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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

Communications (COMMS)

PETER KAREITHI, Program Coordinator
Penn State Harrisburg W-356 Olmsted Building
777 West Harrisburg Pike, Middletown, PA 17057

 

Degree Conferred:

M.A.

 

The Graduate Faculty

 

The Program

The Master of Arts in Communications prepares students for doctoral study and leadership positions in areas of public information such as journalism, education, public relations and advertising. The program places an emphasis on cultivating an interdisciplinary and intercultural perspective for media educators and practitioners who may serve publics in a variety of fields, including business, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and community and political action groups. Because our program is broad-based and research-oriented, students will work with their academic advisers to develop their thesis projects to address critical issues in the above areas, rather than acquiring a specific and narrowly defined skill set.

The program balances research and creative production by integrating national and international perspectives on history, culture, and society in all instruction in theory and production practice.

Because of the program's location in the Pennsylvania state capital region and its close proximity to prominent public and private institutions and other resources, students in the program will have opportunities for internships and field experiences that provide valuable context for the development of their thesis projects. This integrated approach between theory and practice positions the program to provide a strong foundation for the pursuit of doctoral studies in communications.

Students admitted to the Master of Arts in Communications Program at Penn State Harrisburg must complete 36 credits, 21 of which must be at the 500 level in order to be granted the degree. Each student must complete and submit either a master's project or thesis. The master's project option (COMMS 580 Master's Project in Communications, 3-6 credits) consists of a creative production with an accompanying scholarly essay. The thesis option (COMMS 600 Thesis Research or COMMS 610 Thesis Research Off Campus, 6 credits) consists of an original research paper that follows the guidelines established by the Graduate School Thesis Office (see http://www.gradsch.psu.edu/current/thesis.htm). The subject of the master's project or thesis must be defined in conjunction with a faculty member, and evaluated by a committee of at least two faculty members, supplemented by outside consultants where appropriate. To register for the master's thesis or project, a student must have completed COMMS 500 and COMMS 503 and must have earned at least 27 credits towards the Masters in Communications.

Grade-Point Average and Time Limit

A 3.00 grade-point average will be required for successful completion of the degree.
A full-time student can expect to complete the program in four semesters, a part-time student in six or more semesters. All requirements for a master's degree for the Master of Arts in Communications (including acceptance of the master's thesis or project) must be met within eight years of admission to degree status. Extensions may be granted by the Graduate School in appropriate circumstances.
The 36-credit program is distributed over two groups of courses:


Prescribed Courses - 21-24 Credits

Take a minimum of 9-12 credits from the following:
COMMS 500 Seminar in Communications and Cultural Theory (3 cr.)
COMMS 503 Research Methods in Communications (3 cr.)
COMMS 580 Master's Project in Communications (3-6 cr.)
COMMS 600 or 610 Thesis Research (6 cr.)
[COMMS 500 and COMMS 503 to be taken within the first 12 credits after enrollment in the program. Students elect EITHER COMMS 580 or COMMS 600. A minimum of 12 credits in prescribed courses are required if selecting the thesis option, COMMS 600]

Choose 6 credits from ONE of the following:
COMMS 525 Advanced Writers' Seminar (3-9 cr.)
COMMS 568 Media Production Workshop (3-9 cr.)

Choose 6 credits from the following:
COMMS 519 Communications Technology and Culture in History (3 cr.)
COMMS 555 Media Discourse Analysis (3 cr.)
COMMS 560 Seminar in Global Culture and Communications (3 cr.)

Additional Courses - 15 Credits

Take 15 credits in additional courses at the 400- and 500-levels, which can come from either Communications or other fields, including: American Studies, Business Administration, Community Psychology and Social Change, Criminal Justice, Education, Health Administration, Health Education, Humanities, Information Systems, Management, Marketing, Public Administration, Training and Development.

The following 400- and 500-level Communications courses are approved selections:
COMM 414 MEDIA MANAGEMENT (3)
COMM 415 ADVANCED PHOTOGRAPHY (3)
COMM 421W ADVERTISING CREATIVE STRATEGIES (3)
COMM 430 MASS MEDIA AND POLITICS (3)
COMM 441 ADVANCED GRAPHIC DESIGN ( 3)
COMM 456 MEDIA CRITICISM AND THEORY (3)
COMM 457 MEDIA AUDIENCES AND CONTEXTS (3)
COMM 458 MEDIA LAW AND ETHICS ( 3)
COMM 459 CULTURAL EFFECTS OF INTERACTIVE AND ONLINE MEDIA (3)
COMM 462 FEATURE WRITING (3)
COMM 471 PUBLIC RELATIONS MEDIA AND METHODS ( 3)
COMM 474 DEPTH REPORTING (3)
COMM 482 ADVANCED COMMUNICATIONS WORKSHOP (4)
COMM 488 WRITERS' SEMINAR (3 per semester, maximum of 9)
COMM 594 RESEARCH TOPICS (1 -15)
COMM 595 INTERNSHIP (1 -18)
COMM 596 INDIVIDUAL STUDIES (1 - 9)
COMM 597 SPECIAL TOPICS (1 - 9)

NOTE: The following 400-level Communications courses may not be taken to fulfill the requirements of this degree: COMM 495, COMM 495A, COMM 496 and COMM 497.

  • Admission Requirements

Applicants must hold either (1) a bachelor's degree from a U.S. regionally accredited institution or (2) a postsecondary degree that is equivalent to a U.S. baccalaureate degree earned from an officially recognized degree-granting international institution and have earned at least a 3.0 grade-point average in their junior and senior years.
Exceptions may be made for those with special backgrounds or abilities who are committed to advanced interdisciplinary study in communications. All application materials should be submitted before February 15 for the fall semester and November 1 for the spring semester.

Applicants must submit the following:

  • an online Graduate School application with the application fee;
  • two copies of official transcripts from each college or university previously attended (with the exception of Penn State University).
  • a personal statement of 500 to 1000 words outlining educational goals and career objectives;
  • two letters of reference attesting to the applicant's suitability for the program (preferably from previous professors or others who are familiar with the applicant's intellectual/creative work or interests);
  • a writing sample or other creative production (e.g. short film, photo essay, advertisement or PR campaign sample, multimedia art, etc).

Application materials are available on the web at: http://gradsch.psu.edu/portal/

Transfer of Credits

Transfer credits are limited to 9 equivalent graduate Communications credits with a grade of B or better taken within the last 5 years from an accredited institution. It must be the opinion of the reviewing faculty that these courses are equivalent in quality to those offered at Penn State Harrisburg. Credit will not be given for any course used to complete a previous degree.
International Students

International applicants must hold the equivalent of an American four-year baccalaureate degree. They must submit official or attested university records, with certified translations if the records are not in English. Notarized copies are not sufficient.

The language of instruction at Penn State is English. International applicants must take and submit scores for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), with the exceptions noted below. The minimum acceptable score for the TOEFL is 550 for the paper-based test, 213 for the computer-based test, or a total score of 80 with a 19 on the speaking section for the internet-based test. Applicants with iBT speaking scores between 15 and 18 may be considered for provisional admission, with remedial course work. The minimum composite score for the IELTS is 6.5. Specific graduate programs may have more stringent requirements.

International applicants are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement who have received a baccalaureate or a master's degree from a college/university/institution in any of the following: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States and Wales.

 

Last Revised by the Department: Spring Semester 2011

Blue Sheet Item #: 39-04-587

Review Date: 01/11/2011

Faculty linked: 8/14/14

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