Academic journal article Journal of Advertising Education

A Comparison of Characteristics and Cultures of Academic Disciplinary Areas in the Context of Advertising and Public Relations Education

Academic journal article Journal of Advertising Education

A Comparison of Characteristics and Cultures of Academic Disciplinary Areas in the Context of Advertising and Public Relations Education

Article excerpt


In the 49th edition of the report Where Shall I Go to Study Advertising and Public Relations?, the editors note that advertising and public relations education is offered in different areas at different institutions - sometimes as stand-alone majors, sometimes combined with each other and sometimes as part of a major with a broader title. Advertising and public relations instruction is often housed in mass communication and marketing programs but sometimes also exists in programs such as speech, English or consumer sciences (Ross & Richards, 2015). Ross and Richards provide detailed information on all types of programs to help students decide which type of program might be best for them. But the reality is that more than half of college students attend an institution of higher education that is within 50 miles of their hometown (Hillman & Weichman, 2016), and about 80% of students in the United States change their major at least once (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016).

While there is value in providing a guide to help students select an advertising and/or public relations program, students, parents and educators could also benefit from understanding characteristics of students who achieve academic success in different broad disciplinary areas - especially when the student wants to stay close to home but is not sure which disciplinary area at that nearby college or university is the best "fit." The current study offers comparisons of students who study in communication, business, arts and sciences and other programs in terms of their academic preparation and performance, socioeconomic background, engagement with faculty and extracurricular engagement. Understanding similarities and differences among students in these broad fields of study could support students as they consider both their choice of institution and major field of study. Findings may also be of use to administrators who recruit students and/or assist students in selecting fields of study.

Literature Review

Researchers have used multiple resources to try to understand choices that students make about their field of study. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth reported that males are more likely to enter fields of study with high economic returns than are females and that socioeconomic status predicts entry into selective colleges and lucrative fields within those colleges. That study also reported that academic ability is an important predictor of choice of field of study (Davies & Guppy, 1997). Other studies have also reported linkages between socioeconomic status, as well as gender, risk tolerance, ethnicity and race in students' choice of field of study (De Paola & Gioia, 2012; Ma, 2009).

Multiple studies have examined advertising and/or mass communication in greater depth to understand student major choice. For example, Taylor (2012) found that most students entering advertising majors believed that they would pursue creative careers. However, women who actually do pursue creative careers often find themselves in a male-dominated environment in which they struggle to excel, and researchers have found that gendered career patterns begin in the classroom (Windels & Lee, 2012; Windels, Lee & Yeh, 2010; Windels, Mallia & Broyles, 2013). Other studies (Fullerton & Kendrick, 2013; Fullerton & Umphrey, 2002a) have found that many advertising students have relatively low confidence in their ability to work with math and statistics despite the centrality of statistical and business concepts in the advertising field.

Becker's longitudinal studies for many years have shown a trend toward decline or stagnation in enrollment in mass communication fields (Becker, Vlad & Simpson, 2014). Becker's studies have also shown a rise in women in advertising and public relations - a trend that has been found in other studies as well (Fullerton & Umphrey, 2002b). By contrast, colleges of business have seen increases in enrollment (particularly among males), and business students use both popular media portrayals of business careers and parental recommendations to guide their choice of major. …

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