Penn State World Campus, the online campus of Penn State University, offers an online Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Strategic Communications in conjunction with the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. A fully online program, the degree requirements can be completed without any in-person visits to campus. Students attending Penn State World Campus use the Canvas learning management system to access their online programs. Through Canvas, students attend an orientation, view syllabi and other course materials (including lectures and announcements), submit assignments, interact with classmates and instructors through discussion forums and other communication channels (e.g., email, chat, video conferencing), and more.

The Master of Professional Studies requires 30 credit hours of study, which can be finished in approximately two years of part-time enrollment. The program is designed for professionals in the early- to mid-phases of their career who desire to develop career-advancing skills in areas such as research-informed communication strategy, campaign development, content design and implementation, media analytics, and communication ethics, leadership, and law. Students do not need to have a bachelor’s degree in communications to be admitted to the program. The curriculum explores strategic messaging, including its foundational concepts, theories, and research practices. Students develop an understanding of how to gather, analyze and leverage audience-based data for use in digital media communications.

The program’s curriculum is divided between prescribed courses (21 credits), additional courses (6 credits) and electives (3 credits). The prescribed coursework is a series of seven classes that covers both theory and applied skill development in strategic communication practices. These courses include Research Methods in Strategic Communications, Strategic Communications: Theory and Implementation, Strategic Communications Industry, Digital Media Analytics, and Ethics and Decision Making in Strategic Communications. Through these classes, students learn about the shifting landscape of the communications industry and the blending of advertising, public relations and corporate communications in integrated communications initiatives. Students also study the conceptual foundations of the creative process behind message development and build familiarity with using targeted audience behavior data to craft effective messages across different media platforms for organizations and brands alike.

The additional courses are effectively electives that are specific to strategic communications. Students choose two courses from the following: Social Media Communications, Strategic Communications Law, Advanced Digital Media Analytics, and Reaching Multicultural Populations with Strategic Communications. These focused electives allow students to craft a program of study that further explores subjects such as digital analytics, leadership, or social media. Beyond these strategic communications-specific courses, students must also take at least six additional course credits from any course offered by Penn State World Campus. The aim of this broader elective requirement is to ensure that students have the opportunity to take interdisciplinary courses that enhance their advanced skills in communication strategy, research, and analysis.

The program culminates in a capstone course, Strategic Communications Campaigns, which requires students to use their classroom-based experience and knowledge to design a strategic communications campaign for a real-world, professional client.

Pennsylvania State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Online Master of Professional Studies in Strategic Communications

Department: Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications
Websites: Department and Program

Program Format
Structure: Online program with no required campus visits
Instruction Methods: Program uses asynchronous instruction
Campus Visits Required: No
Program Length: Program can be completed in under 2 years with part-time enrollment

Curriculum and Graduation Requirements
Thesis Required: No
Capstone Options: Capstone project (strategic communications campaign)
Credits Required: 30 credits (10 courses)
Example Courses: Research Methods in Strategic Communications; Strategic Communications: Theory and Implementation; Digital Media Analytics; Multimedia Content Development and Delivery; Ethics and Decision Making in Strategic Communications; Strategic Communications Campaigns; Strategic Communications Leadership; Social Media Communications

Application Requirements
Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
GPA Requirements: Minimum GPA 3.0
Testing Requirements: GRE not required
Start Dates: Fall and Spring admission

Tuition Costs
Estimated Tuition*: ~$25,590 + fees
Cost per Credit Hour: $853 per credit hour

State Authorizations: Program accepts students from all 50 states

*Estimated tuition is calculated by multiplying the cost per credit hour by the number of credits required to graduate. It does not include fees or other expenses.