Overview of the Communication Graduate Program
The Department of Communication offers a Master’s degree in Communication. There is a very small distinction between a Master’s of Science (MS) and a Master’s of Arts (MA), both of which are available. Students who pursue a Master’s of Arts (MA) must additionally complete a foreign language requirement, which can extend your time to degree. Because of this, most students receive a Master’s of Science (MS). In terms of future employment, advancement, or educational opportunities, there is virtually no difference between the Master’s of Science (MS) and Master’s of Arts (MA). When you apply to our program, you must designate Master’s of Science (MS) or a Master’s of Arts (MA) on your application form to the graduate school.
Our program is designed to be completed in 2 years by full-time students. Full-time students take two courses (4 credits each) per quarter, for a total of 8 credits. (Many types of financial assistance actually require that full-time students take 9 credits, and we offer a 1-credit Research Apprenticeship to fill this gap). Half-time students, who only take one course per quarter, can expect to complete the program in 4 years. Some, but not all, of our graduate courses are offered in the evening (i.e., after 4:00 pm).
Our program trains students how to thoughtfully and critically identify, collect, and analyze data in order to answer meaningful communication questions and solve important communication problems. Our program emphasizes theory and research, including data analysis and data interpretation. These advanced skills are highly sought after by private and governmental organizations, and successfully prepare students (if they desire) to pursue a Ph.D. in Communication. Each year, we admit a cohort of approximately 12-15 graduate students, who bond together as friends and serve as a social-support network. Our graduate faculty provide a generous amount of personalized attention to all students.
Our program is designed so that there are multiple faculty members who have overlapping areas of expertise. This way, when a student writes a Master’s thesis on a particular topic, they have the advantage of multiple experts on that topic. The department’s areas of concentration are Mass Communication (including new media), Health Communication, Political Communication, and Language and Social Interaction (See below for detailed descriptions). Individual faculty also specialize in Cultural Studies, Interpersonal Communication, and Organizational Communication (Again, see below for detailed descriptions).
It is also important to be honest about the areas of study that our department does not support. On the one hand, our program does emphasize the study of messages and their persuasive effects on audiences, which are relevant to many careers, such as Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations. On the other hand, our program is not designed to train students specifically for careers in Advertising, Marketing, or Public Relations. Our faculty do not have Ph.D.s in these fields, we do not offer graduate courses on these specific topics, and we do not offer internships in these fields. Similarly, our program is not designed to train students specifically in Broadcasting or Journalism.
Areas of Concentration for Graduate Study
Mass Communication: Mass Communication examines the production, distribution, and consumption of mediated messages and their effects on audience judgments, values, beliefs and behaviors. Broadcast, newspaper, internet, and social media (e.g., Facebook) are among the channels examined.
Faculty: Cynthia Coleman, Lauren Frank, Priya Kapoor, Leslie Rill, Lee Shaker
Health Communication: Health Communication examines how and why face-to-face and mediated communication affects, and is affected by, all aspects of healthcare and health promotion, including individuals’ physical, emotional, mental and/or spiritual health.
Faculty: Cynthia Coleman, Lauren Frank, Jeffrey D. Robinson
Language and Social Interaction: Language and Social Interaction examines the rules that guide our use and interpretation of language, and the role of talk-in-interaction in the construction and negotiation of social meanings, identities, and relationships. Our department emphasizes Conversation Analysis and Metaphor Analysis.
Faculty: David Ritchie, Jeffrey D. Robinson
Political Communication: Political Communication examines the formation, shaping, diffusion, processing, and effects of information within political systems, whether by governments, other institutions, groups, or individuals.
Faculty: Leslie Rill, Lee Shaker
Completion of the Master’s Degree requires completion of a thesis, which involves conducting research to answer some Communication-related research question or hypothesis. Master’s theses generally range between 60-100 pages in length, and typically include a review of relevant literature (including a theoretical or conceptual framework), data analysis, and the presentation and discussion of results. Additionally, students must publicly, orally defend their thesis to faculty and peers. Optimally, a Master’s thesis will generate at least one conference presentation and one publication.