Why Everyone Should Take a Communication Class
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
by Tori Thoele
Communication means something different to everyone here, especially college aged students. Whether that means communicating by text, email, a phone call, signing or even face to face meetings, everyone has their favorite method of communicating what’s important to them. With that in mind, I believe it’s important to be able to communicate not only thoroughly, but effectively. And a way to do that on a collegiate level is to participate in a communication class or program. Before coming to UMSL I had no idea how big a concept communication was, and ultimately how important it would be to me, but after gathering my thoughts, and taking many communication classes, I believe in order to be an outstanding professional in the real world setting, everyone should take at least one communication class.
Communication is the imparting or exchanging of information or news and means of sending or receiving information, such as phone lines or computers. Like I’ve said above, everyone has a different definition and experience as to how and why they communicate the way they do. I thought the best way to give the definition of what communication means was to ask some of my previous (and current) communication professors. To Dr. Lara Zwarun
communication means, “The ability to get a message across, and to deliver it in a way that is effective given who you are talking to. It doesn't have to be with words”. One of the most wanted skills that employers are looking for are excellent communication skills. Communication classes are there to show students how to accomplish those, preparing them before they make it to the professional world. Dr. Zwarun also points out that by learning how to communicate effectively, you can use that skill set in any kind of job. “You can think of communication as a "service" major--meaning the skills you learn there will make you better at anything else you do, whether that be practicing medicine, law, being a therapist or a teacher, doing corporate training or writing letters to elected officials,” Dr. Zwarun stated.
Dr. Zwarun was my Communication Research Methods teacher my junior year. What I gained from her class was a set of tools and really good methods on how to research anything in general. There is so much misinformation out there, and so many people are uneducated on how to fact-check and don’t know how to check if something is a reliable source. Through her lessons we learned the scientific method and a good way to judge if the information we were researching was reliable. This is a valuable skill set within itself, because we learned how to measure so many scenarios and even learned about ethics. This semester I am in an independent research study with her about sustainability on campus, and not only did I learn how to strengthen my research skills, but also how I communicate with them as well.
Learning to read and write is a basic skill that every employer is looking for, but what they are also looking for according to Professor Shannon Ahrndt, another communication professor and what communication classes can provide are problem-solving skills, ability to work in a team, and interpersonal skills. After taking her Professional Communication class I not only learned how to conduct myself in the professional setting, but I learned how to properly prepare for interviews. Our class time was dedicated to working in teams and practicing a set of most common asked interview questions. This not only showed me how to accurately communicate my skill set, but it showed me how to work in a team which gave valuable feedback for my answers. We also had group reenactments each week where we were given problems or common disagreements and had to act them out in front of the class. This gave us a chance to work out a solution to everyday problems you would see in the workforce and gave us practice on how to approach sensitive topics and disagreements.
Another communication class that would be of valuable asset to students would be an oral communication class or a public speaking class. No matter the way you look at it, at some point in time, you will have to get up in front of people and speak. Trust me I know it’s scary, but once you conquer that fear, it’s a rush. “Public speaking builds communicative effectiveness by addressing patterns of assumption, interaction,” Communication Professor Alan Heisel claims. I took an oral communication class and had to give a ten minute speech. Not only did it seem like it was forever, I was the first one to go, so I set the tone for the rest of the class. Standing in front of my classmates for 10 minutes not only was scary, but it was also a great way for me and other students to practice their presenting skills, which almost all jobs will require you to do at some point.
A second class I am taking of Alan Heisel’s also gives me time to practice my presentation skills. The class I’m currently in is a special topics class called: Communication in the 2020 Election. On the Monday’s we meet in person, we are required to present a summary of an article, video, or podcast that has to do with the election. Each time I present I feel like I am more confident in my presentation communications and have gotten over the fear of speaking to a class full of people I don’t know. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and allows students to learn how to properly communicate verbally.
An additional class I am currently in and recommend others take is Crisis, Disaster, and Risk Communication. In this class you learn how to be the ultimate communicator, and by this I mean that you learn how to communicate about crises that involve the worst type of situations/scenarios such as tornadoes, fires, tsunamis etc. In this class you’ll learn most importantly how to problem solve, which again is something that every employer wants. You also learn how to work with many types of people and be their voice so to speak. We’ve learned that you’ll be communicating with many people during a crisis, and if you can take information you hear from someone else and come up with a plan and communicate that plan effectively, you’ll be ready to face any problem in the professional setting.
As far as jobs in the communication field, there are many to say the least. According to PR and Communication Professor David Lange, these are some of the jobs you may find after earning a communication degree, “There is an almost limitless variety of jobs in the news media, public relations, and organizations. Writers and audio and visual producers are in demand. Especially valued are those who can develop multimedia solutions to bottom-line issues. If you can show the CEO how an integrated communications campaign can generate sales, save money, or increase efficiency, you will become a highly valued member of the organization.”
Even if you don’t decide to pursue a communication degree, communication classes offer valuable skill sets that are most wanted by current employers. To Professor Leighanne Heisel, communication is not a want, but a need, “Communication is a strong foundation for many career paths with lots of flexibility. No matter what career changes you make throughout your life, the one common thread will be the need to effectively communicate—with your boss, your team, or customers. My communication degree was invaluable to my instructional interests because I had to understand how to interact with my students, their parents, and my administrators. That experience is not unique. A degree in communication can help you achieve your career path. It will help you be a stronger employee, colleague or employer regardless of how your professional life unfolds.” No matter what you decide to do, just take a communication class. You’ll find that it will pay off in the end, and ultimately, make you a stronger, more versatile student.