The communications undergraduate curriculum is designed to include learning that gradually shifts from a basic understanding of communications to advanced coursework. There are a variety of courses available focusing on interpersonal and relational communication, media and society as well as courses that emphasize rhetorical studies and public advocacy. You might choose to study group, interpersonal, professional, organizational or intercultural communication, or you might take courses that join together speaking and listening skills, nonverbal and verbal interaction, or persuasion and argumentation. You should also have the chance to learn about technology and how the media has shaped and then reshaped our politics, social interaction, economy and work.
Typically, college communications degree requires 120 hours/credits. Colleges refer to hours and credits interchangeably. There are specific required courses that everyone must take and electives you can choose from a specified list depending on your area of concentration. In general, a major concentration is considered to be around 30-36 hours/credits; sometimes more, rarely less.
College hours are earned by successfully completing coursework. A three-hour class (typical) means that you meet for class three hours each week. It could be a one-hour class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday—or it could be an hour and a half class on Tuesday and Thursday. Either way, the credit is the same.
For communications majors, the core courses that you take—generally including math, science, social studies and English—will be the same as for every other student seeking a degree. There may be additional core course requirements for your degree. You will have a college advisor, usually from your chosen degree field, to help you through the course requirements. A word of advice: Keep the course catalog from the year you entered college. As requirements change, you should be held accountable only for the requirements at the time you entered. You should bring your catalog to every meeting with your advisor to help you double-check that you are meeting your requirements.
As a freshman, you can count on taking some lower-level survey classes in general communications. Included in these classes will probably be communications theory and presentation skills. As you delve deeper into your major, the coursework becomes more specific. Public relations majors, for example, have a different set of classes then advertising majors. Depending on your selected college or university, you may have to take a foreign language to a proficiency level and/or debate. Sometimes these requirements can be waived (eliminated) from your required courses if you have related high school coursework.
The time required to get a degree in communications varies. When your parents attended college, most students graduated in four years; however, these days it is more typical for a student to graduate in five years. This is due to a combination of factors— students are working more and required coursework is sometime difficult to schedule. When you are budgeting money for college, this is something to consider. Talking to advisors in the communications department should help you gauge your long-term time commitment.