Graduate Programs

M.A. Media Studies

Master of arts in media studies is an academic program that involves students in the systematic study of mass media.


The objective of the program is to enable students to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the systems, processes, networks, cultures and information associated with mass media. Programs of study are carefully tailored to individual student objectives. M.A. student capstone research and theses projects connect theory with practice.

Program Preparation

The program prepares students for doctoral study in mass communications and for professional positions in business and government requiring a comprehensive understanding of the historical, social and political implications of the media in society and advanced research skills to critically evaluate the processes and effects of the media.

Students graduating from this program will be especially well qualified to organize research projects, to critically evaluate research reports and to directly influence mass media practices by the application of research findings.

Degree Requirements

  1. Discussion and approval of the general program plan
  2. Demonstrated understanding of a broad range of theories and issues connected to the study of media
  3. A minimum of 36 credits
    (In some cases, students may be required to take additional credits in order to make up deficiencies in undergraduate coursework)
  4. A minimum of 18 credits at the 500-600 level
  5. A minimum of 15 credits in communications coursework
  6. At least three credits of coursework in communications research methodology
  7. No more than six credits earned in independent study (596). (Normally 596 should not be used for work directly related to thesis research and writing. 600-level credits should be used for that purpose.)
  8. Approval of the thesis proposal
  9. A total of six credits of COMM 600 (Thesis Research) within the minimum 36 credit hours
  10. An oral examination in defense of the thesis
  11. Submit a bound thesis to college graduate office

Degree Completion Time

In most cases satisfactory completion of coursework and thesis requires two years.

Master’s in Media Studies Program Outline

  • Proseminar (3 credits)
    • COMM 515 MA Proseminar in Mass Communications
  • Research Requirements -- Required of all MA Students (3-6 credits)
    • COMM 506 Quantitative Research Methods
    • AND/OR COMM 511 Qualitative Research Methods
    • Often, in practice, students’ faculty committees recommend both methods courses.
  • Supporting Courses in Communications (a majority of coursework must be in Comm)
    • The remaining credits are selected in close consultation with their adviser and committee as part of a carefully crafted program plan.
  • Courses Outside the College
    • Courses outside of Comm may—in many cases, should—be incorporated into program plans.
    • Related courses from other academic areas may be included at the discretion of the student’s committee. These courses may be subject to space availability, the permission of the instructor and prerequisites or their equivalent.
  • Thesis Credits (6 credits maximum)
    • COMM 600

Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate Degree

The Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications offers academically qualified students enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts program in the Bellisario College the opportunity to earn both the B.A and the M.A. upon completion of five years of study. The Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate Program in Media Studies facilitates the advanced study of communications research and thesis development through a carefully organized selection of undergraduate courses, graduate seminars and directed research projects.

JD-MA Joint Degree

Penn State Law and the Bellisario College offer a joint degree leading to a Juris Doctor (J.D.); and a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Media Studies. Students must apply to Penn State Law and the Bellisario College Media Studies program separately and must meet each school's admissions requirements.