Media & Strategic Communication


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The M.A. in Media and Strategic Communication blends analytical and applied skills, giving students a grounding in the function and influence of the media. The most comprehensive strategic communication program in the heart of Washington, D.C., the M.A. prepares students to achieve advocacy goals in today's fast-paced media environment.

This program is geared toward aspiring media and political communication experts who want to learn how to implement campaigns, create effective and succinct messaging and perform data analysis.

The flexible curriculum allows students to focus their studies on sustainability, science, public health, peacebuilding, or other public affairs issues. Students also have the opportunity to pursue a certificate in Documentary Filmmaking as part of the program. 

Please contact Student Services Specialist Marisa Mansueto with any questions at [email protected]




Learn To...

  • Design and implement campaigns
  • Develop messaging to target audiences, support campaigns and encourage action
  • Perform analytics and data analysis
  • Apply insights from media effects, public opinion and persuasion

Advance Your Career In...

  • Public and non-profit management 
  • Government media relations 
  • Advocacy and cause communications 
  • Public relations and communications consulting 
  • Media research
  • Public opinion and policy analysis
  • Academia

Students need to take a total of 36 credits. Most students take two years to complete the degree.

1. Core courses, 15 credits

  • SMPA 6202 Media Effects, Public Opinion and Persuasion

  • SMPA 6204 Strategic Political Communication

  • SMPA 6208 Politics and Public Relations Fundamentals

  • SMPA 6241 Research Design

  • SMPA 6242 Analytics and Data Analysis for Strategic Communication

2. Strategic Communication Skills Courses, 3 credits

Students will need to take two, 1.5 credit skills courses from the following illustrative list. Each course will last seven weeks.

  • Crisis Communication

  • Social Media

  • Web Essentials

  • Speechwriting

  • Public Speaking

3. Elective courses, 12 credits

Students complete an additional 12 credits of elective courses tailored to their individual interests. Courses may be taken in both SMPA and in other departments. In all cases the burden will be on students and advisors to choose elective courses that form a coherent set. Students doing the strategic communication capstone option may not count SMPA 6220 toward electives.

4. Capstone, 6 credits

Students need to complete a capstone project. Three options are offered, from which students must choose one:

1) research thesis

2) in-depth media project

3) strategic communication project

The Program

What skills does the Media and Strategic Communication program teach?

The program offers a blend of analytical and applied skills. This includes how to apply communication theory, develop messaging, and design a strategic communications plan; and perform analytics and data analysis. We believe that students pursuing careers in strategic and political communication need to have two sets of complementary competencies: the ability to analyze processes and operators in strategic political communication, and familiarity with important communications, data analysis and media production skills.

How long does it take to complete the program?

It takes two years (four semesters) for a full-time student to complete a degree in the program. Many students work full-time and take longer to complete the program. Students are required to finish within four years. Some students take courses in the summer and finish in less than two years.

How many courses should I take each semester?

A full-time graduate student normally enrolls in three courses per semester. Part-time students usually take one or two.

How many classes will I have to take?

The program consists of 36 credit hours:

  • 5 core courses (15 credit hours)
  • 2 courses (3 credit hours) in strategic communication skills
  • 4 elective courses (12 credit hours) tailored toward a student's future goals
  • Capstone course (6 credit hours) consisting of a thesis or an in-depth journalistic or strategic political communication capstone project showcasing their expertise.

Can I take a class without enrolling in the program?

Yes, we do allow students to take courses in the Media and Strategic Communication program without being enrolled in a GW program. You have to enroll as a non-degree seeking student first, and then you can take up to nine credits (three courses) that can be transferred into the M.A. program and counted toward a degree later on.

GW's Office of Non-Degree Students


What are your application requirements?

Admission to the M.A. in Media and Strategic Communication is organized by the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (CCAS), of which the School of Media and Public Affairs is a unit. Basic admissions requirements are addressed in the  Graduate Program finder. All application materials need to be sent directly to the Columbian College as do all questions about your application. You can reach the Columbian College Admissions Office at [email protected].

Is the GRE required?

The GRE general is not required. However, if you feel as though submitting scores for the GRE will strengthen your application, you are welcome to submit them.

How many students are in the program and how many are admitted each year?

Admission is highly selective. Approximately twenty to twenty-five students are admitted for the fall semester. Around 5-10 are generally admitted each spring.

How many students apply each year?

Over 130 applications were received for the fall 2019 class.

How long does it take to process an application?

The admissions committee will decide on applications between three and five weeks after each application deadline. The file is not forwarded to SMPA unless it is complete and all the documents have been received. A quick response can be given only if the applicant has submitted all the necessary documents before the deadline. Admission decisions are not processed on a rolling basis - all applications received before each deadline are reviewed at the same time.

What are the average GRE scores and GPA?

The GRE general is not required. However, if you feel as though submitting scores for the GRE will strengthen your application, you are welcome to submit them. 

For the fall 2014 application season, the average GRE scores for accepted students were: Verbal: 80%, Quantitative: 53%, and Analytical Writing: 74%. The average GPA is 3.48.

What background does the average incoming student have?

Some students join the program right after completing their undergraduate degree; other students start 3-5 years after college graduation. Most students have experience from internships and jobs in politics and media.

What are the application deadlines?

Fall Semester
To be considered for fellowships: February 1

Regular admission:
April 1

Spring Semester:
International students requiring a student visa:
September 15

Regular admission:
October 1

Is funding available?

There are a number of graduate assistantships and scholarships offered by SMPA and the Columbian College of Arts and Science for incoming and returning students.

The Office of Graduate Student Assistantships & Fellowships provides information about funding opportunities at the Master's and PhD levels.

The Office of Student Financial Assistance offers loans and helpful information for admitted students.

The GW Career Center has information about Federal Work-Study, part-time jobs, internships and cooperative education that can help you fund your time in graduate school.

How much is your program?

Tuition information can be found on the Student Accounts Office website.

What are SMPA M.A. alumni doing?

We have over 200 graduate program alumni.

Many graduates go into communications positions in government including the State Department, U.S. Senate and the Department of Defense.

Many others work in non-profit and advocacy communications, including at Pew Research Center and the American Cancer Society.

Some graduate enter the private sector doing communications and research at companies like Weber Shandwick and Hart Research, or choose to enter journalism and media positions, including at CNN and The Atlantic. 

Others have gone on to pursue a Ph.D. and jobs in teaching or research.


What is the Consortium?

Comprised of thirteen universities and two colleges, the Consortium provides 130,000 students with opportunities to benefit from the combined resources of its members. Students in approved programs leading to degrees in any one of these institutions have the opportunity to select from the combined offerings the particular courses that best meet their needs. This privilege is subject to regulations of the school in which the student is enrolled. Participation is limited to degree candidates. For specific regulations and further information, please see the University Bulletin.

What are the member schools?

American University, Catholic University of America, Gallaudet University, George Mason University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Howard University, Marymount University, National Defense Intelligence College, National Defense University, Southeastern University, the University of the District of Columbia, Trinity University, and the University of Maryland.

How do I register for classes through the Consortium?

Students must complete and submit the Consortium Registration Form to their advisor for signature; the form will be routed to the Registrar's Office through the CCAS Dean's Office.

International Students

Can a high score on the GRE compensate TOEFL scores?

The GRE general is not required. However, if you feel as though submitting scores for the GRE will strengthen your application, you are welcome to submit them.

What about obtaining a visa?

Most international students come here on F-I Visas (student Visa). When an international student is admitted, the CCAS sends a document called the I-20. This document is needed for obtaining a Visa. Any other questions on Visa should be directed to the International Students Services (ISO) at 202-994-4477.

Is funding available for international students?

Students may apply for the International Graduate Funding Initiative or the global leadership program if their country qualifies.

International students often take up on-campus jobs for their living expenses. An international student on a F-1 Visa is not allowed to work for more than 20 hours a week (part-time).

SMPA has limited funding available for graduate students and does not have any departmental scholarships specifically for international students.

Questions? Want to schedule a class visit or a tour?

Please don’t hesitate to contact the SMPA Student Services Specialist at 202-994-4079 or email us at [email protected] with any questions or concerns!

In addition to 30 credits of coursework, students are required to complete a Capstone Project (6 credits) as part of the MA Program. Students can choose one of the following options for the Project:

  1. Research Thesis (SMPA 6998 and 6999)
  2. Strategic Communication Project (SMPA 6220 and 6298)
  3. Media Project (SMPA 6297 and 6298)

General Capstone Guidelines

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DC Location

The most comprehensive program of its kind in downtown DC, our M.A. directly relates to your work in political, nonprofit, federal and advocacy communications. Evening classes help you advance your career while earning your degree. 

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Jobs & Networking

Your education includes access to our worldwide network of alumni and friends of SMPA, exclusive job and internship listings and access to career development and networking events throughout the year.

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Robust Curriculum

Our courses give you the crucial theory and skills for developing strategic communication and media plans. Learn how to craft messaging, target audiences and analyze data — all from the industry’s very best.

Career Advancement

Career Advancement

Get the master's degree that empowers you to be a real player in strategic communication. Gain firsthand insight from leading practitioners and faculty on what makes successful and effective communication plans.

Our Alumni Work at...

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Graduate Career Services