How You Can Thrive With a Communication Studies Degree

The Commencement Ceremony for San José City College students. Santa Clara Convention Center 2019.

Communication is essential in every aspect of our lives, few can argue with that. And perhaps Paul J. Meyer said it best, when he claimed: “Communication — the human connection — is the key to personal and career success.”

That’s why we’re certain that Communication Studies at San José City College will help you achieve your dreams and find direction. Let’s explore this degree and how it will help you thrive.

What is Communication Studies?

It may seem obvious, but it’s important to be clear here, because Communication Studies is often confused with “Communications.” But that “S” at the end makes all the difference — here’s why.

Communication Studies

Communication Studies or “Communication” refers to the many complex ways that people share, receive, and interpret messages — as individuals, groups, or organizations. It includes communication in all its forms, like oral, written, and visual. 

In a Communication Studies major or degree, students examine communication theory and apply communication skills in real-life situations. They interpret the meaning created by messages in almost any human context you can imagine. 

Communication scholars and students study and practice different forms of strategic messaging shared in many different ways. This might include things like public speaking, advocacy, and argumentation. They also examine more informal communication spaces — among families, friendships, and all kinds of partnerships.


However, “Communications” (with that S) means something rather different. It refers to how those messages are delivered. So a Communications degree involves the study of “the methods and channels selected for transmitting the message.” Sometimes it is more appropriately referred to as “telecommunications,” or “media studies,” since it includes radio, television, film, and digital media.

Due to their inherent interconnectedness, it’s no surprise that some institutions offer slightly combined versions of these degrees. Some clearly blend the two (UC Santa Barbara), while others do not (UC Berkeley).

At SJCC we have a separate Media Arts Program which integrates journalism, communication, and new media technology.

SJCC students at college transfer day.
San José City College Transfer Day.

How Communication Studies Will Help You Thrive

Now that we know what Communication Studies is, let’s talk about why it’s a great option for anyone looking to advance their career, pursue higher education, and improve their personal life.

Be an Effective Professional

Successful communication is fundamental to any professional goal. If you study communication, you are sure to be a more productive co-worker and employee.

After completing a Communication Studies degree, you will likely be able to more effectively practice the following communication skills.

  • Public speaking
  • Argumentation
  • Persuasion
  • Interpersonal
  • Intercultural
  • Small group communication

These are skills that are essential in any work place. Effective communicators make a greater impact because they are able to get their message across.

Find a Career Path and Transfer to a 4-Year University

Pursuing a college transfer degree is an affordable way to set yourself up for success. And since Communication is such a broad and interdisciplinary field, it’s a great option for students who are looking for some direction on their path to a 4-year university. 

Graduate Ileana Trejo (AA-T Communication Studies) said, “For those who were lost like I was, I always encourage them to go through the college transfer model. I wish I had a bigger role model telling me the same thing.”

After completing a Communication Studies Degree, college transfer hopefuls will find that they can transition to nearly any field. The following are common choices.

  • Education
  • Media Arts
  • Public Relations and Marketing
  • Journalism
  • Advertising
  • Technology

Communication Studies is a great choice if you’re looking to explore your passions and better yourself along the way.

Learn Essential Life Skills

Shelley Giacalone, long-time Professor of Communication Studies at SJCC, beautifully summarized why communication skills are so important inside, but also outside of the classroom and workplace.

“Communication permeates, creates, and sustains every aspect of our social worlds and relationships. We communicate with others every day, and often our own happiness, physical, and mental well-being depends on the quality of our communication interaction with others.”

Giacalone went on to say, “You see, we are expected to listen to others, to work in groups, to know how to manage conflict, although we are usually never taught this in an academic setting.”

Students of communication learn to master and utilize healthy communication behaviors in ways that they’ve likely never experienced before.

Communication Studies Degree graduate, Ileana Trejo, embraces a family member on commencement day.
Graduate Ileana Trejo at the 2019 SJCC Commencement Ceremony.

Communication Studies Programs at San José City College Go Above and Beyond

San José City College offers a unique set of programs that enable students to unleash their brilliance and to reach their short and long-term education and career goals. 

Since we know that not every student will have the same objective or level of commitment, they can choose to do a Certificate of Achievement (which can be completed in less than a year) or an Associate in Arts for Transfer Degree (AA-T).

But what makes both programs so special is the amazing community and environment that the faculty and students constantly cultivate and nurture. Here’s why you’ll want to be a part of Communication Studies at SJCC.

Passionate Faculty and Interactive Classrooms

In the SJCC Communication Studies Department, all courses, faculty, and instructors emphasize an active learning model. In every communication class, students examine current communication theory, but they also learn how to apply it to their real life.

Trejo, previously mentioned, said, “Each professor has their own particular way of teaching and each of their ways were extremely informative, interesting, and applicable to my day-to-day life. Switching between learning different cultural communication styles, adapting to work in a group format, assessing how to debate, or learning the basis of communication theories was a truly an eye-opening experience.”

Professor Giacalone said of her fellow faculty members — “We are passionate about our Department and about our students, and we bring a lot of joy into our classes. I believe that one of the most important components of the SJCC Communication Studies Program that makes it stand out is the exceptional Faculty in the Department.”

She went on to say, “the nature of our courses in Communication Studies is highly interactive and welcoming. Rarely do you find a SJCC Communication Studies Faculty member standing in front of a class lecturing for a lengthy period of time.”

This idea was echoed by Trejo, who went on to say that “every communication course I took felt like a family. We always would joke about it in class …. The courses in this field of study are engaging, and everyday we would work to have insightful talks about culture, values, beliefs, basically anything that influences communication.”

Exceptional Extra-Curricular Programs

The Communication Studies Department at SJCC has worked hard over the years to create additional activities and events for students. Outside the classroom, students can choose to participate in any of the following.

  • The SJCC Communication Club: A student-led social and service club that supports the SJCC Communication Studies Department. Students meet twice a month with Faculty Advisor, Shelley Giacalone, to work on fundraising events for Communication Major student scholarships. Communication Club members have attended national communication conferences and have led communication-skills based workshops on campus.
  • SJCC Forensics Team: Dr. Waylon Baker, SJCC Communication Studies Faculty, created the Forensics Team in Spring 2020. SJCC students recently competed in the 2020 Northern California Forensics Association Asynchronous Tournament.
  • Let Your Life Speak (in collaboration with Adobe): This annual event was spearheaded by Professor Shelley Giacalone. It takes place each Spring. It’s a particularly unique opportunity for students to share their transformative stories and connect with a larger audience. It has proven to be such a significant event, that faculty, staff, and students worked hard to make sure a modified virtual version took place in Spring of 2020.

Please check with the Communication Studies Department regarding how these programs and events have been affected by COVID-19. While Faculty are dedicated to maintaining these student offerings, some may be paused or postponed.

Communication studies students, faculty, and Adobe representative Margaret Brown at the Let Your Life Speak Event in 2019.
2019 Let Your Life Speak Event: Back Row (left to right): Unathi Zibi, Vaneysha Hicks, Margaret Brown (Adobe), David Rhodes, Professor Leslyn McCallum, Professor Dr. Waylon Baker, Professor Shelley Giacalone, Ryan Balli, Gina Castillo, Kiana Richardson Front Row kneeling (left to right): Mark Gervolino, Lucy Revina, Trinh Tong

A College Transfer Guarantee

One of the best things about pursuing a Communication Studies Degree at San José City College is, it comes with a guarantee! For students who are hoping to pursue higher education and go to a 4-year university — this has the potential to shape their future in a big way.

At SJCC, the Degree with a Guarantee Program allows students guaranteed admission to a select number of 4-year universities upon completion of an AA-T in Communication Studies. So choosing Communication Studies means taking control of your education.

Choosing Communication Studies Means Choosing a Bright Future

Whether you’re a college transfer hopeful or someone who is inspired by the idea of studying human connection — or both — Communication Studies is the degree for you.

The esteemed programs offered at San José City College are certain to help you thrive personally, professionally, and beyond. For more information about our programs, visit Communication Studies at SJCC.

Thrive with a Communication Studies Degree!

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