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 these substantive research areas:  interpersonal communication,  rhetoric and political discourse, communication and culture, and organizational leadership.

Degree Options

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 Optionfor 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.

Doctoral Program

The C&IS doctoral program overseen by the Office for Graduate Studies provides an interdisciplinary approach to the study of communication and information sciences.   M.A. candidates in Communication Studies may choose to apply for admission into the program, either on an expedited track through the master’s program or as a subsequent program after completing the M.A.   For more information about the C&IS doctoral program, click here.

Funding Opportunities

Offered by the Graduate School

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.  The Department of Communication Studies makes nominations for Graduate Council Fellowships from its pool of top candidates each year.  Likely candidates for nomination are those whose academic credentials indicate that they will significantly benefit the program and who have already been admitted into the program for the coming fall, usually in January or no later than 15 February.

Offered by the Department

The Department of Communication Studies has graduate Teaching Assistantships (TAs) to award those students who are admitted as main campus students into Master of Arts degree program, no later than March 1, and who submit a letter of application specifying for which TA position they want to be considered.  In their application letters, they should also mention what experiences or interests they have had that relate to the assistantship and provide access to video-recordings (e.g., URL to digital file) of  their speaking ability — a 5-7 minute speech or other formal oral presentation.

TAs are generally awarded for a single academic year, and the stipend is paid over a period of nine months. TAs include a waiver of both in-state and out-of-state tuition.  All students holding TAs 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 TA position in one of three areas:

  • Assisting in the Alabama Forensic Program —
    • with the Alabama Forensic Council, a nationally competitive individual events team
    • with the Alabama Debate Society
    • with the Campus Forensics outreach program
  • Serving as a performance lab assistant for COM 123 Public Speaking
  • Assisting in the instruction of the department’s core curriculum courses:
    • COM 100 Rhetoric and Society
    • COM 101 Principles of Human Communication
    • COM 122 Critical Decision Making
    • COM 220 Interpersonal Communication

Offered by the College of Continuing Studies

Students holding distance learning status are eligible to apply for scholarships offered by the College of Continuing Studies.

Advising and the Plan of Study

Graduate students in Communication Studies are responsible for knowing all guidelines 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 use the Departmental Advisory Form to supervise the development of the Plan of Study, around the four components of the 30-hour degree program:

  1. 12 hours of core theory courses — a theory course from each of the four areas of scholarly research, to provide a broad basis for understanding the study of human communication
  2. 12-15 hours of electives in a focused area of study chosen by the student with the approval of the faculty advisor
  3.  3-6 hours of method courses and/or applied research
  4.  Completion of a capstone experience—a comprehensive exam, a thesis, or a capstone portfolio

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.

M.A. Program Inquiries and Faculty Contacts

For questions or inquiries about applying to the degree program, please submit this formC&IS Graduate Studies Inquiry Form.

Faculty Contacts in the Communication Studies Department:

  • Dr. Margaret D’Silva, Department Chair, Communication Studies
  • Dr. Josh Pederson, Departmental Graduate Program Coordinator
  • Dr. Nikita Harris, Distance Learning and Organizational Leadership Emphasis Coordinator
For questions regarding the Communication Studies M. A. degree program, contact The Office for Graduate Studies, or the department chair, Dr. Margaret D’Silva.  Distance learning students specializing in Organizational Leadership should contact Dr. Nikita Harris, who coordinates the on-line emphasis for BamaByDistance.