Communication students can now graduate with professional certifications  

For the first time, students in the Department of Communication at Pittsburg State University will graduate with professional certifications in social and digital media in addition to their degrees. 

This spring, 11 students representing the strategic communication, multimedia production, and media production emphasis areas became the first graduating class to earn professional certifications in digital advertising, content marketing and social media marketing along with their degree in communication. 

The department offered course credit to students interested in pursuing the professional certifications, feedback from students and prospective employers has been positive. 

Students reported a variety of motivations. 

“I’m going into agency work, so I wanted to understand social media on a deeper level,” said Gracie Krokroskia, a Fort Scott, Kansas senior majoring in strategic communication. "Over the past semester, I was able to really focus and develop in this area." 

Other students enrolled because they are preparing to launch their own digital content platforms. 

“I’m starting a YouTube Channel and podcast, so I wanted to learn more about how to grow my audience and listener base, and this course has been very helpful,” said Shakota Woolsey, an Altamont, Kansas senior majoring in media production. 

The students said they enjoyed the course content, design, and flexibility. 

“This was a great learning experience, especially because it let us learn at our own pace and on our own time,” said Alexis McCollum, a Lenexa, Kansas senior majoring in strategic communication. 

Students completed certifications in social digital media practice, as well as digital media ethics and digital analytics. They were given instructional support for integrating their accomplishments into their personal resumés and professional online profiles. 

“This was essentially a beta test,” said Professor Alicia Mason. “We wanted to encourage the initiative because we understand how important post-graduate marketability is to our students.” 

The professional certifications can provide an edge in competitive hiring environments, she said. 

After completing the course, students reported more confidence in their social and digital media knowledge and technical skills. Some also reported evaluating their own personal social media usage practices more critically. 

“I think it just sets you apart from other candidates. The degree might be a qualifier, but our professional certifications communicate that we’ve invested our time and gone above and beyond,” said Brooklyn Peterson, an Amsterdam, Missouri senior majoring in strategic communication. 

As seniors prepare to transition into their chosen career field, they intend to share their professional certification experience with their prospective employers. 

Ashley Stuteville, a Louisburg, Kansas, senior majoring in strategic communication, noted multiple advantages from the course including pay raises and additional materials for her portfolio. 

“This course showed me things I didn’t learn in other classes, more of the business side of social media and how to read and interpret the analytics,” Stuteville said. 

The department will continue offering the opportunity to future seniors in coming semesters. 

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