Graduate Certificate Programs in Applied Communication
Applied communication graduate certificate programs are academic programs that culminate in the conferral of a certificate of completion rather than a degree, and which provide graduate training in the practical application of communication theory to real-world challenges across a broad spectrum of fields. These programs are designed for mid-career professionals, recent college graduates, and others who hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. They offer qualified candidates the opportunity to cultivate career-oriented communication knowledge and skills without having to complete a full master’s program.
Indeed, most graduate certificate programs in applied communication, including graduate certificate program in business, corporate, global, organizational, and strategic communication, consist of a relatively small cluster of master’s-level courses that can be completed in less than one year. In addition to providing students with communication proficiencies that have real-world applications, courses completed as part of an applied communication graduate certificate program may be accepted for transfer credit by master’s programs in communication if a student should choose to pursue a graduate degree after earning their graduate certificate.
Applied Communication Explained
Applied communication refers to the use of communication science and theory and the tools and technologies of communication to solve practical problems through advocacy, influence, messaging, negotiation, persuasion, and policy advancement. This includes communication efforts in government and politics, sales and marketing, health and wellness, and many other fields. Applied communication specialists work for businesses, corporations, government agencies, and non-government and non-profit organizations in areas like public and media relations, brand management, and lobbying and social activism.
The principles and practices of applied communication are also central to all aspects of mass media, including print, broadcast, and digital media. Thus, working in the field of applied communication requires a rigorous understanding of how information is conveyed, how effective messages are crafted, and how others consume information and process messages. It also requires strong interpersonal skills, and proficiencies in areas like writing, speaking, social media, and digital content creation. Finally, while communication skills have broad applications and are generally transferable from one field to another, communication professionals typically specialize in one or more areas of applied communication, such as business, corporate, digital, health, global, organizational, and/or political communication.
Identifying and Classifying Applied Communication Graduate Certificate Programs
Graduate certificate programs are, by definition, academic programs that provide graduate training and instruction and thus require students to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. They are also non-degree programs, which means they consist of fewer courses than a master’s or doctoral program, can be completed in less time than a graduate degree program, and are more economical. Applied communication graduate certificate programs are programs that fit these criteria and that offer a curriculum that focuses on the use of communication tools and technologies to solve practical problems and address real-world issues.
These programs may be designated as graduate or post-baccalaureate certificate programs and are typically offered by accredited colleges and universities that have departments or schools of communication that offer master’s and/or doctoral programs in one or more fields of communication. Among the programs classified on this site as graduate certificate programs in communication are programs with the following designations:
- Communication and Communications Graduate Certificate Programs
- Communication Management Graduate Certificate Programs
- Communication Studies Graduate Certificate Programs
- Applied Communication and Communication Studies Graduate Certificate Programs
- Business, Corporate, Global, Organizational, and Strategic Communication Graduate Certificate Programs
It should be noted that while most graduate certificate programs accept students who have earned a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree, some schools offer post-master’s or post-graduate certificate programs in applied communication that require at least a master’s degree for admission.
Applied Communication Graduate Certificate Coursework
Graduate certificate programs in applied communication generally consist of three, four, or five master’s-level courses that provide grounding in foundational theories of communication, but which focus primarily on practical applications of those theories. The focus of curricula and specific course requirements vary by school and by program, and students in many applied communication certificate programs have the option of choosing one or two electives that further delineate their area of study. Nevertheless, most programs have courses that cover common modes of professional and mass media communication, effective methods of organizational communication, and the coordination and management of communication operations. The list below provides a representative overview of the types of general communication courses that are commonly offered as part of graduate certificate programs in applied communication:
- Mass Media Theory
- Strategic Communication
- Crisis Communication
- Communication and Leadership
- Public Affairs Communication
- New and Emerging Media
- Visual Communication and Design
- Applied Communication Analytics
- Communication and Globalization
- Interpersonal Communication
Note: Health communication, science writing and communication, and technical communication are three additional areas of specialization within the field of applied communication for which schools offer gradate certificate programs. For information on these types of programs, refer to the following pages:
- Graduate Certificate Programs in Health Communication
- Graduate Certificate Programs in Science Writing and Communication
- Graduate Certificate Programs in Technical Communication
Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Applied Communication
Students who are looking for a more flexible and convenient alternative to traditional, campus-based graduate certificate programs may be interested in exploring graduate certificate programs in applied communication that are offered online. An online graduate certificate program offers all or most of its coursework using distance-learning technologies and learning management systems (LMSs) that facilitate the streaming of live and pre-recorded lectures and virtual class sessions.
Online graduate certificate programs in applied communication have several key advantages compared to on-campus programs. First, they provide students who are working full-time or who do not reside in an area or region with a school offering a program with a convenient way to receive the same type of training and instruction offered by campus-based programs without having to commute for classes or relocate. Second, they allow students who work in the evening or on the weekend (when most on-campus programs have graduate certificate classes), or who have changing work hours, to pursue advanced coursework in the field. Finally, they provide students with greater options to specialize in specific areas of communication, as they are not restricted to only programs offered by local colleges and universities. However, online programs may not be ideal for all students, especially those who learn best from face-to-face in-person instruction.
Online programs mainly use two forms of online instruction–asynchronous and synchronous. Programs that utilize asynchronous instruction provide students with 24-7 access to pre-recorded lectures, learning modules, and other course materials. Thus, programs using asynchronous instruction do not have set time at which students must be logged on to the school’s LMS for classes. This type of instruction offers maximum flexibility but requires students to be self-motivated and disciplined to complete assignments on time in the absence of scheduled class meetings. All online programs have asynchronous components that include reading materials, participating in online discussion forums, and assignments that must be completed by set due dates.
Some programs also incorporate synchronous online instruction into their curriculum. Synchronous instruction involves participating in lectures or discussion sessions that take place in real-time, requiring students to be logged on to the school’s LMS for scheduled live class meetings. While synchronous instruction offers less scheduling flexibility than asynchronous instruction, it may be preferable for students want a more structured online learning experience. Most programs that utilize synchronous instruction have smaller class sizes that allow all students to participate in live lectures that are conducted using video conferencing software.
Many online graduate certificate programs in applied communication are 100% online and do not require any campus visits. However, some programs hold one or two in-person, campus-based sessions that students are required to attend. These campus visits, also referred to as immersion sessions and intensives, typically do not last more than a few days and can be a valuable addition to the online learning experience, particularly for students who want the opportunity to visit a school’s campus and meet face-to-face with instructors and classmates. Programs that offer some coursework online but that require students to attend more than three campus sessions are classified by GraduateCertificates.com as hybrid or blended programs. Hybrid/blended programs represent a more convenient option than fully campus-based programs, but they may not be practical for students who do not live or work within commuting range of the school offering the program.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Applied Communication
While there are numerous applied communication graduate certificate programs currently available online, the examples below provide an illustrative overview of how these programs are formatted and the types of training they provide.
Fitchburg State University, a public university in Massachusetts, offers an Applied Communication Graduate Certificate program. The 15-credit program consists of five graduate courses that are part of an online Master of Science (MS) in Applied Communication degree program offered by Fitchburg State. Students in the certificate program take three courses in new/emerging media and social media before selecting two electives from among the remaining courses in the MS in Applied Communication program’s curriculum. The Fitchburg State program is 100% online and does not require any campus visits. It is designed for students who hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Students who complete the certificate program who later decide they would like to apply to the MS in Applied Communication program (which has a concentration in social media), if accepted, can transfer into the master’s program with the 15 credits earned in the certificate program. For more information on the program, visit Fitchburg State at www.fitchburgstate.edu.
Purdue University, a public university in Indiana, offers an online Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication Management through the Brian Lamb School of Communication and Purdue Online. The program consists of three graduate courses that are also part of a Master of Science (MS) in Communication program offered by Purdue Online and the Lamb School. Students in the certificate program learn about communication strategies for business, government, and non-profit organizations, and take online seminars in crisis communication and communication leadership. Qualified applicants who have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university can complete the Purdue Online certificate program in as few as 24 weeks without having to attend any required campus visits. For more information on the program, visit Purdue Online at online.purdue.edu.
The University of Florida (UF), a public university that is part of the State University System of Florida, offers an online Global Strategic Communication Graduate Certificate program through its College of Journalism and Communications (CJC). The program consists of four courses that can be completed in two semesters, including courses in mass communication theory, intercultural communication, and public affairs. All four of the certificate program’s courses draw from the curriculum of an online Master of Science (MS) in Global Strategic Communication program offered by the CJC. Students who complete the graduate certificate program can apply to transfer into the MS program with all of the credits earned in the certificate program intact. The UF program is designed for students who hold a bachelor’s degree in any field from an accredited college or university. For more information on the program, visit UF’s College of Journalism and Communications at onlinemasters.jou.ufl.edu.
More Graduate Certificates in Applied Communication
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