Civic Media (MA)

Time to degree: three semesters (30 credits)
Part-time options are available

Today’s digital era needs civic media professionals. Many nonprofit organizations, community groups, government agencies, and corporations are looking for creatives who can use media platforms to reach audiences.

Columbia College Chicago’s MA in Civic Media equips students with a broad range of media skills so they can stimulate community action and transform cities. Join a diverse pool of socially engaged media artists, journalists, civic technologists, information designers, urban planners, entrepreneurs, and civic-minded professionals. Together, we will strengthen democratic participation, shape public policy, and create social change.

At the heart of the program is the thesis project. You’ll design, implement, and assess project-based solutions that address real community needs. These projects vary widely. You might help a community solve an information problem and build relationships with city leaders, or you may work with an interest group on a quality-of-life issue. But in the end, the project will coincide with your interests, skills, and the conversations you have with community leaders.

You’ll draw on the resources available in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest media market, and graduate with a valuable skill set in strategic communications, design thinking, collaborative project development, cross-platform storytelling, journalism and media, information analysis, data visualization, and user-experience design.

Civic Media at Columbia College Chicago

Inside and Outside the Classroom

What to expect your first semester
Our curriculum stresses both theory and practice. You’ll take three courses in your first semester. In Intro to Civic Media, our core course, you’ll study the theories of civic media, choose your thesis project, and find a community partner. You’ll also take courses in research methods and leadership to strengthen your research acumen and learn to manage collaborative projects.

What to expect your last semester
You’ll be enrolled in Civic Media Practicum your last two semesters. In this hands-on capstone course, you’ll work directly with a community organization to design and produce media that supports the organization and its community. You’ll also take additional production, research, and leadership courses to supplement your practicum.

Flexible course schedules
Columbia College Chicago schedules its Civic Media courses with working professionals in mind. Many courses meet only once a week, and most classes are online or meet Fridays and weekends.

View required courses

Careers in Civic Media

What can you do with a master’s degree in civic media? If you’re a young professional, use the degree to start your career in media production or civic engagement. If you’re further along in your career, our program can help you change career paths or become a leader with high-impact digital skills at your workplace.

Potential career paths include

  • Data journalism and information science
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Government agencies
  • Urban planning and community development
  • Digital strategy
  • Nonprofit administration

Creative Spaces and Facilities

Columbia College Chicago has the facilities you need to complete civic media projects. You’ll have access to postproduction labs, recording studios, video-editing rooms, computer labs, and more. Industry- and research-standard media software has been installed in all facilities. 

Convergence Design Lab
Civic Media students and faculty members work with Convergence Design Lab (CDL), an innovation hub housed within the School of Media Arts at Columbia College Chicago. CDL fosters many of the relationships between Columbia and Chicago’s neighborhoods, schools, cultural organizations, and civic networks. Through CDL, students find opportunities to lead applied research projects in civic media.


The MA in Civic Media program draws on faculty expertise from across Columbia College Chicago. Our faculty members are active practitioners in various media fields and have established links with ongoing civic media projects.

Participating faculty: