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What graduate degrees does the department offer?

The Department confers M.A.s and Ph.D.s in Communication Arts and Sciences, with students focusing on a program of study in Rhetorical Studies or Communication Sciences. The Department also offers a Dual-title Ph.D. in CAS and Bioethics.  You can learn more about specific program requirements by exploring Graduate Courses and Degrees in Communication Arts and Sciences.

What is encompassed by the Rhetorical Studies and Communication Science aspects of the graduate program?

Rhetorical Studies encompasses rhetorical criticism, classical and contemporary rhetorical theory, history of public address, political rhetoric, campaigns and social movements, rhetoric of culture and media, rhetoric of film, rhetoric of reform, rhetoric of war and peace, rhetoric of literature, citizen rhetorics, rhetoric of technology, and the rhetoric of democratic deliberation.

Communication Sciences encompasses interpersonal communication, communication across the lifespan, communication in relationships and families, interpersonal influence interactions, health communication, health campaigns, social influence and persuasion, and small group communication.


What is the difference between this Department in the College of the Liberal Arts and the College of Communications?

This Department offers top-ranked educational opportunities emphasizing Rhetorical Studies and Communication Science. The College of Communications emphasizes Mass Communications, Media Studies, Critical and Cultural Studies, Law, Government, and Politics, and Telecommunications. For more information on the College of Communications graduate programs, please visit


What's the combined M.A./Ph.D. Program?

Graduate study in Communication Arts and Sciences assumes an interest in pursuing doctoral-level work for the PhD.  Students who have not previously earned a master’s degree complete an M.A. thesis, receive their M.A. degree and submit an abbreviated application requesting advancement to the Ph.D. Program. This offers both the student and the Faculty a natural point to determine whether or not continuing is in the best interest of the student.  Students advancing to the Ph.D. Program are automatically eligible for continued financial support.  


How do students develop a program of study?

Programs of study are developed by individual students in consultation with their graduate faculty committees. Although academic work in most areas of communication is available, there are no prescriptive programs of study in any particular area.

Typically, each student chooses an academic adviser from the graduate faculty and, in consultation with that adviser, chooses additional faculty members from inside and outside the department to serve as their graduate advisory committee. The student then proposes the course work that will constitute their formal program of study.

In sum, each student nominates his or her own graduate faculty and develops his or her own curriculum. Individual programs of study represent one of the special features of graduate study in communication at Penn State.