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Communication Studies Frequently Asked Questions


 How is Communication Studies different from Media Arts and Design?

The School of Media Arts and Design (SMAD) is much more media-focused.  If you’re interested in broadcast journalism, graphic design, or video production, SMAD should definitely be your choice – it’s also an excellent major.  The School of Communication Studies (SCOM) does overlap with SMAD just a little bit, but our areas of concentration are very different from SMAD and I think that’s where you could most easily tell the difference between the two.  SCOM tends to focus more on face-to-face communication and strategic message design.

 Can I double major in SCOM and SMAD?

Absolutely – in fact, SCOM requires a second major, minor, or other area of specialization, and SMAD is a very common second major choice.  Students who major in both can graduate on time, and appreciate the more mediated and technical aspects of SMAD when combined with the more face-to-face and strategic communication aspects of SCOM.  Both majors emphasize writing and working in teams, which are critical workplace skills.

 What are some common second majors and minors?

Other College of Arts and Letters majors and minors are very common – WRTC (Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication), History, Sociology, foreign languages.  Other typical minors include music industry, human resource development, and nonprofit studies.

 Does the department encourage internships?

Yes – absolutely, we encourage internships.  We can’t require them because, due to the size of the major and the size of the community, we can’t guarantee that all of our majors could find local internships.  However, every SCOM concentration has space for internship credits, and many students find them to be very valuable.  We have two internship coordinators who have developed contacts throughout the region, and we’re also supportive of students finding internships at home during the summer.

 Does the department offer study abroad options?

Yes, the department does have several study abroad options in places like Ireland, Korea, Nepal, and multiple European countries through our “public relations in Europe” study abroad program.  One of the more common minors is British Communication and Media, which involves a semester in London.  We’re also always willing to consider giving credit for study abroad classes through other universities, including “Semester at Sea.”

 What kinds of jobs do SCOM majors get?

According to the most recent numbers we have, approximately 96% of SCOM alumni are in full-time jobs, internships, or graduate programs right after graduation – but like all majors in the College of Arts and Letters, our alumni may take a few years to find their path.  We have very successful alumni in a wide range of fields, including human resources, public relations, health care, advertising, and sales.  One of the strengths of the major is the many possible careers after graduation.

 How do you prepare SCOM majors for jobs?

As noted above, we do encourage internships. Multiple classes involve the kinds of applied activities which give students very valuable practical experiences for resume-building, and our two large student organizations – the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and Lambda Pi Eta – invite guest speakers to class and facilitate networking opportunities by visiting corporations around the region. For example, several public relations agencies in Richmond and northern Virginia have hired multiple SCOM alumni, and those agencies will regularly host visits by groups of students in PRSSA. We also invite a large group of alumni back to campus every year for career-focused interactions with students during our alumni conference.

 What other kinds of unique opportunities are there for SCOM majors?

Ours is one of only a very small number of communication departments nationally which requires students to take two research methods courses.  In that second course, students typically produce work alone or in groups which is of sufficient quality to be presented at an academic conference, and our students have had excellent success in presenting papers at conferences and even publishing in academic journals.  In addition to undergraduate research, our department prides itself on experiential learning, as many students in multiple classes are working on projects in the community.  One excellent example is the award-winning Bluestone Communication student-run public relations firm.  As members of that firm, students work with actual clients to develop public relations strategies and materials.

 Do I have to declare the major right away, or can I still graduate on time if I wait a year or two?

Though you can declare the major right away, and you certainly should if you’re interested, many of our students can graduate on time with no difficulty if they declare the major as late as their sophomore year.

 What do you think are the greatest strengths of this major? Why should a student choose SCOM over other majors at JMU, or communication programs at other schools?

Our greatest strength is, unquestionably, the quality of the faculty in the department.  With over 40 faculty teaching classes in many different areas and with different strengths, students will have a tremendous variety of educational experiences.  SCOM faculty are highly credentialed, experienced, dedicated, creative, and thoughtful, with a superb depth of knowledge in many different aspects of communication.  The program is designed with as much flexibility as possible, to allow students to take courses from multiple faculty members and even across multiple concentrations, if a student chooses the generalist option.

 

For more information, feel free to contact us at SCOM@JMU.edu.

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