The University of Illinois offers an online Master of Science in Health Communication through its Department of Communication. A 100 percent online program, all courses utilize asynchronous instruction – meaning students are not required to be online at specific times for lectures or discussions. The program focuses on student engagement through one-on-one mentoring from professors and a dedicated academic advisor who is on call and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The online program is also taught by the same professors who teach the on-campus graduate programs offered by the Department of Communication, and cohorts are kept small to ensure that each student receives ample faculty attention and support.

The Master of Science in Health Communication is designed for students who have professional experience throughout the healthcare industry, and who want to advance their career specifically in health communication, in areas such as patient-provider communication, health care marketing, organizational and team communication in medical settings, and more. The program requires 32 credit hours of study and can be typically completed in approximately two years of full-time enrollment. The curriculum explores communication practices in three contexts: interpersonal, organizational and social. Through those contexts, students study the communication between healthcare providers, patients and their families; identify and examine communication- and policy-based challenges in health organizations; and consider how media influences health behaviors and practices.

The ten-course curriculum is interdisciplinary, blending concepts and coursework from an array of health communication areas, such as family, interpersonal, organizational, and social and cultural communication. The skills gained through the master’s degree are applicable throughout healthcare, ranging from nursing to veterinary medicine.

The curriculum begins with an Introduction to Health Communication course that considers both theory and research in health communication across health care organizations, healthcare delivery, health promotion and disease prevention. Through this course, students become familiar with the varying perspectives of health communication (e.g. family, professional, organizational) and understand the theoretical frameworks of how individuals communicate about health. Students also complete two courses in Health Communication Research Methods. These courses help students develop the skills required to conduct, understand and analyze research critically.

Building off of their introduction to health communication theory and research, students progress into a series of courses that explore health communication practices. Such courses include Health and Family Communication, Provider-Patient Communication, Cultural Considerations in Healthcare, Health Informatics, eHealth, Health and Family Communication, Health Communication Organizations, Professions and Policy, and Successful Health Campaigns. These courses provide students with the principles of effective intercultural and intergenerational health communication, as well as a working knowledge of health technology and how it can be leveraged to educate and empower patients and providers. The coursework also equips students with a background in healthcare policy and practices.

The program culminates in a Capstone Individual Study course that combines classroom-based knowledge and skill development with experiential learning. Students select a healthcare communication or health issue and complete a project that addresses that issue through a combination of health communication principles and practices. Examples of capstone projects include but are not limited to a health webinar series, the design of healthcare organizational interventions, the development of health-related media and marketing campaigns, and conducting an extensive literature review. Throughout their work on their capstone project, students receive guidance from a committee of faculty in the program.

The University of Illinois is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Online Master of Science in Health Communication

Department: Department of Communication
Websites: Department and Program

Program Format
Structure: Online program with no required campus visits
Instruction Methods: Program uses a cohort model and utilizes asynchronous instruction with no set times students are required to be online
Campus Visits Required: No
Program Length: Program can be completed in 2 years

Curriculum and Graduation Requirements
Thesis Required: No
Capstone Options: Capstone project
Credits Required: 32 credits (10 courses)
Example Courses: Health Communication Research Methods; Introduction to Health Communication; Health and Family Communication; Provider-Patient Communication; Cultural Considerations in Healthcare; Health Communication Organizations, Professions and Policy

Application Requirements
Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
GPA Requirements: Minimum GPA 3.0 in last two years of undergraduate degree
Testing Requirements: GRE not required
Work Experience: Typically applicants have prior work experience in a healthcare position
Start Dates: Fall and Spring admission

Tuition Costs
Estimated Tuition*: ~$21,600 + fees
Cost per Credit Hour: $675 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.