Political Communication (MA)

Offered jointly by the School of Public Affairs and the School of Communication, the Political Communication (MA) offers students a unique opportunity to prepare for professional careers in government, politics, political advocacy, public affairs, public policy, and communication through the study of political and communication theory, research, and practice. This interdisciplinary MA program allows students to take courses in both the School of Public Affairs(SPA) and the School of Communication(SOC) that emphasize thorough grounding in political science, strategic communication, research, and media. In addition, students take hands-on courses designed to teach applied politics and communication skills over a broad range of media and production classes that introduce them to news writing, persuasive writing, public opinion research, online advocacy, and campaign management. The program gives students a strong background in research skills, a broad knowledge of political issues, and a deep understanding of how the political process and media work. Students will gain the knowledge, skills, and ethical grounding to be successful as political communication professionals, policy makers, political advocates, and campaign executives.

Admission to the Program

Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor's degree with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. International students whose first language is not English are required to submit results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). A strong TOEFL score is necessary to ensure that students may benefit fully from the coursework. The preferred minimum TOEFL score is 600 on the paper-based test (PBT), 100 on the Internet-based test (iBT); or a 7 on the IELTS. All applicants must submit two letters of reference. Applicants who received their bachelor's degrees five or fewer years before the date of application should submit at least one letter that evaluates their undergraduate academic performance and suitability for graduate study in political science and communication.

Students apply to SPA.

Degree Requirements

Course Requirements

Core (24 credit hours)



Complete 5 credit hours from the following:

Capstone (3 credit hours)

Complete 3 credit hours, according to home school, from the following:

Electives (9 credit hours)

Complete 9 credit hours from the following, or other approved courses with permission of the program directors:

Combined Bachelor's and Political Communication (MA)

American University offers students the opportunity to earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees through its combined bachelor's/master's programs. See Admission to a Combined Bachelor's / Master's Program and Combined Bachelor's and Master's Degrees for more information.

In addition to meeting the minimum university requirements for combined bachelor's/master's programs:

  • A minimum 3.50 cumulative GPA, a completed application form, two written faculty recommendations, an essay on the student's interests and abilities in political science and communication, and an interview with the Department of Government graduate advisor if the student is entering through the School of Public Affairs, or the advisor for the Division of Public Communication if the student is entering through the School of Communication. Students must apply for admission to the graduate program no later than junior year, after completion of 75-90 credits. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required for admission to the BA/MA program
  • Students must finish the master's degree requirements within three years from the date of first enrollment in the master's program

Upon completion of this program, students will be able to: 

1. Demonstrate research skills (quantitative and qualitative research methods, survey research, interviews, focus groups) used in understanding and developing political communication.

2. Demonstrate the ability to think analytically, write strategically and present findings confidently and persuasively in oral form.

3. Develop an understanding of the strategic components essential to political communication, such as researching audiences, creating messages, targeting constituencies, and building outreach campaigns through media and other channels of communication.

4. Demonstrate an understanding of communication theories and concepts and the ability to synthesize these into a coherent argument.

5. Apply theories and concepts in political communication to an instance of actual politics, in a campaign, the executive or legislative branch, during a political scandal or a national emergency.

6. Design an effective and persuasive campaign or lobbying plan for an actual political candidate or a piece of legislation before Congress.

Applied Political Writing
This course provides students with the writing skills necessary for success in political fields, from campaign politics to political journalism to Congressional offices and issue advocacy organizations. Each student develops a portfolio of writing samples that can be used in applying for positions and/or demonstrating skills, and becomes familiar with the tools and techniques of expository and persuasive writing needed in the world of politics. The course emphasizes clarity and precision as well as the forms, substantive knowledge, and creativity important in political writing.

Voting Behavior, Elections, and Campaigns
Political participation and behavior in U.S. primaries and elections, management of campaigns, mass media, and political organizations.

Women, Politics, and Public Policy
A wide variety of issues of concern to women, including healthcare, welfare, educational equity, employment discrimination, and reproductive rights are examined through the lens of the formal policy-making process.

Principles of Strategic Communication
Examines the elements and principles of strategic communication, with focus on analyzing and developing communication campaigns, public opinion, the media, the role of research, audience identification and targeting, message development, and communicating to various stakeholders and publics. Explores the role of strategic communication in society, politics, culture, business, and various other institutions. Also examines the ethics of strategic communication.

Communication Theory
Survey of relevant theories of public communication, including theories of interpersonal communication, persuasion, public relations, public opinion, mass communication, and traditional and new media. Students learn how theory informs communication research and practice, review relevant scholarly literature, and apply these lessons to their own areas of interest.