Media Studies

Admission Requirements

Applicants apply for admission to the program via the Graduate School application for admission. Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-300 Admissions Policies.

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. See GCAC-305 Admission Requirements for International Students 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.

Degree Requirements

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies.

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

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:

Required Courses
COMM 506Research Methods in Communications3
or COMM 511 Mass Communications Research Methods II
COMM 515MA Proseminar in Mass Communications3
COMM 590Colloquium1
Electives
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.
Culminating Experience
Students choose to complete a thesis or a master's paper.
Thesis Research
Thesis Research Off Campus
Individual Studies (Master's Paper)

If the student chooses to write a thesis, at least 6 credits in thesis research (COMM 600 or COMM 610) must be taken. Students in the non-thesis track must write a satisfactory master’s paper, while enrolled in COMM 596. 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 Undergrad-Grad Programs  

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

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-210 Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate (IUG) Degree Programs.

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.

Admission Requirements

Applicants apply for admission to the program via the Graduate School application for admission. Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-300 Admissions Policies.

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.

Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.5 in order to be admitted; 3 credits from COMM’s General Education courses (COMM 150N, 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. Applicants 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 have completed entrance to their undergraduate major and have completed no less than 60 credits. Students must be admitted no later than the end of the second week of the semester preceding the semester of expected conferral of the undergraduate degree. Transfer students must have completed at least 15 credits at Penn State to enroll in an IUG.
  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 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

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 on the Degree Requirements tab. 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. Independent study courses and credits associated with the culminating experience for the graduate degree cannot be double-counted.

Courses Eligible to Double Count for Both Degrees
Graduate Credits
COMM 504Seminar in the History of Mass Communication3
COMM 506Research Methods in Communications3
COMM 507News Media and Public Opinion3
COMM 511Mass Communications Research Methods II3
COMM 512Government and Mass Communications3
COMM 513Constitutional Problems of the News Media3
COMM 514Political Economy of Communications3
COMM 515MA Proseminar in Mass Communications3
COMM 516Introduction to Data Analysis in Communications3
COMM 517Psychological Aspects of Communication Technology3
COMM 518Media Effects3
COMM 520Seminar in Advertising Problems3
COMM 521Advertising Perspectives3
COMM 522Social and Cultural Aspects of Advertising3
COMM 550Film Theory and Criticism3
COMM 553Special Problems in Film and TV1-3
COMM 556Reading Film3
COMM 580Seminar in Telecommunications3
COMM 582Ethics and Emerging Communications Technology3
COMM 584International Telecommunications and Trade Policy3
COMM 585Media & Telecommunications Industries3
COMM 594Research Topics1-15
COMM 595Internship1-18
COMM 597Special Topics1-9
Undergraduate Credits
Advertising
COMM 410International Mass Communications3
COMM 411Cultural Aspects of the Mass Media3
COMM 417Ethics and Regulation in Advertising and Public Relations3
COMM 420Research Methods in Advertising and Public Relations3
COMM 421WAdvertising Creative Strategies3
COMM 424Advertising Campaigns3
Journalism
COMM 403Law of Mass Communications3
COMM 405Political Economy of Communications3
COMM 409News Media Ethics3
COMM 410International Mass Communications3
COMM 411Cultural Aspects of the Mass Media3
Film Video
COMM 411Cultural Aspects of the Mass Media3
COMM 438Advanced Narrative Production3
COMM 440Advanced Cinematography and Lighting Techniques3
COMM 451Topics in American Film3
COMM 452Topics in International Cinema3
Media Studies
COMM 405Political Economy of Communications3
COMM 411Cultural Aspects of the Mass Media3
COMM 413WThe Mass Media and the Public3
COMM 418Media Effects: Theory and Research3
Public Relations
COMM 403Law of Mass Communications3
COMM 409News Media Ethics3
COMM 417Ethics and Regulation in Advertising and Public Relations3
COMM 420Research Methods in Advertising and Public Relations3
COMM 471Public Relations Media and Methods3
Telecommunications
COMM 403Law of Mass Communications3
COMM 405Political Economy of Communications3
COMM 410International Mass Communications3
COMM 484Emerging Telecommunications Technologies3
COMM 486WTelecommunications Ethics3
COMM 487WAdvanced Telecommunications Management and Leadership3

Students must sequence their courses so all undergraduate degree requirements are fulfilled before taking courses to count solely towards the graduate degree. Students must complete the undergraduate degree requirements within the typical time to degree for the undergraduate major. In the semester in which the undergraduate degree requirements will be completed, IUG students must apply to graduate, and the undergraduate degree should be conferred at the next appropriate Commencement. 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 Degrees

Joint J.D./M.A. with Penn State Law

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-211 Joint Degree Programs.

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 on the Admission Requirements tab. 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 on the Degree Requirements tab.

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.:

Courses Eligible to Double Count for Both Degrees
COMM 504Seminar in the History of Mass Communication3
COMM 505International Communication Problems3
COMM 506Research Methods in Communications3
COMM 511Mass Communications Research Methods II3
COMM 513Constitutional Problems of the News Media3
COMM 516Introduction to Data Analysis in Communications3
COMM 517Psychological Aspects of Communication Technology3
COMM 518Media Effects3
COMM 580Seminar in Telecommunications3
COMM 582Ethics and Emerging Communications Technology3
COMM 585Media & Telecommunications Industries3
COMM 587Internet Law and Policy3

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 advisory 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 available to students in this program and other forms of student aid are described in the Tuition & Funding section of The Graduate School’s website. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load limits set by The Graduate School.

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

Contact

Campus University Park
Graduate Program Head Anthony Olorunnisola
Program Contact

Anthony Olorunnisola
201 Carnegie Bldg.
University Park PA 16802
axo8@psu.edu
(814) 863-7997

Program Website View