When you think of the fact that communication is the base tool for the evolution of life, it is surprising that there hasn't been a sustained formal dialectic of research and study in communication from the time Aristotle conceived of his "Rhetoric" almost to the mid-20th century when sociologists, information scientists and psychologists began creating models and theories of communication during and after World War II.
The telephone, the talkies, the invention of radio, television, computers and their increasing role in world societies through the 20th century made communication an exciting new area of research and study. Because it is a relatively new field, and because it really cannot be pigeon-holed within a particular department or discipline, there really is no single, standardized program of communication across universities or colleges. Master's and PhD offerings in communication studies differ from school to school and department to department.
Communication is fundamental to all disciplines and its study can thus be incorporated and integrated within any program. This is what makes it so interesting to research.
Broadly speaking, here are some types of communication graduate programs in that are available at American universities:
- Most business schools have some interesting modules in organizational communication, advertising, public relations and group communication. Sometimes, they may offer intriguing combinations with applied psychology or sociology for business-related communication requirements such as designing and delivering training programs for better work relations and productivity.
- Communication for education and pedagogy is another pertinent and increasingly popular program of communication studies.
- There are various inter-disciplinary programs possible in Journalism, Mass Communications, International Relations, Law, Politics, Education, Information Technology and other departments. If you have a particular type of research in mind, it is worth your while to contact departments of your choice for any combinations you would like.
- Programs on communication media, especially their electronic avatars, have tremendous scope and applications.
- For those who love research as an intellectual challenge, there are graduate programs in communication theory.
- As the world gets ever-smaller and ever more interactive, international and intercultural communication studies programs are increasing in both quality and quantity.
- The study of language, signs, symbols and their place and role in communication is an exhilarating research and teaching area for the academic in you. Most language and literature departments would be happy to tailor a program for you in conjunction with other departments of your choice.
- Negotiation, mediation, conflict resolution and other programs of study in persuasive communication or communication to influence actions are becoming very important global requirements in our increasingly unstable world environment. These programs have a bright future and are sure to grow in number and complexity across the world.
- Those interested in careers in public life, law, training and consulting or even education would benefit from programs on the art, craft and principles of public speaking.
- If you're interested in theatre and drama, you may want to opt for the study of communication in performance.
- Architects and engineers, artists and photographers, choreographers and cinematographers would all become better in their chosen fields if they enrolled in a graduate program in visual communications.
The above is by no means a comprehensive list. The National Communication Association (NCA) seeks to set standards for communication education. I've provided links to their website in the next section. You may also want to check out the ICA and IAMCR websites for more information.