Frequently asked questions about the Communication Management (M.S.) program

What is the overall focus of the program?

The program focuses on both internal and external organizational communication with its professional and research-oriented coursework. With an emphasis on public relations and integrated communication, the program seeks to help students gain the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to research, plan, implement and evaluate communications activities designed to achieve organizational goals.

For whom are the program intended?

The master’s program is appropriate for both career-oriented individuals who want to advance in their chosen fields and for students who intend to pursue further graduate studies.

How can a student specialize in a particular area within the graduate program?

Students are expected to learn how to manage and appropriately integrate a variety of communication functions. Therefore, they are expected to be generalists in all facets of organizational communication and public relations by the time they graduate. Many students will come into the program with some degree of expertise in certain areas and will want to focus their graduate education on, what will be for them, "new" areas of communication. With this in mind, the master’s degree program is designed to allow students flexibility in customizing their degree program. Students should work with the program director to identify the best combination of courses to meet their specific needs.

What is unique about this program?

It is designed to meet the needs of busy professionals. It is the only one of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic region. In fact, there are only a few worldwide with this emphasis on strategic public relations and integrated communications.

Can the program be completed part-time?

Yes. However, there is a time limitation. All requirements for the master’s degree must be completed within a seven-year period.

What set of knowledge, skills and abilities will students gain from this program?

Graduates of this program will be in a stronger position to advance their careers because they will be able to:

1. Understand how theory informs the practice of communications management:

  • Interpersonal communication theory
  • Organizational communication theory
  • Public relations theory
  • Mass communication theory
  • Other theories relevant to communications management

2. Use research in public relations and communications management:

  • Apply qualitative and quantitative research as required
  • Design research
  • Conduct research
  • Interpret research
  • Evaluate research

3. Demonstrate advanced interpersonal communication competencies:

  • Interviewing skills
  • Group and team skills
  • Networking skills
  • Leadership development
  • Ongoing personal development

4. Demonstrate social responsibility:

  • Understand professional codes and adhere to high ethical standards
  • Understand and obey legal requirements
  • Integrate client/societal relationships and responsibilities

5. Demonstrate proficiency in project and campaign management:

  • Show competency in the budgeting process
  • Perform cost/benefit analysis
  • Manage creative personnel
  • Schedule tasks
  • Know how to produce management documents and reports

6. Manage communication and information technologies:

  • Integrate communication technologies into practice
  • Keep up-to-date with new communication technologies

7. Demonstrate expertise in strategic management of communication:

  • Be skilled in issues management
  • Exhibit environmental monitoring skills
  • Plan for and manage communication during crises effectively
  • Understand the role of public relations, integrated communications and communications management
  • Understand public affairs
  • Know how to handle media relations professionally
  • Understand organizational cultures
  • Facilitate partnering between and among organizations
  • Know how to advise management
  • Manage integrated communication

Are courses offered after 5:30 p.m. to accommodate the needs of students who have full-time jobs?

All of our required courses are offered after 5:30 p.m. Electives are offered at different times during the day but students may choose those courses that best fit their program of study and scheduling needs.

What does the thesis option entail?

A thesis allows students to conduct a sustained research project that will develop essential skills and abilities to evaluate professional communication activities or campaigns. A master's thesis, conducted with a thesis advisor, prepares a student for doctoral programs and may involve any appropriate form of scholarly communication research.

Students should not begin their thesis until all other coursework has been completed. Prior to the completion of all required coursework, students may ask a member of the graduate faculty to serve as her or his principal faculty advisor; but, the advisor cannot sign an approval form until all coursework has been completed.

Under an advisor's supervision, the student should prepare an appropriate proposal and, with the faculty advisor's consent, identify at least two other graduate faculty members to serve on the thesis committee. The proposal consists of the first three chapters of the thesis: 1) a complete statement of the problem and broad research questions; 2) a literature review that concludes with a much more specific set of research questions; and 3) a complete description of the methodology, including research instruments.

Once the proposal is complete, the proposal defense will take place, which is when the student presents the thesis proposal to the members of the committee. Once the committee approves the proposal, the student will complete the thesis, which will consist of conducting the study and writing the analysis and conclusion chapters.

What does the non-thesis option entail?

The students who choose the non-thesis option will take 6 credits of additional electives and pass three written, on-campus comprehensive exams. The examinations are in the following areas of the communications field– theory, research methods and a communication subject area chosen by the student. The examination questions will be written by faculty who teach those courses. Only Mass Communication or Communication Studies graduate and associate graduate faculty can submit comprehensive exam questions. Students may take comprehensive exams after they have completed 30 units of coursework.

Students must pass all three comprehensive exams with a Low Pass, Pass or Pass with excellence. If students fail an exam, they can retake it once. If students fail an exam a second time, they will be dismissed from the program.

When should a student declare whether they will do the thesis option or the non-thesis option?

By the time they complete the 15 units of required classes, students should tell the graduate director which option they plan to pursue. Students cannot switch to the other option because they failed their comprehensive exams or failed their proposal or thesis defense.