You are here: Home / Graduate

Our Graduate Program

The graduate program in Communication Arts and Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University trains students in communication science and rhetorical studies, with particular attention to political deliberation, health communication, interpersonal communication, public address, rhetorical theory, and the rhetoric of public culture.  Our graduate students conduct research investigating how communication influences attitudes and behavior, relationship development and family dynamics, public life and public memory, democratic decision making, and struggles for social justice.  The most recent assessment of doctoral programs conducted by the National Communication Association ranked our program in the top five for health communication, interpersonal and small group communication, and rhetoric.

Part of the mission of Penn State's Communication Arts and Sciences Department is "to create knowledge about the role of communication in diverse interpersonal, communal, national, international, and cultural settings." To accomplish this goal, the department welcomes graduate students and affiliated scholars who represent the widest array of identities and perspectives. We value every individual's race, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, level of ability/disability and political perspective. We respect and seek to ensure each person's right to define their own identity and to craft the language that best represents who they are. We foster community and shared belonging, but we also recognize that positions and interests sometimes diverge. A quality graduate program, like good communication, is the result of making room for and communicating across difference.

What sets our program apart?

We provide highly competitive financial support for all of our students. 

  • We provide full funding for all of our graduate students – 2 years for the M.A. degree and 4 years for the Ph.D. – including generous stipends, full tuition coverage, and health care benefits.
  • Our graduate students enjoy summer employment as teaching assistants or as research assistants working directly with faculty.
  • We provide full funding for students to travel to two academic conferences per academic year.


We make substantial awards to fund student research. 

  • M.A. and Ph.D. students are eligible to apply for Graduate Research Awards of up to $1,500 to support pilot research, applications for external grant funding, archival work and travel, or other research-related costs.
  • Ph.D. students can receive up to $3500 to support their dissertation research.


We offer a reduced teaching load to allow valuable teaching experience, while providing additional time for research and professional development. 

  • Rather than the standard 2/2 teaching assistantship at most communication programs, our students teach a reduced 1/2 course load.
  • We provide all of our Ph.D. students in good standing with a semester teaching release to support the researching and writing of their dissertations.


We allow flexibility in course requirements so students get the most out of their educational experience.

  • Apart from a course that provides students with pedagogical training in their first semester (CAS 602), there are no required courses.  This means that students, working with their advisor and committee, have the freedom to shape their programs of study to best suit their professional goals.
  • Each semester, we offer 6-8 graduate seminars that address both foundational topics, such as theory construction and methodology, as well as showcasing the expertise of our graduate faculty.


We sustain a vibrant intellectual community, devoted to the development of specialized expertise in an environment that embraces the value of interdisciplinary conversations.

  • Our weekly colloquium series showcases faculty from the Department and Penn State community, while hosting 4-8 leading scholars in the discipline each year.
  • Our communication science students can participate in a Health and Risk Communication brownbag series, learn big data science through BDSS IGERT, learn new methodologies through the Methodology Center, pursue research and teaching at the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, learn to pursue fMRI research through the Social, Life, and Engineering Sciences Imaging Center, and participate in the McCourtney Institute for Democracy Roundtable.
  • Our rhetoric students can take classes in allied departments, including English, Philosophy, Sociology, History, and Media Studies, pursue graduate minors, including in Women’s Studies and the Social Thought Program, work with the Rock Ethics Institute to develop their understanding of ethics literacy and pedagogy, receive fellowships and research support through the Institute for the Arts & Humanities, work closely with the Center for Democratic Deliberation to improve public deliberation in Pennsylvania and beyond, and complete a Digital Pedagogy Graduate Internship through the Penn State Office of Digital Pedagogy and Scholarship.


For more information…

You can learn more about our graduate program, the courses we offer, our faculty, and recent Ph.D. graduates using the links on this page.  We are proud of our graduate program’s history and accomplishments, and we also are committed to building an even brighter future.  We welcome inquiries at

Penn State Graduate School