As a marketing communications professional, there are many directions in which you could take your career. Whether you see yourself pursuing an in-house communications position or you want more variety — you are determined to establish yourself as a relevant and respected thought-leader for a competitive agency.
West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media is dedicated to preparing students for a variety of roles and work environments within the marketing communications industry. That’s why we specifically developed the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) graduate program to equip forward-thinking marketers and communications professionals with the business acumen, industry knowledge, and skills to implement real data-driven action plans that today’s marketing agencies are looking for (and desperately need!).
Why study Integrated Marketing Communications in the first place?
As a discipline, Integrated Marketing Communications is a strategic, collaborative, and promotional business function through which a targeted audience senses consistent, persuasive, and reinforced brand messaging.
Marketing communications professionals face a very real challenge in today’s distracted world. There are so many media formats through which brand messaging can be conveyed, and marketers often struggle with implementing multi-channel communications in a way that is unified and consistent. More data available to us than ever before, the need for marketing communications professionals who can evaluate, implement, and refine multi-channel communications becomes more and more recognized. Integrated Marketing Communications seeks to remedy a disjointed approach to marketing by integrating all facets of marketing communications, from direct marketing to content strategy, from advertising to social and digital media.
The Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications program, the first online program of its kind, was launched by the Reed College of Media at West Virginia University in 2003. One hallmark of the WVU IMC program is its learn-it-today, use-it-tomorrow philosophy. This philosophy is built into the curriculum, and it teaches students the importance of applying the best strategies and tactics in reaching key audiences.
"We're proud to be at the forefront of marketing communications. We're continuously looking for ways to improve the curriculum to make sure students have the knowledge and skills to adapt with the industry." —Chad Mezera, Assistant Dean at WVU’s Reed College of Media
So, how will WVU’s Integrated Marketing Communications program prepare you for real-life agency work? Here are five ways that our IMC program will equip you for a competitive marketing communications career:
1. The IMC curriculum blends practical knowledge with real-life experiences.
At the Reed College of Media, we recognize that agency work is competitive, challenging, and sometimes stressful. For that reason, the Integrated Marketing Communications curriculum is designed to equip graduates with the skills needed to emerge and thrive as leaders in high-intensity work environments within the marketing communications industry.
Holistically, the IMC curriculum is customizable, rigorous, and applicable to students seeking to secure a position in a competitive agency. Students can take classes in the order of their choosing, have in-depth discussions with up to 20 students, select elective courses specific to their interests, and leave the program with an integrated marketing campaign for a real-world client. IMC curriculum embodies a “learn-it-today, apply-it-tomorrow” mindset that prepares graduates to use the skills they learn in the IMC program in practical, competitive work environments.
Specifically, when it comes to elective courses within the IMC curriculum, students are required to select three electives from 30+ elective courses as a way of advancing their industry experience. Elective options include but are not limited to the following:
- Advanced Creative Concepts
- Crisis Communication
- Digital Video Production
- Disruptive Innovation *New!
- Diversity and Inclusion
- Entrepreneurship in IMC
- Executive Communication and PR Leadership *New!
- Healthcare Marketing
- Higher Education Marketing *New!
- Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality in IMC
- Media Analysis
- Political Marketing
- Social Media and Marketing
- Sports Marketing
- Web Metrics and SEO
2. Our expert faculty members are professionals and innovators in integrated marketing communications.
The courses in the Integrated Marketing Communications program are taught by diverse and forward-thinking faculty — from marketing directors to academics, from entrepreneurs to authors — who are all recognized as true leaders in their fields.
All of WVU’s IMC faculty members, both part-time or full-time, are experts in their respective fields; many of whom have collaborated with some of the world’s most recognizable brands, such as:
Our faculty members are carefully selected to represent a range of corporate and nonprofit organizations — from large, fortune 500 companies to specialized consulting agencies. The professors teaching IMC include in-house senior managers along with agency owners and strategists who come from the Big Apple, Washington D.C., and Silicon Valley. These experts teach the skills needed to conquer the existing and emerging challenges that those leading the marketing communications industry face today.
3. IMC students can customize their degree with a specialization.
Beginning Fall 2019, students will have the opportunity to add an Area of Emphasis (AOE) to their IMC graduate degree. Included on your transcript (great to mention on your resume!) once you graduate, your chosen specialization will demonstrate your expertise in that area, as well as giving you a competitive edge in today's job market.
By taking only one extra elective course, students will be able to specialize their IMC degree in one of seven areas:
- Creative Strategy
- Data Marketing Communications
- Digital and Social Media
- Higher Education
- Public Relations Leadership
As a way of allowing non-IMC students to continue and augment their education, students who hold a bachelor’s degree (master’s degree not required) will have the opportunity to pursue an Area of Emphasis as a graduate certificate program beginning in Fall 2019.
Note: Click here to learn more about the 7 Areas of Emphasis of WVU’s Integrated Marketing Communications program.
4. IMC students work on real-world clients.
All IMC students are required to complete a capstone course that provides the culmination of knowledge gained through the WVU IMC graduate program. The IMC’s rigorous and comprehensive capstone course requires students to develop a thoughtful and professional quality integrated marketing campaign for a real-world client.
In the IMC Capstone Course, students will be required to:
- Research a real-life client, along with target markets and competition
- Develop a detailed integrated communications strategy statement
- Design a series of creative execution plans
- Conduct primary research with a focus group
- Determine methods for evaluating the campaign
- Develop and analyze a campaign conclusion
- Demonstrate the results of the campaign
“The capstone course served as a real-world experience of designing, planning, and pitching a robust campaign from start to finish – which prepared me for the detailed and complex planning surrounding the launch of TCC’s refreshed brand. The IMC degree also helped position me as a viable candidate when first being interviewed for my role at TCC Group.”—Lindsay Emery, IMC ‘14, Marketing and Production Manager at TCC Group
By developing the skills needed to create and refine an integrated marketing communications campaign for a real-life client, IMC students graduate with a competitive edge, an edge that’s needed to thrive in challenging marketing agency environments.
Note: You can read Lindsay's full story here.
5. IMC’s well-connected network empowers alumni and students in their present and future careers.
WVU’s “Once a Mountaineer, Always a Mountaineer” mindset is what drives IMC’s “pay it forward” approach. In practice, this approach includes a well-connected support system for IMC alumni as well as IMC students preparing to graduate. With a network of over 1,500+ faculty members, current students, and alumni working in marketing communications all over the world, students and alumni alike are empowered to tap into the IMC network as questions and challenges arise in their careers.
Part of the IMC network includes Integrate Conference, an annual event that brings professionals working in marketing communications together from all over the nation.
Faculty members and alumni come together every year to discuss the latest industry trends, emerging challenges in the field, and most importantly, make connections with like-minded professionals who are passionate about the field of marketing communications.
IMC is designed with your success in mind.
Whether you’re an entry-level marketing associate, a recent college graduate looking to get into the marketing communications industry, or a working professional with several years of experience under your belt, the Integrated Marketing Communications graduate program is designed with your career advancement and professional development in mind. If you have questions about what it would mean for you to pursue the IMC degree at WVU, we encourage you to request more information, or if you’re ready to dive right in, you can start your application online today.