Graduate Certificate Programs in Strategic Communication
Strategic communication graduate certificate programs are non-degree academic programs that provide practical, career-based training in the planning, implementation, and coordination of organizational, corporate, and global communication strategies. These programs are designed for college graduates who hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and are typically comprised of a relatively small cluster of graduate-level courses in which students learn to use theories of communication and communication research methodologies to advance the objectives of businesses, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and other institutions.
Students who qualify for a graduate certificate program in strategic communication (i.e., bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral program graduates) receive practical training and instruction in strategic, corporate, and global communication and communication management. They do so while earning graduate credits in master’s-level courses that can, in many cases, be applied at a later date to a master’s in communication degree program. And, because graduate certificate programs require fewer credits/courses than full master’s programs, students can typically complete a certificate program in 12 months or less as compared to two or more years that master’s programs often require.
Strategic Communication Explained
Strategic communication is an applied field in which the theories and concepts developed through academic scholarship are used in the real world of communication management. It encompasses a broad range of communication functions that serve the long-term goals of companies, agencies, and other organizations, and that advance clearly defined, enterprise-wide communication objectives in areas such as policy and program implementation, research and development, public and media relations, and sales and marketing.
Developing coherent strategic communication plans involves engaging with stakeholders; using focus group, polling, and market research data to assess public sentiment; articulating actionable objectives; and using the tools of written, verbal, and multi-media communication to achieve those objectives. This typically includes the creation and/or oversight of print, broadcast, and/or digital media content that aligns with strategic communication goals, and the coordination of an organization’s public relations, marketing, and advertising functions.
Training in strategic communication has applications in most areas of the economy, as well as in government and the non-profit sector. Strategic communication professionals are employed in various capacities, including as corporate communication managers and consultants, sales and marketing directors, public and media relations specialists, press secretaries and speechwriters, and digital and social media content managers. Cultivating strategic communication proficiencies is also considered advantageous for business leaders and corporate executives who want to have a better command of issues that involve constructive messaging, organizational communication, brand building, and the use of communication tools and technologies to achieve enterprise objectives.
Identifying and Classifying Strategic Communication Graduate Certificate Programs
Graduate certificate programs in strategic communication are typically offered by schools and departments of communication and media studies at accredited colleges and universities that have bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in communication, journalism, mass media, and other communication specializations. They may also be offered by schools of business and management, as some strategic communication graduate certificate programs focus on the application of communication theories and tools in business enterprises, and by schools of continuing studies that focus on career education.
While curricula vary by school and by program, strategic communication certificate programs typically offer graduate coursework that cover topics in: communication strategies; applied communication research; integrated marketing communications; mass market and global communications technologies and strategies; public and media relations; digital content and promotions; brand and image management; and other functions central to the practice of strategic communication. While the names of specific programs vary, the following are examples of graduate certificate programs that typically offer training in strategic communication:
- Graduate Certificate in Communication Management
- Graduate Certificate in Corporate Communication
- Graduate Certificate in Global Communication
- Graduate Certificate in Integrated Communication
- Graduate Certificate in Organizational Communication
- Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication
Graduate certificate programs in strategic communication have several other features in common, regardless of formal designation. Like other types of graduate certificate programs, strategic communication graduate certificate programs require students to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and accept students who hold a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree. However, some graduate certificate programs are specifically designed for students who have completed a master’s degree. These programs may be designated as post-graduate or post-masters certificate programs.
Most graduate certificate programs in strategic communication programs are post-baccalaureate certificate programs that admit and are appropriate for recent college graduates and mid-career professionals who hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Additional admission requirements may include a minimum undergraduate cumulative GPA of 2.75 or higher on a four-point scale; two letters of recommendation; an updated resume or CV; a written personal goals statement; and/or standardized graduate admissions test scores. In addition, while some programs accept students with any bachelor’s degree regardless of the field, others may prefer or require students to have earned their undergraduate degree in communication, business, or a related field. And some programs may also require previous work experience in business, communication, marketing, and/or public relations.
As a general rule, admissions requirements and procedures for graduate certificate programs are less rigid than for master’s programs in the same field, although specific requirements vary by school and by program. For the most up-to-date information, it is always best to contact an admissions advisor before applying to a graduate certificate program.
Another key feature of graduate certificate programs is that they are comprised of a limited number of courses (four, five, or six courses is common). These courses focus narrowly on the applied use of communication theory, tools, and technologies. In contrast, master’s programs commonly consist of ten or more required courses with a broader focus. As a result, strategic communication graduate certificate programs can generally be completed in six, eight, or twelve months by students who are working while in school. And because graduate certificate programs consist of fewer courses than master’s programs, they are generally more affordable as well.
Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication Coursework
As noted above, strategic communication graduate certificate programs vary by school and by program, as do their required and elective courses. For example, programs that focus on global strategic communication generally include courses on inter- and cross-cultural communications and the use of mass and digital media tools with an international reach, while corporate communication programs emphasize the business applications of strategic communication. Example required and elective courses for strategic communication graduate certificate programs may include:
- Principles of Strategic/Global/Corporate Communication – An overview of key aspects of communication strategy, including how communication campaigns are developed, implemented, and managed.
- Applied Communication Research – Quantitative and qualitative communication research methods and the use of data to inform decision-making in strategic communication.
- Foundations of Intercultural Communication – How communication strategies and campaigns take into account cultural differences in order to target specific demographics effectively.
- Mass Communication Theory – The principles of mass media, the issues involved in reaching and influencing large groups, and the effective use of mass media technologies.
- Integrated Communications Strategies – The elements of coordinated communication plans, including situation analysis, consumer research, branding, creative strategy, advertising and promotion, media and public relations, and campaign management and evaluation.
Online Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication Programs
Graduate certificate programs are offered in a variety of formats, many of which are designed to accommodate working professionals. For example, some programs hold classes in the evenings so as not to conflict with regular work hours, while others use distance learning technologies to offer all or most of their coursework online. These online programs provide students with the same training and instruction as traditional campus-based programs, but do so via learning management systems (LMSs) that allow students to view lectures and access other course materials and assignments from anywhere with a secure Internet connection.
Online graduate certificate programs can be advantageous in several ways. The use of online learning technologies gives accredited colleges and universities the ability to offer their programs to in-state and out-of-state students who may not live near a school that offers graduate certificate programs in strategic communication, as well as to students who cannot or would prefer not to commute to a campus for classes one or more times per week when school is in session. Thus, online graduate certificate programs provide students with greater accessibility and convenience to pursue graduate courses.
In addition, online programs represent a more flexible alternative to campus-based programs, which can be especially advantageous for students who have work and/or other significant commitments outside of school. Students in an online program can access a range of course materials through a program’s LMS from their homes and/or workplaces, including live and pre-recorded lectures and instructional modules, exams and assignments, and supplemental materials provided by instructors and school libraries.
While some programs utilize synchronous instruction, which requires students to be logged on to a program’s LMS for live class sessions at specific times, many programs offer all or most of their courses using asynchronous instruction, which means that classes are pre-recorded and accessible 24-7. While synchronous instruction offers less scheduling flexibility than asynchronous instruction, it provides a more structured environment that typically appeals to students who prefer scheduled class meetings and the dynamics of real-time discussions. Asynchronous instruction affords a greater amount of flexibility, but generally requires more self-motivation because students must exercise self-discipline to ensure that they compete assignments and participate in online discussion forums by set deadlines.
Some online graduate certificate programs in strategic communication require students to attend a limited number of campus visits, which may include orientation sessions, workshops, lectures, and networking opportunities. Campus visits can be a valuable addition to an online program, but they do require travel. Finally, some schools offer also hybrid programs that combine in-person and online instruction.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificates in Strategic Communication
The following schools offer online graduate certificate programs in strategic communication that are representative of the types of programs that are offered online by accredited colleges and universities.
Washington State University has an Online Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication program that it offers through its Global Campus division in conjunction with the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. The program consists of four courses, totaling 12 graduate credits, including two courses that focus on multimedia content creation, crisis communications, professional ethics, and research methods, and two courses in strategic and digital communication. Students in the program can graduate in two semesters by taking two courses per semester and are not required to attend any campus visits. Visit WSU’s Global Campus at online.wsu.edu to learn more.
The University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communication offers a 12-credit online Global Strategic Communication Management Graduate Certificate program that consists of four graduate courses: Mass Communication Theory; Foundations of Intercultural Communication; Global Activism and Social Change Communications; and Public Affairs Communication. The program can be completed in less than one year and does not require any campus visits. Visit UF’s College of Journalism and Communication at onlinemasters.jou.ufl.edu to learn more.
Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies has an Online Graduate Certificate in Organizational Communication program that consists of six graduate courses. The program has three core requirements: Strategic Communication Management; Ethical Issues in Organizational Communication; and Organizational Communication Assessment. Students in the program can then choose three electives in topics that include: Personal Branding; Crisis Communication; and Intercultural Communication. The Northeastern program can be completed in 12 to 16 months and does not require any campus visits. Visit Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies at www.northeastern.edu to learn more.
More Graduate Certificates in Strategic Communication
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