Online Master's in Strategic Communication

Online Master's in Strategic Communication

What are the program
start dates?

Spring 2024

January 8

Summer 2024

May  6

Fall 2024

Late August

At a Glance

Captivate a Digitally Connected Audience

Learn how to use strategic planning and compelling messages to gain a powerful advantage in the marketplace. American University’s (AU) online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication will show you exactly what it takes to capture your audience’s attention and prepare you for this fast-paced field. You will gain greater understanding of how to pivot messaging and market strategies amid rapidly changing environments and trends.

Today’s environment requires strategic communication professionals who can develop, manage, and launch communication campaigns that integrate public relations, advertising, and marketing techniques, so you will focus on high-level concepts and strategies that encourage the type of flexible thinking needed.

The School of Communication’s diverse, dynamic faculty of accomplished experts teach you how to develop a strategy to address any communication challenge.

Program Objectives

Engage Your Audience with Key Communication Skills

In our Online MA in Strategic Communication, you will learn how to take on a challenge and develop a strategy to address it. You will also understand how to target an audience, create compelling messages and advocate in the changing digital and social media world. By graduation you will be able to:


Develop Communication Campaigns

Create plans that incorporates research, situational analyses, strategies, tactics and evaluation.


Use Research Effectively

Understand the role of qualitative and quantitative research in strategic communication and how to apply the findings.


Solve Communication Issues

Think analytically about communication problems and identify creative solutions.


Write to Engage Your Audience

Write effectively and strategically in a range of formats and media.


Select the Right Digital Tools

Understand the role of digital strategy and analytics platforms in integrated communication campaigns.


Align Others to Your Goals

Communicate confidently and persuasively.


Choose Best Practices

Use established theories and best practices to inform the field of strategic communication.

Program Rankings

See How We Set the Standard

American University prepares you for the real world with experiential learning throughout all of its courses.


Choose an Optional Concentration

You can select a career-focused concentration in Digital Communication Strategies & Analytics or Advocacy and Social Impact or complete the degree with your choice of electives.


Gain Real-World Experience

You will complete an in-depth capstone project that supports experiential learning and an optional summer internship to build your experiences further and add to your portfolio of work.


Manage Complex Communication

Gain the skills to oversee challenging campaigns and plan for a crisis situation for local and global audiences.


Earn Industry-Recognized Certifications

Within the program you can earn industry-recognized certifications in Meltwater, Hootsuite, and Google Analytics platforms.

A Top-Ranked Online MA

AU was recognized by Princeton Review, Best Colleges 2023, with the title of College Gets High Marks. It was also ranked by U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges:

Admission to American University’s online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication program requires an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university.

Applicants will need to submit the following:

*The application fee is typically waived if the application file is complete within a three-week period.

Online Merit Scholarships

$10,000 — No Separate Application Required

Prospective students who have a cumulative 3.0 GPA or above (on a 4.0 scale) in their undergraduate program can qualify for the Online Merit Scholarship in award amounts up to $10,000.

As part of your application process, your academic history will be reviewed to see if the scholarship can be applied; there is no separate application to fill out.

You will be notified of the scholarship status when you are admitted to the program, or shortly thereafter.

To receive the scholarship, which is applied equally to the first and fifth semester of the program, you must remain in good academic standing.

Master the Many Strategies of Media and Messaging

Gain the rare combination of a creative, strategic mindset and pair it with real-world experience to be the leading candidate for the role you want.

Coursework maintains a strong academic and professional foundation — the work you do in our program helps you build skills and a diverse portfolio that will allow you to advance your career even before you graduate. You will expand your learning by connecting with domestic and international peers through group work, role-playing, and dynamic online discussions.

Choose a Concentration

Beyond AU’s unique positioning, online MA in Strategic Communication students can elect to tailor their education further with an optional, career-focused concentration. You can graduate with real-world experience tailored to enter corporate, nonprofit and government PR, political communication, international strategic communication, public diplomacy, and social change communication.

American University’s School of Communication has a distinguished history of accomplishments in social change, social justice, political communication, and advocacy.

Here you will learn how to focus your passion for positive social change and political causes with communication techniques that engage audiences and encourage real action.

In the Advocacy and Social Impact concentration of the online Master’s in Strategic Communication program, you will delve into courses that focus on social marketing to achieve behavior change, grassroots and digital advocacy, political communication, and ethics.

This unique concentration emphasizes high-level communication principles and techniques to create change at the individual, community, and public-policy levels so you can engage, influence, and mobilize people for action.

Skills and Knowledge in the Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration

  • The theory behind behavior change
  • Knowledge of communication theory and its applications in social marketing
  • Strong digital organizing and social media skills
  • Messaging strategies to create change and action around social or political causes

By Graduation You Will Be Able To:

  • Create and manage dynamic communication campaigns
  • Develop effective communication plans using qualitative and quantitative research
  • Think analytically about communication problems and develop creative solutions
  • Write clearly and strategically across media channels, including social and digital
  • Understand how channels differ and how to use each one effectively
  • Use digital strategy and technology tools adeptly in integrated communication campaigns
  • Focus on tactics to engage and mobilize audiences to achieve positive social change

Communication Careers in Advocacy

Many of our MA in Strategic Communication students want to dedicate their careers to improving the lives of others by working for social causes and issues they are passionate about.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, rates of employment in public relations and marketing communications-oriented jobs are increasing at a faster-than-average rate, with yearly median wages above six figures.1,2

Graduates may have titles similar to other areas of strategic communication while working for government agencies and nonprofit organizations such as foundations, associations, and advocacy groups:

  • Campaign Manager
  • Director of Communications
  • Media Outreach Coordinator
  • Media Relations Manager
  • Public Relations Consultant
  • Publicist

Employers today are looking for communication professionals who know how to use digital strategy and analytics as part of integrated communication campaigns.

Through your concentration courses, you will learn the theory and strategy of digital and social media measurement, as well as how to use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to identify strategic insights, how to evaluate the success or failure of a campaign, and more.

In addition to a strong core curriculum in strategic communication, you will gain hands-on experience in social and web analytics tools, so you get the skills necessary to sit for certification exams for platforms like Meltwater, Google Analytics, and Google Ads.

By the end of the Digital Communication Strategies and Analytics concentration, you will learn to capitalize on the full range of paid, earned, shared, and owned media channels.

Skills and Knowledge in the Digital Communication Strategies and Analytics Concentration

  • The latest digital and social media strategies and tactics with traditional methods
  • Metrics to track and evaluate campaign performance
  • Quantitative and qualitative research to define content, purpose, and target audience

By Graduation You Will Be Able To:

  • Plan and manage strategic communication campaigns that fully capitalize on and integrate paid, earned, shared, and owned channels (PESO)
  • Use qualitative and quantitative research in developing and evaluating communication plans
  • Familiarize yourself with certifications in commonly used digital analytics tools and techniques employed by strategic communication professionals
  • Leverage digital marketing and advertising techniques, such as search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), and display advertising
  • Use digital advocacy strategies and organizing tools to support candidates, causes, and social movements
  • Develop creative solutions to communication problems through analytical thought processes
  • Provide expertise in social media management and content creation

Communication Careers in Digital Communication

Organizations in every industry are looking for communicators who can strategically achieve campaign objectives based on audience insights using a wide range of digital communication platforms and tools.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, advertising, promotion, and marketing employment is projected to grow by 10% from 2021 through 2031, with professionals making a median annual salary of $133,380.3

Digital communication strategies and analytics graduates are prepared for career titles that include:

  • Content Strategist
  • Digital Advocacy Campaign Manager
  • Digital Analyst
  • Digital Analytics Manager
  • Digital Marketing Specialist
  • Digital Strategy Director
  • Director of Digital Public Affairs and Advocacy
  • Director of Web Content Strategy
  • Social Media Manager
  • Social Media Analyst

Our faculty have worked with major PR firms, government agencies, and global corporations. They bring that experience into the classroom to expand your learning experience and help you reach your career goals.

Adjunct faculty, guest lecturers, and alumni include top speechwriters, press secretaries, media strategists, Hollywood agents, public diplomacy experts, and advertising and PR executives. Our distinguished full-time faculty includes scholars and practitioners in the field who are ready to share their knowledge and real-world expertise.

Within the program, you can earn industry-recognized certifications in

  • Meltwater

Once you are certified, you have the unique opportunity to gain access to Meltwater’s dashboard which is used by many strategic communication professionals to help analyze conversations, follow trends, and build brand value.

  • Hootsuite

You will have free access to Hootsuite Academy’s courseware for the Hootsuite platform, Which includes, but is not limited to:

  • Hootsuite Platform Certification ($99 value)
  • Social Marketing Course ($199 value)
  • Social Marketing Certification ($199 value)

  • Google Analytics

Gain an understanding of how to effectively read website data and report on what your audience finds valuable.

Over the course of this master’s program, you will:

  • Create strategic communication campaigns
  • Develop a professional writing portfolio with traditional and digital media samples
  • Use quantitative and qualitative research to define content, purpose, and target audience
  • Tell compelling stories through creative messaging and understanding the key factors in persuasive communication
  • Learn to integrate digital and social media strategies and tactics with traditional methods
  • Use metrics to track and evaluate campaign performance
  • Understand and explore international approaches to communication, including public diplomacy and cross-cultural communication
  • Examine crisis communication messaging and decision-making

Course Descriptions

The online program consists of 10 courses (30 credits), each eight weeks long, culminating with a capstone course that allows you to apply everything you have learned to a project in your specific area of interest.

Course Requirements (15 Credit Hours)

In this introductory course you will build a foundational understanding of strategic communication. You will examine communication campaigns, public opinion, the media, the role of research, audience identification, message development, communicating to various audiences, and the ethics of persuasion. You will also explore the role of strategic communication in society, politics, culture, business, and other institutions.

In the course you will use real-world case studies to learn to stand out in the marketplace by examining campaigns from successful corporations such as Pepsi, McDonald’s, and Snapple. From established brands to new products and services, this course will equip you to develop, manage, implement, and evaluate strategic communication initiatives.

In-depth coursework focuses on mastering the six steps of building a public relations campaign:

  • Defining goals and objectives
  • Determining target audience
  • Developing key messages for each audience
  • Crafting a plan
  • Creating a schedule and budget
  • Measuring results

Once you have learned the fundamentals of a PR plan and explored case study examples, you will put your skills to work developing your own strategic communication campaign.

Course objectives:

  • Explain and apply strategic communication principles, concepts, and strategies across multiple contexts
  • Define, describe, and implement the key components of a communication plan
  • Evaluate the relationship between strategic communication and media, including social media
  • Develop communication strategies to help achieve goals, including problem-solving, image-building, and developing and launching a new product or service
  • Determine appropriate strategic communication strategies given budget restrictions, personnel, and project deadlines

Any communications professional will tell you that good writing is the most important quality you can possess. Being able to produce quality writing—writing that can tell a story, be perceived as newsworthy, is jargon-free and grammatically correct—is the key to a future in PR and communications.

This course explores the relationship between audience, message structure, and medium through exercises in strategic writing and the development of a professional writing portfolio. Students develop skills in drafting, editing, and polishing strategic communication, including plans, news releases, speeches, social media, opinion pieces, short video treatments, and scripts. These skills will be beneficial when pursuing a career in strategic communication.

In this course you will:

  • Explore different writing styles across corporate communication, media communication, crisis communication, and social media
  • Use different writing tools to develop your skills
  • Write clearly, concisely, and strategically in a range of media formats
  • Learn to present confidently and persuasively
  • Develop a comprehensive body of work for your PR portfolio

Within the course, you learn to identify key messages in a news pitch, write compelling headlines, and examine and optimize content for social media. Classroom assignments include developing a strategic media plan and writing and delivering a campaign pitch.

In this course, you will participate in a crisis communication simulation, examine a case study, and evaluate a company’s online presence and visual elements to create better brand communications.

Online discussions and collaboration are major components of this course and simulate face-to-face interaction. Posts in the online format are required and graded, and different discussion topics will be posted each week.

Course objectives:

  • Draft public relations materials on varying topics that are stylistically and grammatically correct
  • Understand how to strategically plan the implementation and distribution of public relations materials to achieve objectives
  • Identify news hooks and incorporate those ideas to generate news coverage
  • Develop a comprehensive body of work for your PR portfolio

All communication campaigns begin and end with research. Progressing in your career requires the ability to process and digest research. In management positions, you will be required to commission others to manage this process. Conducting and assigning research work requires a deep understanding of methodology, critical thinking, and communication of findings.

This course is an introduction to quantitative and qualitative research methods in communication.

In this course you will:

  • Learn key research terms
  • Understand the logic of strategic communication research
  • Be exposed to various research methods
  • Develop a framework to constructively criticize research
  • Gain experience to direct research projects
  • Create and deliver a presentation about research that accounts for content, purpose, and target audience

You will increase your understanding of strategic surveying by delving into research and questionnaires and drafting survey questions. Other topics focus on content analysis, quantitative data and focus group analysis, qualitative data collection and analysis, observation and interviewing techniques, and research ethics.

The final assignment challenges you to design a survey, content analysis, or experiment.

Course objectives:

  • Describe the foundations of social science research and the critical role of research in communication campaigns
  • Explain the logic of variables and hypothesis testing
  • Apply practical qualitative and quantitative research skills to communication-related research questions
  • Evaluate communication research using social science principles and best practice
  • Create and deliver a presentation about research methodologies in communication that accounts for content, purpose, and target audience
  • Apply basic statistics to analyze quantitative data

This course explores a wide range of theoretical and conceptual frameworks for understanding public communication, or communication in the public sphere. The course reviews relevant theories of public communication, including theories of interpersonal communication, persuasion, public relations, public opinion, mass communication, and media studies. The course also includes theories of research methodologies and their application to public communication practices.

Communication Theory covers both classic and contemporary viewpoints across a very diverse range. Assignments are designed to provide the opportunity to develop familiarity and comfort in working with the theoretical and conceptual tools needed to complete the capstone requirement as well as the analytical skills.

Course objectives:

  • Develop an awareness of the breadth of the theory and research that inform public communication
  • Identify areas of research interest
  • Translate knowledge of theory into practical application
  • Develop strong analytical skills

The capstone project explores learnings about the processes and effects of public communication by developing and supporting a thesis statement, advancing an idea, researching, and writing or creating a final product.

In this course you will:

  • Gain a broad overview of the diverse research perspectives and approaches to public communication
  • Design and develop a research study/project
  • Be introduced to the craft and method of conducting research
  • Improve understanding of the different aspects of designing and writing research projects
  • Develop critical thinking and analytical skills – how to assess the value and strength of ideas
  • Develop peer review and evaluation skills – how to help others develop their writing presentation

The capstone project is one of the major requirements for the Master’s in Strategic Communications program. The mission of this course is to help develop, complete, and submit a capstone project. The final project is the demonstration of competence as professionals, scholars, researchers, and writers. In addition to the faculty supervisor for this seminar, students are encouraged to take advantage of the research opportunities from other Universities and Washington, D.C. resources. Students are also encouraged to consult with other Strategic Communication or School of Communication faculty members who have expertise in the specific study areas.

Course objectives:

  • Gain an ability to design, develop and successfully execute research or professional study
  • Have the analytical skills to spot the different components of a research study and identify the strong and weak links
  • Be guided by a strong sense of how to provide positive and effective peer feedback that can help others develop their ideas and writing
  • Possess a mastery of long-distance scholarly writing

Electives (15 Credit Hours)

Choose five of the following courses.

This course provides you with an ethical framework for the practice of public communication and a concept of the ethical issues surrounding communication activities. Coursework provides the opportunity to investigate America’s value system, the meaning and values of public relations in a global society, and the relationship between public relations, the media, and business. You will gain a comprehensive understanding of ethics in communication.

In this course you will:

  • Show knowledge and understanding of the role and value of public relations in organizations and society
  • Show an understanding of professional ethical standards in public relations and strategic communication and an ability to apply them in practice
  • Demonstrate familiarity with relevant laws and regulations governing public relations and advertising
  • Recognize and critically assess contemporary public relations and strategic communication practices from ethical and legal perspectives
  • Critically analyze social media practices used in public relations and strategic communication from an ethical perspective
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of contemporary concepts and best practices in corporate social responsibility
  • Apply best communication and business ethics practices in public relations and corporate social responsibility
  • Think and write well and present confidently and persuasively

Sample Topics

  • Public relations in global society
  • Professional ethical standards in public relations and advertising
  • Public relations and advertising in the “marketplace of ideas”
  • Ethical engagement in the digital age
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
  • Contemporary concepts and practices in social responsibility
  • Assessing strategic communication practices

Sample Assignments

  • Book, television, or movie reviews
  • An essay on the meaning, role and value of public relations in global society
  • An analysis of a Fortune 500 multi-national company’s most recent social responsibility report

Explore the principles of social marketing, defined as the systematic application of marketing and strategic communication principles to achieve human behavior change toward a social purpose or social good. You will examine consumer research techniques and definitions of social marketing, and analyze social marketing and strategic communication campaigns to evaluate the effectiveness of various planning techniques.

In this course you will:

  • Understand principles of developing a social marketing initiative
  • Be able to use theoretical and applied frameworks and consumer research techniques to guide the development of a campaign and message strategy
  • Be capable of identifying an appropriate target audience, determining appropriate behavior and benefit exchange, and developing a social marketing initiative

Sample Topics

  • Intro to social marketing
  • Social-marketing process and principles
  • Theories behind social-marketing campaigns
  • Cost-benefit analysis and marketing mix
  • Determining costs and benefits, developing a strategy
  • The importance of partnerships in social-marketing campaigns
  • The role of entertainment education and case studies

Sample Assignments

  • Team project on discussing underlying issues for social marketing campaigns
  • Interviews
  • Social-marketing strategy development and presentation

This course examines how a range of advocacy organizations, including national and international non-profits, NGOs, political campaigns, and activist networks, can harness the power of digital media to activate, mobilize, and organize supporters. Students discuss the impact of technology on grassroots advocacy and explore the potential of social media, mobile technologies, apps, and activist platforms in successful advocacy campaigns.

In this course you will:

  • Discuss key political mobilization mechanisms in the digital age
  • Critically evaluate a broad range of e-advocacy strategies
  • Explain the “slacktivist” critique of social media campaigns and provide examples
  • Determine the potential for the success of digital advocacy initiatives and online campaigns
  • Show an understanding of the local and global factors that influence the use of internet-based media for political action
  • Provide reasoned and factually supported arguments on these topics in both written and oral formats

Sample Topics

  • Social movements’ structure, networks, and collective action
  • Group membership and mobilization online
  • Leadership in the digital age
  • Building group identities online
  • Voices of the movement: Storytelling and counter-narratives
  • E-advocacy success: Is anyone listening?
  • Games for social advocacy
  • Online petitions and the others: Just clicktivism?
  • Digital election campaigns
  • Opportunities and constraints: Protesters, advocates, and the news media
  • Global e-advocacy and international contexts
  • Online privacy, surveillance, and “sousveillance”

Sample Assignments

  • Blog post: Organizing in the Trump era
  • Workshop: Digital Strategy Organizing Challenge

Social media has significantly changed the public relations industry and the way organizations engage with core audiences. Social media, however, is not just another step to add to a campaign checklist. It is a dynamic communication tool that has the power to transform an organization’s communication strategy. PR professionals need to think strategically about which platforms provide the best connection for honest, authentic, candid two-way communication.

This course explores how organizations can employ digital strategic communications in their public relations outreach. It examines search engine marketing, mobile communications, and viral campaigns, and features case studies, the use of social media tools, and lectures led by experts in various fields.

Understanding how social media has changed the approach to communication strategy — by bringing the conversation into real-time—will allow students to better plan for more successful campaigns. A key lesson examined in the course is how to build and manage your online identity and reputation.

In this course you will:

  • Explore mainstream social media channels and appropriate uses in relationship to target audiences
  • Think strategically about which platforms are the best to communicate with various target audiences
  • Study the nature of social media within the strategic communication plan

You will also get hands-on experience with each social media platform, setting up accounts and exploring communication strategies. For example, one course activity involves selecting a brand and analyzing its Facebook page to learn more about how the page aligns with the brand’s goals.

Sample Topics

  • Learn how organizations effectively use social media tools such as “the Big 4” — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn — to reach their communication goals
  • Understand how digital communications strategies interact with more traditional methods and how to successfully integrate them to benefit overall goals
  • Learn how to evaluate the success of social media and what metrics to consider for evaluation
  • Plan a digital communications strategy for an organization
  • Improve social media writing and presentation skills

Sample Assignments

  • Drafting the perfect email subject line
  • Developing a comprehensive approach to Twitter
  • Exploring virality on YouTube
  • Creating social media guidelines for a fictional hotel brand
  • Creating a strategic digital communication plan

In this political communication course, you will learn to apply public communication principles to the specific needs and goals of advocacy and political campaigns. Coursework explores major political communication elements, including the role of media relations in politics, the impact of television on political discourse, political message development, political advertising, ethics in political persuasion, and the effect of political communication on our democratic institutions. You will also learn how to interpret public opinion, identify and reach constituencies, and develop political communication strategies.

In this course you will be able to:

  • Develop a political communication plan that incorporates core communication and information-processing principles as well as techniques such as targeting and audience segmentation
  • Produce a clear and concise assessment of a political communication campaign, including both situational analysis and strategic recommendations
  • Demonstrate the ability to identify appropriate creative solutions to strategic political communication challenges

Sample Topics

  • Advocacy Communication
  • Information Processing and Media Effects
  • Electoral Campaign Communication and Advertising
  • The Role of Research in Political Communication
  • Framing, Language, and Message Development
  • Social Media and Digital Strategies
  • Opinion Research and Communication Strategy

Sample Assignments

  • Political communication plan
  • Analytic paper: Communication Campaign Case Study
  • Roundtable discussions

Today’s communication professionals are required to understand the integral roles digital and social strategies play for organizations. This course prepares strategic communication students to obtain certification in social media monitoring and digital analytics platforms, such as Meltwater and Google Analytics.

Students will also learn the theory and strategy of digital and social measurement. Topics include using data to craft communications planning, messaging, and campaigns.

In this course you will:

  • Understand how digital and social media analytics can be used to guide the strategic communications process best suited for a client/company, the problem/opportunity, and the audiences to be addressed
  • Use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to identify strategic insights and instincts that are at the heart of any successful digital and social media campaign
  • Gain a deeper awareness of how to evaluate the success or failure of an influencer campaign through analysis
  • Enhance ethical judgment for the use of digital and social data

Sample Topics

  • Digital and social analytics for strategic communication
  • Digital and social media listening vs. monitoring
  • Using KPIs and insights to protect and enhance brand reputation
  • Vetting influencers across social and digital channels
  • Using data to craft and evaluate communication campaigns
  • Using the PESO model for content mapping and management
  • Aligning digital and social strategies with ethical codes and brand values
  • Using digital and social analytics platforms (e.g., Meltwater, Hootsuite, and Google Analytics)

Sample Assignments

  • Digital and social media influencer campaign
  • Industry-recognized certifications in Meltwater, Hootsuite, and Google Analytics platforms
  • Social media calendar development based on analytics research
  • Discussion of the differences between digital and social media monitoring and listening

Today’s communication professionals must work strategically across paid, earned, shared, and owned (PESO) channels. Effectively driving digital traffic builds campaign awareness, stimulates engagement, and moves target audiences toward action. This course teaches students how to employ digital marketing strategies and tools to amplify multi-channel PR and strategic communication efforts.

Topics include search engine optimization (SEO) and different forms of digital advertising, including search engine marketing (SEM), native advertising, and social and video display ads. Students also earn Google Ads Certification.

In this course you will:

  • Describe a range of digital marketing and advertising opportunities employed by PR/strategic communication professionals
  • Analyze the cost-benefit tradeoffs of different digital marketing and advertising opportunities
  • Apply an initial understanding of industry techniques and tools, such as SEO and Google Ads, to make strategic content development and media buying decisions
  • Create a fully integrated PESO campaign plan that effectively leverages digital marketing and advertising strategies and tactics in conjunction with strategic communication techniques

Sample Topics

  • Digital and social campaign strategy
  • PESO Model
  • Campaign objectives, key performance indicators (KPIs), and metrics
  • Audience selection and targeting methods
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Digital Advertising
  • Social media marketing
  • Advertising formats and creative implications
  • Integration of public relations and advertising tactics
  • Role of influencers and partnerships
  • Digital advertising platforms (e.g., Google Ads and Facebook Blueprint)

Sample Assignments

  • A fully integrated digital marketing plan that leverages all PESO channels
  • Google Ads certification exams
  • SEO-optimized blog posts and Google search ads to improve search engine results page positioning (SERP)
  • Display advertising strategy, including copy, creative idea, targeting method, and KPI for a campaign objective

There is a good chance that one will endure a major crisis over the course of one’s career that will require highly efficient use of communication. Therefore, this course will provide the necessary knowledge of preventing crises through proactive communication and effective crisis communication management.

In this course you will:

  • Understand the role of theory in risk communication, issue management, crisis communication, and image repair discourse
  • Think strategically about the role of digital media in crisis communication
  • Gain appreciation for the value of preparing for a crisis
  • Be provided opportunities for collaboration, problem-solving, and team learning through in-class simulations
  • Explore the relationship between crisis communication managers and the media during crises
  • Take into account the legal and ethical issues that often arrive for crisis communication managers

Course objectives:

  • Create a crisis communication plan that you can implement in a professional organization
  • Successfully execute effective crisis communication strategies and tactics in a campaign
  • Apply risk communication, issue management, crisis communication, and image repair theories to practical crisis communication campaigns
  • Analyze the relationship between social media and crisis communication practitioners as they communicate with their publics
  • Critically examine crisis communication case studies and be able to recognize effective and non-effective crisis management principles
  • Learn how to best communicate messages to multiple targeted audiences in various formats and platforms
  • Learn how qualitative and quantitative research can be effective tools in shaping public opinion during a crisis

As a professional in the public communication field, you will likely hold a management position or any other similar career in strategic communication. You will manage projects, people, clients, agencies, issues, and information. You will advise senior management and may even be an integral part of that senior leadership structure. Being prepared to take on these management functions is crucial to your ability to be an effective communication professional, whether you work for a small firm or a large one, for a business or a non-profit.

In this course you will:

  • Develop an understanding of practical management and leadership practices in the field of communication
  • Develop an understanding of theoretical management and leadership practices in the field of communication

Provides hands-on experience for leading a team remotely to plan and manage public relations and communications projects. It examines the structure of public communication organizations, and the management of resources to accomplish the PR functions. Students will study planning, the use of human resources, organizing programs and projects, budgeting, research and evaluation, and the implementation of management objectives. Emphasis is placed on developing the skills and ability to effectively manage public relations activities.

Course objectives:

  • Understand how to manage and know one’s own management style
  • Explore the role of leadership in an organization
  • Understand management principles and how they relate to marketing communications
  • Be versed in management trends
  • Comprehend and develop skills for time management, financial and resource management

This course applies the principles and skills from each of the strategic public communication courses to develop a practical case study. In this culminating skills component of the graduate program, you will produce a professional portfolio for a client that may include media promotional items; broadcast applications; direct mail and web-based products; content for newspapers, newsletters, and magazines; and other communication products.

In this course you will:

  • Learn the proper structure to develop a strategic communication plan, presentation, and supporting materials
  • Apply everything you have learned by choosing a client and designing a strategic communication plan
  • Pitch your comprehensive plan to the client

This course enables you to create a major research project for a real client in the communication industry from start to finish. You will begin by selecting a client to work with and then complete a series of milestone deliverables that represent component parts of a final report/presentation.

Activities include conducting a brainstorming session and creating a formal presentation with collateral materials. Assignments include performing a SWOT analysis, creating target audience profiles, drafting corresponding message maps, and creating a timeline, budget, and evaluation.

Interact with client representatives as you complete each milestone deliverable and receive formative feedback from the instructor. The course concludes with a presentation to the client. The entire experience will reflect the types of activities, interactions, conversations, and tasks that communication professionals encounter in the field.

Course objectives:

  • Work with a client to develop a strategic public relations plan
  • Draft various public relations materials that are stylistically and grammatically correct
  • Become adept at researching and identifying news hooks and incorporating those ideas into materials to achieve objectives
  • Create a comprehensive body of work for a public relations portfolio

Public communication is becoming global public communication. Technology has blurred the line between domestic and foreign. Yet, often when communicators try to implement programs on a global scale, the program goes nowhere or, worse, backfires. Technology may be global, but the people using the technology tend to be rooted in local cultural and political realities.

Globalization has created an opportunity and a necessity for international PR programs, one of the fastest-growing areas in the public relations field. In this new field, practitioners must gain expertise in cultural sensitivity, knowledge of business cultures, and realistic expectations.

In this course you will:

  • Gain exposure to the global connectivity and interactivity of strategic communication
  • Study the implications and applications of public relations on a global level
  • Learn the public relations practices that work in various countries and why
  • Take a global tour of the varied communication styles of other countries
  • Examine the hidden role of culture in shaping communication styles and public exploitations
  • Learn about the major areas of international public communication: corporate, social, and political
  • Pick a country and act as a resident expert and ambassador in a hands-on project, including the design of a communication plan based on current events

Class activities are centered on selecting an adopted home country and exploring how the distinct aspects of that country manifest themselves in national symbols and other visual representations. You will analyze the cultural features of corporate websites and social communication of both your home country and another country to design a campaign.

Course objectives:

  • Gain a broad overview of the diverse perspectives and approaches to international public communication
  • Become acquainted with prominent scholars and ideas that shape the field
  • Understand the different aspects and contributions of corporate, social, and political public communication
  • Develop cultural analytical and listening skills
  • Tap into cultural knowledge, sensitivity, and creativity to develop a public communication strategy
  • Delve into diverse challenges to apply your knowledge through in-class simulation exercises, as well as analytical and cultural assessment papers outside class

Gain hands-on field experience and earn three credits toward your degree with a strategic communications internship. Build on your studies while engaging in real-world strategic communications at an approved employer of your choosing.

Available during the summer term, your COMM-691 internship will provide the opportunity to earn elective credits while working and completing academic course components.

Choose at least three electives from the following course options. These electives fulfill three of the five required electives for the overall MA in Strategic Communication curriculum.

  • COMM 533 Ethics in Strategic Communication
  • COMM 540 Social Marketing for Social Impact
  • COMM 551 Grassroots Digital Advocacy
  • COMM 608 Social Media Strategies and Tactics
  • COMM 639 Political Communication

Students choose three electives from the following course options. These electives fulfill three of the five required electives for the overall MA in Strategic Communication curriculum.

  • COMM 551 Grassroots Digital Advocacy
  • COMM 608 Social Media Strategies & Tactics
  • COMM 669 Digital Strategic Communication Analytics & Certifications
  • COMM 620 Special Topics: Digital Marketing for Strategic Communication
  • Students must work for their internship employer for a minimum of 210 total hours over the summer term to qualify for three credits; the number of weeks worked is flexible.
  • Only three-credit internships are allowed in the MASC graduate program.
  • The internship must be substantive with significant opportunities to engage in strategic communication work; positions that are primarily administrative do not qualify.
  • All internships must be approved by the faculty member supervising the internship course and the Program Director for the Online MA in Strategic Communication program.
  • This is a graded course, with an academic component and a final evaluation from the internship agency used in calculating the final grade.

Registration Requirements

  • Students should notify the Student Services Coordinator, Steve Zollman ([email protected]), as soon as they know they would like to register so she can work in advance to arrange a space in the course.
  • Students must be in Good Academic Standing per AU’s Graduate Academic Regulations to register for internship credit.
  • Students must complete Principles (COMM-640), Writing (COMM-644), and Research (COMM-738) before registering for internship credit.
  • A completed and signed registration form must be submitted by the deadline. See registration deadlines.

Use Advanced HR Skills to Help Meet Company Goals.

Successful HR professionals rely on new technologies to improve Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) efforts across organizations, standardize job titles, use performance reviews and goal-setting effectively, award raises, track important trends consistently and ethically and contribute toward positive organizational growth.


But surveys on human capital trends in 2020 and 2021 report that companies consistently come up short in professionals who know how to make that happen.

  • 70% of global employers say they can’t find candidates with the right mix of technical skills and human capabilities.1
  • 71% of organizations say governing changing workforce strategies is needed, but only 8% say they are very ready to address this trend.2
  • 80% of respondents in our executive focus groups said leadership readiness will be the biggest internal barrier to their ability to achieve their future strategies.1

Career Success with Your Master’s in Strategic Communication

Step into a career in strategic communication or a role that needs strong writers and communicators. Your knowledge of industry trends combined with a demonstrated ability to think critically and flexibly make you a top candidate in today’s media environment, which requires practitioners who can design, manage, and launch communication campaigns that integrate a variety of public relations, advertising, and marketing techniques.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that career opportunities for media and strategic communication professionals will grow at the average rate of 6% between 2021 and 2031, resulting in 68,600 new jobs. This reflects the demand for experts who can help companies, public entities, and nonprofits navigate the complex new avenues of digital, public, and advocacy communication.

While Washington, D.C. is one of the strongest PR hot spots in America, where the average annual salary of a PR specialist is $104,37004, your MA in Strategic Communication prepares you to work wherever you wish.

Graduates of the online MA in Strategic Communication can step into roles such as:

  • Media Relations Managers
  • Publicists
  • Public Relations Consultants
  • Social Media Outreach Coordinators
  • Campaign Managers

Of course, trends, technology, and platforms will change over time, but the conceptual tools and strategic-thinking skills gained in this program will empower you to adapt to developments and be continually successful throughout your career.

Career Services

American University’s Career Center offers its services to online and on-campus students as well as to all alumni, so you will continue to receive support for as long as you need it.

This means you will have access to resources for your job search, career advising, internships, and scholarships. You can also network, look for jobs, and apply for positions by making an account at AU Career Web, our online career search tool.

Alumni Employers

As passionate change-makers, our alumni are responsible for using their policy skills to make an impact. You can find some of them working at these outstanding organizations:

  • Discovery Communication
  • NPR
  • Fox News
  • Edelman
  • Ogilvy
  • Microsoft
  • Reuters
  • U.S. Department of State

Learning Online

American University welcomes its online students as a part of its community. As an online student, you’ll learn from the same outstanding faculty and be held to the same learning standards as students who attend courses on campus. On-campus and online programs deliver the same outcomes, and important support systems, like career resources, are set up for online learners as well. The only difference is you’re allowed to learn when and where it’s best for you so you can earn your degree and advance your career without putting the rest of your career and life on hold.

We Bring AU to You

Our digital campus was intentionally designed based on extensive research behind what makes online learning successful. We combine advanced technology, hands-on experiences, and full access to the American University community. Here, you’re not an online student, you’re an AU student.

Rigorous Courses

Online courses are as challenging as their on-campus counterparts and taught by the same connected faculty members, influential guest speakers, and prominent lecturers.

100% Support

New-student orientation, 24×7 help desk for technical issues, a student services coordinator, financial aid advisers, and more are all available to ensure your success.

Expert Faculty

Home to some of the most acclaimed scholars and thought leaders in the world, you’ll learn from award-winning scholars and policymakers, diplomats, authors, artists, attorneys, scientists, journalists, and more.

Collaborative Learning

Use virtual tools to talk about your coursework, work in teams with classmates, build strong connections, network with others and ask your instructor questions and turn in assignments.

Military Education Benefits

American University is dedicated to supporting military service members, veterans, and their families.

As an online student of the Master’s in Strategic Communication program, you can transform your military experience and leadership skills into new career possibilities as you earn your degree, regardless of where you live or are stationed.

We support a full range of military education benefits such as:

Additionally, if you’ve served in any branch of the U.S. military on active duty within the past three years, you’re eligible to waive the application fee. We accept transfer credits from military coursework, have a dedicated Office of Veterans Services to help connect you to benefits, and maintain an active Veterans Services Support Network.

We welcome you to learn more about our military benefits and how to apply for them.

Take Your First Step Today

Become an American University student. A passion for public service, an emphasis on active leadership, and a global outlook are the hallmarks of the American University learning experience. We create graduates who stand out from their peers as active, socially aware, and compassionate leaders who work toward creating meaningful change in our world.

Join Us.

To learn more about American University’s Master’s in Strategic Communication program, request more information, request an appointment, or call us toll-free at 855-725-7614.

Program Resources | Industry Updates


Home to some of the most acclaimed scholars and thought leaders in the world.


Home to some of the most acclaimed scholars and thought leaders in the world.


Home to some of the most acclaimed scholars and thought leaders in the world.

Program FAQs

Graduates of the online MA in Strategic Communication can step into the following roles and more.

  • Media Relations Managers
  • Publicists
  • Public Relations Consultants
  • Social Media Outreach Coordinators
  • Campaign Managers

Admission requirements for the MA in Strategic Communication program include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university.

Applicants will need to submit the following:

All applicants are considered for the Online Merit Scholarship of $10,000 during the application review — no separate application is required.

*The application fee is typically waived if the application file is complete within a three-week period.

A TOEFL score of 600 (or 100 on the internet-based test), a minimum score of 68 on the Pearson Test of English, or a minimum IELTS score of seven (7) is required. Additionally, applicants with international transcripts must have them evaluated course by course. For a list of acceptable evaluators, go to

Applicants will complete a phone interview with the Program Director and will need to submit:

Yes, it is not a requirement to have an undergraduate degree in communication.

The program can be completed in as few as 20 months. However, at a pace of two courses each semester, the average time to completion is 24 months. Taking more than two courses per semester is not recommended due to the rigor of the program.

No. If you elect to do an internship, it can be taken in your local area.

No, a GRE test is not required.

Our application deadline varies based on the term you are applying for. Please note that the earlier you submit your application, the sooner you will know whether you have been awarded the Online Merit Scholarship. Please contact our online admissions advisors for a specific timeline as to when your application file needs to be fully submitted.

The spring semester starts in January. The summer session begins in May. Our fall semester starts in August.

Yes, online students can easily request a Student ID online to take advantage of all the same resources as our on-campus students.