Answer: Advertising, global, health, intercultural, interpersonal, journalism, marketing, media and digital media, organizational and corporate, political, public relations, rhetorical studies, strategic, and technical are areas of study and training that are encompassed by the larger field of communication or communication studies. Each of these areas of study represents a communication specialization that may be offered as part of a communication degree program.
Communication refers to the theories and processes by which information is conveyed between individuals, within groups, and in other societal and organizational settings. As an academic discipline, communication straddles the social sciences and the humanities, incorporating theories of psychology and human behavior, as well as critical methodologies for interpreting texts and determining meaning. Communication is also deeply rooted in the study of media, including the various tools and technologies we use to communicate with one another and to reach a mass audience. The aim of communication studies is to develop a scientific understanding of the psychological processes and technologies that impact how messages are sent and received, and how the information contained within those messages is processed and understood. Communication specialists and professionals apply this knowledge as an interpretive tool, and to develop strategies for persuading, convincing, informing, and otherwise influencing others.
Communication is studied and taught at the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral levels, often in departments or schools dedicated to media and communication studies. Because communication is a broad area of study, individual schools and departments may focus on different aspects of the field. Theories of communication, which include information theory, rhetorical theory, and semiotics, are foundational to developing grounding in the processes and applications of communication. Learning these theories is often the starting point for students in communication degree programs.
Some communication programs emphasize the further study of communication theories and their application to addressing and solving real-world problems in social, political, technological, and global contexts. Other programs may specialize in the business applications of communication theory, which include advertising, branding, marketing, and public relations. There are also programs that target print, broadcast, and online media technologies and their impact on messaging in commerce and politics. In addition, the study of media technologies may include instruction in production techniques, the manipulation and deployment of imagery, journalism, and other uses of written and verbal communications.
There are numerous specialization and subfields within communication. These specializations and subfields become increasingly important at the master’s degree level, which is where students are generally preparing for careers in the field. A bachelor’s degree with major in communication studies may offer some specialized training in journalism, broadcast and digital production (radio/television/internet), public speaking, and/or mass media/marketing. However, master’s programs are typically where students receive in-depth training in one or more of the professional applications of communication theories.
The National Communication Association (NCA), a non-profit professional organization that was founded in 1919, maintains a list of communication specializations that currently details 17 distinct yet related areas of research and training. These specializations include:
While many of the NCA’s communication specializations may be addressed in a master’s in communication degree program, they are typically subsumed and incorporated into broader professional areas of communication studies. These areas include:
Different types of communication degree programs provide different kinds of specialized training. Students aiming for a career in business may want to consider programs with a focus on organizational communication, marketing, and/or interpersonal communication. Students interested in the production side of communication should look into programs that emphasize media technologies and production techniques and/or journalism and media studies. Those looking to work in the political sphere or in the private sector as a company spokesperson or a communications advisor may want to explore programs that emphasize public relations, political communication, and/or strategic communication. It is also common for communication departments and schools to offer several tracks at the master’s degree level, so one program may include two or more optional areas of specialization.