Conveying your company or client’s message to a target audience in an effective and impactful way is always a challenge. In this digital age, however, communication strategies have become even more complex. As Ryan Deuel, director of media relations and strategic communications at St. Lawrence University notes, "...gone are the days of shaking hands, delivering a scripted message, faxing a press release to media and waiting for tomorrow’s newspaper to print back said message. Today, everyone wants results: How many read our message? How long did they read it? What did they do after they read it?"
With so many media platforms available to the public, there is now a much greater emphasis on the ‘strategy’ in strategic communications, and employers in every sector are looking for professionals with the expertise to effectively reach a target audience with the right message and measure its impact. Strategic planning takes focus and organization, and the training to design initiatives with five things in mind: the plan's purpose, your target audience, distinct communication channels, timing strategy, and the communication professional responsible for executing the campaign.
There are strategic communication career opportunities in just about every sector—healthcare, higher education, marketing, journalism, politics, and the nonprofit world. Strategic thinking is a valuable skill, and talented communications professionals are in demand in industries beyond the more obvious advertising, public relations, and marketing fields.
A strategic communications master's degree can help start you higher on the ladder for pay and employment opportunities. It assures potential employers that you are trained in communication strategies and problem-solving, and have the leadership and project management skills to initiate, design, and implement an effective marketing campaign—and measure the results.
Strong communication skills are critical for both internal communications and external messaging in government, private businesses, and nonprofits. You can find work in fundraising, marketing, or inside organizations in human resources or administration positions.
There are opportunities for work in full-time positions as a corporate communications strategist or as a contract-based communications consultant.
There are a number of top marketing and sales job descriptions with high pay including senior vice president of sales ($208,500), vice president of business development ($168,000), director of strategic alliances ($160,400), and global account manager ($138,600).
Other well-paying career opportunities for professionals with strategic communications master’s include, marketing manager ($109,252), social media marketing or communications manager ($106,387), and advertising sales director ($182,664).
A master's in strategic communication trains students in proven methods of collaboration and partnerships in the planning of messaging initiatives targeting stakeholders, consumers, and the general public. By focusing on clear marketing communications, coursework will strengthen techniques to help from the design stage of an outreach campaign to the metrics used in measuring the campaign's success.
Because strategic communication is critical to virtually all industries, applicants will include professionals from every sector looking to build on their bachelor's degree and work experience by enrolling in a master's in strategic communications program. This graduate degree is a great way to acquire the expertise to enter or advance to leadership positions within the communications field.
Admissions requirements and prerequisites will vary, depending on the graduate school and the programs they offer. There is a basic framework you can follow to provide a foundation for preparing your application.
For most programs, you’ll likely need to submit undergraduate transcripts with a minimum GPA of 3.0, letters of recommendation, a resume/CV, Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores (though many schools are now test-optional), and a personal statement about why their program will help you meet your professional goals.
Most schools are looking for at least 4-5 years of work as a minimum, but others accept students who have just completed their bachelor's degree.
Coursework will begin with the principles of communication theory, the critical role of research, the impact of public opinion, the power of metrics and measurement, and how designing and planning the message is critical in communication campaigns.
Classes that focus on communications theory will examine human communication in the context of groups and organizations, and wider outreach efforts. The impact of digital media and mass communication will be examined, as well as effective and impactful speechwriting and public speaking.
There also will be coursework in law and ethics, political communication, crisis communication, grassroots digital advocacy, and digital media literacy and skills are all typical classes in a master's in strategic communications program.
In many programs, you may be able to specialize in areas like journalism, law, politics, social media, healthcare, or marketing and advertising. You may want to concentrate on communication for social change, multicultural media campaigns, reputation management, or work designed for nonprofits and community service. Specialization allows you to capitalize on your past work experience and prepare for achieving your future career goals.
Top strategic communications master’s programs include:
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