Why Tufts Health Communication?

A pioneer in the field of health communication, Tufts offers the first dual undergraduate/graduate degree in the field of health communication. In 1994 Tufts University School of Medicine, in collaboration with Emerson College, established the first Master of Science in Health Communication program in the country. The Tufts program, situated in the Tufts University School of Medicine’s Public Health and Professional Degree Programs, combines longstanding history with cutting edge courses.  It is one of a group of public health and professional degree programs here; as such, there is a mingling of students pursuing MD, MPH, Physician Assistant, Biomedical Science, Nutrition and combined degrees, which makes for a dynamic educational experience.

What majors provide the appropriate background for pursuing the B/MS degree?
Health communication is an interdisciplinary field, and we attract students from a variety of backgrounds, including Community Health, Communication Studies, English, Psychology, Biological Sciences, Advertising, Journalism, Sociology, Nutrition, and Foreign Languages. 

How does the B/MS degree change my academic path?

This program allows undergraduates to complete a Master of Science degree in Health Communication in one year after receiving their bachelor's degree. Students apply to the program in their junior year. Once admitted, they take three required graduate level courses at the Medford campus. Two of these courses count towards both the bachelor's and master degrees. The third counts towards the only the graduate degree.  Upon receiving their undergraduate degree students begin taking courses on the Boston Health Sciences campus, starting either in the summer or fall. For more information, see Dual Degree Program Requirements.

What is the focus of the program?

Health Communication is a diverse field with many career avenues. Some students enter the program with a designated interest in health science writing, digital strategies, campaign development or social marketing, while others find their interests through academic and work experience while enrolled in the program. The commonality across all foci is an interest in addressing public health and medical issues and the translation of such information for the good of individuals and society. Your interests will develop and grow throughout your graduate studies as you learn and practice relevant skills.

What can I do with this degree?

With an MS in Health Communication graduates are well positioned to work both in public and private sectors.  Alumni currently hold positions in federal agencies, hospitals, health departments, biotech companies, foundations, publishing firms, and non-profit organizations. Some have taken positions in federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health or state health departments. Others work in the private sector for pharmaceutical companies, marketing communication firms or healthcare consulting firms.

Not only do our graduates find jobs quickly, but they also show a great deal of career mobility and are able to move across sectors with ease. See our Health Communications careers infographic.

What kind of jobs can I get with a degree in health communication?

The field of health communication is growing and evolving.  Career opportunities are available to graduates as a director of health education and communications, clinical research coordinator, digital communications specialist, communications specialist, public health analyst, editor, curriculum developer, marketing specialist, program evaluator or manager.  Over 80% of our alumni reported they were very satisfied with their career choice.   Nearly all find jobs within three months of graduation and over 80% have starting salaries of $50,000 or more.

What skills will I develop in the health communication program?

The MS in Health Communication emphasizes health communication and behavior change theory, translating scientific research into practice and policy, the role of traditional and new media strategies, qualitative evaluation to understand audiences, writing for a variety of health sector audiences, an understanding of health literacy, and public health approaches. Graduates will be able to:

  • Craft research-based communication efforts to target audiences
  • Apply scientific principles of health behavior change to marketing projects
  • Evaluate strategic communication campaigns
  • Deliver effective oral communications, including presentations, one-on-one communication and public speaking
  • Determine appropriate communication channels based on audience needs and topic
  • Read, interpret and summarize medical literature
  • Analyze and synthesize qualitative research

To learn more about the concrete skills developed through the program, see: Health Communication Competencies.

What is the Applied Learning Experience (ALE)?

The ALE is a 140 hour practice placement in which students carry out a health communication project under the guidance of a field preceptor with expertise in health communication. The ALE is undertaken in the final semester of the program and is designed to allow students to demonstrate a mastery of the skills and knowledge they have gained during the course of the program in a real-world practice environment. The ALE serves in lieu of a thesis, which is often a requirement in more traditional academic programs. Please see the ALE page for more information on the Health Communication Applied Learning Experience.

What is the difference between the MS in Health Communication and the MPH with a concentration in Health Communication?

Tufts offer both the MS in Health Communication and the MPH (Master of Public Health) with a Health Communication concentration, and both have a dual degree option for undergraduates. The programs differ in the types of courses required, the number of credits necessary to complete the program, and the depth and variety of skills required.

The MS degree requires 10.5 credits and gives students background and training in communication science and theory and basic health science and practice. Graduates have the skills and knowledge to take up a variety of health communication roles across the public, private and non-profit sectors.

The MPH degree requires 13 credits and provides students with foundational knowledge and skills in designing and implementing activities using the principles of population health. The concentration provides a solid grounding in communication theory and planning. In addition, students complete the MPH requirements by taking one credit each in epidemiology, biostatistics, occupational and environmental health, health behavior, organizational management and budgeting, and research methods.

While both degrees offer students a large array of job and networking opportunities, the MS-HCOM degree provides more breadth and depth specifically in the science and practice of health communication.

What are faculty interests?

Faculty interests include: technology/mobile health, risk communication, injury and violence prevention, advocacy, community and youth engaged research and health promotion, asset based intervention and health equity and the built environment, and a variety of other specialties. Read more on the Faculty page.

How are courses taken as an undergraduate transferred toward the HCOM degree?

In your final undergraduate semester, you will be required to complete a transcript reconciliation form and submit it to the PHPD Registrar's Office. This form will detail exactly which courses will be transferred in and applied toward the MS-HCOM degree. Once these courses are transferred, they will appear on your Academic Advisement report and official PHPD transcript.

What graduate courses does a student in the program take?

The MS curriculum is very practice oriented and is designed to provide students with a solid foundation in communication and public health theory. It includes a wide range of courses, preparing students to work in a world of rapidly evolving health information, media and technology. Selected course topics include: health writing, social media, social marketing, mobile health, digital strategies media strategies, health behavior theory and program planning, health literacy, an introduction to medicine, research methods, public relations, reading and interpreting medical literature, and application of communication theory. See the HCOM Curriculum for detailed course descriptions.

What is the cost of the program?

Students pay tuition for nine MS-HCOM credits during their graduate year. See the tuition table for the current tuition and fee rates.

For further questions, please see the Master of Science FAQ page. For more information, contact Dr. Carolyn L. Rubin in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Carolyn.Rubin@tufts.edu.