Developing Communication-Related Master s Degree Programs

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1 ACADEMIC AFFAIRS FORUM Developing Communication-Related Master s Degree Programs Custom Research Brief Research Associate Amanda Michael Research Manager Nalika Vasudevan December 2012

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3 3 of 13 Table of Contents I. Research Methodology... 4 Project Challenge... 4 Project Sources... 4 Research Parameters... 4 II. Executive Overview... 5 Key Observations... 5 III. Program Overview... 6 Degree Characteristics... 6 Student Characteristics... 7 Cost to Students... 9 Instructors... 9 IV. Market Demand... 9 National Trends... 9 Assessment of Student and Employer Demand Marketing Materials V. Outcomes Student Career Outcomes Appendix: Communication Master s Degrees and Required Credits... 13

4 I. Research Methodology Project Challenge Leadership at a member institution approached the Forum with the following questions: What trends or topics do communication-related master s degrees emphasize? What are the curricula for communication-related master s degrees? What are the attributes of communication-related master s degrees with regards to cost, schedule, and time to completion? 4 of 13 Do other institutions offer an accelerated degree path for current undergraduate students? What methods do administrators use to gauge student demand for communicationrelated master s degrees? What methods do administrators use to gauge employer demand for communicationrelated master s degrees? What are the characteristics of students who enter and complete communication-related master s degrees? What is the job-placement rate of master s degree programs? How do administrators communicate with alumni to track career trajectories for program graduates? Project Sources Advisory Board s internal and online research libraries. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Edition. Accessed 14 December Contact institution Web sites. National Center for Education Statistics [NCES]. Research Parameters The Forum interviewed graduate studies directors at schools of communication at four medium and large private institutions. A Guide to the Institutions Profiled in this Brief Institution Location Type Approximate Enrollment (Total/ Undergraduate) Classification University A Mid- Atlantic Private 12,700 / 7,200 Doctoral/Research Universities University B Northeast Private 6,700 / 6,300 University C Midwest Private 12,000 / 8,300 Master s College and Universities (larger programs) Doctoral/Research Universities University D Northeast Private 20,800 / 14,700 Research Universities (high research activity) Source: National Center for Education Statistics

5 II. Executive Overview Key Observations 5 of 13 Administrators focus communication-related master s degree curricula on social media management, public relations, and strategic communication. Contacts indicate that degrees with concentrations on more traditional media formats, such as film, radio, and television, experience declining enrollments. Rather, administrators incorporate social and digital media skills into all courses. Communication-related master s degrees require two years for completion and maintain face-to-face delivery methods. Contacts stress that face-to-face delivery methods retain the interaction between student and faculty members to facilitate career and academic advising. Some programs require only one year, but include a lighter emphasis on research and theory. Contacts suggest accelerated degree programs can help avoid redundancy in introductory courses. Communication undergraduates who pursue graduate study in the same field may face redundant curricula. In contrast, accelerated degree programs, or BA/MA programs, allow interested students to progress to upper-level graduate seminars instead of enrolling in introductory survey courses again. Administrators determine employer demand by consulting faculty who possess industry connections. Career center staff conduct surveys of recent alumni to gauge career trajectories. At institutions that lack career centers, communication program staff use informal methods such as social media to track alumni career progression. Communication-related master s degrees report job-placement rates of 88 percent with entry level positions that allow for career progression. Contacts at all institutions note that most program graduates find jobs within six months of graduation in a related-field, such as public relations management, new media or digital media production, or web editing.

6 6 of 13 III. Program Overview Degree Characteristics Master s Degrees Focus on Public Relations, New Media, and Journalism Most contact institutions created existing master s degree programs ten to twenty years ago and based the focus on faculty expertise or interest. Most degree programs fall under the two main categories of convergent and strategic communication (see Appendix for full degree listing). Most programs last one year, require students to complete 30 to 36 credits, and include and internship or practical component. For example, the M.S. Communication from University B is completed in one year to facilitate students entry or reentry to the workforce. In contrast, the master s program at University C lasts two years. Degrees and Specializations Offered Subject Area Institution Degree and Curriculum Focus Convergent Communication Media Entrepreneurship Strategic Communication University C University D University A University A University B University C University D Journalism (concentration): media technology, digital journalism, and reporting Mass Communication (concentration): global studies, media effects, and visual communication Broadcast and Digital Journalism (M.A.): news reporting and producing with a professional internship Magazine, Newspaper and Online Media (M.A.): reporting techniques, journalism, and editing New Media Management (M.A.): media law, policy, management, and financial strategy International Media (M.A.): communication policy, global economy, and social economic development Media Entrepreneurship (M.A.): entrepreneurship, innovation, communication law, and management Political Communication (M.A.): politics and public policy, lobbying, and campaign management Strategic Communication (M.A.): government, international public relations, and public interest Communication (M.S.): corporate communication, organizational culture, and persuasion Advertising and Special Relations (concentration): management and societal trends Communication Studies (concentration): interpersonal, organizational communication and rhetoric Advertising (M.A.): leadership, media planning, branding, strategy, and media law Public Diplomacy (M.A.): news writing, economic theory, international affairs, world culture Public Relations (M.A.): financial markets management, and writing for digital platforms Communication Management (M.S.): public relations, business, and management

7 7 of 13 Master s Degrees Do Not Require Previous Career or Academic Experience Most profiled institutions do not require an academic background in communication or work experience for admission to graduate study in communication fields. In contrast, University C maintains informal prerequisites to ensure students understand basic concepts of communication. When students with a non-communication background indicate interest in pursuing a master s degree in communication, administrators refer them to an introductory or survey of the field course over the summer, so they can keep pace with other students who possess communication-related experience. Additionally, communication administrators provide limited funding for students to enroll in the introductory summer course so students. Master s Degrees Maintain Face-to-Face Delivery Methods for Skills- and Research-Based Courses Contacts at University B offer one online course, Online Learning and Collaboration, because administrators want to prepare students to manage teams in a virtual environment in a future work situation. Similarly, contacts at University C may offer an occasional online course, but will avoid online degrees to maintain student interaction with faculty members and facilitate mentorships, career advice, and hands-on learning. Contacts Do Not Encourage Undergraduate Communication Students to Pursue Graduate Study Without Accelerated Degree Programs University B and University D do not maintain accelerated degree programs, and contacts do not recommend that students in undergraduate communication programs pursue graduate study in communication at the same institutions. Students who remain at the institution for graduate study often re-enroll in the same introductory courses they completed as undergraduates. In contrast, University A offers all undergraduate fourth-year students with a 3.5 GPA or higher to pursue a BA/MA program and bypass the GRE test score component of the graduate school application. If selected for admission, students may apply up to six credits to satisfy both undergraduate and graduate level course requirements. Create Accelerated Degree Programs with Different Curricula Administrators at University C do not operate an accelerated degree, but are considering a program that would allow students to complete a bachelor s and master s degree in five years. Contacts suggest that allowing students to complete degrees in shorter time frames avoids curricular redundancy, as students enroll in introductory courses that would contribute to both bachelor s and master s degrees. Also, contacts recommend the creation of graduate curricula that include new areas of study for students with previous communication experience. Student Characteristics Administrators Prefer Small Course Sizes and Cohorts Range Between 15 to 40 Students Contacts at all institutions note that public relations and journalism concentrations and degrees maintain high application numbers. Despite growing interest, administrators do not seek to grow admission or enrollment numbers in these programs because they value small course and cohort sizes.

8 8 of 13 Communication-related Master s Degree Program Size Institution University A Average Cohort Size students Largest Programs Public Communication (45-60 students per cohort) Journalism (25-35 students per cohort) Film and Video (45 students per cohort) University B students Not applicable University C University D students students Public Relations (12-15 students in this concentration per cohort) Television-Radio-Film (35 students per cohort) Public Relations (30 students per cohort) Newspaper and Online Journalism (42 students per cohort) Students Enter Communication Graduate Program Zero to Five Years After Finishing Undergraduate Study Contacts note that most students who complete master s degrees in communication-related fields possess one or two years of professional experience and seek additional skills for career advancement. Demographics of Typical Students in Communication-related Master s Degrees: Age: Most students are in their early to mid 20 s. Contacts note that students of all ages enroll in master s degree programs, and one in four students possesses at least ten years of work experience. University A offers a weekend-only part-time track for working professionals. These students possess an average of nine years of professional work experience and generally seek a promotion. Background: At University A students possess academic backgrounds in communication and related liberal arts disciplines (e.g., English and political science, etc.). According to contacts, students with an unrelated background (e.g., engineering, architecture, etc.) are much less common. Students at most institutions are domestic, however contacts report one-third of students at University B are international students. Status: Most students enroll as full-time students to decrease time to completion in graduate programs. Contacts at University C note that most students who enroll in the master s degree program full-time will complete the program in two years. Students who enroll in the program part-time are at much higher risk to drop-out. Motivation: According to contacts at University C, students pursue graduate study for the following reasons: Students seek an added credential to pursue a promotion or raise. Students seek new skills not taught in their current professional environment. Students who possess bachelor s degrees from other fields wish to enter the communication industry.

9 9 of 13 Cost to Students Schools of Communication Charge Instititution-wide Graduate Student Tuition At all contact institutions, stand-alone schools of communication do not charge tuition differently from the larger institution. Instead, all institutions charge a standard per credit hour tuition rate for graduate students. The average tuition charged by contact institutions is $1,077 per credit hour, or approximately $9,700 per semester (based on nine credit hours per semester). Graduate Tuition Prices Institution University A University B University C University D Tuition $1,348 per credit hour $729 per credit hour $985 per credit hour $1,249 per credit hour Instructors Instructors Possess At Least Ten Years of Field Experience and Retain Industry Connections Faculty members with at least ten years of professional experience instruct master s level communication courses at all institutions, and often teach for up to five years with an institution as a part-time adjunct before joining the faculty. At University A, 40 adjunct faculty complement over 50 tenure track faculty. Administrators rely on adjunct faculty who still work in the field to align curricula with common trends in communication industries. IV. Market Demand National Trends 13% Percent Change in Employment The average projected percent change in employment for all media and communication workers is 13 percent from 2010 to This is slightly lower than the 14 percent at which occupations are expected to grow overall. Growing Market Demand for Public Communication Jobs According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the media and communication industry is growing in the advertising, marketing, and public relations fields, but the broadcasting and news correspondence fields are declining. Contacts at all institutions agree that public relations fields are growing, particularly those that require social media skills. Additionally, contacts at University C note a growing trend among employers for students with advanced research skills for occupations such as Market Research Analyst. Occupation Projected Job Growth Rates from 2010 to 2020 Projected Growth Rate Number of New Jobs By 2020 Number of Current Jobs Market Research Analyst 41% 116, ,700 Public Relations Managers and Specialists 21% 68, ,000 Technical Writers 17% 8,500 49,500 Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers 14% 29, ,800 Graphic Designers 13% 37, ,200 Sales Managers 12% 40, ,100

10 10 of 13 Producers and Directors 11% 13, ,500 Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts -6% -3,200 58,500 Source: Assessment of Student and Employer Demand Employers and Students Express Interest in Communication administrators at University C gauge market demand by observing industry trends through faculty members with industry connections and examining job postings for required skills and experience. Students emphasize topics such as social media and management as areas of interest. Similarly, contacts observe a growing employer demand for social media, research, and applied skills such as data mining and web and graphic design skills. Strategies to Gauge Student Demand Survey Current Students Host Student Small Group Discussions Communication administrators at University C conducted a survey of current students and recent alumni to determine interest areas and skills in demand by students. Administrators at University C organized small group discussions with current students to discuss topics in the media or upcoming trends and gauge student interest in adding topics to the curricula. Strategies to Gauge Employer Demand Host Faculty Roundtable Discussions Examine Job Postings Poll Alumni Advisory Board Communication administrators at University C hosted a session on graduate programs and potential topics at the fall retreat to gauge interest and estimate employer demand and industry trends. Communication administrators at University A examine job postings sent to the career center to note what qualifications and competencies employers seek. Administrators at University A poll an alumni advisory panel for trends in their industry and competencies and skills sought in potential job applicants. Marketing Materials Emphasize Concentrations and Skills for Professionals to Attract Students Administrators attract students from a variety of backgrounds by emphasizing the successful career outcomes for master s degree students and opportunities for specialization. Components of Degree Completion Programs for Marketing Materials: Institutional Branding: Emphasize the reputation of the institution, especially alumni networks and connections available to program graduates. Content-area Specific Degrees: Contacts recommend emphasizing areas of specialization for potential students that will provide valuable skills and distinguish them from students with a generalist communication degree.

11 11 of 13 Hands-on Experience: Emphasize internship and practicum programs to attract students who seek on-the-job experience as well as academic education. Job-placement Rate: Direct potential students to results of alumni surveys that include data about potential career results, salaries, and companies that hire program graduates. V. Outcomes Student Career Outcomes Communication Staff Rely on Career Centers to Track Alumni Administrators in the School of Communication at University D maintain a career center that serves only communication graduate and undergraduate students. The career center maintains an alumni career database that alumni can update online and currently contains 3,000 entries. Career center staff alumni at least annually to solicit updates for the database and new entries. Similarly, the institution-wide career center at University A publishes and solicits alumni responses to census-type surveys. The most recent results published describe responses to a 2010 survey and describe alumni s employment sector, salary range, and employer. Administrators at institutions that lack formal tracking methods via career center staff maintain informal records of alumni careers. Contacts at University B note that alumni report career moves to faculty they studied with and administrators further track career moves through social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Alumni Obtain Management and Supervisory Positions Contacts at all institutions report that master s students commonly obtain jobs in communication-related fields. As communication skills are in demand across many occupations, administrators define a related field as associated with communication or media, not to the student s particular area of study, such as Mass Communication. Alumni Job Titles: Public Relations Manager Director of Web Systems Vice President of Human Resources New Media Producer Digital Media Production Assistant Media Planner Research Analyst Editorial Assistant Media Buyer/ Planner Associate Web Editor Communication-related Master s Degrees Report High Job Placement Rates A 2010 survey of students who graduated between 2006 and 2009 from University D revealed that most graduates found jobs within three months, although most were placed in entry-level positions with low salaries.

12 12 of 13 Career Outcomes for Recent Graduates of Communication-related Master s Programs at University D 88% 6 Month Job Placement Rate Eighty-eight percent of students who graduate with a master s degree in communication from University D obtain a job in a related field within six months of graduation. Time After Graduation Percent of Students Surveyed With Job Placement 0-3 Months 73% 3-6 Months 16% 6-9 Months 8% 9-12 Months 2% 12+ Months 1% Source: Institution Web site Starting Salaries Percent of Students Surveyed $0-$20,000 18% $20,000-$29,999 26% $30,000-$39,999 33% $40,000-$49,999 11% $50, % Career Outcomes for All Master s Graduates at University A Employment Sectors Percent of Students Surveyed Between May and November 2010 With Job Placement Private 48% Non-profit 39% Public 9% International 2% Self-employed 2% Contacts at University D note that some students might be deterred from communication-related field due to low entry-level salaries. Students who persevere in these positions can achieve high earnings. A poll of master s of communication alumni at University A in 2010 reported that 66% of survey respondents earned over $50,000 per year. Source: Institution Web site

13 13 of 13 Appendix: Communication Master s Degrees and Required Credits Master s Degree Programs Institution University A University B University C University D Degrees Offered M.A. International Media (partner with School of International Service) M.A. Film and Video M.A. Journalism and Public Affairs: Print or Broadcast M.A. Strategic Communication M.A. Political Communication (partner with School of Public Affairs) M.A. Media Entrepreneurship M.S. Communication (Corporate Communication emphasis) M.A. Communication with specializations: Advertising and Special Relations Communication Studies Journalism Mass Communication Science, Health, and Environmental Communication M.A. Advertising M.A. Arts Journalism M.S. Broadcast and Digital Journalism M.A. Documentary, Film & History M.A. Magazine, Newspaper & Online Journalism M.A. Media Studies M.S. New Media Management M.S. Photography M.A. Public Relations M.A. Television-Radio-Film M.S. Communication Management Number of Credits Required (Time to Completion) 45 credit hours (not available) 36 credit hours (24 months) 36 credit hours (13 months) 30 credit hours (12 months) 36 credit hours (not available) 30 credit hours (part-time only) 36 credit hours (1-2 years) 36 credit hours (2 years) 36 credit hours (12 months) 36 credit hours (12 months) 40 credit hours (13 months) 39 credit hours (12 months) 36 credit hours (12 months) 36 credit hours (12 months) credit hours credit hours 36 credit hours (13 months) 36 credit hours (12 months) Not available

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