Media & Strategic Communication

Student speaking in class

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 downtown 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 interested in learning how to implement campaigns, create effective and succinct messaging and perform data analysis.

 

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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. Visit www.gwu.edu/non-degree for more information.


Admissions

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 askccass@gwu.edu.

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

Admission is highly selective. Approximately fifteen to twenty students are admitted each year, most for the fall semester. We generally admit two or three students for the spring semester.

How many students apply each year?

Over 90 applications were received for the fall 2017 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?

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?

Funding is available. There are a limited number of Graduate Assistantships and scholarships through SMPA. Other financial aid is available through other offices at the university, including the university’s Office of Fellowships and Grad Student Support, as well as the Office of Student Financial Assistance and the Career Center.

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 graduated over 190 students from our graduate program. Some graduates of our master’s program have gone into communications positions at government institutions (the State Department, the U.S. Senate, the Department of Defense), communications work and research at private companies (Weber Shandwick, Hart Research), journalism and media positions (Politico, CNN) and non-profit and advocacy communications work (Pew Research Center, the American Cancer Society.) Others have gone on to pursue a Ph.D. and jobs in teaching or research.


Consortium

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 in TOEFL compensate a low Verbal score on the GRE?

No, SMPA expects students to score well on the GRE as well as the TOEFL. You must score at least 105 on the internet-based test or a 620 on the paper-based test.

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?

SMPA has limited funding available for graduate students and does not have any departmental scholarships specifically for international students. Students may apply for the global leadership program if their country qualifies. International students often take up on-campus jobs for their living expenses. An international student on an F-I Visa is not allowed to work for more than 20 hours a week (part-time).

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

Please don’t hesitate to contact our Graduate Program Assistant at 202-994-6227 or email us at smpagrad@gwu.edu 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


D.C. map, metro logo, capitol building, Washington Monument and White House illustrations

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.


Financial Aid

A limited number of competitive financial aid packages are available to SMPA graduate students. The following awards packages are based on merit and priority consideration is given to students who submit their applications by February 1. More information on applying for financial aid is available on the GW Student Accounts Office website.

Attend our upcoming webinar on funding your degree and learn about the many financial aid awards we offer to students.

These competitive packages provide full-time tuition (18 credits per year) plus a fellowship and stipend of $16,500. Graduate assistants work 20 hours per week for a faculty member as a teaching assistant or research assistant. The award is for two years, contingent upon performance and awarded to only three or four individuals. For priority consideration, apply by the January deadline.

The first-of-its-kind at the School of Media and Public Affairs, this scholarship offers tuition assistance (6 credits, or 1 course per semester) and a paid, 20-hour-per-week internship at the Finn Partners-Widmeyer Communications firm in Washington, D.C. The scholarship allows students to develop professionally and gain hands-on real-world experience while finishing their degrees. Students are nominated by the School of Media and Public Affairs and recommended to Widmeyer. Widmeyer interviews and selects candidates.

This merit-based scholarship provides tuition assistance for students who are returning to school after working for a significant amount of time. Up to $5,000 is awarded toward tuition costs over the course of an academic year.

This is a paid, full-time internship at FleishmanHillard communications agency in Washington, DC. Student interns work 37.5 hours per week at FleishmanHillard from September through May gaining hands-on experience in public relations and contributing their own cutting-edge learning, research and experience to FleishmanHillard. SMPA recommends students to FleishmanHillard for interviews and selection.

The National Council Scholar will receive $5,000 toward tuition a semester ($10,000 toward tuition in the year they hold the award). This award is generously funded by the National Council for Media and Public Affairs, distinguished national and international alumni and friends who advise the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs.


Our Alumni Work at...

Pew Research Center logo

 

POLITICO logo

 

Department of State logo

 

Fleishman Hillard

 

 

Graduate Career Services


Freie University Students

Exchange Program with Freie Universität Berlin

The School of Media and Public Affairs has an exchange program with the Institute for Media and Communications Studies at Freie Universität Berlin (FU) in Berlin. FU has one of the premier programs in communication and politics in Europe. Students in the M.A. in Media and Strategic Communication program can count up to nine credits at FU towards their GW degree. Internship opportunities are also available.

Applications to the program are due the semester before the intended travel. SMPA typically receives three FU students in the Fall semester. For more information, contact the Director of Graduate Studies Matthew Hindman at hindman@gwu.edu.