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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

Media Studies (MEDIA)

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Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Graduate Education
Donald P. Bellisario, College of Communications
201 Carnegie Building
814-865-3070; commgpo@psu.edu

 

Degree Conferred:

 

The Graduate Faculty

 

The Program

The master's degree in Media Studies is an academic program that involves students in the systematic study of media. The objective of the course of study is to enable students to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the systems, networks, cultures, and information associated with media. The program prepares students for doctoral study in communications and for professional positions in business and government requiring a comprehensive understanding of the historical, social, and political implications of the media. This program helps prepare students to organize research projects, critically evaluate research reports, and directly influence media practices by the application of research findings.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the GENERAL INFORMATION section of the Graduate Bulletin. Applicants apply for admission to the program via the Graduate School application for admission.

Scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) are required for admission. Students with a 3.00 junior/senior grade-point average are eligible for admission. Three letters of recommendation are required. Applicants must also submit an autobiographical statement of about 1,000 words indicating the nature of the applicant's interest in Media Studies, reasons for wanting to do graduate work, and future aspirations relating to the field of mass communications. Experience shows that most applicants hold a bachelor's degree in a field of the liberal arts or the social and behavioral sciences, including journalism and mass communications. However, this does not preclude applicants with other backgrounds, abilities, and interests such as those whose undergraduate training may have been in a scientific or technical field. In every case, the applicant should explain in the autobiographical statement how his or her undergraduate education relates to the decision to seek admission to graduate study in mass communications.

The language of instruction at Penn State is English. English proficiency test scores (TOEFL/IELTS) may be required for international applicants. Consult the English Proficiency section of the Graduate Bulletin Application and Admission Procedures page for more information. Applicants to the Media Studies program must have a score of 24 or higher on the speaking section of the TOEFL Internet-based test.

Program of Study

The M.A. program seeks to integrate two areas of inquiry and analysis. The "Critical Studies" area centers on the expressive, creative, and linguistic dimensions of media as cultural processes. The "Political Studies" area focuses primarily on the political and economic dimensions of national and international communications systems and processes. The student is encouraged to combine courses from these and possibly other areas into a coherent package of course work culminating in either a thesis or a master's paper.

Degree Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the DEGREE REQUIREMENTS section of the Graduate Bulletin.

A minimum of 36 credits is required for the completion of the M.A. degree. Students in the thesis track must complete at least 18 credits at the 500 or 600 level, and the remaining credits may be at the 400 or 800 level.  Students in the non-thesis track must complete 18 credits at the 500 level, and the remaining credits may be at the 400 or 800 level. There are 7 credits required in the following core courses: either COMM 506 or 511 (3 cr.), COMM 515 (3 cr.), and COMM 590 (1 cr.). If the student chooses to write a thesis, at least 6 credits in thesis research (COMM 600 or 610) must be taken. Students in the non-thesis track must write a satisfactory master’s paper, while enrolled in COMM 596 (3 cr.). Additional courses that will count as electives towards this degree can be chosen from a list of approved elective courses maintained by the graduate program office. Course work offered by departments outside the College of Communications may be scheduled as part of the student’s program with prior approval of the student’s academic committee. In some cases, students may be required to take additional credits in order to make up deficiencies in undergraduate course work.

Students are required to schedule three separate, formal meetings with their advisers and the academic committees for (1) discussion and approval of the general program plan, (2) the thesis or master’s paper proposal, and (3) the defense of the thesis or paper. In most cases, satisfactory completion of course work and thesis requires two years. A thesis must be accepted by the advisers and/or committee members, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School, and the student must pass a thesis defense. A master’s paper must be accepted by the advisers, committee members and the graduate programs chair, and the students must pass a master’s paper defense.

Integrated B.A/M.A. in Media Studies

The Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications offers academically qualified students enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts program in the College of Communications the opportunity to earn both the B.A and the M.A. upon completion of five years of study. The Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate Program in Media Studies facilitates the advanced study of communications research and thesis development through a carefully organized selection of undergraduate courses, graduate seminars and directed research projects. The program accelerates and enhances undergraduate students' appreciation for graduate level scholarship by involving them in the seminars, research activities, and the scholarly discourse of the college's community of master's- and doctoral-level scholars.

The Integrated B.A./M.A. degree in Media Studies is an academic program that involves students in the systematic study of media. The objective of the course of study is to enable students to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the systems, networks, cultures, and information associated with media. The program prepares students for doctoral study in communications and for professional positions in business and government requiring a comprehensive understanding of the historical, social, and political implications of the media, and research methods for studying the media. This program helps prepare students to organize research projects, critically evaluate research reports, and directly influence media practices by the application of research findings. The program is specifically not intended for advanced professional education.

Application Process and Admission Requirements

Students must apply to the program via the Graduate School application for admission, and must meet all the admission requirements of the Graduate School and the Media Studies graduate program for the Master of Arts degree, listed above.

Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.5 in order to be admitted; 3 credits from COMM’s General Education courses (COMM 100, COMM 150, COMM 180, COMM 320, or COMM 370); and 3 credits from the COMM 200 level and above. Admission to the program is based on the evaluation of the student’s transcript, examples of completed writing and research projects, a narrative statement of objectives, and two letters of support from faculty with whom they have worked. One faculty member must be from the College of Communications. Students shall be admitted to an IUG program no earlier than the beginning of the third semester of undergraduate study at Penn State (regardless of transfer or AP credits accumulated prior to enrollment) and no later than the end of the second week of the semester proceeding the semester of expected conferral of the undergraduate degree. Candidates are expected to present records of outstanding scholarly achievement to qualify.

Applicants to the Integrated program

  1. Must be enrolled in a B.A. program in the College of Communications.
  2. Must apply no earlier than the beginning of the third semester of undergraduate study at Penn State (regardless of transfer or AP credits accumulated prior to enrollment) and no later than the end of the second week of the semester proceeding the semester of expected conferral of the undergraduate degree.
  3. Must provide a narrative statement of objectives and two letters of endorsement from faculty with whom they have worked. One faculty member must be from the College of Communications.
  4. In consultation with an adviser, students must prepare a plan of study appropriate to this integrated program. Students must present their plan of study in person to the head of the graduate program or the appropriate committee overseeing the integrated program prior to being admitted to the program. The plan should cover the entire time period of the integrated program, and it should be reviewed periodically with an adviser as the student advances through the program.

Degree Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the DEGREE REQUIREMENTS section of the Graduate Bulletin.

Students must fulfill all requirements for each degree in order to be awarded that degree, subject to the double-counting of credits as outlined below. Degree requirements for the B.A. in Media Studies are listed in the Undergraduate Bulletin. Degree requirements for the M.A. degree are listed in the Master’s Degree Requirements section above. Up to 12 credits may be double-counted towards the degree requirements for both the graduate and undergraduate degrees; a minimum of 50% of the double-counted courses must be at the 500 or 800 level. Credits associated with the culminating experience for the graduate degree cannot be double-counted. Students must sequence their courses so all undergraduate degree requirements are fulfilled before taking courses to count towards the graduate degree.

The following credits are eligible to be double-counted towards both the undergraduate and the graduate degrees:
Graduate Credits: COMM 504, COMM 506, COMM 507, COMM 510, COMM 511, COMM 512, COMM 513, COMM 514, COMM 515, COMM 516, COMM 517, COMM 518, COMM 520, COMM 521, COMM 522, COMM 550, COMM 553, COMM 556, COMM 580, COMM 582, COMM 584, COMM 585, COMM 594, COMM 595, COMM 596, COMM 597X

Undergraduate Credits:  
Advertising:  COMM 410, COMM 411, COMM 417, COMM 420, COMM 421W, COMM 424;
Journalism: COMM 403, COMM 405, COMM 409, COMM 410, COMM 411
Film Video:  COMM 411, COMM 438, COMM 440, COMM 451, COMM 452
Media Studies: COMM 405, COMM 411, COMM 413W, COMM 418
Public Relations:  COMM 403, COMM 409, COMM 417, COMM 420, COMM 471
Telecommunications:  COMM 403, COMM 405, COMM 410, COMM 484, COMM 486(W), COMM 487(W)

If students accepted into the IUG program are unable to complete the M.A. degree, they are still eligible to receive their undergraduate degree if all the undergraduate degree requirements have been satisfied.

Joint Degree Offering with Penn State Law

Degrees Conferred:
J.D. (Penn State Law)
M.A. (Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, Media Studies)

Joint Degree Program: Penn State Law (PSL) and the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications (COMM) offer a joint degree program leading to a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Media Studies.

Admission Requirements

Students applying to the joint degree program must be admitted separately into both PSL and COMM. Admissions requirements and applications for admission for Penn State Law are listed in the J.D. Admissions section of the Penn State Law website. The admission requirements for the Media Studies graduate program are listed above. Students must first be admitted to the law school and must complete the required first-year curriculum in the J.D. program before commencing the Media Studies M.A. component. Application to the M.A. program must take place through the Graduate School Application. Formal admission to the M.A. program would normally take place during the student’s first year of law, but COMM may extend admission to the M.A. program at the time an applicant applies to PSL particularly where an applicant’s law school choice depends upon admission to the J.D./M.A. joint degree program. At the student’s request, the LSAT may replace the GRE for joint degree admission purposes.

Residency: A typical J.D./M.A. joint degree student will be in residence at PSL for six semesters and at COMM for two semesters.

Liaisons: The department and faculty liaisons for PSL shall be the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the student adviser shall be the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs or such other faculty member(s) as may be designated by the Dean. The liaison for COMM shall be the Joint Degree J.D./M.A. Program Faculty Adviser.

Inter-Program Transfer of Credits

Students must fulfill all requirements for each degree in order to be awarded that degree, subject to the double-counting of credits as outlined below. Degree requirements for the J.D. program are listed on the Penn State Law website. Degree requirements for the M.A. degree are listed in the Degree Requirements section above.

Penn State Law: A maximum of twelve (12) 500-level credits for Media Studies M.A. course work may be transferred for credit toward the J.D. degree at PSL. Students must obtain a grade satisfactory to PSL for the course work to be credited toward the J.D. degree. The following COMM courses may qualify for credit toward the PSL J.D.: COMM 504, COMM 505, COMM 506, COMM 511, COMM 513, COMM 516, COMM 517, COMM 518, COMM 580, COMM 582, COMM 585, and COMM 587.

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communication: A maximum of twelve (12) credits of PSL course work will be counted for credit for the minimum requirements for a master's degree. These courses must be approved by the student's advisery committee and Joint Degree Program Faculty Adviser in COMM, normally during the Program Proposal Meeting.

The J.D. seminar requirement and the Media Studies thesis requirement must be fulfilled separately, using unique research topics.

Course Sequencing: The sequence of courses will be determined by the student and their adviser(s). However, students must successfully complete the first-year curriculum with PSL before beginning the M.A. Media Studies program. In compliance with ABA Standards and Rules law students may not enroll for more than 17 credits per semester at Penn State as a law student; the maximum credit load for graduate students is 15 credits per semester. It is expected that most joint degree students will complete the first two semesters of the M.A. consecutively in either the first or second year after completion of the first-year curriculum with the Law School.

Recommended Program of Study and Advising

All students in the program will have two advisers, one from PSL and one from COMM; the adviser from COMM may be any member of the Graduate Faculty in the College. Periodic interaction between the two advisers is encouraged. A program of study is developed for each student, taking into account the fact that some courses at both locations are offered on a rotating or intermittent basis. Many courses are offered every year but some are offered every two or three years. Advisers will have available a list of projected relevant courses or educational experiences in order to work with the student on an individualized program of study. The standard committee structure will apply to the COMM M.A. program.

Tuition

Students will be charged the applicable PSL tuition to cover the J.D. program and the applicable graduate tuition to cover the M.A. degree program. PSL tuition will be paid for the semesters in which the student is registered for PSL courses, and graduate tuition will be paid for the semesters in which the student is registered for graduate courses in the M.A. program. A student may take up to one course (3 credit hours) per semester in the program where the student is not primarily registered without any change in tuition, but must pay additional tuition to the program that the student is not primarily registered if he or she wishes to take additional course work pursuant to that program during the semester.

Financial Aid and Assistantships

Decisions on financial aid and assistantships will be made by each school according to that school’s procedures. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load policy listed in the Bulletin.

Fulfillment of Degree Requirements and Graduation

A student in the program may complete the requirements for one of the degrees and be awarded that degree prior to completing all the requirements for the other degree; provided, however, that the student shall have successfully completed at least two semesters of work towards the other degree. All courses in one program that will count towards meeting the requirements of the other must be completed before the awarding of either degree. Students will be required to fulfill all requirements for each degree in order to be awarded that degree, subject to the inter-program transfer of credits. If students accepted into the joint degree program are unable to complete the J.D. degree, they are still eligible to receive the M.A. degree if all M.A. degree requirements have been satisfied.

Important Note: If the joint degree student is using law (900-level) credits toward the graduate degree during their last semester of enrollment, they should be prepared to extend their graduate degree graduation to a subsequent semester (the following semester at a minimum). This is due to the graduate degree approval deadline falling before the law (900-level) course grading processes are complete. If students accepted into the joint degree program are unable to complete the J.D. degree, they are still eligible to receive the M.A. degree if all M.A. degree requirements have been satisfied.

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships and other forms of student aid available to students in this program are described in the STUDENT AID section of the Graduate Bulletin. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load limits set forth in the Graduate Bulletin.

Courses

Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 699 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.

COMMUNICATIONS (COMM) course list

 

Last Revised by the Department: Summer 2018

Blue Sheet Item #:46-07

Review Date: 6/26/2018

Faculty linked: 6/27/14

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