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M.A. Degree Requirements

As a matter of principle, the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences undertakes to adapt each program of study to the needs of each graduate student. We have no rigid requirements for the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. We do, however, require that all teaching assistants participate in our teaching assistant training program and enroll in CAS 602, Supervised Experience in College Teaching, during their first year.

We also require that every student complete an acceptable research methods course within the department and develop appropriate competencies in cognate disciplines relevant to his or her research. Beyond these expectations, however, our presumption is that all graduate students will determine with their graduate committees the specific programs of study that will best prepare them for their scholarly and professional careers.

Beginning in academic year 2009-2010, within the first year of study, all incoming graduate students at The Pennsylvania State are required to complete an instructional sequence relating to scholarship and research integrity. Entering M.A. and Ph.D. students are required to complete in their first semester two non-credit on-line courses that the Graduate School offers in the Fall semester. One course is under the heading of “Human Subjects Research,” and the other “Responsible Conduct of Research.”  Each student will receive more information concerning enrollment and the content of the two courses, and the required date of completion, before the beginning of the Fall semester. Ph.D. students will also take part in five additional hours of instruction concerning the responsible conduct of research and research integrity that the Department ordinarily provides in four seventy-five minute sessions over a two-week period. These sessions, if at all possible, will also take place during the Fall semester, but may in some circumstances continue into the Spring semester. M.A. students who advance to the Ph.D. Program be required to take this instruction in their first year as doctoral students, but will not have to retake the online courses in Human Subjects Research and the Responsible Conduct of Research.

With few exceptions, the requirements of the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences for the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees are identical to those of the Graduate School . In no instance do departmental requirements supersede those of the Graduate School . Each graduate student is responsible for ensuring that he or she meets all Graduate School requirements.

Minimum Requirements for the M.A. Degree

  • A minimum of 30 credits (Except in unusual circumstances, credits earned for independent study [CAS 496 and 596] may not be counted toward fulfilling M.A. degree requirements. In addition, credits beyond the minimum of 30 do not automatically count toward the minimum specified for the Ph.D. degree for those who advance to the Ph.D. program.)
  • At least 3 credits of course work in communication outside the area of specialization
  • At least 3 credits of course work in communication focusing on a research methodology relevant to the student's research area (appropriate course work to be designated by the student's committee)
  • A total of 6 hours of CAS 600 within the minimum of 30 for the M.A. degree
  • An M.A. thesis
  • An oral examination in defense of the thesis. The candidate and at least two members of the M.A. committee (including the chair) must be physically present at the thesis defense. A favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the committee is required for passing.
  • Satisfactory academic progress. Consistent with Graduate School regulations, a graduate student who fails to maintain satisfactory scholarship or to make acceptable progress in a degree program will be dropped from the program. Satisfactory progress for full-time students normally implies the completion of all degree requirements within a period not to exceed two consecutive calendar years. A cumulative grade-point average below 3.00 for any semester may be considered as evidence of unsatisfactory scholarship. Action to address this situation may be initiated by the department Head, the Graduate Officer, or by the chair of the student's committee.

Download the M.A. Thesis Option outline here (DOCX).

Download the M.A. Thesis Option outline here (PDF).