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Communication studies is an academic field that deals with processes of human communication. 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.
Communication studies programs at universities are given various names, including "communication", "communication studies", "speech communication", "rhetorical studies", "communication sciences", "media studies", "communication arts", "mass communication", "media ecology," 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, among 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. University of Southern California, University of Pennsylvania, University of Kansas and Temple University have led the way,[according to whom?] offering undergraduate and graduate degrees that prepare students to ask critical questions in this research driven context.
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 programs take many different career paths, including university professors, marketing researchers, media editors and designers, journalists, advertising executives, actors, human resources managers, corporate trainers, public relations practitioners, and media managers and consultants.