University of Southern California
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School of Communication

Graduate Degrees

Degree Programs

The School of Communication offers programs of study leading to a professional Master of Arts degree in Communication Management, a Master of Arts in Global Communication in collaboration with the London School of Economics, and research-oriented Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Communication. In addition, special programs enable students to earn dual degrees in communication management and law (USC Gould School of Law) and in communication management and Jewish communal service (Hebrew Union College).

The degree programs are designed to ensure that students are educated in substantive studies that constitute the discipline of communication and provide a basis for competing effectively in the job market.

All students seeking the degrees in communication management and global communication will take a range of courses that prepare them for successful professional management careers in communication-related businesses, organizations and fields.

All students pursuing the research-oriented degrees are required to take two theory courses that introduce them to inquiry in human communication and two research methods courses that acquaint them with the historical/critical and social scientific techniques available to conduct scholarly research. These requirements strengthen the student's appreciation of the intellectual bases of human communication study and further the concept of a community of scholars and practitioners in the profession. Students specialize in one of four available tracks: rhetorical and critical studies; interpersonal and social dynamics; organizational communication; or mass communication, technology and public policy. In addition, students are encouraged to sample courses in the remaining tracks, thus obtaining an education of unparalleled breadth and depth.

Admission Requirements

Master of Arts in Communication Management and Master of Arts in Global Communication
The school accepts students from a broad range of academic backgrounds -- people with undergraduate degrees in the social sciences, humanities, physical sciences or professional schools. Some are employed or have worked in communication-related fields. Others apply immediately after finishing baccalaureate work. Individuals with a strong interest in moving into communication management are encouraged to apply. Most courses are offered in the evening to accommodate the working student.

Criteria: The School of Communication considers many criteria when granting entry into the master's program: not only an individual's academic record but professional, work-related accomplishments may be taken into account. Scores on the General Test of the Graduate Record Examinations or the Graduate Management Admissions Test are required, as well as transcripts of all previous college or university studies. For foreign applicants from non-English speaking countries, scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are required. Two letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant's work -- either academically or professionally -- are also required of all applicants. In addition to the examinations results and the letters of recommendation, the School of Communication also requires applicants to provide at least one writing sample and to fill out its applicant information form. The applicant's statement of professional goals is an important part of the evaluation process.

Applicants to the global communication program must also apply to the London School of Economics prior to their year in London even though admission is guaranteed to global communication students.

Procedure: Admission may be granted for fall, spring or summer although Global Communication M.A. students are recommended to begin in the fall. Deadlines are: fall -- May 1; spring -- October 1; and summer -- February 1.

Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy in Communication
Students enter graduate work from a variety of earlier academic fields and majors. Applicants whose undergraduate work was in fields other than communication may be admitted on the condition that adequate preparation in directly relevant areas is evident.

Criteria: All applicants should submit three letters of recommendation from persons qualified to comment on their capacities for a rigorous program of study. Graduate Record Examinations scores and transcripts of all previous college and university studies are required. For foreign applicants from non-English speaking countries, scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are required. Completion of a basic descriptive statistics course is recommended. In addition, all applicants are required to submit the school's applicant information form. Faculty review the applicant's statement of purpose and samples of writing.

Procedure: Admission is granted for the fall semester only. The admission application deadline for the fall semester is December 15. Applicants must take the Graduate Record Examinations prior to November 1. Students who do not meet this deadline are less likely to obtain financial support. Applications are reviewed as they are received.

Degree Requirements

The School of Communication's degrees are awarded under the jurisdiction of the Graduate School. Refer to the Requirements for Graduation section and the Graduate School section of this catalogue for general regulations. All courses applied toward the degrees must be courses accepted by the Graduate School.

Master of Arts in Communication Management

Each student's program of courses is chosen with help from an academic advisor in order to build on earlier academic and work experience and to achieve desired professional goals.

Students may pursue the Master of Arts degree on either a full- or part-time basis. Full time, the degree can be finished in 10 months; part time, all degree work can be finished in one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half years. With permission of a School of Communication committee, a maximum of 4 graduate units toward the M.A. may be transferred from another accredited institution.

Foreign Language Requirement
There are no foreign language requirements for the M.A. degree.

Research Tool Requirement
Students take one of the following courses as a corequisite with COMM 597 Communication Research Practicum: COMM 540 or COMM 587.

Course Requirements
Thirty-two units (usually eight courses) in approved graduate level course work are required. All students must complete a core course selected from COMM 500, COMM 510, COMM 520, COMM 530, COMM 533, COMM 545, COMM 560 or COMM 570, usually during their first year of study; and the capstone Communication Research Practicum (COMM 597), usually taken during their last semester. Of the remaining units, up to 8 units may be taken at USC outside the School of Communication; these courses may be selected from a variety of disciplines, depending upon student needs and career interests. All remaining course work must be chosen from Annenberg School offerings, either from the communication M.A. course list or from approved electives.

Comprehensive Examination
A comprehensive examination is required of all students. There is no thesis option. The examination is taken in the last semester of course work and is administered as the final examination of the Communication Research Practicum (COMM 597). The comprehensive examination consists of a written in-class examination.

Master of Arts in Global Communication

As the globe "shrinks" through communication and information technology, the perspectives of different cultures, transnational industries and global media become more and more important. The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) collaborates with the Annenberg School for Communication to provide the course work necessary for students to become fully engaged with the phenomenon of global communication through this double master's degree program. Upon satisfaction of all program requirements, students will be awarded a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Global Communication by USC as well as a Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Global Media and Communications, by the LSE.

This is a two-year program during which students spend their first year at the LSE and their second year at USC.

Foreign Language/Research Tool Requirements
There are no foreign language requirements. Students take a one-term research methods course as part of their course work at the LSE.

Course Requirements
The Master of Arts in Global Communication requires 42 units; 18 units earned at LSE and 24 units earned at USC.

Year at LSE: The LSE academic year has three terms. Students will complete classes approved by faculty at the LSE. Students must earn at least 3 units at LSE, which articulates to 18 units at USC.

Year at USC: Students must complete COMM 598 as well as 20 elective units (5 courses) from the School of Communication graduate curriculum, excluding COMM 525, COMM 526, COMM 550 and COMM 552. Students may choose one of their elective courses from a department outside Annenberg with the approval of their advisors.

Students will produce a final research project on global communication that will be the product of work done both at the LSE and Annenberg. Students complete a research project during the summer after their year at the LSE for which grades are awarded by LSE faculty. A passing grade is required. They will continue to develop this project during the year at Annenberg in COMM 598 and must earn a grade of B minus or higher.

Master of Arts in Communication

Individuals seeking the Master of Arts in Communication are expected to acquire and demonstrate a general knowledge of human communication, including humanistic and social scientific approaches.

The program, arranged in consultation with the school's coordinator of doctoral studies, provides two options: degree with comprehensive examination requires a total of 32 units (normally eight courses), including core courses COMM 525, COMM 526, COMM 550 and COMM 552 and four electives. Degree with thesis requires successful completion of core courses, three electives and 4 units of COMM 594ab Master's Thesis.

Not more than two approved 400-level courses may be applied to a student's program and a maximum of 4 semester units with grades of B or better may be accepted by transfer from another institution of higher learning. The minimum acceptable GPA for successful completion of this program is 3.0.

The majority of students choose the comprehensive examination option. The examination consists of six hours of writing, taken on two different days. Permission to take an M.A. degree with thesis can be obtained only by application to the school screening committee.

Doctor of Philosophy in Communication

Students in the doctoral program learn theories that guide research into communication processes and effects and into institutions and technologies that lend pattern to communication. Applicants for the Ph.D. are expected to acquire and demonstrate humanistic and behavioral knowledge of communication while acquiring skills requisite to scholarly research in the discipline.

Screening Procedures
Student progress is carefully monitored by the School of Communication faculty. Students are normally screened at the end of their first year of graduate study. At that time they must have completed no fewer than 16 and no more than 24 units, including COMM 525, COMM 526, COMM 550 and COMM 552. Students are evaluated on subject matter competence, teaching potential and their ability to conduct independent research. Upon successful passage of the screening procedure, the student has 30 days in which to form a guidance committee.

Course Requirements
The student is required to take a minimum of 64 units (normally 16 courses) and write an approved dissertation. Four core courses -- COMM 525, COMM 526, COMM 550 and COMM 552 -- and COMM 794ab Doctoral Dissertation are required for all students.

Students specialize in one of five tracks by completing a minimum of three courses (12 units) in one of the following:

(1) Rhetoric and Political Communication: COMM 509, COMM 511, COMM 512, COMM 513, COMM 514, COMM 515, COMM 517, COMM 518, COMM 521, COMM 522, COMM 580, COMM 610; (2) Media, Culture and Community: COMM 516, COMM 519, COMM 534, COMM 544, COMM 575, COMM 580, COMM 584, COMM 587, COMM 599, COMM 605, COMM 618, COMM 620, COMM 629; (3) Interpersonal and Health Communication: COMM 504, COMM 510, COMM 524, COMM 562, COMM 587, COMM 599, COMM 620, COMM 625; (4) Organizational Communication: COMM 508, COMM 585, COMM 620, COMM 635, COMM 636, COMM 637, COMM 638, COMM 640, COMM 645; (5) Information and Society: COMM 546, COMM 553, COMM 570, COMM 582, COMM 605, COMM 620, COMM 630, COMM 631, COMM 635, COMM 645, COMM 647.

In addition, students must take at least two courses in one other track outside their specialization (8 units total). Students also pursue an approved cognate elective program of study in which at least two courses (normally 8 units) are taken in a related field outside the Annenberg School. Students entering the School of Communication with a master's degree may, with permission, apply part of their previous graduate course work to the cognate requirement. Students in the organizational communication track are required to take at least two methods classes in addition to the core courses, COMM 550 and COMM 552. If taken in a department or unit other than the School of Communication, these courses cannot also be counted toward the student's cognate requirement.

Research Tool Requirement
Doctoral students are expected to demonstrate methodological competence in an area of specialization prior to taking the qualifying examination. Such competence is usually demonstrated through course work (the successful completion, with grade B or better, of selected course work in addition to their content courses that is approved by the Ph.D. guidance committee taken in the school and/or related departments), and by completion of a preliminary research project. Under special circumstances, students with an exceptional prior background in research methods may demonstrate their competence by successfully passing a research tool examination designed and administered by the Ph.D. guidance committee.

Guidance Committee
This committee is composed of five USC faculty members, at least three of whom are from the School of Communication. Students are expected to work closely with the members of their guidance committee, especially their committee chair, in selecting advanced course work and shaping areas of interest and research. In addition to helping the student plan a program, the committee administers the oral portion of the qualifying examination and approves the dissertation committee.

Qualifying Examination
Qualifying examinations for the Ph.D. usually are taken in the third year of study following completion of all required courses and a preliminary research paper. The examination includes both written and oral portions. The written portion is composed by committees of faculty in the relevant areas of study; the oral portion is administered by the student's guidance committee. Students must pass both portions to be advanced to candidacy. Students must confer with their guidance committee chair, not later than the second week of the semester during which the examinations are to be taken, regarding distribution of written examination hours among subject matter areas.

Doctoral Dissertation
The dissertation is an original research project contributing to knowledge about human communication and should demonstrate a high level of competence in methodologies of scholarly inquiry.

Defense of Dissertation
Dissertations are defended in a formal meeting with the three-member dissertation committee. The school prefers that the defense oral be taken prior to final typing so that recommended changes can be made in the final manuscript.

Dual Degree in Law (J.D.) and Communication Management (M.A.)

Academic training in law and in communication management provides a powerful background for careers in either business or government life. The USC Gould School of Law and the School of Communication collaborate in a program that enables these educational opportunities. Students complete both the J.D. and the M.A. in Communication Management in three years, the time normally required for the law degree alone.

Students must complete 20 units (five courses) of communication courses at the School of Communication. Two of the courses must be from the school's core courses; the remaining three may be from either core or elective offerings.

To earn the J.D., all students (including dual degree students) must complete 35 numerically graded law units at USC after the first year. The associate dean may make exceptions to this rule for students enrolled in Law School honors programs.

First Year: Required Law School courses.

Second and Third Years: 20 units of communication courses; 38 units of law courses, of which 8 units must be approved as appropriate for acceptance by the School of Communication toward its degree.

All students take COMM 597 in the third year.

Application to pursue the dual degree should be made before completion of 15 units of work in law or 8 units toward the M.A. Admission by the Law School to its J.D. degree will be evaluated as a substitute for GRE scores.

Dual Degree in Communication Management/Jewish Communal Service

The dual degree program, Communication Management/Jewish Communal Service, offers students the academic opportunity for advanced study of how sophisticated communication processes and technologies can impact nonprofit social services. The program has been developed by the Annenberg School for Communication and Hebrew Union College's School of Jewish Communal Service to combine the study of communication theory, processes and technologies with postgraduate education in communal service. The goal of this program is for graduates to perform more effectively in the nonprofit sector, having received specific training in areas such as organizational communication, media impacts and policy.

Students of this program are admitted separately to each school. Four of the 54 required credits of graduate course work at Hebrew Union College are used to fulfill the School of Communication's cognate option. In addition, the student will complete 24 credits of the school's course work including COMM 597, as well as the Hebrew Union College thesis requirements.

In addition to applying to the Annenberg School for Communication, those interested in this program should contact the Office of Admissions, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 3077 University Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90007-3796 for comprehensive information about its requirements.