students in class

The master’s degree provides students with knowledge of communication scholarship and develops their ability to analyze complex communication situations. The program is intended to serve two groups of students: (a) those planning to pursue the PhD degree, either at CU-Boulder or at another institution; and (b) those interested in finding employment in other sectors (e.g., for-profit businesses, government, nonprofit organizations and other types of community groups). Students wishing to continue in the department’s PhD program following completion of the master’s degree must reapply at that time and be accepted into the program.

Administration of the master’s degree program conforms to all CU-Boulder graduate school rules regarding matters such as residency requirements, time for completion of degree and maximum number of transfer credit hours. The master’s program has two options for the completion of requirements: thesis or comprehensive examination.

In the first semester of the master’s program, students should consult their temporary advisor (the associate chair of graduate studies) about these two program options, appropriate coursework and faculty members who might best serve as a permanent advisor and as committee members for the program options, with students subsequently meeting with those faculty members to discuss common interests. By the second semester (before the completion of 12 credit hours), students should select a permanent advisor and decide whether they will choose the thesis or comprehensive examination option.

In the beginning of their second year (assuming a course load of 9 hours per semester), students should submit to the associate chair of graduate studies a completed MA Program of Study Form (which indicates all coursework to be completed). Students selecting the thesis option should hold a committee meeting early in that second year to approve the thesis proposal. Toward the end of their second year, a final committee meeting is held for students to orally defend the thesis or the comprehensive examination. Students must be registered on the CU-Boulder campus as regular degree-seeking students during the semester that the thesis or final comprehensive examination is passed.

For both the thesis option and the comprehensive examination option, coursework may include a maximum of 6 hours of independent study and/or internship combined. A maximum of 9 hours may be transferred from graduate work completed in/at other programs and/or institutions (including other University of Colorado campuses, such as the University of Colorado Denver). A maximum of 9 credit hours of courses may be taken outside the departmentTransfer and outside department courses combined may not exceed 12 credit hours. Courses in which a grade of C- or below is received are not counted toward the master’s degree.

Students pursuing the thesis option are required to complete a minimum of 30 graduate credit hours, including 24 credit hours of coursework (at the 5000 level or higher) and 6 thesis hours (including oral defense of the thesis; additional thesis hours cannot be taken).

Course requirements include:

  • COMM 6010 Communication Research and Theory
  • At least one methods course (COMM 6020 or 6030)
  • At least two readings courses (COMM 5210, 5320, 5425, 5620 or 5720)
  • Five additional graduate-level courses

Students choosing the thesis option should select a permanent graduate faculty advisor prior to completing 12 credits of coursework. In consultation with their advisor, students should select two additional committee members and, by the beginning of the second year (assuming a course load of 9 hours per semester), complete the MA Program of Study Form and a written thesis proposal (with the thesis designed such that it can be completed during student’s final planned semester in residence).

After the committee has read the thesis, a final oral defense is conducted in conformity with the graduate school’s rules. Students must have an affirmative vote from the majority of committee members to pass the thesis. Students who fail the thesis defense may attempt it once more after a period of time that is determined by the committee. Students who fail the second defense are dismissed from the master’s program. The final submitted thesis must comply with the CU-Boulder Graduate School rules regarding the formatting of theses and dissertations.

Students pursuing the coursework with comprehensive examination option are required to complete a minimum of 30 graduate credit hours (at the 5000 level or higher), a written comprehensive examination and an oral defense of that written comprehensive examination.

Course requirements include:

  • COMM 6010 Communication Research and Theory
  • At least one methods course (COMM 6020 or 6030)
  • At least two readings courses (COMM 5210, 5320, 5425, 5620 or 5720)
  • Seven additional graduate-level courses

Master’s students choosing the comprehensive examination option should select a permanent graduate faculty advisor prior to completing 12 credit hours. The associate chair of graduate studies automatically serves as a committee member and students, in consultation with their advisor, select a third committee member.

By the beginning of the second year of graduate work (assuming a course load of 9 hours per semester), students should complete the MA Program of Study Form. The comprehensive examination includes three questions: (a) two standardized questions, created by the associate chair of graduate studies, that are completed by all master’s students taking the examination (at the same time) that semester about communication theory (90 minutes); and about research methods (90 minutes); and a question, created by the student’s advisor, that is unique to student’s expertise area (2 hours).

A one hour oral defense then must be held within two weeks of completing the written comprehensive examination. Students must have an affirmative vote from the majority of committee members to pass the comprehensive examination.

Should the majority of committee members judge the written and/or oral performance to be unsatisfactory, students may be required to retake relevant portions of the examination (with a maximum of one opportunity to retake the examination). Prior to retaking the comprehensive examination, students may be required to complete additional coursework and/or research projects. Retaking the comprehensive examination must include another oral defense. Students who retake the comprehensive examination but do not complete it in a satisfactory manner are dismissed from the master’s program.

See the Graduate Program Handbook for more information.

For additional information on the Graduate Program, contact:

Professor Ted Striphas
Associate Chair of Graduate Studies
Department of Communication
University of Colorado Boulder
ted.striphas@Colorado.EDU
(303) 492-9872