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Major in Communication

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Thinking of majoring in Communication?

Talk to the peer advisors. Check out the possible pathways through the Communication major. Discover the diverse career paths that you can follow with a communication degree. Find out who’s hired our recent graduates. Visit Handshake for career related articles, events, and meet-ups offered through BEAM, Stanford Career Education, and consider setting up an appointment to meet Colleen McCallion, our Career Coach at BEAM who can offer advice and help regarding resumes, cover letters, networking contacts and career paths.

Declaration Process

In order to declare the Communication major, students must have completed or be currently enrolled in one of the core courses:

1. COMM 1 – Introduction to Communication
or COMM 1B – Media, Culture, and Society
2. COMM 106 – Communication Research Methods
3. COMM 108 – Media Processes and Effects

Once they are enrolled in or have completed one of these core courses, prospective majors should declare via Axess and then email the Student Services Manager to set up an appointment to go over the major requirements, to be assigned an advisor and to discuss any questions they may have.

Transfer Students

Generally, required Communication courses must be taken at Stanford. No more than 10 units of transfer credit may be applied to meet departmental requirements for the major, and no more than 5 credits for the minor.

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions asks transfer students to furnish an official transcript, which is evaluated by the University. Students who transfer to Stanford and enter the Department of Communication should know that the only Communication course likely to be waived is COMM 1.

Combined and Multiple Majors

Formal options exist for all Stanford undergraduates who are interested in pursuing more than one academic discipline. Students should refer to the Stanford Bulletin and the Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education. Remember that participation in any multiple major program requires declaration of each major/minor via Axess.

Students who pursue either of these option must complete a Multiple Major Form in their final quarter indicating which courses they plan to apply toward each major and/or minor.

Major Curriculum

The undergraduate curriculum is intended for liberal arts students who wish to build a fundamental knowledge of communication in society. Majors take courses from two orientations within the Communication Department, one class in statistics, and a selection of elective courses.

Courses include both theory and practicum courses in media and society, journalism, and communication research. Through electives, including an optional honors thesis, a student may build greater depth in any of these areas.

To be recommended for the Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, a student must complete at least 60 units within the Communication Department, plus statistics. No more than 10 units of transfer credit or courses from outside the department may be applied to meet the department requirements. Students are required to pass a writing-intensive course within the major (WIM). The 2022-23 WIM courses are COMM 104W Reporting, Writing, and Understanding the News, COMM 135W Deliberative Democracy and its Critics, COMM 137W The Dialogue of Democracy, COMM 177SW Specialized Writing and Reporting: Sports Journalism, and COMM 186W Media, Technology, and the Body.

Communication majors and minors must register for all Communication courses for a letter grade if offered and must maintain a C average (2.0) in courses towards the major/minor. Only courses with a grade of C- or above will be counted towards the major/minor. Majors who receive a grade of D+ or below in one of the core courses will have to repeat that course.

The statistics prerequisite (typically STATS 60) does not count toward the 60 units needed to complete the Communication major and may be taken for a letter grade or credit. This introductory statistics course should be taken either prior to or concurrent with registration in COMM 106, Communication Research Methods, in preparation for courses in methodology and advanced courses in communication processes and effects.

1. Five Core Courses

1. COMM 1 – Introduction to Communication
or COMM 1B – Media, Culture, and Society
2. COMM 106: Communication Research Methods (prerequisite – Statistics)
3. COMM 108: Media Processes and Effects
4. COMM WIM (writing in the major) Courses:

  • COMM 104W, Reporting, Writing, and Understanding the News,
  • COMM 120W, The Rise of Digital Culture,
  • COMM 135W, Deliberative Democracy and its Critics
  • COMM 137W, The Dialogue of Democracy,
  • COMM 142W Media Economics, or
  • COMM 143W Communication Policy & Regulation
  • COMM 177SW Specialized Writing and Reporting: Sports Journalism
  • COMM 186W Media, Technology, and the Body

5. Statistics 60 (does not count toward the 60 units in the major)

2. Area Courses

Students must take a minimum of four courses in the following two areas, including at least one course from each area, as specified below:

Area I: Communication Processes and Effects

COMM 124: Lies, Trust, and Tech
COMM 135W: Deliberative Democracy and its Critics
COMM 137W: The Dialogue of Democracy
COMM 145: Personality and Digital Media
COMM 162: Campaigns, Voting, Media and Elections
COMM 164: The Psychology of Communication About Politics in America
COMM 166: Virtual People
COMM 172: Media Psychology
COMM 326: Advanced Topics in Human Virtual Representation

Area II: Communication Systems & Institutions

COMM 104W: Reporting, Writing, and Understanding the News
COMM 116: Journalism Law
COMM 120W: The Rise of Digital Culture
COMM 125: Perspectives on American Journalism
COMM 142W: Media Economics
COMM 143W: Communication Policy and Regulation
COMM 151: The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech and Press
COMM 154: The Politics of Algorithms
COMM 158: Censorship and Propaganda
COMM 177B: Big Local Journalism
COMM 177C: Health and Science Journalism
COMM 177D: Narrative Journalism
COMM 177E: Telling True Stories
COMM 177I: Investigative Watchdog Reporting
COMM 177P: Programming in Journalism
COMM 177SW: Sports Journalism
COMM 177T: Building News Applications
COMM 177Y: Foreign Correspondence
COMM 184: Race and Media
COMM 186W: Media, Technology, and the Body

3. Capstone Requirement

Effective for the class of 2025, all students will have to complete a capstone experience in their junior or senior year, through which they can integrate knowledge and skills developed in the major and learn to think independently with the tools of the discipline.  For the Communication major, this requirement may be met in one of the following ways:

  1. Students work one-on-one on an honors thesis with a COMM faculty advisor in autumn, winter, and spring of their senior year earning 15 units of elective credit toward their major requirements.
  2. Students undertake a quarter of supervised research with a faculty member (COMM 199C). Written proposal and permission of instructor and Director of Undergraduate Studies required before enrollment. We will start offering this research opportunity in 2023-24.
  3. Students complete the Department of Communication’s capstone seminar (COMM 100C). The seminar will be offered in 2024-25.

4. Elective credit

The remainder of the 60 required units may be fulfilled with any elective communication courses, or a combination of communication courses and up to 10 units of pre-approved courses in other departments.

Approved Outside Electives for Communication Majors/Minors

Communication majors may take up to 10 units outside of the department. All outside electives must be taken for a letter grade if offered. If a course also meets a WAYS requirement, it may still be used towards the major. However, a course may not be used for two majors or a major and a minor. It is the student’s responsibility to determine scheduling of these courses. Not all of the listed courses are offered every year.

Taking SOC 180A instead of COMM 106 will count towards the units outside of the department.

Majors have the option to petition approval of a course that is not on the list of pre-approved courses in other departments. To petition, please email the syllabus to the Student Services Manager.