Undergraduate FAQs

Shouldn't communication courses be easy for anyone who can already hold a conversation?

Communication study is hard work because everyone feels so familiar with it. Watching television creates habits that go contrary to the critical thinking required of communication students. The fact that your life is saturated with communication makes it even more difficult.

Then what is communication?

Communication is a liberal studies major that focuses on how people interact to create meaning and make ideas into reality. Like the other liberal arts and sciences, the major looks at every aspect of human life. It's another lens (like psychology, history, or political science) for examining the world. Communication is everywhere and part of everything people do. The challenge of communication study is to escape your own everyday practices and understand the processes involved and consequences that result. See Program Description.

Why do I have to take a statistics course? I thought I was done with math.

Understanding statistics is a basic skill for most careers these days, and especially in fields related to communication. Communication draws on the humanities and social sciences, and students from the best programs have cross-over skills: they can write and they can handle data. That flexibility helps make communication graduates desirable for employers.

What is a communication degree good for?

Communication is designed to prepare you for a lifetime of learning in a variety of careers. Graduates enter a wide range of jobs, because most occupations value the abilities communication majors hone through coursework. Communication students are, above all, good communicators, which means they have abilities that employers value for work involving interpersonal interaction, problem solving, and speaking (whether in person or through any media) to a larger audience. See Careers.

How can I get job training?

In media industries, occupational skills depend on the latest technology and can change very quickly. The best place to learn them is on the job, and UIC students do that through internships. As you discover and begin to explore topics that excite you, you should begin looking for internships that incorporate communication along with your area of interest. Be open to the unexpected and prepared for some surprises, because many communication students find jobs in areas they didn't even know existed when they started the major. See Internships.

Why doesn't the major include practical skills courses?

If you mean things like TV production and news writing, the answer is that production processes change very rapidly. The goal of the degree is to give students skills that will not go out of use within a few years. So there is no "Journalism 101" or "PR 101" - courses dedicated to entry-level job skills - in the program. Many courses in the Department do involve students in practical activities, from giving a speech to creating a web page, but the point of these exercises fits the department mission to build critical thinking skills and research skills that last a lifetime.

What skills will I learn?

Instead of training students for a first job, the Department fosters abilities that students go on to use over a long career in a changing communication environment. There are two levels of skills in the program, general and specific. The general training includes interpersonal skills, teamwork, public speaking, media analysis, and critical thinking. These are tools for all communication jobs and most courses use activities and methods that encourage your development of these tools. The specific skills courses teach research methods: how to solve communication problems, how to find solid evidence, and how to report your findings. These are essential tools for a long career in communication, the professions, and many other fields. See Major Requirements.

Can I get a job in marketing or advertising with this degree?

For jobs in areas that require portfolios, such as advertising creative work, a different degree program would be appropriate. Some students in the major build portfolios by studying graphic design through a separate program. See Internships. For jobs in advertising and marketing that don't require portfolios, an internship (or two) can provide the background to get into jobs. Graduates of the program do work in advertising and marketing, but tend to move into research and leadership roles.

What if I want to minor in communication?

Check out the Undergraduate Catalog for a Minor in Communication.

To obtain course approval for any course 200 level and above, you must seek that approval from a Social Science Advisor on the 8th floor of University Hall. 

Why is the Department of Communication singular (without an s)?

Older departments focused on mass media and industry training had the name of the industry (such as Department of Journalism or Department of Advertising), the general term communications, or both (such as Department of Journalism and Mass Communications). Communications were one-to-many transmissions of messages to mass audiences. The singular noun communication is the broader term, including speech and media through all channels and cultural means. The UIC department uses the singular noun because its courses and programs are comprehensive, encompassing all communication ranging from intra-personal (you talking to yourself) to global and beyond. The latest technologies tend to fuse personal with mediated communication, and the UIC Department of Communication is at the leading edge of the discipline.

Where is my question?

If there's another question you'd like added to the FAQ list, please send it to the Department.