About the Graduate Program
The Master of Arts in Communication Studies degree program is a 30-hour, theory-based field of study designed to promote understanding of the functions of human communication in its various forms and venues. Students in the program learn to analyze, manage, and assess strategic communication in oral, written, and visual forms. The program emphasizes three substantive research areas: organizational and interpersonal communication, rhetoric and political discourse, and communication and culture.
Students can pursue one of three different options:
- Academic – Comprehensive Exam Option: for students who wish to fulfill teaching requirements in communication studies or who want to pursue advanced degree work. It requires a comprehensive written examination to demonstrate proficient knowledge in their selected area of study.
- Research – Thesis Option: for students who plan to continue their graduate education. It requires an original thesis project in a specific research area of interest.
- Professional – Capstone Portfolio Option: for students who plan to pursue professional careers. It requires an internship or professional project and submission of a final capstone portfolio that provides a comprehensive overview of the work completed.
The Graduate School offers various forms of financial support, which all students are encouraged to consider. The coveted Graduate Council Fellowships are awarded competitively from nominations submitted by degree programs campus-wide. Communication Studies can make up to two nominations for Graduate Council Fellowships from its pool of top candidates each year. Students who are likely candidates for nomination are those with high GPAs and GRE scores, who will significantly benefit the program, and usually have already been admitted into the program by January or February for the coming fall.
The Department of Communication Studies has Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs) to award those students who are admitted to the main-campus Master of Arts degree program, no later than March 1, and who submit a letter of application specifying for which GTA they want to be considered. In their application letters, applicants should also mention what experiences or interests they have had that are related to the assistantship and provide access to video-recordings (e.g., URL to digital file) of their speaking ability — a 10 minute speech or other formal oral presentation.
GTAs are generally awarded for a single academic year, and the stipend is paid over a period of nine months. GTAs include a waiver of both in-state and out-of-state tuition. All students holding GTAs with the department must be working toward their M.A. degree, taking 6-9 credit hours per semester, and maintaining at least a B average in their course work. Applicants may apply for a GTA position in one of three areas:
- Assisting in the Alabama Forensic Council, a nationally competitive forensic program
- Serving as a performance lab assistant for COM 123 Public Speaking
- Assisting in the instruction of the department’s large enrollment courses, required for communication studies majors: COM 100 Rhetoric and Society and COM 101 Principles of Human Communication
Distance Learning students are eligible to apply for scholarships offered by the College of Continuing Studies.
Graduate students in Communication Studies are responsible for knowing all policies and procedures pertinent to the successful completion of their degree. However, they will be assigned their own academic advisors for their progress through the program, beginning with the initial development of their plans of study.
Academic advisors will use the Departmental Advisory Form to supervise the development of the Plan of Study. When approved, the Plan of Study must be filed with the department and will serve as the contract for completing the degree program for that student.
The academic advisor serves as the person responsible for approving changes in a student’s contractual plan, for authorizing course registration, and for supervising the formation of required faculty committees, such as for the thesis or for the comprehensive exam.
For questions regarding the Communication Studies M. A. degree program, contact the program coordinator, Dr. Carol Bishop Mills. Distance learning students specializing in Organizational Leadership should contact Dr. Nikita Harris, who coordinates the on-line emphasis for BamaByDistance.