Online Visual & Digital Health Communication Graduate Certificate

Boston University’s online Graduate Certificate in Visual & Digital Health Communication is 16-credit course of study that examines the impact of the communication technology revolution on the field of health marketing and outreach, and prepares graduates for careers in this rapidly changing and growing industry through the development of visual and digital storytelling tools vital to modern messaging. It can be completed in less than a year.

In today’s health care landscape, savvy communicators, marketers, and coverage providers recognize the importance of effective storytelling and strategic social media practices in capturing the engagement and participation of patients, consumers, or desired target audiences. How those audiences and consumers experience initiatives through social media, websites, mobile apps, videos, and branded content can make or break the success of an otherwise well-defined health campaign or project.

In the Visual & Digital Health Communication certificate program’s required courses, students will learn the fundamental principles of design and how to apply them to the creation of powerful health education and delivery application tools, such as infographics, data visualization graphics, videos, websites, mobile apps, and branded content. Students will also examine how social media is used in health care and why using it effectively has become a necessary skill for many health care professionals.

Additionally, students in the certificate program may petition to have the credits they earn transferred toward BU’s online Master of Science in Health Communication. Students must successfully complete 40 credits to receive the degree. To receive both the degree and the certificate, students must complete a total of 48 credits. Master’s applicants who have previously earned the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) are eligible upon admission to waive two of the program’s required courses—the equivalent of 8 credit hours—reducing the total number of required courses by two and saving an estimated 20 percent in tuition costs for the master’s degree. For more information, see the Health Communication page.

Students who complete the Graduate Certificate in Visual & Digital Health Communication will be able to demonstrate:

      • Knowledge of the value and significance of traditional, social, and emerging digital media practice in the health communication field.
      • The ability to design communication strategies and methods that employ digital and visual information to influence audiences or affect change on health-related topics and issues.
      • Expertise in the role that communication—including digital and visual content—plays in the health care industry.
      • The capacity to analyze, synthesize, interpret, and present health and scientific information for public consumption using clear and concise messaging.
      • A proficiency in creating digital images and visual tools—including infographics, branded content, video, data visualization graphics, webpage, and mobile page design—that purposely and ethically help bridge digital divides in health education and comprehension.

Awards & Accreditations

The elective course Visual Communication in the Digital Health Age (MET HC 762) received the 2017 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Teaching & Learning—a global honor recognizing excellence in delivering students a flexible, innovative online learning experience.

Why Choose BU’s Graduate Certificate in Health Communication?

      • Four-course certificate in Visual & Digital Health Communication examines the impact of the communication technology revolution on the field of health marketing and communication and prepares graduates for a career in this rapidly changing field.
      • BU’s program is unique, offered 100% online with asynchronous learning, while integrating communication and health care content in each course.
      • The certificate is ideal for those who wish to focus more on the continuing trends in visual communication and the strategic use of social media in health communication, but don’t want or need to commit to a full master’s degree program.

Meet Stephen Quigley, one of the faculty members you’ll work with in the Health Communication program.

Career Outlook

The digital health care market could see as much as $32.4 billion in near-term revenues.
Business Insider
“Goldman Sachs says a digital healthcare revolution is coming—and it could save America $300 billion”

Mobile health app adoption has doubled from 16% in 2013 to 32% in 2015.
72% of 18–44-year olds surveyed would use tele-health for mental health services.
Price Waterhouse Coopers Health Research Institute
Top health industry issues of 2016: Thriving in the New Health Economy

Tuition & Financial Assistance

Money Matters

Boston University Metropolitan College (MET) offers competitive tuition rates that meet the needs of part-time students seeking an affordable education. These rates are substantially lower than those of the traditional, full-time residential programs yet provide access to the same high-quality BU education. To learn more about current tuition rates, visit the MET website.

Financial Assistance

Comprehensive financial assistance services are available at MET, including graduate assistantships (up to $4,200 per semester), scholarships, graduate loans, and payment plans. There is no cost to apply for financial assistance, and you may qualify for a student loan regardless of your income. Learn more.


Boston University’s Graduate Certificate in Visual & Digital Health Communication consists of four required online courses (16 credits).

(Four courses/16 credits)

Minimum passing grade for a course in the graduate certificate program is B– (2.7), but an average grade of B (3.0) must be maintained to be in good academic standing and satisfy certificate requirements.

METHC762 Visual Communication in the Digital Health Age

Over the past two decades, the power of visuals in learning and retention has been increasingly recognized -- attributing as much as 80% of retention to information that is visually communicated. In a recent study, 85% of working professionals agreed that creative thinking is critical for problem-solving in their career, and 71% say creative thinking should be taught as a course, like math and science. The efficacy of the use of visual symbols has also been recognized for bridging language barriers in health care settings. This course provides health communication professionals the fundamental principles of design and how these relate to effective communication, particularly in health education and delivery applications. Course lectures and resources will guide students from visual design theory, straight through content creation and measuring effectiveness of visual messaging. Students will explore various media and tools used to create digital images and get hands-on practice in the image editing process. Topics include conceptual design, critical thinking in the creation of practical design, how design relates to industry, human perception and the visual process, and the use of symbols for immediacy and to bridge cultural and literacy divides. In addition to exploring popular digital vehicles for visual storytelling, such as infographics, data visualization, video and mobile, the course will also present real- world challenges, such as ethics and regulations in digital communications, as well as business processes.
Course requires access to a smartphone with camera and video capability or a digital camera/video. [4 credits]

METHC763 Social Media Strategies and Tactics for Health Communicators

The course examines how healthcare organizations are tapping the power of social media to listen, learn, engage and act. This course helps students understand the power and importance of this fundamental shift in communication, and how savvy health care organizations are turning this shift into a strategic advantage. Together, we will examine the impact of the communication technology revolution on the field of health marketing and communication. Through extensive readings, case studies, project assignments, hands-on use of social media and weekly discussions, students will explore the extraordinary health communication challenges and opportunities driven by social media -- as well as the new and daunting problems and threats social media present to healthcare organizations. Students will learn how social media is used in health care and why using it effectively and efficiently has become a necessary skill for many health care professionals. As part of this course, students have the opportunity to earn the Mayo-Hootsuite Social Media Basics Certification, and participate in the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network community. [4 credits]

Plus two chosen from the following:

METHC750 The American Health Care System for Health Communicators

A vital component of the Health Communication curriculum, this course explores the health care system in terms of 1)communication within organizations, resources, and processes that constitute structure and operations; 2) relationships among stakeholders that shape it; and 3) resulting policies that impact system performance and influence the future of health care. Given the complexity and dynamics of the health care environment, an understanding of related issues at all levels is essential for effective communication and prevention of error within health care organizations. Without it, organizations must react defensively to environmental and political threats, often at the expense of patient safety and well-being; with it, organizations can act strategically to maximize growth opportunities and anticipate those forces that influence policy. The course draws upon multiple perspectives, including health communication in medicine and public health, health management (access, quality, and cost), politics, healthcare ethics, law, and the complexities of cross-cultural and psychosocial considerations within today's healthcare system. [ 4 cr.] [4 credits]

METHC751 Introduction to Epidemiology for Health Communicators

This course is recommended for students who are not Epidemiology concentrators. The purpose of this course is to introduce the basic principles and methods of epidemiology and demonstrate their applicability in the field of public health. A further objective is to provide an introduction to the basic skills needed to critically interpret the epidemiologic literature relevant to public health professionals. [ 4 cr.] [4 credits]

METHC752 The Biology of Disease

This course, designed for students who have little or no background in the biological sciences, provides a foundation in the biological mechanisms and principles underlying major health problems. Selected health problems are explored from a biological perspective in order to provide fundamental information about infectious and non-infectious agents of disease, disease transmission, biological defense mechanisms, co-evolution of man and microbes, the effects of nutritional deficiency and excess, effects of respiratory exposures, the biology of cancer, aging, and other topics. Each student completing this course should be able to knowledgeably participate in a discussion of related health problems with a basic understanding of the terminology, and the underlying biological mechanisms. [ 4 cr.] [4 credits]

METHC755 Contemporary Health Care Marketing

This course provides an in-depth understanding of the essential concepts of marketing and their application to health care. Students gain a working knowledge of marketing tools (such as pricing, promotion, channels, consumer behavior, brand equity, and segmentation) and how to use them. Students build practical applied skills in analyzing marketing problems and developing marketing programs and strategies, with particular attention to health care and its organizational structures, financing, technologies, market demands, laws, and regulations. Students also expand their understanding of the differences and similarities between marketing in for-profit and not-for-profit health care organizations, and they increase their appreciation of the role of data collection, analysis, interpretation, and management in marketing decisions. [ 4 cr.] [4 credits]

METHC756 Contemporary Public Relations

Provides an overview of the professional principles and practices in public relations for corporate, governmental, agency and nonprofit organizations. Includes history, organization, and scope of the field; its roots in social science; types of campaigns and programs; and professional ethics. Theories, strategies, and tactics in current practice emphasized and applied to health communication. Explores opportunities and requirements for work in the field. Students will learn to apply the basic public relations campaign planning model and examine public relations specialty practice areas including media relations, community relations, government relations, crisis communication, investor relations and employee communication. [ 4 cr.] [4 credits]

METHC757 Interactive Marketing Communications

An overview of the theories, practices, and techniques in the emerging field of interactive marketing communications (IAMC). Students gain an understanding of the strategy and tactics of IAMC and its place in the more comprehensive field of marketing communications. In addition, students review IAMC's relationship to and its effects on society, culture, and the economic system. The course will explore almost all the ways interactive marketing can be practiced via the Internet: historical introduction, dotcom era, basic principles, database marketing, etail, email, search (SEO & SEM/PPC), display advertising, social networking, gaming, mobile, et al. [ 4 cr.] [4 credits]

METHC758 Media Relations for Health Communicators

Students learn publicity techniques used in mass media communication, including working with daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, radio, television, film and online media. The course will examine the principles and practices of working with mass media "gatekeepers" to accomplish campaign objectives as well as strategies and tactics for communicating directly with audiences through new media. Students will develop knowledge and skills related to the production and use of media relations tools with a focus on health communication. Case studies will be employed to understand the challenges and opportunities inherent in working with mass media as well as the special demands and practices associated with crisis communication. The course will also explore the emerging role of interactive and social media. [ 4 cr.] [4 credits]

METHC759 Health Communication

Health communication is an emerging field in which professional communicators inform, influence and motivate individual, institutional, and public audiences about important health issues. This course examines theories of interpersonal, organizational, and mass communication relevant to the professional communicator in the health field. Reviews strategies of persuasion, the relationship between attitudes and behavior, and the changing nature of health and health delivery in the United States, and evaluates successful and unsuccessful health information campaigns. [4 credits]

METHC760 Research Methods for Health Communicators

Introduces students to the methodology of communication research. Particular attention will be paid to pre- and post-campaign communication research. The course includes both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Student will learn the nature of scientific logic, computer literature searches, research design, questionnaire construction, sampling, measurement techniques, and data analysis. The course will also explore the use of focus groups, experiments, surveys, and content analysis to inform and evaluate health communication campaigns. [4 credits]

METHC761 Advanced Writing for Health Communicators

Clear and persuasive writing is arguably the most fundamental tool in the contemporary health communicator's toolbox. Essential writing qualities including clarity, cohesion, and concision will be emphasized throughout this course alongside advanced grammar, sentence structure and writing mechanics. The course aims to build advanced writing knowledge and skill upon the foundation each student brings to the classroom. Students will be exposed to a variety of traditional and online writing formats common to the field of health communication. Students will be required to analyze diverse audiences and refine writing strategies, style, vocabulary and levels of formality to accommodate each audience. Requires extensive writing, rewriting and editing assignments. [4 credits]

Students in the certificate program may petition to have the credits they earn transferred toward BU’s online Master of Science in Health Communication. To receive the degree, students must successfully complete 40 credits as indicated on the Health Communication page. To receive both the degree and the certificate, students must complete a total of 48 credits (MET HC 762 and MET HC 763 plus the 10 degree program courses).

Applicants to the program are required to have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, having graduated with a final GPA of 3.0, and must provide official transcripts of previous academic work, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a résumé.



Nick Barber

Nicolas Barber

Lecturer, Boston University College of Communication and Metropolitan College

Video Technologies Analyst, Forrester Research

BS, Boston University


Alane Bearder

Lecturer and Program Facilitator for the Master of Science in Health Communication

Digital Marketing Strategist, Strategic Communications Consultant

MS, Boston University; BA, Rutgers University-New Brunswick

Paul Buta

Paul Buta


Health Care Marketing Executive, Choiceplex

MBA, University of Chicago Booth School of Business; MS, BS, University of Illinois, Urbana

Leigh Curtin-Wilding

Leigh Curtin-Wilding

Lecturer and Director of the Master of Science in Health Communication

Digital Content Strategist, Consultant

MS, Boston University; BA, University of Oklahoma

Anne Danehy

Anne Danehy

Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication, Boston University College of Communication

MA, University of Connecticut; BA, Smith College

Megan Healey

Megan Healey

Clinical Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health

PhD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; MPH, Harvard School of Public Health; BA, Clark University

Sarah Matousek

Sarah Matousek


Consultant, Day Health Strategies

PhD, University of Rochester; MPH, Boston University; BS, Houghton College

Stephen Quigley

Stephen Quigley

Academic Advisor; Associate Professor of Public Relations, Boston University College of Communication

MEd, Boston University; BA, University of Massachusetts

Jamie Rauscher

Jamie Rauscher

Lecturer and Program Facilitator for the Master of Science in Health Communication

Marketing Project Manager, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

MS, Boston University; MBA, University of Chicago; BS, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Cassie Ryan

Cassie Ryan


PhD, Boston University School of Public Health, Health Services Research Program, Department of Health Policy and Management; MPH, Boston University; BSN, Columbia University; BA, College of the Holy Cross

Domenic Screnci

Domenic Screnci

Academic Advisor; Senior Advisor for Academic & Emerging Technologies, Digital Learning & Innovation

EdD, MEd, Boston University

Jean Van Seventer

Jean van Seventer

Associate Professor of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health

VMD, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine; BS, Stanford University

Tim Sullivan

Timothy Sullivan

Lecturer and Program Facilitator for the Master of Science in Health Communication

Director of Communications, The Spaulding Rehabilitation Network & Partners Continuing Care

MS, Boston University; BA, Northeastern University

Getting Started

To learn more or to contact an enrollment advisor before you get started, request information using the button below and tell us a little about yourself. Someone will be in touch to answer any questions you may have about the program and detail the next steps in earning your degree. You can also start your application or register for a course at Metropolitan College.