According to the National Communication Association’s Executive Director, Trevor Giles, “A communications degree is broadly situated to take on a number of different kinds of positions.” These positions exist in the private and public worlds, from speech writer to event planner, producer to podcast host, journalist to policy-maker.
Communications majors study how humans send and receive messages, and how those messages are interpreted. Messages can be read in print, seen on a screen, or heard live in a speech; these messages may be carried over the Internet and viewed by millions of people. Changes in communications happen quickly, and colleges prepare communications majors to stay current with these trends.
Where do the future leaders of these communication fields receive the best education? Where can students combine hands-on experience with student-centered learning from expert professors?
For this list today, we are looking at 10 amazing communications schools with outstanding faculty, student accomplishments and awards, opportunities for on-campus communications training (e.g., student newspapers), and alumni placement into the industry.
Here are College Gazette’s picks for 10 of the best colleges for communications majors in the US.
Villanova University (Villanova, PA)
Located less than 20 miles from Philadelphia, Villanova University offers communication majors numerous opportunities for student-centered learning. World-class professors combine with over a century of communications experience to make Villanova a must-see for any prospective communications major.
Opportunities for communications majors include writing for The Villanovan, the university’s recognized and accredited student-run newspaper, which publishes 12 issues per semester at 6500 copies per issue. The newspaper has run continually since its founding in 1916.
Additionally, there is a bi-weekly publication called The Villanova Times, recognized by the Collegiate Network in 2009. TVT is entirely student-organized and published by communications majors. Yet another publication, The Belle Air Yearbook, has been student-run for nearly 100 years. Villanova students have won national awards and honorable mentions for their yearbooks from a number of organizations, including the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.
Villanova also has its own student-run television and radio stations, where communication majors learn production techniques by creating original content. Radio station WXVU can be heard at 89.1 FM and globally via the Internet, while television station WVTV keeps Villanova informed on current events, politics, and campus news.
Howie Long, NFL player and Fox NFL Sunday host, is an alumni of the Villanova communications program.
Northwestern University School of Communication (Evanston, IL)
Historically, Northwestern’s communications program has been among the most accomplished in the entire world, having graduated many of the world’s most famous personalities. Some of these alumni include Stephen Colbert, Warren Beatty, and award-winning actress Heather Headley, among many others.
Whereas many other communications programs have a focus on production, journalism, and broadcasting, Northwestern’s numerous specializations in communications include performing arts, designing digital media, speech-language pathology, and more. This all said, Northwestern’s communications program does also include a more traditional education in television, film, and radio.
Faculty in Northwestern’s communications program include Todd Rosenthal, a Tony-award winning scenic designer, Anna Shapiro, director of the legendary Steppenwolf Theatre, and Dilip Gaonkar, the director of Northwestern’s Center for Global Culture and Communication.
Boston University College of Communication (Boston, MA)
The Boston University College of Communications offers several Bachelor of Science degrees in specific areas of communications. A college situated on the banks of the Charles River, Boston University and its students benefit from the urban opportunities afforded to them in a city brimming with professional media companies.
At Boston University, communications students can work toward degrees that specialize in advertising, media, film and television, and public relations.
Student-run radio station WTBU was named College Station of the Year twice in a row by the College Radio Awards in New York City. This radio station broadcasts 20 hours a day from the third floor of BU’s College of Communications, programming sports and news topics as spun by its students.
Two of the College of Communication’s best experiential offerings are the AdLab and PRLab, student-run initiatives focused on providing students real-world communications experience while in college. Faithfully accomplishing this mission, the AdLab and PRLab provide both paid and pro bono communications services to Boston area businesses and nonprofit organizations.
University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication (Philadelphia, PA)
Located in the University City section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, UPenn was founded by Benjamin Franklin and is one of the Ivy League colleges. UPenn, as a whole, was ranked 8th in the country by US News and World Report Rankings, and 6th by Washington Monthly for 2020.
UPenn’s resources for communications students are virtually endless. Over one-dozen research centers & labs sponsored through the Annenberg Communications program are available for students and faculty alike. One of these facilities, the Annenberg Public Policy Center, helps journalists, aspiring content creators, and policy-makers understand how media interacts with their profession.
With its advantageous Philadelphia location, the University of Pennsylvania provides communications students with opportunities in and out of the classroom. Through the school’s Annenberg Creative initiative, students get the chance to study Virtual reality simulation, storytelling through podcasting, and more.
Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, NC)
Communications majors at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, attend the College of Arts and Sciences. The communications department has three affiliated programs in studio communication, debate, and filmmaking. Communications majors contribute to “Wake Studios,” a YouTube channel containing daily news (The Wake Take), student-run films, and college-produced documentaries.
The communications majors also run the debate team, which holds the Franklin R Shirley Classic College Debate Tournament on campus each fall. Colleges and universities come to Wake Forest from all over the country to compete. This nationally recognized debate event was named for the founder of the communications department at WFU.
Affiliated with the communications department is the Wake Forest Documentary Film Program. A graduate program, students pursuing a Master’s degree here learn how to craft compelling documentary films through classes in cinematography, production, storytelling, and more. One alum of this program, Hillary Pierce, has had work featured in the Sundance Film Festival.
University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism (Los Angeles, CA)
This unique combination of schools at USC offers Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in both communication and journalism, and a Ph.D. in communications. The graduate program is rated #1 in QS World University Rankings out of all US schools. All of this is for a good reason; many quality opportunities exist at USC Annenberg for hands-on experience.
The television studio that produces Annenberg TV News live is student-run, boasting a professional level, three-camera broadcast studio with an Adobe lab. In addition to the television studio opportunities, students also run a daily newspaper called the Daily Trojan and an online news publication called the Neon Timmy.
Students manage an in-house public relations firm that works with non-profit organizations in the greater Los Angeles area. Additionally, overseas fellowships are available for communications majors, taking students to the London School for Economics as well as Hong Kong, Amsterdam, or Cape Town.
DePaul University College of Communication (Chicago, IL)
In 2020, Radio DePaul was named Best College Station in the Nation by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System. This radio station is run by none other than students of the DePaul College of Communication, one of the country’s best schools for this unique major. Radio DePaul’s podcast, aptly called The Radio DePaul Podcast, won the College Association Pinnacle Award in 2016.
Besides Radio DePaul, one exciting opportunity students can participate in is The DePaulia. A newspaper printed every Monday during the school year and available online, both versions are produced by communications majors. Content in the newspaper is a perfect replica of what students can expect when working for a professional newspaper, with news, sports, arts, and politics as major themes of the journal.
Alumni of DePaul’s communications program have found success in the highest echelons of media, including employment at MSNBC, Deloitte, Accenture, and more.
Emerson College School of Communication (Boston, MA)
Emerson’s School of Communication may have everything a prospective student is looking for in a communications degree: faculty with newsroom experience, state-of-the-art broadcast facilities, and comprehensive programs as varied as public relations, journalism, sports communication, and more. Additionally, Emerson communications students have access to Emerson Los Angeles, the campus’s new LA location providing internships with major production companies and studios.
Emerson is home to a number of initiatives powerfully contributing to the education of communications students at this school. One of these is Emerson Launch, a mentorship program for aspiring entrepreneurs at the college. In this “startup bootcamp,” students meet with faculty mentors through every stage of a company’s launch, from inception to profitability.
Students in this program are hardly just academicians; rather, current students are among the most accomplished of any communications program’s student body. They include a student running for State Representative, another serving a fellowship in Ireland, and yet another is working on a baseball podcast with foundation sponsorship.
Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications (Syracuse, NY)
The Newhouse School of Public Communications is home to one of the most exciting programs in any communications school, the Bandier Program in Recording and Entertainment Industries. This distinctive major is actually about helping students succeed in the music business! Here, students gain music business internship opportunities and even gain access to Bandier’s extensive alumni network, assisting students in gaining career opportunities after graduation.
Outside of the Bandier program, The Newhouse School houses one of the country’s best journalism programs. Officially dubbed “Broadcast and Digital Journalism,” students in the program produce broadcasts, report newsworthy events, and even learn the elements of videography. In the Society of Professional of Journalists’ Mark of Excellence Awards, Newhouse students took home the top prize in six distinct categories.
Another unique communications program at Newhouse is Graphic Design. This award-winning program introduces students to print, media, and emerging communications fields, like augmented reality and voice-driven products. Recent alumni from this program include Emm Comtois (2019), a user experience (UX) designer for Amazon Alexa.
Elon University School of Communications (Elon, NC)
The School of Communications at Elon University boasts several high-level concentrations relevant to nearly any prospective communications major, including film/television, media writing, and even a Master’s degree program in Interactive Media.
Elon University helps place students into careers they care about, with 92% of the class of 2019 finding a position related to their major within one year of graduation.
Perhaps one reason Elon University Communications graduates are so successful is the sheer amount of resources dedicated to communications at Elon. In 2017, construction was completed on a 105,000 square foot communications complex, complete with four buildings, a 220-seat theater with digital surround sound, a 1.4 million pixel video wall, classrooms, student engagement suites, and more.
At the centerpiece of the communications complex is Elon University’s Schar Hall, a two-story 45,000 square foot edifice housing the Kanarick Media Sandbox as well as the Live Oak Communications, the student-run advertising agency.
Alumni of the Elon Communications program have found work in major media companies, including NBC, PBS, the Oprah Winfrey Network, Jet.com, the Houston Chronicle, and countless others.