FAQs

Please feel free to contact Margie Skeer, the Health Communication Program Interim Director at Margie.skeer@tufts.edu or 617.636.2441 with additional questions.

What is Health Communication?

Health communication is the strategic use of communication to address health problems and influence individual, community and policy decisions that enhance health. Health communicators draw on communication and behavioral theory, social marketing, and health promotion and health intervention planning methodologies. The communications can be developed for specific audiences and use a variety of channels, including the use of digital technologies.

What makes the Tufts Program better?
  • Being housed in the Tufts University Medical School, faculty are well-versed in both the theory and practice of healthcare.
  • Classes do not exceed 25 students, and many are smaller, allowing faculty to provide individualized attention and unique networking opportunities.
  • As one of many programs offered on the health sciences campus, students are exposed to a mix of students, including those pursuing MD, DMD, biomedical science, nutrition, and MPH degrees (with concentrations including global health, epidemiology, and health services management and policy.) 
  • The Applied Learning Experience provides experience in a real world practice setting.
Who is a good match for the Tufts MS in Health Communication Program?

The Tufts Program is for individuals seeking an interdisciplinary graduate experience with a curriculum grounded in theory and science, but with a focus on applied skills. Students who want to transition right into the workforce, as well as those seeking relevant internships and part-time work to build up a resume while attending evening classes, are well served by our program.

How long does it take to complete the program?

The amount of time in the program is customized to meet student's individual needs, depending on whether you are a full- or part-time student, and whether or not you take summer courses. On average, students complete the course in approximately two years, but the program can be completed in as little as 15 months.

What are the job opportunities for someone with an MS in Health Communication?

Our graduates pursue careers that address health problems across the employment spectrum in the private, public and non-profit sectors. 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 medical device and pharmaceutical companies, marketing communication firms, digital media firms or healthcare consulting firms. Still others choose non-profit organizations such as The Monday Campaign, the American Heart Association, hospitals or academic institutions. Faculty connections, alumni connections and Career Services enhance graduates’ ability to secure a position in Boston and many other states, including the West Coast.

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 Communication infographic.

What sorts of courses does a student in the program take?

The Tufts curriculum is very practice oriented and is designed to provide students with a solid foundation in communication and public health theory. The Tufts curriculum 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.

Does the program offer courses in technology and design in Health Communication?

Absolutely! You will learn strategic ways of using the web, social media, and mobile technology to increase reach. In fact, the Tufts Program offers more technology and health courses than any other program in the country, including Technology in Health Communication, Digital Strategies in Health Communication, Online Consumer Health, Mobile Health Design, and Social Media and Health.

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. 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 if I change my mind after selecting either the MS or the MPH?

It is possible for students entering one program to later decide to switch to the other. This is quite straight forward, as long as you are not too far along in either program. It does require that you reapply for admission, although you should be able to use the materials submitted originally. If you are unsure about which program best fits your needs, we strongly encourage you to speak to one of the faculty before applying. We very much welcome conversations with prospective students.

Can I focus on Health Communication and Technology?

Yes, we offer an online certificate program in Digital Health Communication that may be completed in a year.

May I enroll as a part-time student?

Absolutely. The program offers courses in the fall, spring and summer, and many courses are in the evening, so students can pace themselves as needed.

Can I be a fully online student?

At this time, we offer many courses online, but not the full degree. We offer a fully online certificate program, requiring a one-week stay in Boston.

Who will I take classes with?

Classes are made up of students from a variety of degree programs, including students pursuing DMD, biomedical science, nutrition, and MPH degrees (with concentrations including global health, epidemiology, and health services management and policy.) A mixture of programs and full and part time students bring a range of experiences and perspectives to class discussions.

What is the mix of students in the program?

Students in the Tufts MS program come from all different backgrounds and have a wide range of experiences. The majority of students are three or more years out of their undergraduate education, and many are considerably older.

Some students come to the program with considerable experience in the health professions, journalism, or even public health, while others come with little or no experience. In either case, the program is designed to be flexible enough to accommodate a broad range of students.

If you have questions about whether or not the program is suitable for a given background we would encourage you to contact the Program Director, Sue Gallagher, who may be able to arrange for you to speak with a current or former student who shares your particular profile.

May I take a course without enrolling in the program?

Yes, you may take a course for credit if you apply for non-degree status, or take a course for professional development with the Summer Institute. If you would like to take several courses but do not want to enroll in the full masters degree, you may also consider our online certificate program in digital health communication, which can be completed in a year.

May I sit in on a class?

Absolutely. You can set this up by emailing the Program Director, Sue Gallagher, or the Admissions Office

May I speak with current students or alumni?

We encourage students who are interested in applying to talk to individuals who know our program first hand. Our Interim Program Director, Margie Skeer, would be happy to arrange this for you.