Change the Media Landscape

We live in a world where everyone is competing for attention. Communication professionals who can capture the attention of target audiences with strategic planning and compelling messages have a powerful advantage. Based in Washington, DC, the epicenter of national political and social movements, American University's School of Communication teaches the skills you need to stand out in a noisy marketplace.

Our mission is to educate students in the most recent trends and empower them with strategic tools and insights that set them apart from their peers. Our diverse, dynamic faculty of accomplished writers, documentarians, correspondents, PR experts, politicians, and social change advocates teach you to grasp a communication challenge and create a strategy to address it; to target an audience; to create a compelling message; to write persuasively; to advocate in a changing digital media world. Expertise in these areas will allow you to build on ideas and images, persuasion and information, strategy and tactics in creative and innovative ways.

Flexible Degree Options to Meet Your Needs

We offer full-time, part-time, and online courses of study.

Full-time students are generally expected to complete the program in 10 months. Part-time or online students are expected to take a minimum of two courses each semester and complete their program in less than two years.

The School of Communication operates on a rolling admissions basis for our graduate programs. Applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis until programs reach capacity. 

While previous academic or professional work in the field is not required, you'll need to demonstrate a serious commitment to a career in this field. Your essay on your desire to and reasons for pursuing graduate study in the program will be essential, along with other required application materials.

Faculty Research Fuels Innovation

The School of Communication's world-class faculty member's excellence in the classroom, achievements in their respective fields, and deep commitment to personalized mentorship have helped launch thousands of rewarding careers in the for-profit, non-profit, and government sectors.

Their cutting-edge research activities and professional engagements play key roles in national and global policy development. Faculty fields of study encompass strategic and political communication, intercultural and global communication, public and media relations, social change campaigns and digital media studies, public opinion research and public service advertising, broadcast news and media production, and race relations and public diplomacy, among many other areas.

Specific research areas in strategic communication have included how internet politics can improve civic engagement; the impact of new media technologies on advocacy, activism, and political communication; the interaction between courts and the media; how media, public relations, and society intersect; and explorations in social media and personal branding.

Our faculty here will actively help you shape our world in positive ways. You'll engage in meaningful work with a profound impact as you strive to expand the constructive power of communication and media.

Financing Your Education

The MA in Strategic Communication is a 30 credit hour program. To estimate the cost of tuition, please see the current cost per credit hour for graduate students.

The School of Communication offers graduate students both merit-based and need-based financial aid. Merit awards, named scholarships, and fellowships are administered by the SOC Graduate Admissions Office, while need-based awards are administrated by the American University Office of Financial Aid. Additional financial support is available for veterans.

All merit awards are based on your academic merit and professional experience, specifically your undergraduate grades and leadership activities as well as career-related accomplishments. Merit awards are valid for one year-they vary in amount, are typically divided evenly between the fall and spring semesters, and are not typically renewable.

Some merit awards come in the form of graduate assistantships, which consist of graduate tuition remission, a stipend, or both. Tuition remission will vary in the number of credits offered. If you are offered a stipend, you must be employed as a graduate assistant for a School of Communication faculty member for 10 hours per week.

Research fellowships at academic centers within the School of Communication and throughout the university may also be available.

Your Network of Success

The School of Communication's highly selective graduate mentoring program bridges the gap between the classroom and the professional world to help you continue to build your career.

Each year, graduate students who are admitted to the program are paired with top alumni through a partnership among the School of Communication, our development team, and the AU Career Center. Whether it is helping you meet short and long term career goals, sharing tips to improve your resume and portfolio, or helping you build a network of success, professional mentors are invaluable sources of knowledge and experience for students.

We Know Success

% of Graduates are now Working, Grad School, or Both
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Tailor Your Degree to Your Goals

The Public Communication faculty has created concentrations that will allow you to focus your studies in your areas of interest. Although you are not required to pick a concentration, they are an ideal way for students to build upon areas of expertise and showcase that expertise on your resume, online portfolios, LinkedIn and other social media profiles.

Students must take a minimum of three courses in a topic area to list a concentration.

  • COMM-533 Ethics in Strategic Communication
  • COMM-540 Social Marketing for Social Impact
  • COMM-543 Speech Writing
  • COMM-551 Grassroots Digital Advocacy
  • COMM-564 Documentary Storytelling for Social Change
  • COMM-567 Communication and Social Change
  • COMM-580 Strategic Health Communication
  • COMM-608 Social Media Strategies and Tactics
  • COMM-639 Political Communication
  • COMM-533 Ethics in Strategic Communication
  • COMM-551 Grassroots Digital Advertising
  • COMM-573 Visual Design in Strategic Communication
  • COMM-602 Digital Media Literacy and Skills
  • COMM-603 Web Development
  • COMM-608 Social Media Strategies and Tactics
  • COMM-620 Content Creation for Strategic Communication
  • COMM-658 Strategic Communication Campaigns: Ad Lab 
  • COMM-533 Ethics in Strategic Communication
  • COMM-542 Media Relations
  • COMM-543 Speechwriting
  • COMM-573 Visual Design in Strategic Communication
  • COMM-601 Communication Law
  • COMM-608 Social Media Strategies and Tactics
  • COMM-620 Reputation Management 
  • COMM-641 Crisis Communication
  • COMM-642 Strategic Communication Management
  • COMM-649 International Strategic Communication
  • COMM-658 Strategic Communication Campaigns: Ad Lab
  • COMM-533 Ethics in Strategic Communication
  • COMM-551 Grassroots Digital Advocacy 
  • COMM-567 Communication and Social Change
  • COMM-602 Digital Media Literacy and Skills
  • COMM-608 Social Media Strategies and Tactics
  • COMM-632 Backpack Video Journalism
  • COMM-641 Crisis Communication
  • COMM-643 Foreign Policy and the Press
  • COMM-649 International Strategic Communication

Comparison of On-Campus and Online Programs

Credits required
On-Campus & Online: 30
Time to complete
On-Campus: 12 months
Online: 20 months
Course frequency
On-Campus: Full-time: Four 3-credit courses per 16-week semester (Two courses in the summer). Academic Calendar.
Online: One 3-credit course every 8 weeks/ two courses per 16-week semester. Academic Calendar.
Class start dates
On-Campus: Fall term
Online: Fall, Spring and Summer terms
Admissions deadlines
On-Campus: Feb. 1 (For priority and award consideration) June 1 for late admissions
Online: Priority Deadlines per term - Fall term: July 15; Spring term: November 15; Summer term: March 15
Class times
On-Campus: Fixed per academic schedule
Online: Flexible per your schedule (asynchronous)
Cost per credit hour
On-Campus & Online: $1,812 (based on 2020-2021 cost per credit hour)
Financial Awards
On-Campus: Up to $15,000 (scholarship, tuition remission, graduate assistant)
Online: Up to $10,000 (scholarship only)
On-Campus: Advocacy & Social Impact, Corporate Communication & Reputation Management, Digital Communication Strategies & Analytics, International Strategic Communication
Online: Advocacy & Social Impact, Digital Communication Strategies & Analytics
On-Campus: Take up to two on-campus courses in SOC or other schools. Take up to two online courses
Online: Take up to two on-campus courses in SOC or other schools
Career Development
On-Campus & Online: Access to AU Career Services, Alumni mentorship
AU Library
On-Campus & Online: Access to library and online resources
Student Services
On-Campus & Online: Access to Writing Center

Apply to on-campus program Apply to online program

Politics, Social Change, and the EPA

Communication is essential to moving audiences and influencing public policy.

Taylor Battle’s background has inspired her to use her strategic communication skills to be a pioneer for social change by developing campaigns that address issues in social justice, the environment, global health, and education. She’s leveraging her experience in politics and social change and her AU education at her internship with the EPA, where she’s developing her creative writing skills and learning how to write for different audiences.

MA in Strategic Communication

Frequently Asked Questions

You are not required to pick a concentration, but if you do have a particular area of interest or expertise, you can choose to concentrate your studies by taking three courses in one of the following four areas: Advocacy and Social Impact; Digital Communication Strategies & Analytics; Corporate Communication and Reputation Management; or Public Diplomacy and Global Affairs. A concentration can open you up to myriad career options.

Yes, you can! With our online MA in Strategic Communication, we're bringing the same dynamic learning opportunities as in our full-time and part-time programs to you, wherever you live. Our program allows you to learn on your own schedule via an engaging and interactive online learning platform. You'll learn to tell compelling stories, craft messages that lead to action, and harness the power of new media and technology. Our students learn through simulations, applying best practices to new technology and media channels. The program has its own application process, but admission requirements and degree and course requirements are the same as for the full-time and part-time programs. However, the only degree concentrations available online at this time are Digital Communication Strategies & Analytics and Advocacy & Social Impact. Courses are offered in an eight-week accelerated format-you'll take two courses each semester, with the goal of completing the program within a 20-month period. You must be accepted into the Online MA in Strategic Communication Program to enroll in online courses. Request more information.

Our on-campus master's degree is accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC). We are 1 of only 5 ACEJMC-accredited master's programs in strategic communication and/or public relations and the only one in Washington, DC. (These numbers change slightly all the time; a full list of accredited programs can be found on the ACEJMC website).

While the online program is not currently ACEJMC accredited, we have ensured that the content, rigor, and expectations of the online program meet those standards, as well as the higher expectations of the School of Communication and American University.

Additionally, American University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Therefore, all programs offered at AU are recognized by the federal government, most U.S. employers, and other accredited institutions.

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