Skip to main content

Communication Studies

Why Major In Communication Studies at Northwestern?

Communication Studies provides theory, tools, and techniques for analyzing, managing, and improving communication in many aspects of professional and personal interaction.

Courses in communication studies challenge your mind, broaden your views, and develop in you an increased awareness of and skill in communication practices. Our goal is to prepare students to take their places as responsible leaders, engaged citizens, thoughtful problem solvers, and productive contributors in their communities and chosen fields of work.

What Do Communication Studies Majors Do After College?

After graduation, students work in a variety of fields, including:

  • Digital media
  • Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Public relations
  • Healthcare
  • Management consulting
  • Political consulting
  • Entertainment
  • Law
  • Public affairs
  • Non-profit management

…and many others

How Can I Find Out If Communication Studies Is Right For Me?

If you are not currently a major, take a look at the Undergraduate Catalog and CAESAR to get a taste of the variety of classes the department offers.  Once you are familiar with the class offerings, make an appointment to speak to an Academic Advisor in Communication Studies by calling 847-491-7214.

What Classes are Recommended for First-Year Students?

Core Courses (all 3 courses are required for the major)

  • COMM ST 101-1 Communication in Context: Introduction. This course is required for all students in our major and must be completed during students’ first year in the major. The course is an introduction to Communication Studies as a broad and interdisciplinary field, looking at important domains, processes, and perspectives for understanding communication phenomena.
  • COMM ST 101-2 Communication in Context: Analysis and Research. This course is also required for all students in our major. It moves beyond the introductory course through additional skills training and expanded research and analytical assignments.
  • COMM ST102 Public Speaking. Offered every quarter, public speaking encompasses the theory, composition, delivery, and criticism of public speeches.

200-level courses (students in the major are required to take 3)

In addition to the Core courses, students in the Communication Studies major are required to take three 200-level Communication Studies courses that offer students an opportunity to explore the engaging research taking place in the Communication Studies Department. Some options that may be taken alongside or after the Core courses are:

  • COMM ST 201 Research Methods (required for the Bachelor of Science degree)
  • COMM ST 205 Theories of Persuasion
  • COMM ST 215 Principles of Rhetorical Criticism
  • COMM ST 225 Communication and Culture
  • COMM ST 227 Communication and Technology
  • COMM ST 246 Introduction to Health Communication
  • COMM ST 250 Team Leadership and Decision Making
  • COMM ST 261 Introduction to Strategic Communication
  • COMM ST 270 Media Effects
  • COMM ST 274 Power in Entertainment
  • COMM ST 295 Topics in Communication Studies (topics will vary; students may take this course more than once with different topics).

While first-year students are working toward fulfilling their major requirements, they often also choose at least two classes each quarter to satisfy distribution requirements, including foreign language courses to satisfy the two-year proficiency requirement.  Students may take courses in their potential Field of Concentration (see below) and other courses in the major if they choose.  It is not recommended that first-year students take classes in the department that are at or above the 300-level.

Distribution Requirements

Distribution requirements are satisfied by the liberal arts classes that all students in the School of Communication must complete to receive a bachelor’s degree.  Communication Studies majors take 3 courses in each of the three distribution areas: Math/Science/Technology; Individual and Social Behavior; and Humanities and Fine Arts. They also complete an additional 9 distribution classes from any area.

Field of Concentration

Students in Communication Studies must complete a concentration of six courses in a subject outside the School of Communication (typically in WCAS). The concentration must consist of at least 6 courses, with at least 3 at the 300-level. A non-SoC second major, minor, or adjunct major will also satisfy this requirement. Courses taken for the concentration may be double counted as distribution courses if they fall within approved subject areas.
You may choose to explore different subjects outside of SoC during your first year to help you decide on your Field of Concentration. If you have already identified your concentration, you can continue to take 100 and 200 level courses in that subject.

AP and IB Credit

AP credits cannot be applied to the Communication Studies major, but they may apply to distribution requirements  (see SoC Table). If your credit is not yet posted, have your scores sent from the College Board to the Registrar’s Office for processing.
Once your AP/IB credit is posted to your transcript, it can be applied to your distribution requirements as follows:

  • One AP/IB credit in each of the three areas: Math/Science/Technology; Individual and Social Behavior; and Humanities and Fine Arts
  • An additional six AP/IB credits may apply as additional distribution classes
  • A final credit may count as an elective
  • The maximum total number of AP or IB credit that may apply is 10


Contact one of the Academic Advisors in Communication Studies: Sarah Syversen (  SoC students can make an appointment via Non-SoC students can make an appointment by calling 847-491-7214.