The term 'strategic communications' has multiple applications. Everyone from diplomats and military officials to advertising and public relations specialists uses it to describe the varied methods and channels that promote their organizations' objectives. When effectively employed, strategic communications bolster institutions by projecting a cohesive positive image to a broad range of audiences.
Strategic communications can be practiced by anyone versed in different forms of communication and skilled in organizational planning. These are skills one can acquire through experience and practice. That said, academic study provides a more reliable route to career success in this field. Most employers seek candidates with the expertise and knowledge that advanced degrees provide; that's why a master's in strategic communications can be so valuable in today's job market.
A master's degree in strategic communications can promote career opportunity and advancement as well as the salary increases that typically accompany them. The good news is that quite a few universities offer this degree. Some even deliver it online, enabling students to attend regardless of where they live and without needing to come to campus—a major convenience to anyone and a necessity to some busy professionals with several years of experience seeking to earn a degree while continuing to work full-time.
So, how much will you make with a master's in strategic communications? Let's take a look at career paths facilitated by this degree. In this article, we'll discuss:
A career in strategic communications combines planning and execution of communication strategies to promote and inform audiences about an organization's goals, products, and services.
Because of its breadth, strategic communications can include marketing, print and social media, and public relations. Strategic communications often involves a coordinated approach to messaging across all media, with the goal of presenting and promoting clear consistent messaging about an institution. Organizations look to strategic communicators to lead their outreach efforts and rely on skilled specialists to execute those strategies across a wide spectrum of channels.
Leadership roles in the field—the type that may favor or require an advanced degree in strategic communications—include:
Strategic communication professionals practice their craft in many industries and organizations. Large corporations, nonprofits, and governmental agencies utilize strategic communications. Specific industries like technology, healthcare, manufacturing, and advertising are great landing spots for strategic communicators.
Strategic communications jobs include journalism, public relations, and marketing. According to Butler University, job titles for those with a master's in strategic communications include the following.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that public relations specialists earn a median salary of $62,810. They're responsible for maintaining or improving the images of such clients as 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 an annual salary of $59,610. This role is growing much faster than average—it is projected to increase 16 percent from 2020 to 2030.
The BLS states that PR and fundraising managers earn a median income 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.
The BLS lists the median annual pay for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers at $141,490
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.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with a master's degree earn $1,545 per week, on average. In comparison, the average weekly earnings for those with bachelor's degrees is $1,305. That tallies out to an additional $12,480 annually for master's holders. In addition, the unemployment rate for those with master's degrees is 4.1 percent, in contrast to 5.5 percent for those whose highest level of education is a bachelor's. Across all industries, master's degrees typically result in higher pay and less difficulty in finding work.
Communications managers can expect an even greater boost to their career options than the average career. For example, those who hold a bachelor’s degree in communications can expect to earn an average salary of approximately $52,000 each year whereas those who have earned their master’s can expect to earn an average salary of approximately $69,000 annually.
A master’s in strategic communication is a graduate-level degree focusing on theories and models of persuasive communication. It aims to teach the understanding of analytical processes and strategic practices used to build audience-based communication initiatives used by organizations. Students are also exposed to strategic communications functions in different industries and how they relate to an increasingly digitized world. Key competencies taught include storytelling and digital strategy, quantitative research, campaign planning and evaluation, public relations, and digital media like social media and podcasts.
Those looking to advance their knowledge and skill set in strategic communication practices can enroll in graduate-level programs. Forward-looking professionals in many areas of marketing, communications, public relations, advertising, and digital strategy discover the advantages of a master's level education in strategic communications.
The admission requirements of most master's in strategic communications programs are typical of graduate-level programs in other disciplines. Many require undergraduate transcripts, standardized test scores like the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores, a personal essay, recommendation letters, and documentation of other personal achievements.
Strategic communication graduate programs teach the foundations and practical applications of the discipline. They focus on the strategy behind developing communication plans and how to apply them across multiple organizational departments and channels. Incorporating input from key internal stakeholders is also a vital skill to learn while pursuing graduate-level communication degrees.
Specific coursework can focus on research, legal, and applying visual communications into communications strategy. Examples of online master's in strategic communications classes include:
Most strategic communication graduate programs offer opportunities for specialization. These courses dive into specific media channels and day-to-day communication practices that graduates will use, depending on their area of expertise or holistically in a management role. Examples include:
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