Answer: Master’s degree programs in strategic communication tend to offer students a greater breadth of education, including coursework in topics such as organizational leadership, communication research methods, marketing, and public relations. In contrast, students pursuing a degree in integrated marketing communications (IMC) focus more specifically on brand development and marketing strategies, tactics, and measurement. Despite this difference, these two degrees are very similar, with graduates earning similar roles upon graduation. Prospective students should examine the coursework offered in different programs to determine the degree type that best fits their needs.

Students pursuing either a master’s in strategic communication or an IMC degree learn strategies and tactics that can be used to influence the behavior of a broad audience. With this shared educational goal, the two programs are very similar and often have comparable coursework. However, students earning a degree in strategic communication can expect to take courses that cover a wider range of topics, while students pursuing a master’s in IMC study marketing almost exclusively. Additionally, strategic communication programs typically spend a greater amount of time focusing on communication theories and research methods. In a master’s in IMC program, these topics have less emphasis, with more time devoted to marketing case studies, market research, and tactics.

Master’s in Strategic Communication Programs

Earning a master’s in strategic communication prepares students to develop and implement communication plans that help organizations advance their mission. This requires training in public relations, marketing, content strategy, new media, analytics, corporate communication, and more. With a master’s in strategic communication, students typically take on positions at for-profit companies. However, students might also gain employment in non-profits and government related entities (e.g., political campaigns and city government).

Graduates with a master’s in strategic communication often pursue careers as marketing directors, directors of corporate communications, internal communication managers, digital marketing strategists, campaign managers, events coordinators, fundraising managers, or directors of organizational development. Keep in mind, this list is not exhaustive, there are many other positions that students can pursue upon graduation.

While completing a master’s in strategic communication, students will focus on topics like promotional strategy, advertising, strategic messaging, international strategic communication, analytics, digital strategy, and much more. There is a list of sample courses below, illustrating the type of courses a student might take while pursuing a master’s in the field. There is a wide breadth of possible courses, with some programs offering specializations in topics like healthcare and politics. Before applying to any program, students should carefully review the curriculum to ensure it aligns with their academic and professional goals.

Example Courses in a Master’s in Strategic Communication Program
Communication TheoriesStrategic Organizational Communication
Communication Research MethodsStrategic Public Relations
Strategic Communication and EthicsProfessional Writing for Strategic Communication
Crisis CommunicationPersuasive Communication
Media Management and StrategiesDigital Design
Corporate CommunicationDigital Media Strategies
Organizational Leadership and Change ManagementMedia Analytics
Healthcare CommunicationStrategic Brand Communication
Social Media AdvertisingPromotional Strategy
Social Media StorytellingMessage Development
Communication and New MediaStrategic Communication and Fundraising
Global Strategic CommunicationPolitical Advertising

Master’s in Integrated Marketing Communications

Earning a master’s in IMC helps prepare graduates to create and execute marketing strategy, using a variety of channels and tactics to promote products and services. Graduates are also typically trained in how to measure the effect of their marketing campaigns, including the effect they have on brand awareness and company revenue.

Professionals with a master’s in IMC can pursue a variety of different positions. Some examples include product marketing manager, digital marketing strategist, market research manager, brand manager, content marketing manager, or web design specialist,. Most often, graduates work in for-profit organizations, but it is not unusual for them to find employment in the non-profit or government sectors.

While enrolled in an IMC master’s program, students can expect to study topics such as market research, strategic media use, consumer behavior, corporate brand communication, healthcare marketing, applied public relations, crisis communication, copywriting, social media strategies, and more. This coursework results in graduates with a deep knowledge of marketing strategies, tactics, and measurement. Review the sample curriculum below to get a better understanding of the type of coursework typically found in an IMC program. This list is by no means exhaustive and is merely a representation of the options that may be available.

Example Courses in a Master’s in IMC Program
Marketing Research and AnalysisApplied Public Relations
Strategy and MeasurementContent Marketing
Idea DevelopmentSocial Media Marketing
Strategic MediaDigital Video Production
Brand Equity ManagementCreative Messaging Strategy
Emerging Media and the MarketThe Mobile Web
Direct MarketingBroadcast Management for IMC
Cause MarketingCopywriting and Design Direction
Sports MarketingAnalytical Tools for Decision Making
Digital StorytellingWeb Metrics and SEO
Ethics and Legal IssuesAudience Behavior
Organizational BehaviorMarketing Mix Analysis
Direct MarketingCrisis Communication

Master’s in Strategic Communication vs. Master’s in IMC Programs

The differences between these two degrees are somewhat subtle and may depend on the specific program a student selects. Ultimately, graduates from either type of program can earn similar positions and have comparable careers. However, there are two main differences between the programs that prospective students should consider.

First, a master’s in strategic communication offers a broader approach to coursework. While strategic communication master’s programs include marketing courses, students also take courses like organizational leadership, interviewing, managing teams, presentational speaking, and speech writing. Students earning a master’s in IMC, on the other hand, will delve deeper into marketing strategies and tactics, taking courses in topics such as direct marketing, marketing mix analysis, search marketing with Google AdWords, and web metrics and SEO.

The second major difference between the two programs is that a master’s in strategic communication requires students to see the world through the lens of communication, using message meaning and creation as a way of understanding strategic marketing efforts. This requires a greater focus on communication theory than a student would typically find in an IMC program. Instead, students in an IMC program typically spend this time focusing on key strategies, techniques, and case studies.


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