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Master of Arts in Communication Studies

SIU Communication Studies student giving presentation at podium

The MA program in Communication Studies prepares students for a variety of post-graduation paths. Many of our students go on to successful careers in communication industries, while others gain entry into top PhD programs. We're a very active program—faculty and graduate students give an average of more than 175 presentations each year at professional conferences. Our program is also home to Kaleidoscope, an annually published, refereed graduate journal of qualitative communication research. Graduate students in the program have the opportunity to review and be involved in the editorship of the journal.

The Communication Studies program sponsors a professional seminar series, teacher training workshops, and extensive production opportunities in our performance laboratory, the Marion Kleinau Theatre. We also cooperates closely with the department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at SIU, which offers an 18-hour graduate certificate program. In addition, we have an active mentoring program for first-year graduate teaching assistants and many other formal and informal projects and programs.

Degree Requirements

The MA degree requires a minimum of 30 semester credit hours. At least 15 of these hours must be at the 500 level. When completing only the minimum of 30 hours of work, you may devote no more than 9 hours outside the Department of Communication Studies. You must have a graduate grade point average of 3.00 to be eligible for the master's degree.

You must select or be assigned a faculty advisor no later than the beginning of the second semester. You and your faculty advisor will plan your program of study.

In consultation with your advisor, you may choose either of the plans listed below to meet the requirements for the master's degree. 

Compass IconCheck out the course requirements and program courses help you outline what courses you should take, and download the graduate handbook to learn more.

Areas of Emphasis

We encourage students to focus on an area of emphasis and also work across areas to form communities of learning at their intersections.

Plan 1: Thesis 

You must complete a minimum of 30 semester credit hours, with no more than 6 hours or fewer than 3 hours of thesis credit in CMST 599 counted toward the 30-hour minimum. In addition, you must register for at least one semester hour of credit in CMST 599 during any academic term in which the services of any faculty member are used in the supervision of or consultation concerning the thesis. If your reliance upon faculty assistance justifies, the graduate director may require an appropriately greater number of semester hours in CMST 599. The thesis is submitted to a committee of 3 members of the graduate faculty, at least 2 of whom must be from the Department of Communication Studies. The committee must approve the prospectus and will administer an oral examination over the thesis. You are required to submit an electronic copy of your thesis to the Graduate School, one copy to the Department of Communication Studies, and paper copy to the thesis director. 

Plan 2: Research Report 

You must complete a minimum of 30 semester credit hours, with no more than 3 hours or fewer than 1 hour of research report credit in CMST 595 counted toward the 30 hours minimum. You must submit a research report as evidence of research competence.  

An advisory committee, consisting of your advisor and one other member of the graduate faculty in the Department of Communication Studies, selected by you and your advisor, will administer an oral examination over the research report before it is submitted to the Graduate School. You must submit one copy of the research report to the Graduate School, one copy to the Department of Communication Studies, and one copy to your advisor. 


Students can work creatively in the Marion Kleinau Theatre, which is housed in the Communications building, and is a 110-seat theatre with state-of-the-art light and sound systems. Each year the theatre hosts an active performance season which includes both solo and group performances in the areas of creative adaptations of literature, original scripts, performance art, and ethnographic studies among others.


Most first year grad students on assistantship teach two sections of stand-alone versions of the basic communication course. After their first year, students can apply to teach upper level undergraduate courses, as well as for non-teaching assistantship positions.

Non-teaching assistantships are available, including opportunities to work in editing/publishing the journal Kaleidoscope, alongside students in our Speaker's Center and PRSSA, and in the Marion Kleinau Theatre. There are also a limited number of research and administrative assistantships available each year.

Financial Assistance

There are several forms of financial assistance available to graduate students enrolled in the Communication Studies program. Eligible graduate students may apply for graduate fellowships, including special fellowships from the Graduate School, which include weekly research assignments. Students may also apply for graduate assistantships which include up to twenty hours of service in teaching or research.

Program Admission

Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School and should have completed a minimum of 24 quarter or 16 credit hours in communication studies or related subjects. A program for remedying deficiencies in background can be arranged by the school’s Graduate Committee.

Inquiries regarding admission to graduate studies in communication studies should be directed to the director of graduate studies of the School of Communication Studies. 

Each applicant should apply online and upload three letters of recommendation. Official transcripts should be mailed directly to the school. In addition, applicants for the Ph.D. in Communication Studies degree program may furnish a research paper as evidence of research and writing ability.

Here is a helpful checklist with more detailed information on the application process.

International Students

International students must take the TOEFL and score at least 550 (paper score) or 80 (internet score) or have an IELTS score of 6.5 to be admitted. Students from certain countries and territories are exempt from this requirement. Please check the exempt list to see if your home country is listed.

Contact Information

Sandy Pensoneau-Conway
Program Director
Communications Building 2002
1100 Lincoln Dr.
Mailcode 6605
Carbondale, IL 62901

Rebecca Walker
Director of Graduate Studies
Communications Building 2002J
1100 Lincoln Dr.
Mailcode 6605
Carbondale, IL 62901

Walking path on SIU campus