Program Details

Communication graduate students complete at total of 46 credits to earn a Master's of Science degree. Students choose from a Thesis or Project (Exam) option at the time they apply for admission. Please find details below on the Tracks and admissions process.

Admission requirements

All students admitted to the PSU Communication Graduate Program must meet the PSU minimum admissions requirements.  

Full-time and part-time students are welcome to apply. All new students begin classes Fall quarter.

Application for admission to the Communication graduate program continues on a rolling basis for one month, from February 1 through March 1 each year. Faculty begin reviewing applications early in February and admit students on a first-come, first-serve basis. Priority is given to applicants who apply early, particularly if you hope to secure a paid assistantship that offers free tuition and monthly stipends.

Applicants must apply through Portland State University's new online application system. Visit How to Apply for more information. 


Applicants are not required to hold an undergraduate degree in Communication students with undergraduate degrees in related fields are encouraged to apply.

International students are required to take the TOEFL or IELTS test prior to admission to Portland State (unless English your undergraduate degree is from a school in an English speaking country (US, England, Australia etc.). For more information about PSU requirements and TOEFL/IELTS scores please click here.

Track Options (both Master of Science)

Research Track (Thesis Option)

Research Track students complete a thesis which entails systematic study of a topic in the field of communication and a written research report that contributes to scholarship. Student's investigation may employ quantitative, qualitative or both methods. Research Track students will partner with a member of the graduate faculty on their thesis. Our graduate faculty have a range of research experience including media, politics, health, conversation, campaigns, language and interaction, persuasion and propaganda. Prior to beginning work on the Thesis, students must demonstrate proficiency in relevant theories and research methods. Students are required to complete a minimum of 6 Thesis credits (Communication 503).

When applying for the Research Track, applicants are required to furnish GRE scores. Faculty give first priority to Research Track students when awarding assistantships.  Also, the Research Track is expected of students who wish to pursue doctoral studies.

Professional Track (Project/Exam Option)

The Professional Track is designed for students who prefer to focus on applying their studies to careers in communication. We especially encourage mid-career professionals to apply for this track. Professional Track students typically complete written exams as their culminating projects, although they may elect to write a thesis if their advisor approves. Students in this track are required to complete a minimum of 6 Project credits (Communication 506) in preparation for their exams and must pass three exams: two in theories and one in methods. Students will work with their faculty advisor to negotiate exam topics and schedule exam dates.

Although Professional Track applicants are not required to furnish GRE scores, the faculty encourage all applicants to take the GRE. Also, even though priority is given to Research Track applicants for departmental assistance, Professional Track applicants may still apply.

Full and Part Time Options

Full-time student status is defined by the University as a minimum of 9 credits per term. Communication students meet the requirement by taking 2 four-credit courses and 1 one-credit apprenticeship each term. Only full-time students are eligible for Department teaching and research assistantships and fellowships.

Part-time status means students enroll in 1 to 8 credits per term.

Students are expected to take courses continuously (except during summers) regardless of whether you are full-time or part-time. You will need the approval of the Department's Director of Graduate Studies if you wish to take a leave.  University policy is that you must sign up for at least 1 credit of graduate work to ensure continuous enrollment, including if you are on one-term leave and if you have finished coursework and are working on your thesis or exams. 

Once students complete coursework of 40 credits you are required to enroll in at least 1 credit of Thesis or Project (Exam) every term, continuously,  until you have passed your final requirements and exams. The exception is students who have current teaching and research awards who are required to be enrolled full-time.

Course Information

All students who earn a Master of Science degree in Communication complete the following requirements:

Core Requirements

Three courses, 12 credits total

Communication 511
Introduction to Communication Theory
4 credits

Communication 521
Quantitative Methods of Communication
4 credits

Communication 531
Qualitative Methods of Communication
4 credits

Communication 503 or 506
Thesis or Project (Exam)
6 credits

Elective Courses
24 credits total

Program Total Credits:
46 credits 

Required and Elective Courses

All graduate students complete the core required theory and method courses. In addition, students choose from a variety of electives offered in the Department. Elective courses (numbered in the 400-500 series) are open to seniors, honors and graduate students. Courses numbered 500 and above are restricted to graduate students.

Graduate students may take an elective course outside the Department if relevant to the student's program of study and if approved by the Department's Director of Graduate Studies.

Apprenticeship Course

Full-time graduate students are required to take the one-credit apprenticeship class (Communication 507) each term (unless you have completed all your coursework and are taking Thesis or Project credits). Part-time students are welcome but not required to take the apprenticeship course.

The apprenticeship course introduces you to the scholarly process, allowing you to work one-on-one with a graduate faculty member on his or her research. Students may have the opportunity to present and publish research by completing apprenticeship coursework.

Course Schedule

Portland State University offers courses in 10-week quarters (also called terms) in Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. Our Department rarely offers graduate courses in the summer quarter and students are not required to take summer classes to be considered full-time.

For graduate students, full-time enrollment is 9 credits per term and part-time enrollment is 8 credits or less. All students complete a minimum of 46 credits toward their degree, which includes core and elective course credits and Thesis or Project (Exam) credits.

Many graduate courses in Communication are offered in late afternoon and early evening to accommodate students' work schedules.

Incoming graduate students enroll in the Introduction to Communication Theory course (511) and Quantitative Methods (521) Fall term in addition to a one-credit apprenticeship (507). (Note: part-time students take fewer courses).

Students take Qualitative Methods (531) and an elective course (400-500 series) Winter term in addition to a one-credit apprenticeship (507).

Using this schedule, students attending full-time complete 27 credits their first year. During the following Fall term students take 2 elective courses (400-500 series) and 1 one-credit apprenticeship (507) to complete, in total, 36 of the required coursework credits (3). 

During Winter term, students take one elective to bring their total to 40 credits. In addition, students may take an additional elective or sign up for credits with their committee chair to begin work on their thesis or exams. During the spring term, students may take thesis or project (exam) credits in consultation with their chair.