Politics in the 21st century is not just about shaking hands and passing laws. It is about sharing ideas. Being able to communicate ideas to constituents, potential donors, fellow politicians, members of the media and more is essential for success in politics.
Political campaigns changed with the advent of the internet. Former Governor of Vermont Howard Dean became one of the first political candidates to raise money online. A sea change took place again in 2008 when Barack Obama ran for president and leveraged social media to raise funds, counter smear campaigns and boost voter turnout.
Thirty years ago, politicians had to reach out to voters and donors through mailed postcards and letters or campaign speeches to various clubs and town hall meetings. Now the messages go out via email, Facebook ads and Twitter posts. And campaign speeches are livestreamed on Instagram or collected on video sites such as YouTube or Vimeo.
Communication is the common thread in the above scenarios, no matter the era or technology used. It undergirds the efforts involved, be it for fundraising or campaigning. Learning how to communicate more effectively in today’s interconnected world is a useful skill in any profession, and critical in politics. Universities are creating degree programs that develop and polish this skill set, and Southern Utah University’s online Master of Arts in Professional Communication is one such program.
The World Is Changing and Ways of Communication Are Changing With It
In the Master of Arts degree program from Southern Utah University, students have the opportunity to learn the essentials of communicating on today’s social platforms. The program curriculum covers:
- The impact of technology and social media on the communication process
- The effect of platforms like YouTube and TV as well as advertisements in print, radio and online on modern political identities and the public’s understanding of issues
- The development of a social media plan
- Goal setting, strategies and tactics to meet campaign objectives
A master’s degree in communication can help build practical skills for those aspiring to work in politics, whether they are running for office at the local, state or national level, or working behind the scenes as campaign managers.
For instance, the curriculum for Southern Utah University’s online Master of Arts in Professional Communication program includes the course Professional Writing and Presentations. In this course, students learn to create training sessions, press releases and websites. Knowing how to present an organization is key to enlisting support for the organization, keeping it top of mind for the audience and helping it thrive. Political organizations are no different.
Job options for Master of Arts in communication graduates include political campaign manager and political consultant.
Salary.com lists the average yearly pay for political campaign managers as $58,789 (March 2020) with top earners making upwards of $72,000. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, political consultants work on the election campaigns of candidates for public office at all levels of government. Political consultants specialize in a variety of areas, with two of the most significant being media relations and fundraising.
For those thinking about running for office themselves, it helps to get started at the local level. It’s common for high-profile politicians to have served part time closer to home on local school boards and city councils before they hit the big time. Most of those office holders might only volunteer or receive a small stipend, but the lessons they learn and the changes they bring about can be just as important as changes on a larger scale.
Communicating in the marketplace of ideas doesn’t happen by accident. It takes dedicated effort to learn, practice and adjust communication strategies. By earning a master’s degree from Southern Utah University, you can equip yourself with the communication tools and expertise to support others with their political ambitions or run for office yourself and change the world.