From corporate leadership and fundraising to communications director, public information officer, or researcher, our fully online Master of Arts in Applied Communication will strengthen your skills and open doors to new opportunities. Our two-year program is meant to serve both working adults/professionals & the traditional student, as we invite students to participate in our mission to foster the co-creation of better social worlds through positive communication.
We engage in this mission by applying communication theory across interpersonal, organizational, and community contexts. Students learn to apply theory to everyday situations in order to improve communication within those situations, using various research methodologies, with an emphasis on qualitative and case study methods.
Our program builds community by focusing on asking three big questions:
- What are we creating in our communication?
- What do we want to create in our communication?
- What communication practices will facilitate what we want to create?
Specifically, by the end of our program, we expect students are able to do the following:
- Build healthy relationships through ethical communication
- Manage conflict more constructively
- Analyze how to improve communication within organizations
- Make recommendations for improving ethical crisis responses within organizations
- Design experiential training sessions
- Articulate how to spread innovations to facilitate change
Flexible Online Program
Courses are all online in uniquely synchronous and asynchronous formats. Our 7000-level courses and our 8310 course are offered synchronously over Zoom, and 5000-level courses are mostly offered in an asynchronous format (completing assignments and watching lectures online in your own time). Required Zoom classes are offered on weekday evenings or weekends and class times are listed in the US Central Time Zone. No matter where you live, or your day-time commitments, you can engage in a mission-driven program focused on practical application.
For international students, be sure to review our FAQS section. F-1 visas do NOT allow for enrollment in online-only programs. However, applicants can take online electives in our program if accepted into another face-to-face campus program, such as the M.A. in Mass Communication, Public Administration, or NonProfit Leadership.
Future Career Opportunities
Our M.A. graduates work in numerous industries in Arkansas and across the country. Many of our graduates go into careers in leadership and management. To support your career development, we will aid you in connecting with our diverse alumni network. Students use our degree for moving into various corporate leadership roles as change agents, both inside organizations and within their communities. Others excel in public relations, fundraising, consulting, and government. Overall, we see our grads start or extend their careers working for local or national corporations, nonprofit organizations, universities, state government agencies, and more!
The Early Entry program allows our top undergraduate students working toward a major or minor in Applied Communication to earn up to 12 hours toward the M.A. while pursuing their B.A. This enables students to complete their graduate degree in a shorter amount of time than the traditional path, and will save up to 36% of the total cost of tuition.
To apply to the Early Entry program, students will need to have completed 75 or more hours of undergraduate coursework, have a 3.2 or higher overall GPA, and hold a 3.2 GPA across ACOM 2310, 2311, 3320, and at least one additional ACOM elective. We offer only a few Early Entry spots per year and applicants are competitively chosen. If you’re interested in learning more or applying to the Early Entry program, please send the following to the graduate coordinator, Dr. Bailey Blackburn, at email@example.com: a writing sample from an ACOM course you successfully completed over the past year; and a 300-500 word Statement of Purpose that addresses 1) how you see the MA program as a good match for your professional and/or academic goals and 2) reflects on your readiness for graduate work (both in workload/time management and writing ability).
Throughout our M.A. program, we identify ways to maximize coursework, electives, and the final project to fit a student’s career goals. Students may therefore concurrently complete a graduate certificate in the following areas alongside their M.A. in Applied Communication. One of these certificates, the Conflict Management Graduate Certificate, is housed within the ACOM department and only requires one or two additional courses to complete alongside our M.A. Please note that although our M.A. program is fully online, some of these programs require in person coursework on the UA Little Rock campus.
Conflict Management Certificate – Prepares students to analyze, apply, and engage in constructive conflict management practices, including negotiation, conflict consulting, crisis communication, mediation, listening and civil dialogue, and more. This program offers critical tools for anyone going into an organizational environment, working with teams, or those entering leadership positions as supervisors, managers, or directors. This graduate certificate is hosted by the Applied Communication Department – email Dr. Bailey Blackburn at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or to apply. This program includes both in person and online course options – both online only and main campus students can complete this certificate.
Nonprofit Management Certificate – Equips executives, directors, and managers of nonprofit organizations with the tools they need to succeed, as well as students interested in the nonprofit sector. This program requires in-person coursework.
Human Resources and Organizational Communication Certificate – Gain specialized knowledge of effective interpersonal communication practices to apply to human resource functions and contexts. This program requires in person coursework.
Learn how to apply to our online MA in Applied Communication program by clicking “Admissions” below or clicking here. To begin the program in the Spring semester, applications must be submitted by December 10. For a Summer start date, priority deadline for applications is April 1 and for a Fall start date, we encourage applicants to have their materials submitted by May 31. For each semester, we will review applications until all spots are filled.
Learning Outcomes and Goals
MA-ACS graduates engage in the departmental mission of fostering the co-creation of better social worlds through positive communication by ethically:
Analyzing Messages to determine what we are creating in our communication. Students learn to apply theoretic models and research methods to better understand communication practices as they occur in real-life contexts.
Setting Communicative Goals to guide what we want to create in our communication. Students offer research-based and theoretically informed recommendations for both professional and personal contexts to better the communication in those contexts.
Influencing Discourse by advocating for communication best practices that will create what we want to be creating in our communication. Students model positive communication practices when productively responding to personal, local, national, and global issues.
The MA in Applied Communication Program requires 33 credit hours for completion.
Required Courses (24 hours)
- Human Communication Theory, ACOM 7301 – This course serves as an introduction to the communication field, with emphasis on specific theoretical frameworks used to co-construct positive change. As a result of this class, students will be able to explain/articulate key applied communication theoretic models and the value of them to create better social worlds. This course is offered online in the Fall of each year.
- Applied Communication Research, ACOM 7341 – This course discusses the role of applied research methods in developing effective communication in professional and personal settings. As a result of this class, students will be able to understand the research process used in applied communication studies from inception to implementation, including (a) choosing and narrowing a research topic, (b) researching the literature surrounding that topic, (c) justifying the need to research in a particular area, (d) formulating research questions & hypotheses, and (e) selecting appropriate methods to study that topic. This course is offered online in the Fall of each year.
- Interpersonal Communication Concepts, ACOM 7300 – This course details concepts of human interaction as basis for developing interpersonal communication skills, framework for personal growth in one-to-one interaction, small group dynamics, leadership roles, and other interpersonal relationships. This course is offered online in the Spring of each year.
- Organizational Communication & Culture Analysis, ACOM 7322 – This course explores the concept of organizational culture and its relationship to effective and ineffective organizational communication. Students develop an understanding of a model for analyzing organizational culture and communication and apply this model to a case analysis. This course is offered online in the Spring of each year.
- Conflict Analysis & Intervention, ACOM 7323 – This course introduces students to psychological and communication theories of conflict as well as conflict management approaches. The focus is on using in-class activities to better understand the factors and dynamics of conflict resolution and develop effective conflict-management skills. Students also learn conflict consulting and lead a consulting project at the end of this course. This course is offered online in the Fall of each year.
- Communication Change & Information Diffusion, ACOM 7330 – This course provides an understanding of diffusion theory, which seeks to explain the process through which new ideas (innovations) spread over time via communication channels among the members of a social system. Students will apply diffusion theory to corporate, public health, social change, and policy contexts. This course is offered online in the Fall of each year.
- Effective Crisis Communication, ACOM 7350 – Over the past 30 years, crises, change and disasters have been studied in a number of disciplines. Sociologists, psychologists, economists, organizational theorists, and communication scholars to name a few have examined these events from different vantage points. Communication researchers are interested in the impact of communication on the onset and recovery of these events. Our ultimate goal in this course is to help the student develop as a professional to better conceptually understand crises in order to produce effective crisis communication. This course is offered online in the Spring of each year. This course is offered online in the Spring of each year.
- Seminar in Applied Communication, ACOM 8310 – This capstone seminar draws on various applied communication theories to engage students in reflection on two years of study in the program. In doing so, students in the course will look at “what communication practices will create what we want to create,” reflecting on how they (a) adapt messages to various audiences, genres, and contexts, (b) model positive and ethical communication, and (c) advocate for positive co-constructed communication practices. This class is intended to be taken in the last semester or year of study in the graduate program, as a student is analyzing data for their master’s project. This online course should be taken in your final Spring semester, the same semester you defend your final MA project.
Elective Courses – Choose Two (6 hours)
- Communication Training & Pedagogy, ACOM 7352 – This course centers on the development and delivery of a training project. Students prepare, facilitate, and assess the effectiveness of a workshop on a specific communication topic, using best practices in experiential learning. This course is offered online in the Summer of each year. Graduate assistants in the Communication Skill Center must enroll and pass this course during the summer before they begin their assistantship.
- Negotiation, ACOM 7324 – This course provides an examination of the nature of conflict and presentation of theories and techniques of negotiation as a method of resolving or managing conflict. Students will analyze cases of negotiation at many levels and engage in negotiation simulations including topics such as buying and selling, contracts, group decision making, plea bargaining, and organizational creation. Emphasis is placed on solving problems through negotiation and consideration of the role of third parties. This course is highly interactive, utilizing lecture, discussion, and extensive role-playing scenarios. This course is offered online in the Summer of each year. This course is offered online in the Summer of each year.
- Communicating & Managing Difference, ACOM 5357 – This course explores communication and difference in such areas as race and ethnicity, social class, age, sexual orientation, and disability. Through applying communication theories and ideas to our experiences in each of the targeted areas, we can emerge with tools to manage communication across lines of difference and create more positive social worlds. Dual listed in the Undergraduate Catalog with a 4000 level listing. Cannot receive graduate level (5000) credit for class if previously taken for undergraduate (4000) credit. This course is offered online in the Spring of each year.
- Listening & Civil Dialogue, ACOM 5330 – This course is designed to introduce students to prospectives on dialogue and delibration with an emphasis on creating and maintaining ethical communication practices which value the worth of another person, while being willing to interrupt narratives which can lead to interactive conflicts. Students will learn (a) interpersonal skills to depolarize their own thinking, (b) interpersonal skills to help difficult interactions go more smoothly and (c) intergroup skills to use when working in groups to bridge differences. Dual listed in the Undergraduate Catalog with a 4000 level listing. Cannot receive graduate level (5000) credit for class if previously taken for undergraduate (4000) credit. This course is offered online in the Spring of each year.
- Social Media, ACOM 5327 – This course is designed to help students acquire theoretical and practical knowledge about social media and understand the ways in which social media influences communication in various personal and professional contexts. Specifically, it aims to address how different forms of computer-mediated communication are used in various contexts and how social media shapes the way we connect to and build relationships with others. Strategies are presented to help individuals and organizations use social media effectively and ethically. Dual listed in the Undergraduate Catalog with a 4000 level listing. Cannot receive graduate level (5000) credit for class if previously taken for undergraduate (4000) credit. This course is offered online during even year Springs.
- Transformations in Health Comm, ACOM 5326 – This course introduces students to theories and issues in the field of health communication and personal transformation practices. The focus is on using in-class activities to better understand the dynamics of meanings of health and to develop effective personal-management skills. Dual listed in the Undergraduate Catalog with a 4000 level listing. Cannot receive graduate level (5000) credit for class if previously taken for undergraduate (4000) credit. This course is offered online during odd year Springs.
- Family Communication, ACOM 5323 – This course includes the study of communication phenomena in the family setting. Examination of how communication relates and influences the development, maintenance, and enhancement of family relationships. Case analysis and course activities focus on co-constructing family relationships with effective communication skills. Dual listed in the Undergraduate Catalog with a 4000 level listing. Cannot receive graduate level (5000) credit for class if previously taken for undergraduate (4000) credit. This course is offered online during even year Springs and odd year summers.
- Seminar: Studies in Communication, ACOM 5313 – Investigation of specific communication theories, skills, and practices. Focus is on an in-depth treatment of a content area not typically represented in other courses in the major. Dual listed in the Undergraduate Catalog as ACOM 4313. May be taken for both undergraduate and graduate credit, if on a different seminar topic. This course is offered online during even year Falls and even year Springs.
- Intercultural Communication, ACOM 5312 – This course provides an exploration of the relationship between communication and varied ethnic and national cultures across multiple contexts, including work, community, medical, and interpersonal. Topics such as culture shock, language, conflict, and cultural identity are explored. Class activities and case studies focused on developing competent and ethical application of major intercultural theories and concepts. Dual listed in the Undergraduate Catalog with a 4000 level listing. Cannot receive graduate level (5000) credit for class if previously taken for undergraduate (4000) credit. This course is offered online in the Fall of each year.
- Organizational Communication, ACOM 5311 – In this course, students develop an ability to understand and apply major theories and concepts from communication theories to varied organizational contexts. Topics such as leadership, motivation, planned change, conflict, diversity, and decision making are explored through practical application to cases and during class activities. Dual listed in the Undergraduate Catalog with a 4000 level listing. Cannot receive graduate level (5000) credit for class if previously taken for undergraduate (4000) credit. This course is offered online during even year Falls.
Final MA Project Course (3 hours)
- Master’s Research Paper, ACOM 8301 -Students develop and complete their master’s project on an applied communication research topic. This course should be taken during your final year in the program. Students should sign up for the 8301 section associated with their MA advisor.