Communications, B.A. (Altoona)

Program Code: COMAL_BA

Program Description

The curriculum of this B.A. in Communications provides a general grounding in traditional media forms along with work in the area of media convergence. Students must do coursework at both the practical and theoretical level. On the theory side, coursework will be offered in the areas of media criticism and theory, visual communications, and media history at the introductory and advanced levels. On the applied side, coursework will be offered in video and audio production, news writing and photojournalism, radio and television studio production, and public relations and advertising at the introductory and advanced levels. In the Convergent Media News Service courses, which form the most distinctive component of the program, students will actually produce and deliver a college news service in print, broadcasting (TV and streaming radio), and a multimedia online format. This hands-on experience will provide students an opportunity to create materials suitable for inclusion in a portfolio. Although not required, students will be strongly encouraged to do an internship sometime during their junior or senior years. Finally, the capstone Convergent Media Seminar will bring seniors together to consider the larger, theoretical issues related to the fast-paced changes in communications today and into the future. With a degree in this program, students will be well-positioned to go right into industry, where they will be able to compete in a number of different job markets, or to graduate school for advanced training.

What is Communications?

Communications is an academic discipline that deals with the creation and distribution of mass communication messages through media such as books, newspapers, television, radio, film, video games, and the Internet. Mass communications use writing, speech, photographs, video, and interactive content to give information or influence the audience. Communications also concerns the study of how we communicate in different ways with diverse audiences through marketing, advertising, public relations, corporate communications, digital journalism, film and other media.

You Might Like This Program If...

  • You want the experience, knowledge, and skills you need to become a versatile media practitioner.
  • You are interested in a career in journalism, media, public relations, advertising, or marketing.
  • You would like to gain practical experience and build a portfolio of work in a state-of-art production facility.

Entrance to Major

In order to be eligible for entrance to this major, a student must:

  1. attain at least a C (2.00) cumulative grade-point average for all courses taken at the University; and
  2. have at least third-semester classification.


Degree Requirements

For the Bachelor of Arts in Communications, a minimum of 123 credits is required:

Requirement Credits
General Education 45
Electives 12
Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirements 24
Requirements for the Major 42

3 of the 24 credits for Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirements are included in the Requirements for the Major, General Education, or Electives and 0-12 credits are included in Electives if world language proficiency is demonstrated by examination.

Requirements for the Major

A grade of C or better is required for all courses in the major. To graduate, a student enrolled in the major must earn at least a C grade in each course designated by the major as a C-required course, as specified by Senate Policy 82-44.

Prescribed Courses
Prescribed Courses: Require a grade of C or better
COMM 100NThe Mass Media and Society Keystone/General Education Course3
COMM 150NThe Art of the Cinema Keystone/General Education Course3
COMM 260WNews Writing and Reporting3
COMM 4903
Additional Courses
Additional Courses: Require a grade of C or better
Select 12 credits from the following, including 6 credits at the 400-level:12
Newspaper Practicum 1
Newspaper Editorial Staff 1
Basic Photography for Communications
Graphic Design for Communications
Basic Video/Filmmaking
The Nature of Media
Introduction to Multimedia Production
Television Field Production
Television Studio Production
Independent Studies
Intermediate Documentary Production
Intermediate Alternative Production
Writing for the Screen I
Radio Reporting
Audio Production
Advanced Photography for Communications
Advertising Creative Strategies
Advanced Audio Production
Advanced Alternative Production (max 6 credits)
Advanced Group Production I
Reporting Methods
Magazine Writing
Feature Writing
News Editing and Evaluation
Graphic Applications in Print Communications
Photography for the Mass Media
Public Relations Media and Methods
Public Relations Event Planning
Advanced Multimedia Production
Independent Studies
Select 12 credits from the following, including 6 credits at the 400-level:12
Media and Democracy Keystone/General Education Course
Survey of Electronic Media and Telecommunications Keystone/General Education Course
Gaming and Interactive Media Keystone/General Education Course
Gender, Diversity and the Media Keystone/General Education Course
Film History and Theory Keystone/General Education Course
The Nature of Media
The Literature of Journalism
Introduction to Media & Politics
Research Project Courses
Independent Studies
Introduction to Advertising
Public Relations
Mass Media in History
Law of Mass Communications
Cultural Foundations of Communications
News Media Ethics
Cultural Aspects of the Mass Media
Sports, Media and Society
The Mass Media and the Public
Ethics and Regulation in Advertising and Public Relations
Topics in Television Culture and Communication
Topics in American Film
Topics in International Cinema
Documentary in Film and Television
Research Project Courses
Independent Studies
Select 6 credits from the following:6
Convergent Media News Service: Newspaper Production
Convergent Media News Service: TV
Convergent Media News Service: Radio and Online Publications

A student may apply only 6 credits total of COMM 1 and COMM 2 towards the requirements of the Communications degree. 

General Education

Connecting career and curiosity, the General Education curriculum provides the opportunity for students to acquire transferable skills necessary to be successful in the future and to thrive while living in interconnected contexts. General Education aids students in developing intellectual curiosity, a strengthened ability to think, and a deeper sense of aesthetic appreciation. These are requirements for all baccalaureate students and are often partially incorporated into the requirements of a program. For additional information, see the General Education Requirements section of the Bulletin and consult your academic adviser.

The keystone symbol Keystone/General Education Course appears next to the title of any course that is designated as a General Education course. Program requirements may also satisfy General Education requirements and vary for each program.

Foundations (grade of C or better is required and Inter-Domain courses do not meet this requirement.)

  • Quantification (GQ): 6 credits
  • Writing and Speaking (GWS): 9 credits

Breadth in the Knowledge Domains (Inter-Domain courses do not meet this requirement.)

  • Arts (GA): 3 credits
  • Health and Wellness (GHW): 3 credits
  • Humanities (GH): 3 credits
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences (GS): 3 credits
  • Natural Sciences (GN): 3 credits

Integrative Studies

  • Inter-Domain Courses (Inter-Domain): 6 credits


  • GN, may be completed with Inter-Domain courses: 3 credits
  • GA, GH, GN, GS, Inter-Domain courses. This may include 3 credits of World Language course work beyond the 12th credit level or the requirements for the student’s degree program, whichever is higher: 6 credits

University Degree Requirements

First Year Engagement

All students enrolled in a college or the Division of Undergraduate Studies at University Park, and the World Campus are required to take 1 to 3 credits of the First-Year Seminar, as specified by their college First-Year Engagement Plan.

Other Penn State colleges and campuses may require the First-Year Seminar; colleges and campuses that do not require a First-Year Seminar provide students with a first-year engagement experience.

First-year baccalaureate students entering Penn State should consult their academic adviser for these requirements.

Cultures Requirement

6 credits are required and may satisfy other requirements

  • United States Cultures: 3 credits
  • International Cultures: 3 credits

Writing Across the Curriculum

3 credits required from the college of graduation and likely prescribed as part of major requirements.

Total Minimum Credits

A minimum of 120 degree credits must be earned for a baccalaureate degree. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 credits. Students should consult with their college or department adviser for information on specific credit requirements.

Quality of Work

Candidates must complete the degree requirements for their major and earn at least a 2.00 grade-point average for all courses completed within their degree program.

Limitations on Source and Time for Credit Acquisition

The college dean or campus chancellor and program faculty may require up to 24 credits of course work in the major to be taken at the location or in the college or program where the degree is earned. Credit used toward degree programs may need to be earned from a particular source or within time constraints (see Senate Policy 83-80). For more information, check the Suggested Academic Plan for your intended program.

B.A. Degree Requirements

World Language (0-12 credits): Student must attain 12th credit level of proficiency in one world language in addition to English. This proficiency must be demonstrated by either examination or course work. See the Placement Policy for Penn State World Language Courses.

B.A. Fields (9 credits): Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Arts, World Languages, Natural Sciences, Quantification (may not be taken in the area of the student's primary major; world language credits in this category must be in a second world language in addition to English or beyond the 12th credit level of proficiency in the first language). Credits must be selected from the list of approved courses.

World Cultures (0-3 credits): Select 3 credits from approved list. Students may count courses in this category in order to meet other major, minor, elective, or General Education requirements, except for the University Cultural Diversity (US/IL) requirement.​

Program Learning Objectives

  • Effective written communication skills
  • Effective oral communication skills.
  • Effective visual communication skills
  • Knowledge of professional standards and practices.
  • Ability to perform in professional settings with clarity, effectiveness, and in a manner that is appropriate to industry standards.
  • Ability to understand and connect communications theory and research methods to ensure the development of effective critical thinking skills.
  • Knowledge of the roles communications systems and professionals play in shaping communities at the global, national, and local levels.

Academic Advising

The objectives of the university's academic advising program are to help advisees identify and achieve their academic goals, to promote their intellectual discovery, and to encourage students to take advantage of both in-and out-of class educational opportunities in order that they become self-directed learners and decision makers.

Both advisers and advisees share responsibility for making the advising relationship succeed. By encouraging their advisees to become engaged in their education, to meet their educational goals, and to develop the habit of learning, advisers assume a significant educational role. The advisee's unit of enrollment will provide each advisee with a primary academic adviser, the information needed to plan the chosen program of study, and referrals to other specialized resources.



Kevin M. Moist
Associate Professor of Communications
Cypress Building 101D, 3000 Ivyside Park
Altoona, PA 16601

Suggested Academic Plan

The suggested academic plan(s) listed on this page are the plan(s) that are in effect during the 2024-25 academic year. To access previous years' suggested academic plans, please visit the archive to view the appropriate Undergraduate Bulletin edition.

Communications, B.A. at Altoona Campus

The course series listed below provides only one of the many possible ways to move through this curriculum. The University may make changes in policies, procedures, educational offerings, and requirements at any time. This plan should be used in conjunction with your degree audit (accessible in LionPATH as either an Academic Requirements or What If report). Please consult with a Penn State academic adviser on a regular basis to develop and refine an academic plan that is appropriate for you.

First Year
ENGL 15, 30H, or ESL 153General Education Course (GQ)3
COMM 100N/AMST 106N or 150N*3General Education Course (GHW)1.5
PSU 31General Education Course 3
General Education Course3Elective3
World Language Course Level 14World Language Course Level 24
General Education Course3 
 17 14.5
Second Year
General Education Course (GQ)3COMM 242*3
World Language Course Level 34CAS 1003
COMM 100N/AMST 106N or 150N*3ENGL 202B3
General Education Course3General Education Course3
B.A. Requirement3General Education Course (GHW)1.5
 16 15.5
Third Year
Communications Theory Course*3Communications Theory Course*3
Communications Application Course*3Communications Application Course*3
General Education Course3COMM 470A or 470B*3
COMM 260W*3US Cultures Course3
B.A. Requirement3General Education Course3
 15 15
Fourth Year
Communications Theory Course*3COMM 490A*3
Communications Application Course*3Communications Application Course*3
COMM 470A or 470B*3B.A. Requirement3
General Education Course3General Education Course3
 15 15
Total Credits 123

Course requires a grade of C or better for the major

Course requires a grade of C or better for General Education


Course is an Entrance to Major requirement

Course satisfies General Education and degree requirement

University Requirements and General Education Notes:

US and IL are abbreviations used to designate courses that satisfy Cultural Diversity Requirements (United States and International Cultures).

W, M, X, and Y are the suffixes at the end of a course number used to designate courses that satisfy University Writing Across the Curriculum requirement.

General Education includes Foundations (GWS and GQ), Knowledge Domains (GHW, GN, GA, GH, GS) and Integrative Studies (Inter-domain) requirements. N or Q (Honors) is the suffix at the end of a course number used to help identify an Inter-domain course, but the inter-domain attribute is used to fill audit requirements. Foundations courses (GWS and GQ) require a grade of 'C' or better.

Bachelor of Arts Requirements:

Bachelor of Arts students must take 9 credits in Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Fields (Humanities; Social and Behavioral Sciences; Arts; World Languages [2nd language or beyond the 12th credit level of proficiency in the 1st]; Natural Sciences; Quantification). The B.A. Fields courses may not be taken in the area of the student’s primary major. See your adviser and the Degree Requirements section of this Bulletin.

Bachelor of Arts students must take 3 credits in World Cultures.
See your adviser and the full list of courses approved as World Cultures courses.

Additional Notes

Communications Theory Courses
COMM 110Media and Democracy Keystone/General Education Course3
COMM 180Survey of Electronic Media and Telecommunications Keystone/General Education Course3
COMM 190Gaming and Interactive Media Keystone/General Education Course3
COMM 205Gender, Diversity and the Media Keystone/General Education Course3
COMM 250Film History and Theory Keystone/General Education Course3
COMM 251The Nature of Media3
COMM 261The Literature of Journalism3
COMM 292Introduction to Media & Politics3
COMM 294Research Project Courses1-3
COMM 296Independent Studies1-6
COMM 320Introduction to Advertising3
COMM 370Public Relations3
COMM 401Mass Media in History3
COMM 403Law of Mass Communications3
COMM 408Cultural Foundations of Communications3
COMM 409News Media Ethics3
COMM 411Cultural Aspects of the Mass Media3
COMM 412Sports, Media and Society3
COMM 413WThe Mass Media and the Public3
COMM 454Documentary in Film and Television3
COMM 417Ethics and Regulation in Advertising and Public Relations3
COMM 451Topics in American Film3
COMM 452Topics in International Cinema3
COMM 494Research Project Courses1-12
COMM 496Independent Studies1-18
Communications Application Courses
COMM 1Newspaper Practicum1-3
COMM 2Newspaper Editorial Staff1-3
COMM 215Basic Photography for Communications3
COMM 241Graphic Design for Communications3
COMM 242Basic Video/Filmmaking3
COMM 251The Nature of Media3
COMM 269Photojournalism3
COMM 270Introduction to Multimedia Production3
COMM 282Introduction to Video Field Production3
COMM 296Independent Studies1-6
COMM 337Intermediate Documentary Production3
COMM 338Intermediate Narrative Production3
COMM 339Intermediate Alternative Production3
COMM 346Writing for the Screen I3
COMM 360Audio News Production3
COMM 374Audio Production3
COMM 415Advanced Photography for Communications3
COMM 4213
COMM 438Advanced Narrative Production3-6
COMM 439Advanced Alternative Production3-6
COMM 448Advanced Group Production I3
COMM 460WReporting Methods3
COMM 461Magazine Writing3
COMM 462Feature Writing3
COMM 467News Editing and Evaluation3
COMM 468Graphic Applications in Print Communications3
COMM 469Photography for the Mass Media3
COMM 471Public Relations Media and Methods3
COMM 472Public Relations Event Planning3
COMM 481Advanced Multimedia Production3
COMM 495Internship1-9
COMM 496Independent Studies1-18

Career Paths

The Communications major is a good fit for students interested in a career in media, as well as those considering graduate school. The major is designed to give you the experience, knowledge, and skills you need to become a versatile media practitioner. The program emphasizes a balance of theory and practice, as you develop hands-on skills (in a state-of-the-art production facility) while gaining an understanding of the many complexities of today’s media landscape. The Communications major is a good fit for students interested in a career in media, as well as those considering graduate school.


In addition, graduates have achieved distinction in a variety of areas. Recent Communications alumni have won Emmy Awards, the prestigious Murrow Award, and several AP awards in multiple states.

Opportunities for Graduate Studies

Graduates of the Communications program excel in the job market and graduate school. Student acceptance rate among graduate programs exceeds 90 percent.



Cypress Building 101D, 3000 Ivyside Park
Altoona, PA 16601