my career choice,” MaryAllison Mahacek, a junior in LAS said. “So, while there might be a typical path a communication student should take, you can really do anything you’d like with it.”

Mahacek encourages students who may be interested in a communication degree to make an appointment with an academic advisor from the department or take an introductory communication course like Communication 101 or 102.

“The Department of Communication consists of award-winning faculty, interesting courses, various resources such as an Internship Program and research opportunities, that can prepare students for the changing work world and society that lies ahead,” said Barbara Hall, an academic advisor from the communication department.

Raley Mauck, a senior in LAS, feels grateful for the important and applicable skills the communication major teaches its students.

“I feel that I am a skilled public speaker. I have developed strong qualitative and quantitative research skills and have the ability to respond and communicate appropriately in any work or personal life situation,” Mauck said. “As technology evolves, the way we communicate is rapidly changing, and studying communication has allowed me to become an eager learner and expert in high-pressure situations.” 

Kathleen Tresnowski, a senior in LAS said that communication is the perfect major for a student with a wide variety of interests.

However, Tresnowski also assures that there is a lot of hard work and dedication needed to study this subject area.

“Communication majors are most likely writing several lengthy papers every semester and receive experience working both independently and on teams, which is great preparation for the professional careers communication majors will typically pursue,” Tresnowski said.

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