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Where a Graduate Degree in Communication Can Lead

Kindred spirits: That’s what Randy Iden, faculty director for the Master of Science in Communication (MSC) program, calls the professionals who pursue an MSC at Northwestern University.

Most incoming students have seen firsthand—based upon their own work experiences—how communication impacts an organization. “Externally and internally, to be part of that, is really powerful and fulfilling,” Iden explains. “It’s where the magic happens.”

Whether they bring a few years or decades of job experience with them, MSC students find themselves at Northwestern because they’ve uncovered a passion for and interest in communication—and want to use it to make an impact.

Numerous studies—including a recent one from the National Association of Colleges and Employers—indicate that companies are looking for workers with solid written and verbal communication skills. (In fact, written communications skills was the most sought-after attribute in 2018.)

“The ability to use communication tactics effectively continues to be a real need in a variety of workplaces,” says Iden. “Communication is what holds us all together. Earning a Master of Science in Communication gives you the opportunity to bring together everything you’ve learned before—what you’ve learned in your working and personal lives—to become a more confident thinker, manager, and doer.”

Career Options in Communication

Many of today’s positions have communication at their core, which opens up plenty of new career opportunities in for-profit corporations, nonprofits, and government—whether those roles involve communication with internal constituents, association members, current or prospective customers, stakeholders, or potential employees.

Talent management is one area in need of communication professionals. “Being able to negotiate the needs of a potential employee and the customer—the company paying you to attract talent—requires subtle communication skills,” Iden explains.

Change management is another opportunity: Providing structure and communication so people feel confident and well-informed during times of change. “An MS in Communication gives you the ability to manage expectations and present information in the right way. It’s a skill: Being able to control the communication process so everyone knows their role when an organization undergoes change.”

The emergence of social media and the volatile landscape of organizational risk requires managers in all types of organizations to be trained in crisis communication. “We’ve developed an interactive crisis simulation that allows participants to respond to changing conditions in real time across multiple communication platforms,” says Iden. “Just identifying which events to respond to can be challenging. Even events that occur outside your community or organization can quickly become existential threats.” 

The simulation allows students to decide when and how to react; it also allows them to improve written and oral communication skills. “There’s no substitute for creating real messages under the pressure of quickly evolving scenarios.”

Public affairs is another growing field where a Master of Science in Communication pays off. “A student who graduated last year now works for a solar energy company in government relations,” Iden explains. “The company needs to get governmental approval from all different levels. She talks to different government agencies and regulatory bodies and explains what the company does, answers their questions, and clears up misconceptions.”

What Sets Our MSC Program Apart

Northwestern’s MSC program stands out when it comes to studying communication at the graduate level—and there are a few big reasons why.

·        Core communication faculty lead the classes—even though it’s an 11-month program that can be done online or on campus on Saturdays. These world-class instructors are experts in the communication field who choose to spend their time with students because they believe in the program—and in the value of communication.

·        Carefully curated curriculum is based on enduring principles and skills as well as new communication models and concepts. “For example, we have a class about content marketing and influencer marketing,” Iden says. “We design coursework for working professionals. You can also customize your classes based on subjects you’re most interested in or that you find most valuable.”

·        The degree can be earned in one of two ways: through the Custom Leadership Program for students at any level or through the Hybrid Leadership Program (a combination of online and on campus) for experienced leaders.

“Whatever your career specialty is, being able to add superior communication skills differentiates you within your organization and along your career path,” says Iden. “During this program, you learn as much from the people you go to school with as you do from the faculty you take classes from.”