Curriculum and Courses

36 points for degree completion Part-time or full-time program*
1 to 3 years On-campus instruction; online instruction possible
Fall intake only  
Optional Practicum
Capstone Project

* International students are responsible for ensuring they have read and understand the University’s student visa application eligibility and requirements. Please note that it is not permissible to enroll while in B-1/B-2 status. In addition, if studying on a student visa, you must enroll full-time (12 credits per term) and study on campus.

The Master’s Program in Strategic Communication embraces a scholar-practitioner approach to learning where you will learn both classical and modern approaches to communication and apply them through simulated and real-world scenarios.

The program’s wide and varied range of electives gives students the opportunity to take classes at the School of Professional Students outside of the program and elsewhere at Columbia. Through their elective selections, students can craft a path of study aligned with specific interests and objectives.



  1. Full-Time: One-Year Path (3 consecutive terms)

  2. Full-Time: Practicum Path (4 consecutive terms)

  3. Part-Time: New York City (up to 3 years)

  4. Part-Time: San Francisco (6 consecutive terms)


Click on one of the options here for more information and courses of study for successful completion of the program.

Required Full-Time Pathways: New York City

Students pursuing the program full-time may opt to take the Practicum and complete the program in four consecutive terms. Without taking the Practicum, students will complete the program in three consecutive terms. Full-time students have the opportunity to take some courses online. If studying on a student visa, students must enroll full-time (12 credits per term) and study on campus.

One-Year Path Practicum Path
summer summer
Advanced Academic English Advanced Academic English
first term: fall (12 points) first term: fall (12 points)
Strategic Communication Management Strategic Communication Management
Principles in Persuasion Principles in Persuasion
The Compelling Communicator The Compelling Communicator
Industry Insider Industry Insider
second term: spring (12 points) second term: spring (12 points)
Communication Research and Insights Communication Research and Insights
The Reflective Leader The Reflective Leader
Digital Media and Analytics Digital Media and Analytics
Elective Elective
third term: summer (12 points) third term: summer (3 points)
Elective Practicum (Elective)
  fourth term: fall (9 points)

* Non-native English speakers may be required to take two non-credit courses: a six-week course during the Summer and a course during the Fall term.

Sample Part-Time Pathway: New York City

Students take two classes their first Fall and Spring terms. During subsequent terms, students will have the ability to scale-up or scale-down their course load, provided they take the remaining required core courses during their program and complete within three years.

To accommodate working professionals, one section of every core course is available during a weeknight evening, typically 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. This evening section will be held either face-to-face or online.

first term: fall (6 points)
Strategic Communication Management
Principles in Persuasion
second term: spring (6 points)
The Compelling Communicator
Communication Research and Insights
third term: summer (6 points)
The Reflective Leader
fourth term: fall (6 points)
Digital Media and Analytics
fifth term: spring (6 points)
sixth term: fall (6 points)

Required Part-Time Pathway: San Francisco

This option combines core coursework in two formats: five multi-day blocks of intensive study (four in San Francisco and one in New York City ) and synchronous online courses offered during weeknights. The intensives feature coursework, guest lectures, networking, group projects, and extracurricular activities. During the fourth-semester intensive study in New York City, students will interact with the Strategic Communication students based there. The final semester will be presented in a “bookend” format; at the beginning of the semester, students will develop their Capstone Projects during intensive study, returning at the end of the semester to deliver their Capstones during a final intensive study. Elective courses are available online and in block-week format in New York City.

first term: fall (6 points)
Principles in Persuasion
Strategic Communication Management
second term: spring (6 points)
The Reflective Leader
The Compelling Communicator
third term: summer (6 points)
fourth term: fall (6 points)
Communication Research and Insights
Digital Media and Analytics
fifth term: spring (6 points)
sixth term: fall (6 points)

Intensive Study Dates

Fall 2019

For students who are starting the program this semester.
8/22 - 8/24 in San Francisco

For students who are returning to the program this semester..
8/23 - 8/25 in San Francisco

Spring 2020

For students who started the program in fall 2019.
5/8 - 5/9 in New York City

For students who returned to the program in fall 2019.
No required intensives.

Summer 2020

For students who started the program in fall 2019.
No required intensives.

For students who returned to the program in fall 2019.
5/20 - 5/21 in San Francisco
8/27 - 8/28 in San Francisco

International Students

As a result of the application and interview process, some students will 
begin their program of study with a six-week summer course, Advanced 
Academic English for Graduate Students. There may also be a requirement for 
an additional non-credit course in the Fall term, focusing on spoken and 
written communication skills.

These courses are offered through Columbia University’s American Language 
Program and are designed to strengthen English skills and familiarize 
students with the U.S. academic context to better meet the demands of SPS’s 
rigorous curriculum and achieve success in the professional world. 
Participants will hone their discussion and presentation skills, build 
their writing skills, and explore different topics by reading and listening 
to a variety of content. 

International students have specific guidelines that they must follow to 
work for an organization for the Practicum elective. To be considered a 
full-time student, an international student must be registered for at least 
12 points per semester, with the exception of their final semester.

Elective Requirements

Part-time students are required to take 5 electives and full-time students are required to take 4 electives. For part-time students, some courses with evening schedules may only be available online. Students have the opportunity to take up to two electives through other programs in the School of Professional Studies or other schools at Columbia, subject to the approval of the Program Director. Electives may be offered as semester-long courses in Spring, Summer and Fall, online, or through a select number of one-week block intensive courses. Not all electives are available in every semester and registration is based upon availability.

Expectations and Time Demands

Typically students spend twice as much time outside the classroom as they do inside the classroom in order to complete assignments and projects.

Courses take place during the day, evenings, and – if available – in a one-week intensive format. Class meetings vary in length from two to seven hours (for block-week courses). Some electives have seven-hour classes available on weekends. For part-time students, some courses with evening schedules may only be available online. Full-time students have the option to take some courses online.

Core courses have additional features students should consider when building and managing their schedules: each one has six one-hour online discussion sessions per semester. In addition, every core course features a half-day Master Class, which brings an outside expert into the classroom to lecture on relevant subject matter.

If a situation arises where you must leave for the semester, under certain circumstances, it may be possible to resume the following year.

In order to receive the master's degree in Strategic Communication, you must complete all requirements of the degree within 3 years with an overall grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better.

Required Course List

Principles in Persuasion. 3 pts.

How do we change minds and move people to action? It’s an eternal human question and one that’s critical for strategic communicators. This course focuses on key principles in persuasion, from classical rhetoric to social psychology. Students learn to gauge audience needs and desires, anticipate decision-making processes and choose the persuasive strategies that best fit the situation. Because our aim is audience-centered communication, we also consider the ethical basis for persuasion.

Strategic Communication Management. 3 pts.

This course examines the strategic role for communication in driving organizational outcomes. It covers key aspects of communication management, including how to plan, implement and measure strategic communication initiatives. Students learn to assess organizational needs, identify stakeholders and draft messaging that speaks credibly to a variety of constituencies, both internal and external. We also emphasize fundamental business skills, such as interpreting financial reports and understanding the language of business.

The Compelling Communicator. 3 pts.

The ability to communicate clearly is a key factor in career advancement. Whether leading teams, pitching new business or attempting to influence clients, colleagues or bosses, effective workplace communication can quickly set us apart from others. But it’s a skill that requires practice. In this course, students learn the verbal and interpersonal skills needed to thrive in a variety of communication and leadership roles.

Industry Insider. 3 pts.

This course gives students visibility into the rapidly changing communication industry and the wide range of careers available. Curated site visits take us inside world-class agencies and corporate/nonprofit organizations to see how they use strategic communication in the real world. Students gain firsthand exposure to leading practitioners while learning the dynamics of collaboration between internal and external stakeholders. Relevant coursework provides additional perspective.

This course is waived for students in the part-time format, who will take an additional elective in its place.

Communication Research and Insights. 3 pts.

To make informed decisions about communication, we need a clear understanding of our audience and its motivations. We begin by asking the right questions and interpreting the results. This course covers essential market research methods, including quantitative and qualitative techniques. Students gain direct experience in collecting and analyzing data, developing insights and choosing research-driven communication strategies that meet client objectives.

Digital Media and Analytics. 3 pts.

As communication work becomes increasingly mobile and social, students need a solid foundation in current practices and emerging technologies. This course covers major themes in digital communication, from content strategy to mobile and programmatic marketing. Students learn how to read and interpret data analytics within the context of integrated media campaigns.

The Reflective Leader. 3 pts.

Beyond general intelligence and technical proficiency, what separates effective leaders from average managers are individual skills—such as the ability to make sound decisions—and social skills—such as the ability to manage teams effectively. This course will help you identify these critical leadership skills, and will provide ideas and tools for improving them.

Capstone. 3 pts.

The Capstone Project is an opportunity for students to synthesize and apply learnings from throughout the Strategic Communication program. Under the guidance of expert advisers, you’ll investigate a real-world communication issue, devising solutions and strategies that bridge the gap between theory and practice.

English for Strategic Communication.


This course may be taken by invitation only.

This course will further develop the language skills and techniques you need to succeed in the master’s program. You will become more skilled, comfortable, and confident listening to, speaking and writing English. With an eye toward broadening your news and cultural worldview, you will explore social media, magazines, advertisements, and other media. You will learn to hone your language and minimize errors, develop your awareness of the importance of ‘audience’, and improve your spoken and written storytelling skills.

Elective Course List

Leadership Development. 3 pts.

This experiential, executive-style seminar will help experienced graduate students develop the tools they need to diagnose and solve business problems, effectively lead individuals, groups, and organizations; and, ultimately, advance to the next level of their career trajectory. Students will interact in meaningful ways with invited guest executives and peer classmates. The seminar will focus on developing competencies through readings, self-exploration exercises, executive coaching, role-play, guest lectures, case studies, assessments, and feedback. Through these exercises and feedback, students will build the confidence, flexibility, and skills required of 21st-century managers.

Practicum. 3 pts.

The Practicum is an attractive offering of the program and an opportunity to immerse yourself in real-world application. You work in a communication function at a firm to gain valuable, relevant job experience as a fully functioning member of a communication team. The practicum can be an important part of your post-graduation job hunt, providing demonstrable, resume-expanding experiences as well as a valuable network of contacts in the field.

Generally the Practicum is completed during the Summer; it may be possible to complete it in the Fall or Spring, subject to certain conditions.

The Strategic Storyteller. 3 pts.

This course teaches you how to craft and deliver presentations that engage audiences and inspire action. You will learn how to find a theme that resonates with your audience and create “sticky” content through image, metaphor, emotion, and story. Particular attention will be paid to the elements of story, how to find good stories, and how to tell them for greatest effect. Presentation skills will be sharpened through on-camera practice and storytelling exercises.

Building Internal Engagement. 3 pts.

Through strategic internal communication, employees are focused on driving business results and encouraged to act as brand ambassadors on behalf of their organization, building the organization's reputation. This course focuses on communication from the inside-out, addressing the opportunities, challenges, and issues communication professionals face today in dealing proactively and reactively with internal stakeholders.

How can leaders build credibility with employees in an authentic way? How do you influence your CEO to take a leadership position and act as the champion of the employee communication effort? How can an internal communication strategy ensure truthful and respectful communication during times of change?

Crisis Communication. 3 pts.

This course covers the basic elements of crisis communication and the procedures for creating crisis communications plans and for reacting to crises when they occur. How best to develop various plans for different critical audiences and understand the most effective strategies for communicating your organization’s message during a crisis is explored. The course examines various types of crises that can occur with corporations and nonprofit organizations and the differences and similarities among them. How to avoid the classic and common pitfalls of crisis communication are addressed, as are ethical issues that arise during crises. Numerous case studies are discussed in class and exercises both in and outside of class are assigned so students gain experience in crisis communication situations.

The Master Narrative. 3 pts.

This course provides students with an understanding of how large organizations develop a compelling story, or “master narrative,” and tell that story consistently, via multiple media platforms, in a competitive communication environment. Using case studies, students will examine the process organizations undertake to define and drive a master narrative through positive and negative news cycles and understand the importance of integrating all communication — media, Internet, marketing, advertising, government and stakeholder outreach — in the effort to craft and sustain a compelling narrative.

Students will learn how to create a master narrative, how to define a message frame that fits the narrative and keep all communication within this frame, how to determine key audiences, vehicles for reaching these audiences, how to manage online and traditional media in telling a story, how to measure success and readjust a master narrative based on circumstances, how to take advantage when the 24/7 communication cycle puts an organization in the spotlight, and how to define and manage through crises to protect a master narrative.

Communication and Global Brands. 3 pts.

This course examines the discipline of global marketing communication, including the environmental factors that enabled global marketing. The course assesses early models of communication management and the current factors that enable global communication programs: the identification of global target audiences; the kinds of products and services that lend themselves to global communication and those that don’t; and the characteristics of leadership brands that are preeminent in global communication today. Students consider how levels of development and cultural values affect communication programs and how local differences can be reflected in global programs. Message creation and the available methods of message distribution are evaluated in the context of current and future trends. Students learn how to approach strategy and develop an integrated, holistic global communication program and how to manage such a program.

The Power of Opinion. 3 pts.

In this small, intensive workshop, students learn to how to express a strong, well substantiated point of view in an op-ed, speech, and media interview. Classroom work includes analyzing the best examples of each genre, articulating the differences between them, and critiquing student work.

Connecting Purpose and Profit through Communication. 3 pts.

This course explores the role and responsibility of corporations in addressing social issues; as well the benefits of well developed and implemented corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. Through the use of articles, case studies, guest speakers and individual and group assignments, students will learn how strategic CSR can be a lever for social and business impact. At the conclusion of the semester, students will be empowered to develop a comprehensive CSR plan for elevating a company’s brand reputation, strengthening employee and consumer engagement, as well as driving business and social impact.

The Value of Brand: Making the Business Case. 3 pts.

This course introduces students to the economic importance of brand building activities based on the proven link between brand equity and business performance. Students examine the role that strategy and communication play in building brand equity, and explore how the changing media landscape is causing companies to rethink traditional brand-building practices. Students will use critical thinking, case-analysis, market research, and strategic presentations to persuade a business decision maker to invest in brand building efforts. For students who are interested in building stronger brand cultures within their organizations (for both the profit and nonprofit sectors) and/or for pursuing careers on the brand side of strategy, this course answers the question: Why should businesses and institutions care about branding?

Strategic Visual Communications. 3 pts.

This course focuses on exploring and clarifying the value and role of strategic visual communications within today’s broad business context. Through a combination of readings, case studies, class discussions, simulations, and media, students will recognize the importance visuals play in effective communications, gain insight into how visuals can help them to communicate more clearly and effectively, and understand the role of visuals in developing brands and marketing messages. In addition, students will build practical competencies in “the language of design” that will increase their effectiveness in selecting, briefing, leading, and evaluating design resources and their creative work.

Content Strategy: Achieving Business Goals Through Content. 3 pts.

Sitting at the intersection of business strategy, digital development, user experience, communication, and publishing, content strategy has emerged over the last few years as a discipline examining the purpose behind content (in all manifestations) and how it supports business, organizational, and user goals. While it originated in digital web design and user experience, content strategy now encompasses a much broader set of considerations and addresses content creation, distribution, and governance across multiple channels, especially the interplay among digital, social, and traditional media. Content strategy provides a holistic approach for unlocking the value behind content and for increasing its effectiveness in achieving business and organizational objectives. This course will present the fundamentals of content strategy and explore the discipline’s approaches, techniques, and tools that course participants can apply directly to the content situation in their own organization. It will draw parallels with – and highlight distinctions among – traditional communication strategy, publishing, and content strategy, and provide students with a framework to create a sustainable program grounded in meaningful, actionable content.

Ethical Decision-Making for Communicators. 3 pts.

This elective course addresses the growing need for ethical leadership among communications and marketing professionals—both to build trust among increasingly socially conscious stakeholders and protect an organization’s reputation. Students will learn—through case studies, class discussions and assignments—how to identify ethical dilemmas, analyze potential risks and opportunities by applying ethical reasoning, and to formulate persuasive arguments for winning support for their positions from within and outside their organizations. Students will also learn how to integrate ethical decision making into long-term communications and business planning. This course will concentrate heavily on current events involving issues specific to communications and marketing professionals, including the growing influence of false and misleading information, micro-targeting racial, ethnic and other groups, misuse of consumer data and other potentially career-defining challenges.

Cross Cultural Communication. 3 pts.

This elective course gives students the knowledge and skills they need in order to practice public relations and strategic communication across nations and cultures. As corporations increasingly pursue overseas markets for production and sales and countries become more dependent upon global cooperation in order to achieve national priorities, public relations practitioners for corporations, governments, and nonprofit organizations are expected to practice their craft globally. This course introduces students to the global, local, and generic-specific theories of international public relations. Students will learn how to develop effective global public relations strategies and tailor their strategies, tactics, and messages for different cultures. Additionally, students will learn how to adapt their own workplace behavior and strategies when practicing public relations in global environments.

Critical Conversations. 3 pts.

Effective dialogue is one of the single most important activities of leaders today. Whether you are confronting a team member who is not keeping commitments, critiquing a colleague’s work, disagreeing with a spouse about financial decisions, or telling someone no, critical conversations are often avoided or handled in clumsy ways. This course will provide the theory underpinning these conversations, diagram their structure, and provide specific strategies for approaching them successfully.

Using Communication to Influence Decision-Making. 3 pts.

This course places students at the intersection of two converging fields, behavioral economics and communication, to teach them how our predictable irrationality can become a competitive advantage in persuading people, groups and organizations to take favorable actions. Through lectures, case analysis, and group projects, students learn and apply a variety of psychological principles to communication thinking, planning and leadership. Students are challenged to think broadly about communication — advertising, public relations, social media, content and internal communication — in their application of cognitive bias and heuristics principles including anchoring, framing, loss aversion, group biases, time-discounting and choice overload.

Gender and Communication in the Workplace. 3 pts.

Gender and Communication in the Workplace offers professionals across sectors and industries the knowledge and skills needed to identify the social and linguistic practices enacted at work, and the opportunity to advance the interests of those who run up against barriers to advancement as a result of prejudice and stereotyping.

Art & Science of Channel Planning. 3 pts.

A critical component of strategic communication is identifying the right communication channels to use. Where and how you say something is as important as what you say. This course will focus on understanding the media landscape, consumer media behavior, and how to effectively reach the target audience to achieve brand communication objectives.

Political Communication. 3 pts.

This course is designed either for students who wish to embark on or further careers in politics and for those interested in exploring the dynamic field of political communication. Three themes anchor the course material: 1.) strategic communication, or deliberate and goal-oriented communication, which enables professionals to analyze and execute political strategy; 2.) message, which enables the crafting and critique of more or less effective political communication; and 3,) research, which political professionals use to formulate, shift and optimize their strategies.

Public Relations & Corporate Communication. 3 pts.

This elective is designed for students looking to launch careers in public relations and corporate communications across organizations, from corporate, non-profit, start-up and/or governmental institutions. Course content will provide students with a broad overview of the PR and corporate communications function and foundational communication theory, along with hands-on, tactical training in modern public relations practice. Topics covered include strategic messaging and storytelling, working with the press to generate media coverage, leveraging social media and managing reputations online, crisis communication, public relations ethics and media law, engaging internal and external audiences, and evaluating corporate communications efforts.

Global Communication for Professionals. 3 pts.

The global knowledge economy, cross-border market permeability, and worldwide talent mobility have accelerated the rise of multinational and domestic organizations comprised of individuals from many different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. As these trends strengthen, so, too, does the likelihood that the 21st-century worker will spend a significant part of her/his professional career in a multicultural workplace. While such diversity affords great benefits to organizations, their employees and clients, it is often accompanied by a rise in communication misfires and misunderstandings that can undermine individual, team, and organizational performance.

The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary.