Communication studies or communication sciences is an academic discipline that deals with processes of human communication. There are three types of communication: verbal, involving listening to a person to understand the meaning of a message; written, in which a message is read; and nonverbal communication involving observing a person and inferring meaning. The discipline encompasses a range of topics, from face-to-face conversation to mass media outlets such as television broadcasting. Communication studies also examines how messages are interpreted through the political, cultural, economic, semiotic, hermeneutic, and social dimensions of their contexts. Statistics, as a quantitative approach to communication science, has also been incorporated into research on communication science in order to help substantiate claims.
Communication science began in earnest when students of Wilbur Schramm--the founder of the Institute for Communications Research at the University of Illinois--namely David Berlo, came to Michigan State University and founded the first General Communication Arts department in the early 1950s. Though there are other communication sciences departments elsewhere, Michigan State was the first department in the US that was dedicated solely to the study of communication sciences using a quantitative approach. It is still one of Michigan State's strongest programs and nationally ranked in the study of human communication.
Communication studies programs at universities are given various names, including "communication", "communications", "communication studies", "speech communication", "rhetorical studies", "media studies", "communication arts", "mass communication", "media ecology," "communication research," and "communication and media science." The curriculum varies based upon concentration.[clarification needed]
Communication studies integrates aspects of both social sciences and the humanities. Much of the work being done in the field is academic in nature. As a social science, the discipline often overlaps with sociology, psychology, anthropology, biology, political science, economics, and public policy, amongst others. From a humanities perspective, communication is concerned with rhetoric and persuasion (traditional graduate programs in communication studies trace their history to the rhetoricians of Ancient Greece).
A focus on research development sets communication studies apart from general communication degrees. Many of the students that chose the field do so in order to pursue doctoral level ambitions. Requirements for undergraduate degrees focus on preparing students to ask questions concerning the nature of communication in society and the development of communication as a specific field.
In the United States, the National Communication Association (NCA) recognizes nine distinct but often overlapping sub-disciplines within the broader communication discipline: technology, critical-cultural, health, intercultural, interpersonal-small group, mass communication, organizational, political rhetorical, and environmental communication. Students take courses in these subject areas. Other programs and courses often integrated in communication programs include journalism, film criticism, theatre, public relations, political science (e.g., political campaign strategies, public speaking, effects of media on elections), as well as radio, television, and film production. More recently, computer-mediated communication and the implications of new media for communication have drawn new research and courses.
Part of what makes communication studies popular is its reputation for being flexible. Graduates of formal communication studies programs take many different career paths, including university professors, marketing researchers, media editors and designers, journalists, advertising executives, actors, human resources managers, corporate trainers, professional athletes, public relations practitioners, media managers, and consultants, amongst many other professions.