From a presidential debate to a friendly conversation, people create messages to convey ideas and share meaning. Students seeking a communications degree, whether it's part of a concentration or with a mass communications focus, examine related theories and use their critical thinking skills to analyze individual communication. Successful communications graduates of top liberal arts colleges have gone on to work in fields such as advertising, promotion, lobbying and media production.

Davidson College

A consistent top-ranking liberal arts college, according to "U.S. News and World Report," Davidson in North Carolina has a focused liberal arts curriculum which requires students to major in a general area: literature, fine arts, history, religion and philosophy, natural sciences and mathematics or social sciences. However, students can pursue a concentration in communication studies, an interdisciplinary cluster of courses that serves as a major. Once they've taken the introductory communications courses, students choose between three tracks: interpersonal and intercultural communication, mass communication or public communication and rhetoric. They finish with a major project synthesizing the communications theories they studied.

Purdue University

"The Gourman Report" regularly ranks Indiana-based Purdue's School of Communication as a top program. Students begin with foundational courses in theory, history and philosophy related to communication. Once they've completed the foundational courses, they may either continue with a general communications major or choose a concentration: human relations, mass communication, corporate communication or public relations and rhetorical advocacy. Likewise students have opportunities to put their communication skills to use at Purdue's student news television stations. The faculty also encourages communications students to participate in internships and study abroad programs.

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Another "U.S. News and World Report" top-ranking school, Amherst features a communications major as part of their College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Amherst's communications major emphasizes the skills for engaged citizenship, focusing on theory courses related to inquiry rather than technical training. However, they do offer courses in screenwriting, public speaking and even film and television production. Indeed, Amherst alum Marc Bauman won an Emmy for his video and film productions. The school encourages students to study abroad or participate in an internship.

Villanova University

Pennsylvania's Villanova University features a communication department with a "cutting-edge" curriculum for the major. All communications majors complete three introductory courses. They then choose to specialize in one area of the field. Villanova has eight areas: interpersonal communication, journalism, media studies, media production, rhetorical studies, performance studies, organizational communication and public relations. Students can choose to specialize in one or more area or even design their own specialization by choosing to "mix and match" their upper-level courses. Students likewise have the opportunity to spend a summer in Greece, studying in the culture that invented the Socratic seminar.