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Master of business communication: moving beyond corporate-speak

By Kay Easton

Master of business communication, or MBC, programs seek to produce creative communicators who can translate business and communication theory into practical and successful communication strategies for their organizations. As Marty Blalock, a teacher of business communication, writes for the Wisconsin Business Alumni Update, "Good communication matters because business organizations are made up of people."

Whether a student's goal is a new career or a transition from a different career path, a move into a new specialization, a promotion, or increased knowledge about effective communication, a variety of campus and online MBC programs are available.

Campus and online master's programs in business communication

MBC programs typically take from two to three years of full-time study to complete. Most programs follow a similar format with a combination of core, concentration and elective coursework plus a thesis or capstone project. The names and focus of communications master's degree programs vary, as in these examples:

  • Master of Arts, or M.A., in Business Communication
  • M.A. in Corporate and Organization Communication
  • M.A. in Professional Communication
  • Master of Business Administration, or MBA, with a focus in leading the customer-driven organization
  • Master of Science, or M.S., in Strategic Communication

Online master of business communication programs can offer flexible scheduling and convenience for students who have family or work commitments.

Master's in business communication: concentrations and coursework

Here are some sample core courses for campus and online master of business communication degree programs:

  1. Communication ethics, research, law and leadership
  2. Data analysis and decision making
  3. Financial accounting
  4. Marketing management
  5. Organizational behavior
  6. Principles of economic analysis

Some universities offer a joint master of communication/MBA degree, co-taught by the communications and business departments. Possible concentrations include advertising, corporate communication and public relations, while business concentrations tend to be in marketing, finance and international business.

Campus and online MBC schools offer a variety of electives, including communications technology, consumer behavior, brand management, business writing, the creative process and more.

Making the grade in business communication

A campus or online degree program can help the student become a stronger writer and public speaker; learn how to use mass communication to disseminate information effectively; develop the skills, tools and resources to keep stakeholders engaged and motivated; and focus on direct communication instead of "corporate-speak."

Marty Blalock's "Why Good Communication Is Good Business" article reinforces the importance of strong communication skills: "Typically, managers spend 75 to 80 percent of their time engaged in some form of written or oral communication."

In an International Association of Business Communicator--IABC--podcast, Brian Dunn, CEO of Best Buy, indicated that businesses should embrace social media technology, both for internal and external communication. Other companies are following suit; a 2011 IABC Employee Engagement Survey showed that 69 percent of the companies that responded use blogs to disseminate information, 58 percent use Twitter, and 57 percent use both Facebook and instant messaging. Effective 21st century communication will be heavily invested in technology.

Business communication career opportunities

Career opportunities for holders of master's degrees in business communication span human resources, advertising, publications, sales and marketing, training, consulting, social work, banking, agriculture, manufacturing and health care. Positions could be found in businesses around the globe, in government, nonprofits, or colleges and universities, where information or knowledge must be communicated. The goals and means of communicating may vary according to the type of organization:

  • Corporate communication can include developing and maintaining a positive public image through news releases and promotional materials or coordinating product launches.
  • Government communication is generally focused on informing the public through speeches, press releases and newsletters.
  • Nonprofit communication helps to publicize the goals of the organization, which can increase sponsorship and funding.

Possible careers include advertising, promotions and marketing managers, who earned between $98,720 and $122,720, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' mean salary estimates for 2010. The BLS expects the best job opportunities in these fields to go to degree holders, especially those with strong communication and computer skills.

Another career option would be public relations specialists, for whom the BLS predicts job growth of 24 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than average growth for U.S. industries. Graduates of campus and online master of business communication programs can choose from many career paths.


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