The Interdisciplinary Nature of Communication Studies
By Lindsey Hand
Faculty Member, Humanities at American Public University
We often think of communication as a skill rather than a field in which empirical research is conducted, but the study of communication is quite significant across many disciplines. Let’s take a look at a few disciplines from each school at American Public University (APU) and discover how communication studies are relevant and important to your academic program.
Arts and Humanities
Communication studies overlaps with many disciplines in the arts and humanities. For instance, if you are majoring in political science, you may have an interest in becoming a lawyer. This is where understanding rhetoric (persuasion) and public speaking would be useful.
Perhaps two of the most common fields communication is paired with are psychology and sociology. Communication scholars heavily rely on concepts found in these fields, especially when attempting to understand how communication affects human behavior and the human psyche. Also, if you are studying to become a therapist, you will be required to learn and understand how to best communicate with your patients.
If you are studying education, much of what you are learning is how to best organize and deliver information so it is clearly understood by your students. You are learning how to approach and speak with family members as well. Even with instructional design, you are learning how to best communicate classroom concepts across various platforms. This not only involves written and oral communication, but visual communication as well. Educators in any form are essentially communicators and will closely study concepts commonly found in the field of communication.
People who plan to go into business must know effective communication practices. Having public speaking skills is a must. If you are studying management, you will inevitably come across concepts on how to motivate and lead a team. If you study marketing, you will likely learn quite a bit about mass communication and possibly even media effects. Marketing professionals typically give pitches and presentations as well, which require a good understand of public speaking, visual communication, and persuasion.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
One of the most glaring problems scholars in STEM fields have is effectively communicating complex, scientific concepts to the public. Much is often lost in translation, misunderstood, or misinterpreted. If you choose to conduct research in your field, knowing how to best convey your findings to the public will be essential.
If you are studying information technology you will find that written and oral communication skills are important, especially for moving up in an organization. If you are an environmental science student, you will need to learn how to best explain concepts in your field to people who know little to nothing about what you do. You will more than likely have to communicate and deal with the public on more than one occasion.
Public Service and Health
Understanding communication concepts will help you as a health care provider know how to best explain medical conditions and treatment plans to patients. You will also explore health care provider/patient relationships and the importance of bedside manner. If you are studying public health, you will come across concepts of mass media and communication with the public. You will learn how to best convey information, often complex medical concepts, to the public. Even if you choose to pursue administrative roles in healthcare, you will learn about organizational communication and business communication.
Security and Global Studies
Security and global studies will inevitably require some study and understanding of communication. If you are a student of international relations, you will learn about intercultural communication to learn how to speak to diverse groups of people clearly and successfully. Emergency and disaster management students will learn the best way to communicate strategies to their team and may even learn the best way to speak with members of the press. If you are a criminal justice student, an understanding of public speaking will be essential.
The study of communication encompasses any and all forms of communication. No matter what discipline you are in, communication skills will be a component of your success. While these are only a few examples of the interdisciplinary nature of communication, I hope this brief discussion has given you an idea of the importance and relevance of the study of communication.
About the Author
Lindsey is an instructor of communication and has been with APUS since 2012. She has a master’s degree in Journalism and Media Studies from University of Nevada-Las Vegas, a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from Kennesaw State University, and a Grant Writing Specialist certificate from Emory University. Her professional background is in technical writing, editing, and journalism.