Degree Requirements

Learning Outcomes

The curriculum of the MA in Communication program aims for the following learning outcomes for students:

  1. Provide theoretical knowledge about the social science of communication that students can use on the job to produce more effective messages and strategic communication programs.
  2. Provide real-world job skills and training for students to move into the field of communication or move-up to jobs that require more responsibility and greater knowledge.
  3. Improve students’ critical thinking, problem-solving, and writing skills.
  4. Help students develop into communication professionals who understand how to conduct, read, evaluate, and use research to further their professional objectives.

Electives meet the second learning outcome, while required and core courses address the remaining learning outcomes. All courses help students develop strong portfolios that they can present to their current or prospective employers.


Students enrolled prior to summer 2010 may follow either the former curriculum or the current one. Students may not combine old and new requirements.

Students must take a total of 10 courses. Each semester, courses are offered onsite and online, but due to popular demand, more courses are online than onsite. For this reason, students who prefer being onsite may have to take some courses online. At the same time, we cannot guarantee that a particular course will be offered online in any given semester (i.e., it may be offered onsite only).

Students have the option of following strategic planning or research track. Note that the orders of the courses in the lists below do not necessarily reflect the order in which students take their courses; students work with their advisors to determine the best coursework plan. The strategic planning track does not require a thesis.

Strategic Planning Track
Research Track

For more information on the Research Track, watch this video.

  • 480.600 Research and Writing Methods
  • At least two core courses from the Informing Practice through Research group
  • At least one core course from the Applied Research for Communication Professionals group
  • 480.800 Thesis (required in the last semester of study): Students in the Research Track must complete a Thesis. Graduation is subject to completion of the thesis course and approval of the thesis by the thesis committee. All core courses must be completed before starting the Thesis. Students generally require two semesters to complete the Thesis, and must register for Thesis Continuation for every subsequent semester (including summer) until they complete their degrees. Students may not take leaves of absence while completing their theses. The Thesis continuation course may not be substituted in lieu of the required 10 courses for the degree.
  • Five electives


Following is a more detailed description of the coursework.

Required Courses

Strategic Planning track and Research track students must complete Research and Writing Methods during their first semester and before enrolling in any core courses. In addition, Research track students must take Thesis and if necessary Thesis Continuation during their last semesters. Students who earn a C or below in a required course must repeat that course.

Core Courses

Core courses fall within the Informing Practice Through Research and Applied Research for Communication Professionals groups. Research-track students must complete their core requirements prior to beginning Thesis. Students who earn a C or below in a core course may not count that course toward core requirements.

Informing Practice through Research Group

Students must complete Research and Writing Methods before they can take a course in this group.

Applied Research for Communication Professionals Group

Students must complete Research and Writing Methods before they can take a course in this group.

Elective Courses

Students may take electives in any of the concentrations, regardless of whether they have declared one or more concentrations. For a list of the electives, refer to the Course Descriptions page. Students may count additional core courses as electives.


Students are not required to specify a concentration. But those who choose to may identify one, or occasionally two, of the fields listed below. A single course cannot count toward two concentrations. Although it is possible for online students to earn a concentration, we cannot guarantee enough courses will be available online for all concentrations.

Concentration in Applied Research in Communication

The concentration in applied research prepares students to assess the research needs of a communication effort; design theory-based formative, process, and summative evaluation studies; execute quantitative and qualitative methods; analyze data using thematic, descriptive, and inferential approaches; and use results to plan and refine communication efforts. Students must complete all of the following cores and electives.

Concentration in Public and Media Relations
Concentration in Political Communication

The concentration in political communication addresses issues from campaign strategies to running a press office to influencing public policy. Courses include public affairs, campaign communication, crisis communication, and speech writing. Whether people are governing, running for office, or pushing for policy change, communication lies at the heart of politics. Students must complete at least three of the following electives.

Concentration in Health Communication

The concentration in health communication considers how to develop and evaluate effective public information campaigns, how to manage the demands placed on communication specialists during a crisis, and how to incorporate behavior-change messages into a variety of channels and genres such as entertainment. Courses include social marketing, health psychology, emergency and risk communication, and developing and evaluating communication campaigns. Health communication professionals must develop, deliver, and evaluate modern health communication programs. This concentration explores what has been done, what works, and why. Students must complete at least three of the following electives.

Concentration in Digital Communication

The concentration in digital communication examines the strategic use of digital technologies for communication professionals. This concentration addresses how to use the Web and social media to reach out to diverse publics and how to incorporate digital with traditional communication campaigns. Courses include effective Web design and strategy, public relations in the digital age, using digital and social media, and devising a digital strategy for a non-profit organization. Digital communication tools are an important part of the modern communication workplace. Students must complete at least three of the following electives.

Concentration in Corporate and Non-Profit Communication

The concentration in corporate and non-profit communication examines all of the important components of communication in an organizational context. Students study how managers communicate with staff, how businesses and non-profits communicate with the media, and how advertisers and marketers persuade potential consumers and donors. Courses include branding and advertising, integrated marketing communication, corporate social responsibility campaign strategies, and managerial communication. Successful organizations have solid internal and external communication strategies. Students must complete at least three of the following electives.

Additional Information

  • For a complete listing of courses see the Course Descriptions page.
  • For a current list of courses offered this semester see the current Course Schedule.
  • Current students can check which courses are no longer offered count for which concentration here.
  • For a list of our faculty see the Faculty page.