Communications & Public Relations

Master’s in Strategic Communications: Admissions Requirements

Master’s in Strategic Communications: Admissions Requirements
A strategic communications master's prepares you to advance the agenda of the company or organization you work for, often in fields like public relations and marketing. Image from Pexels
Lucien Formichella profile
Lucien Formichella November 30, 2021

If you hear about a master's degree that can lead to six-figure careers in a rapidly growing industry, you'll probably think of big tech. But earning a strategic communications master’s can launch you into a career that is just as profitable.

Article continues here

In business, change can come quickly, particularly since innovative technology can disrupt entire industries. Thanks to the advent of the self-driving vehicle, taxi, Uber, and truck drivers may become a thing of the past. However, one industry that is likely to be resistant to the kind of technological disruption that eliminates jobs: the field of communications.

The communications industry is a rapidly growing, multi-billion dollar industry. According to Grand View Research, “The global unified communications market size was valued at USD 78.33 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.5% from 2021 to 2028.”

Strategic communications is a significant component of the field of communications. It includes sectors like public relations, branding, marketing, and corporate communications. Senior strategic communications professionals can command high-paying positions in fundraising and advertising.

According to Glassdoor, the average national salary for strategic communications professionals is close to $80,000 per year. However, the salary range is drastic—ranging from $41,000 to $129,000 annually—which means there are many jobs in the industry, but not all of them are great. If you want a top position, you may need a strategic communications master’s degree to beat out the competition to secure that spot.

This article on master’s in strategic communications admissions requirements covers all you need to know about being admitted to a top master’s program and what happens after you graduate. Continue reading to learn:

  • What is a master’s in strategic communications?
  • Admissions requirements at top master’s programs
  • Career paths with a strategic communications master’s

What is a master’s in strategic communications?

First, strategic communications is different from the broader field of communications, which is concerned with the distribution of information.

A strategic communications master’s prepares you to advance the agenda of the company or organization you work for, often in fields like public relations and marketing. These professionals frequently use digital media tools and social media platforms to implement communication campaigns. In a master’s program, you’ll study the most current strategies, practices, and research methods to engage in strategic communication. A communications master’s also can help you develop a niche focus, such as marketing communications or crisis communication.

Admission requirements at top master’s programs

Master’s in strategic communications programs typically follow standard graduate program admissions requirements, though schools can have unique approaches. For instance, Butler University emphasizes the personal essay, recommendation letters, and previous academic achievements. The school notes that, “Successful applicants present a strong academic record, professional experience, or both, to demonstrate they are a good fit for our program.”

Here’s how a few top strategic communication degree programs, both online and on-campus, approach graduate admissions requirements. Remember, programs typically have unique application deadlines and fees. Be sure to request information from any programs you’re serious about applying to.

Standardized test scores

Applicants to the Butler online Master of Science in Strategic Communications program must submit Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores, taken within the previous five years. Butler prefers GMAT scores—the average for admitted applicants is 590. Anyone who has a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA, four years of relevant work experience, or already holds a master’s degree is exempt from test scores.

At Columbia University, the preferences are reversed. The school asks for GRE scores, but also accepts the GMAT. The school doesn’t provide information on exact test scores, but students typically score in the 91st percentile.

Programs typically require international students to submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores. Butler requires a score of at least 213.

Personal statement

The personal statement allows you to demonstrate why you’d be a good fit for the program and what you’re hoping to accomplish with your degree. Essays are typically 500 words, though they can be longer. For the University of Oregon, you must write “750–1,000 words about your past academic and professional experience, your academic and career goals for the future, and how our graduate program will get you there.”

There may be supplemental materials as well. For instance, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities asks for up to three writing samples. Columbia applicants are required to submit a video essay. Students are given “a randomly selected prompt for which you will have one minute to prepare and one minute to record a response.”

Letters of recommendation

Letters of recommendation are essential to the application process. Three is the standard required number, though Columbia only requires two, and the University of Oregon allows up to four. Your letters should come from people who know you and can attest to your performance and work ethic. At a school that emphasizes professional experience, such as the University of Minnesota, you’ll need at least one to be from an employer.


It’s standard practice to submit your undergraduate transcript when applying for a graduate degree. If you’ve already completed a master’s program, you’ll likely need to send those official transcripts as well.


Schools typically want to see a resume that details academic and professional achievements. If you decided to work for a few years before pursuing additional education, your resume probably skews more towards work history than academics.

Remember, enrolling in a strategic communications program means you either want to further your career or embark on a new one. Each school caters to students with specific goals. Check to see if your program requires professional experience to apply. Most applicants to Columbia have five years or less of experience. Do you have more? You may want to apply to the executive program. Most notably, the program also is open to those with zero years of experience. Butler applicants typically also have been out of college for a few years—you don’t necessarily need to be working in communications, though. The University of Minnesota looks for applicants with two years of experience in areas like communications, account planning, advertising, digital marketing, or journalism.


Core course requirements for a communications curriculum typically include communication strategy, communication theory, strategic marketing, and quantitative research. Programs typically focus on helping students gain practical experience through case studies and projects. Columbia “embraces a scholar-practitioner approach to learning where you will learn both classical and modern approaches to communication and apply them through simulated and real-world scenarios.”


Strategic communication is already a kind of communication specialty. Many programs do not allow for further specialization, though you can usually complete electives.

One exception is American University, which offers two concentration options for the online Master of Arts in Strategic Communications: Advocacy and Social Impact and Digital Communications Strategies and Analytics. The former is designed to help promote behavioral change for social good, while the latter is data and media-focused.

Career paths with a strategic communications master’s

Common industries for strategic communications professionals include journalism, public relations, and marketing.

According to Butler, common and top job titles for those with a master’s in strategic communications include:

Public relation specialists

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that PR specialists earn a median annual pay of $62,810. They are responsible for maintaining or improving a client’s image, which can include celebrities, institutions, nonprofits, schools, and companies. Almost every public-facing industry needs these professionals.


These professionals organize events to raise money for organizations. According to the BLS, they earn $59,610 per year in median pay. This role is growing much faster than average—it is projected to increase 16 percent from 2020 to 2030.

Public relations and fundraising managers

The BLS states that PR and fundraising managers earn a median pay of $118,430 annually. Though obviously public relations and fundraising are different fields, both of these high-ranking specialists oversee a team of professionals working to meet company goals.

Advertising and promotions managers

The BLS lists the median annual pay for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers as $141,490. These experts work to create interest in products, and oversee budgets and campaigns.

Social and community service managers

As a social and community service manager, you’ll “coordinate and supervise programs and organizations that support public well-being,” according to the BLS. This profession is projected to grow by 15 percent from 2020 to 2030. Managers earn $69,099 per year in median annual pay. Positions at nonprofit organizations typically draw lower salaries than comparable jobs at private companies.

Remember, strategic communications professionals work in just about every industry. According to Glassdoor, top organizations hiring communications professionals, and their salary ranges, include the Department of Defense ($91,000 to $108,000), TVA ($131,000 to $140,000), and Omnicell ($117,000 to $125,000).

Questions or feedback? Email

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

To learn more about our editorial standards, you can click here.


You May Also Like To Read

Categorized as: Communications & Public RelationsBusiness & Management