Communication is a fundamental social and cultural process, one that is essential to our survival as a species and as a polity. In illuminating communication’s multifaceted role, our faculty emphasize theory, methods of inquiry, and critical thinking. As a Communication major, you will develop analytical abilities that help you understand how communication works, whether in an argument between friends, a political speech, an interaction between people from different cultures, or a children’s television program. You will develop your curiosity, your focus, and your ability to find out—to pose a question creatively and answer it rigorously.
Many choose the field because it plays a pivotal role in sustaining participatory democracy and a vibrant world of art, culture, and criticism. It helps us recognize and deepen our connections across borders, be they community or national, and it makes us thoughtful, accountable critics. We offer breadth and depth in the field, the chance to study with leading researchers, and personal attention to each student’s development as a writer, speaker, and scholar.
The Communication major at UMass follows the liberal arts tradition, emphasizing skills that make for engaged citizenship. We concentrate on theory and methods of inquiry, as opposed to technical training, although we do offer courses such as Public Speaking, Film and Television Production Concepts, Program Process in Television, Screenwriting, and many research courses.
Communication majors can study a wide array of topics, such as communication and cultural politics; film history and theory; technologies of communication and the nature of social institutions; communication and the constitution of social identities and relationships; mass media effects; and policies affecting communication technologies, systems, and institutions.
Admission to the Major
Although many first-year and transfer students are admitted directly into the communication major when they are admitted to UMass Amherst, the major is restricted for students already on campus. Students who are not directly admitted may apply to the major during the semester in which they complete the second of any two of the following five courses:
- COMM 118 Introduction to Interpersonal Communication and Culture
- COMM 121 Introduction to Media and Culture
- COMM 122 Introduction to Media Programming and Institutions
- COMM 125 Introduction to Rhetoric, Performance, and Social Action
- COMM 140 Introduction to Film Studies
Anyone not directly admitted to the major must submit an application provided by the Department of Communication. Evaluation of the application is based on: 1) performance in Communication courses, 2) overall academic record, and 3) written application statement(s).
Students majoring in Communication must complete at least 12 or 13 courses (36 or 37 credits) in Communication. These include three of the courses listed above in addition to COMM 375: Writing as Communication; two courses at the 300-level or above; two courses at the 400-level or above; and four electives at the 200-level or above. First-year students directly admitted into the major must also take COMM 101: Introduction to Communication (1 credit).
No minor in Communication is available.
Internships and Study Abroad
Internships are optional, supervised apprenticeships that can introduce students to many kinds of organizations and professional work. Such hands-on experiences complement the theoretical and analytic orientation of the undergraduate curriculum, and provide experiences and connections that help students find jobs after graduation. Communication majors have interned in such diverse fields as media programming, public interest research, TV news, advertising, public relations, corporate management, sales, government, print media and film production, and community cultural organizations.
Communication majors are encouraged to study abroad. More than 40 Communication majors do so each year in such countries as Australia, Japan, Spain, England, South Africa, and Argentina, and many report the experience to be life-changing.
The B.A. in Communication is a liberal arts degree, preparing students for any career that calls for advanced literacy skills, analytical reasoning, and critical thinking. The major helps prepare many students for work as communication specialists in local, state, and federal government agencies; educational institutions; research organizations; industry; and political organizations. Specific positions can include: production, sales, and programming positions for radio and television stations; media and communication advisors for political campaigns, intercultural organizations, labor unions, and government agencies; and communication consultants for personnel management, advertising, and sales organizations. Surveys of Communication alumni indicate that about 30 percent of graduates work in print, film, and broadcast industries; about 45 percent work in government, nonprofit, or business related occupations, such as advertising, public relations, sales, financial or social services, and administration; and about 20 percent go on to graduate study, professional schools, or teaching.
Department of Communication
407 Machmer Hall
Undergraduate Academic Advisor: Lynn Phillips, 407B Machmer Hall, 413.545.3539