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Communication Studies


The Communication Studies major is a department within the College of Arts and Letters and a unit of the Schools of Communication, Information and Media. While students do not need to declare a concentration, the school offers seven. 


Advocacy Studies
Cultural Communication
Health Communication
Interpersonal Communication
Organizational Communication
Public Relations

Admission and Progression Standards

Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.

Description of Major

Communication Studies is offered as a major and minor at JMU. The School of Communication Studies seeks to provide students with the opportunity to study the messages and outcomes resulting from human interactive processes that involve the content and relationship dimensions of communication sources, receivers, channels and contexts. Students study the process of social influence which is found in all forms of interaction. Within a liberal arts framework, students in Communication Studies study the ways people influence and relate to one another in speech, writing, and visual symbols. The study of communication includes the social scientific study of human communication behavior in diverse contexts and the qualitative study of rhetoric. The context of primary concern in the School of Communication Studies is that involving face-to-face communication between and among people. While students are not required to declare a concentration, the school offers seven. A concentration in Advocacy Studies examines the communication practices that citizens, political leaders, government officials, public administrators, interest groups and community service organizations use to campaign, deliberate, adjudicate, govern and advocate for social change. Cultural Communication is concerned with the role of communication in the construction of cultural and ethnic identities. The Generalist  Option enables students to study communication from a variety of perspectives. Health Communication teaches students to study communication in a variety of contexts within the health care environment. Interpersonal Communication examines the communication processes and effects that occur in a variety of settings including personal relationships, groups, public encounters and professional situations. In Organizational Communication students study the ways people interact within large organizations, such as business, government, educational and non-profit groups. Public Relations is concerned with the management of communication between an organization and its internal and external publics with the goal of mutual understanding and influence. The School of Communication Studies also offers minors in Communication Studies, , Cultural Communication, Health Communication, and Sport Communication.

More About the Field 

The discipline of communication studies encompasses almost all forms of interaction between and among individuals. Levels include interpersonal, small group, public and mass communication. Communication processes occur in a multitude of contexts and environments, which individuals, organizations, and societies use to communicate. A professional communicator crafts, produces, and delivers messages to specific audiences for a defined purpose, however, in this age of information filled with technological advancements, one must preserve the human element of communication and understand its influences on the processing of messages and meanings.


The primary concerns within the school include human communicative interactions within interpersonal settings such as dyads and small groups, public speaking, communication within organizations, between organizations and the public, as well as campaign communication processes. Within these contexts students study conflict resolution, communication in health settings, organizations and political settings, the interaction of culture and communication, language, nonverbal communication, written and oral communication skills and social influence among human beings in a variety of settings. While students do not need to declare a concentration, the school offers seven different topical concentrations: Advocacy Studies, GeneralistCultural Communication, Health Communication, Interpersonal Communication, Organizational Communication, and Public Relations. In Advocacy Studies, students learn how skilled advocates adopt, develop and implement diverse sets of communication strategies that help clients articulate interests and goals related to social change. In Cultural Communication students learn how communication practices function to create cultural and ethnic identities and how to deal with the challenges of communicating across cultures in a global community. In Health Communication students study communication interaction between health professionals and patients / clients as well as health promotion communication strategies. Interpersonal Communication builds on the principles of human relations and persuasion in face to face interactions between people. The Organizational Communication concentration studies the ways people interact in large organizations and how these interactions facilitate organizational goals. In Public Relations one learns how to use words, signs and symbols that inform and influence people and shape public opinion.

Complementary Majors and Minors 

There are no common combinations but some examples might be Anthropology, Art, Creative Writing, Criminal Justice, English, Environmental Management, Film Studies, Human Resource Development, Integrated Science and Technology, Marketing, Media Arts and Design, Modern Foreign Languages, Music Industry, Nonprofit Studies, Political Communication, Political Science, Pre Law, Public Policy and Administration, Psychology, Sociology, Sport Communication, Women’s Studies, Urban & Regional Studies or Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication.

Characteristics of Successful Students

Openness to others and a sense of professional drive are appropriate to a very competitive field. A desire to improve communication interaction in a variety of settings and possessing strong academic credentials. Good grades, strong writing skills, and related experiences are essential.


Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.

  • ADR Case Specialist
  • Advertising Account Executive
  • Advertising Copywriter
  • Americorp Volunteer
  • Business Travel Coordinator
  • Buyer/Merchandise Manager
  • Campaign Coordinator
  • College Admissions Counselor
  • Communication Consultant
  • Community Health Educator
  • Community Relations Director
  • Community Service Case Manager
  • Congressional Aide
  • Consumer Affairs Specialist
  • Corporate Recruiter
  • Corporate Relations Coordinator
  • Employment Agency Counselor
  • Events Planner
  • Financial Aid Counselor
  • Fundraiser/ Development Officer
  • Grant Writer
  • Graphic Artist/ Designer
  • Group Care Worker
  • Health Advocate
  • Health Education Coordinator
  • Hotline Operator
  • Human Resources Personnel
  • Instructional Systems Designer
  • Interactive Media Specialist
  • Journalist
  • Lobbyist
  • Marketing Executive
  • Media Relations Specialist
  • Mediator/ Negotiator
  • Meeting/ Convention Planner
  • Online Community Manager
  • Pharmaceutical Representative
  • Political Aide
  • Political Campaign Organizer
  • Press Agent
  • Press Secretary (Government)
  • Promotions Manager
  • Public Affairs Director
  • Public Information Officer
  • Public Opinion Interviewer
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Recruitment Coordinator
  • Research Interviewer
  • Social Media Specialist
  • Social Media Strategist
  • Special Events Coordinator
  • Speech Writer
  • Stadium Manager
  • Technical Writer
  • Training Specialist
  • Travel Agent
  • Underwriter
  • Victim Services Specialist
  • Volunteer Liaison
  • Web Manager
  • Wedding Planner

Who Employs Graduates?

Advertising Agencies, Colleges/Universities, Community Mediation Centers, Community Service and Health Agencies, Corporations, Court Connected Programs, Federal/State/Local Government Agencies, Healthcare Facilities, Hospitals, Lobbying Organizations, Non-Profit Agencies, Pharmaceutical companies, Political Organizations, Private Dispute Resolution Companies, Professional Associations, Public or Private Schools, Public Relations Firms, or Resorts.

Internships and Experiential Opportunities 

Many opportunities are available as a result of our well-organized program. Getting involved in internships, practicum and directed projects can help students to "learn by doing".Though an internship is not required to complete the major, students are encouraged to seek out those opportunities through their own efforts or by contacting the internship coordinators.  Students are also encouraged to consider directed projects, which may include opportunities for undergraduate research. . In addition, the Debate Team and the Individual Events team are examples of programs through which students could gain practical experiences related to their field of study. Students should consult with the faculty coordinator of the area in which they are interested for more information. 

View our list of internship coordinators for each major.

Career Profiles 

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers
Judges and Hearing Officers
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers
Public Relations Specialists
Arbitrators, Mediators, Conciliators Careers
Social and Community Services Managers
A Day in the Life of a Lobbyist
A Day in the Life of a Media Planner
A Day in the Life of a Mediator

Research Careers

Visit our Career Outcomes page to find out what alumni were doing right after graduating with this major.


Log in to Vault for access to detailed information on over 900 professions including employment prospects, estimated salaries, possible job titles, and top companies.


Visit our Research Careers page for even more career research tools.


© Career & Academic Planning, James Madison University,

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from JMU Career & Academic Planning. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to

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