How to Make the Most of Your Communication Major

A student smiles in a podcast studio at UC Davis.
Senior communications major Hansinee Mayani smiles during a podcast recording of herself and Chancellor Gary May. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Coming into my freshman year at UC Davis, I chose a major in communication because I was sure about two things: I love getting to know new people, and I am passionate about helping others. Communication seemed like it would allow me to pursue both of these interests.

UC Davis has plenty of amazing opportunities for hands-on use of the major, including communication-based research, on-campus jobs, clubs, and majors and minors that add a new depth to understanding communication. 

A communication major can lead to many careers

A student guides her horse at UC Davis.
Margo Rosenbaum, a communications major, stands with her horse Nina at the Equestrian Center. Rosenbaum wanted to come to UC Davis because she could bring her horse. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

The communication major is one of the top 10 most popular majors at UC Davis. It can be tailored to students’ very specific interests, and I wanted to understand the relationship between communication and entertainment. After taking a few media-based communication classes, such as “Video Games Theory and Research” and “Digital Technology and Social Change,” I was sure I wanted to go down that route.

Pursuing a job in entertainment that is communication-related can go in many different directions. For example, there are opportunities to work in human resources, marketing, recruitment, production management, advertising, public relations… the list goes on. In fact, many UC Davis alumni have gone on to work at very popular entertainment companies, including:

  • Mary Taing (Communication, ‘05), Senior Public Relations Manager at Playstation. 
  • Lori McCrory (Communication, ‘19), Production Coordinator at Walt Disney Studios. 
  • Candice Tang (Communication, ‘01), Administrative Assistant at YouTube supporting the Gaming and Finance teams.

After talking with Spencer Atkinson, a UC Davis Internship and Career Center Advisor, I was able to learn just how many different employment opportunities are available for people with communication degrees! Any company that you might be interested in working at — whether it be based in entertainment, public health, technology or education — has a communication team.

Aarya Gupta
Aarya Gupta (Photo courtesy)

“I really appreciate how versatile the communication degree is at UC Davis,” said Aarya Gupta, a third-year global disease biology and communication major. “The content that we learn in the classroom can be applied to virtually any field.”

Aarya also shared how, by declaring a double major in communication and global disease biology, she has been able to explore how health and communication intersect. She plans to pursue a career in health care. On campus, Aarya works with many different organizations, including working as a digital content intern at the Center for Mind and Brain Institute, as well as an event coordinator for UC Davis’s Camp Kesem. Her multidisciplinary skills helped to ensure that the Make the Magic 2022 Camp Kesem fundraising event was a success.

Julliet Hill
Julliet Hill (Photo courtesy)

“Strong written and oral communication skills allowed us to effectively communicate with involved stakeholders, resulting in us raising $100,000 in just one evening,” Aarya said.

Julliet Hill, a third-year communication major and film studies minor, shared that her favorite part of this major is how applicable it is to everyday life. “The theories and content we learn can be applied to everything, from conversations with your friends, to social media, to your favorite TV show or movie,” Julliet said.

Julliet also works as a social media intern for UC Davis Strategic Communications. “My internship is the real world application of so many of my classes — the overlap is sometimes so cool to see,” she said. 

After graduation, Julliet plans to continue working in social media and marketing within the fashion and beauty industry.

How to find your career passion within communication

Two roommate laugh on their couch at UC Davis.
Roommates and cheer teammates Julliet Hill (right) and Kailyn Healy (left) laugh in their apartment in West Village. Healy is double majoring in global disease biology and Spanish. Hill is a communications major. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

To figure out what kinds of communication-based work you may be interested in, my advice is to take advantage of not only the wide variety of classes offered at UC Davis, but also hands-on experiences outside of the classroom. 

For example, my first communication work experience was my marketing internship at the UC Davis Aggie Reuse Store. It gave me an opportunity to learn about how marketing and outreach were related, and showed me all of the behind the scenes work that goes into promoting a company and a brand. Working in marketing at an on-campus location provided me schedule flexibility, an opportunity to meet tons of students also interested in marketing, and a jumping off point to see what aspects of marketing I enjoyed.

Later on, as an intern at the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, I developed educational content for the student and local community. Through this experience, I have seen my communication major come to life. It has given me space to strengthen my writing skills, relationship coordination skills, and project management skills. It was especially eye-opening to see how even an on-campus department like the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, where the majority of the student interns are majoring in environmental or biological sciences, needed a communication intern to help them develop and formalize the stories of the staff and students working there.

Communications majors also have many opportunities to pursue research because UC Davis is a R1 research university. I had an interest in working in communication-based research to see how I could use my major in a more analytical and theoretical way. Under Ph.D. student Michael Carter’s supervision, I worked as his research assistant in the Human Development and Media Lab for a little over a year. We performed content analysis and surveys to create a definition and clear understanding of what social media is. The most surprising takeaway from this experience was the wide range of research topics that were available! While I worked with Michael on social media research, there is also so much research to be done on video games, online chat spaces, and even dating apps and profiles.

Working as a UC Davis tour guide, I was able to use my communication major to practice my presentation skills. I gave 90-minute tours — walking backwards — to prospective and admitted students and their families and high school groups. Through the program, I also joined their recruitment team and communication team. These positions called for a developed sense of professionalism, communication ability and strong public speaking skills, allowing me to use my communication major in a different way than I had before. I was able to rely on skills gained in “Introduction to Public Speaking” to feel comfortable starting this job. 

Use your communication major anywhere

Students brew coffee in class at UC Davis.
Justin Clarkston, a communications major, and Jamie Han, a psychology major, talk with professor Tonya Kuhl during final stage of the Design of Coffee class. Students learn the science of coffee from roasting to brewing. The class ends with a competition of teams trying to make the best coffee with the least amount of energy consumed. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

What’s the best part of having a communication major? In my opinion, it’s that I have been able to apply my studies and formal education to every single experience and job position I have held on and off campus.

UC Davis has given me the space to cultivate my interests in communication, and has given me jumping off points to use the skills I have gained in a more professional setting once I graduate. Communication can be used in any type of company, and can be used for a variety of different jobs. If you are considering pursuing communication, make sure to take advantage of not only the amazing variety of classes offered through the major, but also all of the ways you can use it outside of the classroom! 

Michelle Lester is a junior at UC Davis majoring in communications and minoring in Japanese. She works as a UC Davis tour guide, the education special projects intern for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, and an intern for Strategic Communications. 

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