Strategic Communication Curriculum

For Students Who Enrolled For Fall 2016

36 points for degree completion* Full-time program only
3–4 consecutive terms On-campus instruction only
Fall intake only  
Optional Internship
Portfolio Project

* Curriculum below is for students in the Fall 2016 term and is subject to change. Non-native English speakers may be required to complete a one-credit communication course during their first semester, raising the point total for degree completion to 37 points for the Accelerated Pathway or 38 points for the Extended Pathway.

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.

We draw students from nearly 20 countries, from Bhutan to Spain, and from Peru to Australia, forming a diverse cohort with many opportunities for networking, sharing worldviews, and working in small groups to complete projects. As you move through the program together, you will embrace an intensive academic immersion and truly bond while building a new mindset with which to embark on — or continue — your professional career.

Most courses have two sections, with a smaller number of students, which fosters group discussion and debate, and provides ample time for personal attention. This multiple-section structure also gives you the chance to take classes with varying combinations of your fellow students from the cohort.


There are two pathways to compete the program. For the 36-point accelerated pathway, you will complete eight core courses, three electives, and a portfolio project over three consecutive terms (Fall, Spring, and Summer). If you wish to complete the program’s optional internship, you will choose the 37-point extended pathway, completing the same coursework as the accelerated pathway in addition to the 3-point internship, which you will complete either during the Summer or your second Fall term.

International students have specific guidelines that they must follow for internships in the United States. To be considered a full-time student, an international student must be registered for at least 12 points per semester.

Click on one of the pathways here to see the requirements.

* Non-native English speakers may be required to complete a one-credit communication course during their first semester, raising the point total for degree completion to 37 points for the Accelerated Pathway or 38 points for the Extended Pathway.

Elective Requirements

You are required to take four electives in order to successfully complete the program. At least two electives must be within our program offerings. Up to two electives can be taken through programs in the School of Professional Studies or other Columbia schools. Not all electives are available in every semester and registration is based upon availability. Electives may be taken as semester-long courses in Spring, Summer and Fall, or through our select offering of one-week block intensive courses.

Expectations and Time Demands

In order to receive the master's degree in Strategic Communication, you must complete all requirements of the degree in a minimum of three terms without an internship or four terms with an internship with an overall grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better.

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). Every week, you should be prepared to spend 25 to 30 hours outside of class in order to complete assigned readings, work on projects, and participate in meetings with work groups.

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

Required Course List

COMM PS5000. English for Communications Practice. 1 pt.


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.

COMM PS5002. The Critical Mind. 3 pts.


In this course you develop your critical thinking faculties through research and the application of analytical frameworks that enable them to evaluate content. The class concentrates on the mass media, the primary dispensers of information and an industry that you must understand as central to the professional practice of communications for profit-making and nonprofit organizations. Using the principles of media literacy, you explore how the presentation of information through various media has impacted the values and structures of human society. You will examine not just news but entertainment, and study content not just for its explicit values but its implicit ones.

COMM PS5008. The Evolving Industry. 3 pts.


This course exposes you to the variety of business contexts in which communication plays a part, and examines how well-conceived strategic communication can help organizations achieve success. The course looks at the different channels organizations use to communicate with their audiences, both internal and external; the advantages and disadvantages each channel offers; and how clients, agencies, and the media work together.

COMM PS5012. Influencing Decisions. 3 pts.


This intensive skills-focused writing and presentation course strengthens technique and strategic understanding to make you a faster, better, and more persuasive writer and speaker. This course will analyze the audiences and motivational goals of a variety of common business documents and oral pitches—from internal emails and memos to press releases and customer responses to formal proposals—deconstructing specific examples, both good and bad. Assignments will let you practice putting theory to work, tailoring your language and message for particular targets. You will develop specific projects within the context of larger organizational goals and strategies, studying the big picture and practicing details of execution. Substantial critique and multiple revisions will build facility, developing you into deft, sophisticated communicators.

COPR PS5014. From Information to Insight. 3 pts.


This course examines the crucial role research plays in making sound business decisions. You learn how to find and evaluate information, conduct basic interviews, and understand and use numerical data without fear. The differences between qualitative and quantitative research are discussed. You discover how research findings can lead to important, actionable insights.

COMM PS5016. The Active Audience. 3 pts.


This course tackles the central communications concept of audience: how an organization’s interactions with various stakeholder groups can affect organizational performance; how organizations seek to influence the thinking, feeling, and behavior of stakeholders. You learn reasons for targeting certain audiences; how to identify, define, and understand target audiences; how to formulate objectives for change; and how to measure changes in audience attitudes.

COMM PS5018. Navigating the Digital Frontier. 3 pts.


This course gives you a broad-based understanding of the scope of the digital world, which will enable you to spot trends and dynamics in the digital media landscape. It trains you to view your use of digital media in a more critical way, and gives you the conceptual understanding necessary for applying crucial digital media skills in communications practice.

COPR PS5035. Developing a Moral Compass. 3 pts.


Through a series of case studies, guest speakers, discussions, and lectures, you learn about ethics in communication and how to use moral reasoning in a variety of contexts. You learn how to defend ethical decisions and how to deal with a variety of ethical situations in your professional lives.

COPR PS5040. Practice Seminar. 3 pts.


You choose one of two specializations, each of which provides the tools you need to understand the larger context of each area and builds a foundation on which to base your portfolio project:

  • Brand DNA
    This course will help you launch a career in branding: developing, defending, and growing brands for companies, at agencies, or for nonprofits. The course explores the essential elements of branding, including target audiences and segmentation, brand benefits, brand personality, differentiation, and key brand equities. It also surveys conceptual approaches for the diagnosis of brand growth opportunities and for planning integrated brand communications.
  • Corporate Communications: Public Relations and Public Affairs
    This course will help you launch a career in corporate communications: developing and managing communications strategies for companies or nonprofits. The course helps you explore the essential elements of corporate communications, and begin to construct your own concepts of thinking and learning more about corporate communications as your career progresses. You learn the essential elements of putting together a corporate communications plan and preparing essential deliverables. Guest speakers will bring real-world experience into the classroom.

COPR PS5045. Portfolio Project. 3 pts.


The portfolio project is a guided independent study course giving you practical experience in your areas of specialization, and resulting in professional work samples that showcase your skills to potential employers. Working individually with the guidance of the instructor and with a mentor assigned from among the alumni of Columbia’s Master of Science in Strategic Communications program, you select and study a real-world challenge faced by an organization. Using primary and secondary research, critical thinking and analysis, and with knowledge of the specific practice area, you draw conclusions about the lessons learned in the form of a case study which you then write and present to a review board.

COPR PS5500. Internship in Communication. 1 pt.


The internship is an attractive offering of the program and an opportunity to immerse yourself in real world application. You work in a New York City communication firm to gain valuable, relevant job experience as a fully functioning member of a communication team. The internship 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.

Elective Course List

COPR PS5004. Winning Teams. 3 pts.


This course helps you learn how to become productive contributors to, and leaders of, teams in the workplace. After establishing fundamentals for interpersonal interaction and etiquette, the course looks at how a diverse collection of talents can mesh to produce effective results. You practice techniques for getting the most from every member of a team and from the group as a whole. You learn about problem-solving methods, and investigate how to troubleshoot team dysfunction. The course also examines the supervisor/supervisee relationship from both sides and considers ways to optimize it.

COPR PS5006. Dynamics of Persuasion. 3 pts.


This course covers theories of persuasion and rhetorical approaches to building a rational case. Leveraging the knowledge gained in The Critical Mind, you deconstruct and construct compelling arguments based on relevant evidence. Through clear, concise, and imaginative writing and presentation assignments, you develop effective persuasion skills.

COPR PS5020. 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.

COPR PS5030. Developing and Implementing Ideas. 3 pts.


This course will guide you through the dynamic process of taking an idea from inception to completion on behalf of internal and external clients. You will learn how ideas are developed and implemented and be able to use research, mobilize teams, and devise solutions for a variety of challenges across various industries. The value of measurement will be stressed and methods for ensuring actionable results will be taught.