Graduate Studies

Graduate Students
The master of arts in communication is a broad-based degree program that integrates theoretical and research components of mass communication and organizational and rhetorical communication. The program is designed to prepare recent graduates and experienced professionals for doctoral studies, professional advancement and personal enrichment. 

The department’s graduate faculty combines applied knowledge with communication theory and works to engage students to think critically as they address communication practices and issues. Courses examine how communication creates, sustains and changes personal lives, organizations, political and cultural institutions and society. 

The program curriculum consist of 34 credit hours, including a 10-hour core, elected courses from the communication and other university departments and a final project or thesis. 

For a list of forms from the graduate school, click here.

Graduate Faculty



All applications must be approved by the Graduate Program Coordinator, the Director for Graduate Studies for the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate Dean. Students must also meet the following requirements for admission in the graduate program. 


Students must submit a satisfactory score on the general portion of the Graduate Record Examination or the Graduate Management Admissions Test. The scores required for regular admission are: 

GRE: For exams taken after November 1, 2011, the required score is 297 or more combined points on the quantitative and verbal portions. 

GMAT: A combined score of 1,000 or more when calculated as follows: 200 x undergraduate GPA + GMAT Score.

Earned graduate degree: An earned graduate degree may substitute for graduate entry exam scores. Students must submit a written request along with evidence of the degree to the graduate director for review.

Undergraduate requirements

Students must submit official copies of undergraduate transcripts indicating the following: 
  • A minimum grade point average of 3.0. 
  • A major in communication or 15 semester hours in communication. A bachelor's degree in a field related to communication or a master's  degree earned in a field other than communication may be offered as a substitute for a major in communication. Students must submit written request for review to the graduate director. 

International students

Students who are required to take the English Language Proficiency Examination and whose scores suggest an English language deficiency must take the appropriate English as a Second Language courses. These courses are not counted as part of the 34-hour degree program.
International students must submit the following:
  • Documentation of TOEFL test scores of at least 525 (197 on computer based test) or 71 on Internet based test.

Provisional Admission

Students who do not meet the requirement for regular admission apply for provisional admission if they meet the following standards. 


GRE: For exams taken after November 1, 2011, the required score is 286 or more combined points on the quantitative and verbal portions.  For exams taken prior to November 1, 2011, the required score is 200 or more combined points on the quantitative and verbal portions. 

GMAT: A combined score of 1,000 or better when calculated as follows: 200 x undergraduate GPA + GMAT score. 

Undergraduate Requirements

Students must submit official copies of undergraduate transcripts indicating the following:

  • A minimum grade point average of 2.5 on all undergraduate work or a 2.75 on the last 64 hours of  undergraduate work.
  • An undergraduate major or minor in communication or 15 completed semester hours in communication. 

Provisional students will be eligible for regular standing after accruing at least nine 500-level semester hours (usually three courses) taken for graduate credit toward the degree requirements with at least a 3.0 GPA. Provisional students who do not have a 3.0 GPA after completing 15 hours of course work will be subject to dismissal from the program. 

Filing for Regular Status 

After successfully completing 9 hours of graduate course work with a 3.0 average, students must complete a Change of Status Form (GS Form 2A) and submit it to an academic advisor for approval. The graduate coordinator and the Graduate School must also approve the status change. 

Applications for regular status must be submitted prior to completion of 16 credit hours in communication. 

Provisional students may take courses outside the department, but they may not request a change of status until they have completed 9 hours in the communication department. 

Non-degree Seeking Status

Students may register for and complete up to five courses without formal entrance into the program. Online application procedures can be found here.

Degree Requirements and Courses  

Students must complete a minimum of 34 semester hours of credit in approved 500-level courses. This includes three hours for thesis or project work. A minimum of 24 semester hours must be completed at the University of South Alabama. At least 25 semester hours must be taken in communication.

Core courses 

For students with an undergraduate degree in communication, the normal requirements consist of the following 3 courses. These courses must be completed at the University of South Alabama.

CA 500, Introduction to Graduate Studies in Communication. Students must take CA 500 before or concurrently with their first 500-level classes, or be given permission by the graduate studies coordinator to delay enrollment in CA 500.

CA 502, Communication Theory (generally offered in the fall semester)

CA 503,  Quantitative Communication Research Methods  (generally offered in the spring semester)

Although students are advised to take CA 502 and CA 503 sequentially, they are not required to do so.

Remaining Courses

With advisor approval, students may take nine of the 34 required graduate hours outside of the communication department.

Directed Studies – CA 594 
Directed study courses involve independent study of a communication topic. The purpose is to provide study in an area of specialization not covered by an existing course. Students must submit topic proposals to a graduate faculty member. Once the topic is approved, both the faculty member and the students must sign a contract describing student expectations and outcomes and grading criteria. Students can register for between one and three credit hours in CA 594 courses with course requirements determined accordingly. 


Students may take a maximum of 6 hours in directed study coursework. 

Students may do an internship as a directed study, but they may complete only one internship for graduate credit and may not earn credit for an internship project. Students must submit internship proposals to their course director for approval before registering. See page 13 for a proposal outline. 

Special Topics 
There is no limit on the number of special topics courses you can take, but you may not repeat a course with the same content. 

Transfer Credit 
Students may not transfer core courses. Students may submit up to 9 hours of graduate course work for transfer consideration. The submissions must include a thorough course description and a statement describing how the transfer credit fits into the South Alabama program. The graduate coordinator and department chair must approve the request before the hours can be applied to a degree. Hours used toward another degree may not be transferred. 

Grade Requirements 

A minimum of a 3.0 GPA on all work attempted is required for graduation. Courses in which a student receives a “D” or below will not be counted toward the degree program. A maximum of two courses with a grade of “C” will be counted toward the degree program. Students receiving three grades of “C” or below, regardless of the overall GPA, will be dismissed from the program. Students receiving an “F” in any graduate course may be dismissed from the program. 

Time Limitations 

All degree requirements must be completed within seven calendar years. Most students who take nine hours per semester complete the degree within a two-year period. The time required for degree completion depends on how many courses a student can take each semester and the ability of that student to complete the thesis or final project. 

Course Load

Two or three courses (6-10 credit hours) per semester constitute a full-time course load.

Thesis/ Non-Thesis

Students who wish to pursue a doctorate degree are encouraged to conduct original research and complete a master’s thesis. Students who do not plan to continue their graduate education may opt to complete a professional project or a thesis. 
Thesis Guidelines
The master's thesis is a capstone experience of the master's degree candidate and offers evidence of the student's original research and writing ability. In completing the thesis, the student demonstrates the ability to conduct independent research. 

The graduate student has the primary responsibility for the thesis research and writing. The student is responsible for ensuring that the thesis manuscript meets accepted standards for scholarly writing, including spelling, punctuation, and grammar. The student should read the Graduate School ’s Thesis Guidelines thoroughly and know the requirements and guidelines for preparation of the thesis.
The guide is found here.

The student also should identify and become familiar with a recognized academic style manual appropriate to his/her academic discipline. Both documents should be used in the preparation of the thesis. Other student responsibilities include:

Academic Honesty
Students are expected to conduct themselves in an absolutely and uncompromisingly honest manner. Evidence of plagiarism may result in program dismissal. 

Institutional Review Board
By federal law, all research involving human or animal subjects requires prior ethical review and approval by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Copies of the necessary forms and instructions for submission are available here

Copyright Permission
The student has the responsibility to obtain permission to include (or quote) copyrighted material unless the student is the owner of the copyright or unless the material meets the "fair use" criteria.

The thesis advisor must be a member the graduate faculty, and he/she accepts and assumes the major responsibility to work directly with the graduate student in the research or creative project. 

The thesis committee is comprised minimally of the thesis advisor, a second departmental reader and an outside reader. The members of the committee are available to the student for consultation and advisement. 

The graduate school oversees and implements all policies and procedures governing graduate theses. Students are responsible for reviewing these policies and ensuring that they have followed the guidelines for preparing a thesis. Click for forms, deadlines, and documents.

Steps and Timing
Please check the graduate school calendar for submission deadlines each semester by clicking hereAs soon as possible, the student selects a thesis topic and chooses a suitable chair, department committee member, and a committee member from an outside department. Ideally, the student writes a thesis proposal and submits it to the chairperson and the committee for approval during his or her final semester of coursework. Once all course work is completed, the student may register for thesis hours. 

Once the committee approves the proposal, the student submits the proposal to the Director Graduate Studies in College of Arts and Sciences for approval. 

Once the proposal is approved, the student is solely responsible for submitting appropriate research material to the Institutional Review Board for approval. 

Recommended proposal timeline:
  • Mid-April of the spring semester for fall graduation. 
  • Mid-April of the spring semester for summer graduation if summer graduation is approved by the committee.
  • Mid-October of the fall semester for spring graduation. 

The chair of the committee responds by early December for the fall semester and mid-April for the spring semester.

A student must complete the appropriate paperwork and register for the professional research hours during the semester in which the thesis will be completed and defended. Students must confer with their thesis chair before enrolling for research credit. 

Working backward from the defense date, the student is encouraged to provide the thesis to the chair six weeks before the defense and a revised copy to the committee three weeks before the defense. Graduate School deadlines must be followed for scheduling and administering the final presentation and defense, which must be undertaken and passed no later than one week prior to the Graduate School ’s deadline for submitting material for graduation. Deadline dates in a given semester are available here

After the thesis defense, the student must meet with the Director of Graduate Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences for final approval and submit the appropriate signed forms. 

The Proposal (10-20 double spaced pages)
The student must do enough preliminary research to be able to present a well-defined topic for the research paper and project. The proposal must contain: 
  • A statement of rationale, including research questions and/or thesis statement. 
  • A description of the method to be employed in carrying out the research. 
  • A comprehensive literature review. 
  • A selected bibliography and/or list of individuals to be consulted or interviewed 
  • A project timetable. 
  • A list of instrument or scales to be used in research study.
The research proposal must be a properly cited paper examining the context and history of the subject to be addressed. It should contain a review of previous coverage of the subject as well as the appropriate communication theory. Citation must be in a style appropriate for the research method. (Chicago/Turabian, APA, Bluebook). The proposal must be comprehensive so that the full committee, at its first meeting with the student, has all the information needed to determine the project’s feasibility and merit. The student must stay in close contact with the committee chair regarding further meetings. The committee decides what, if any, additional work, must be completed before the project is approved. 

The Research
Once the proposal is approved and all IRB requirements are met, the student may begin the research. The thesis should contain a comprehensive description and analysis of the research method and findings as well as discussion and conclusion. 
Project Guidelines
All projects must be comprised of new material, not used for any other class, and must be focused on a single topic area of social, professional or community significance. 

Students will select professional projects based on their areas of interest and expertise. The following suggestions may provide some guidance in project selection. Students, however, are encouraged to propose new project ideas that may not be listed here. 

Students who select the project option will work under the guidance of two members of the communication graduate faculty. 

The professional project represents a student’s culminating work and should be the best and most creative effort displayed during the degree program. 

The project has four parts: 
  • Written proposal (5-10 pages) 
  • Background paper with proper citations and bibliography (10-15 pages) 
  • Document representing the student work 
  • Written self-critique (2-4 pages)
Steps and Timing 
During the final semester of coursework, the student selects a topic and chooses a suitable chair and committee member. Ideally, the student writes a project proposal and submits it to the chairperson and the committee member for approval during his or her final semester of coursework. Once all course work is complete, the student may register for project hours. 

Recommended proposal dates:
  • Mid-April of the spring semester for fall graduation 
  • Mid-April of the spring semester for summer graduation if summer graduation is approved by the committee. 
  • Mid-October of the fall semester for spring graduation. 

The chair responds by early December for the fall semester and mid-April for the spring semester. 

Once the proposal is approved, the student is solely responsible for submitting appropriate research material to the Institutional Review Board for approval. For details, visit the Research Compliance website.

A student must complete the appropriate paperwork and register for the professional project during the semester in which it will be completed and defended. Students must confer with the committee chair before enrolling for professional project credit. 

During the first week of the project completion semester the student must submit the revised proposal, approved by the chair, to the other committee member. The student is encouraged to set up a committee meeting by mid-September in the fall, late January in the spring, or early June if summer is approved. The student and committee members will discuss the project and approve if appropriate. The defense date is also set. 

Working backward from the defense date, the student is encouraged to provide the research paper to the chair four weeks before the defense and a revised copy to the committee three weeks before the defense. 

Once the project has received committee approval, the student must submit two bound copies printed on 100 percent cotton paper to the department’s graduate director. 

The Proposal
The student must do enough preliminary research to be able to present a well-defined topic for the research paper and project. The proposal must contain:
  • A statement or rationale, including a description of the target audience. 
  • A description of the method to be employed in carrying out the project. 
  • A complete literature review. 
  • A selected bibliography and/or list of individuals to be consulted or interviewed. 
  • A description of the project evaluation method. 
  • A project timetable.
The proposal must be comprehensive so that the full committee, at its first meeting with the student, has all the information needed to determine the project’s feasibility and merit. The student must stay in close contact with the committee chair regarding further meetings. The committee decides what, if any, additional work, must be completed before the project is approved. 

The Research
The research paper must be a properly cited paper examining the context and history of the subject to be addressed. It should contain a review of previous coverage of the subject as well as the appropriate communication theory. Citation must be in a standard style (Chicago/Turabian, APA or MLA).

This paper must be completed and submitted to the committee before the professional project begins. Once the paper is submitted, the full committee will meet with the student to review and discuss the paper and upcoming project.

Professional project examples 
The creation and implementation of a comprehensive advertising or public relations campaign including comprehensive pre and post campaign research. 
The planning and implementation of a professional conference or significant special event. 
The creation of a substantial public relations publication. 
The completed production one 15-minute or 10-page story or a series of small stories at total at least 15 minutes or 10 pages. 
The creation and implementation of a comprehensive organizational communication audit.
Internship Project
Students may opt to complete a semester-length approved internship, at least 20 hours per week, to fulfill the requirements of a graduate project. Internship projects also require a written paper containing a theoretical analysis of the professional experiences and/or a work-related case study. Students must also submit weekly work logs to the directing professor. 

The student must select a member of the graduate faculty member to oversee the internship and paper and a second departmental committee member. 

Students who completed an internship for directed study credit may not register for an internship project. 

The internship proposal should include:
What do you want to do and why? 
Why is it important?
The Theory Component
List the theories/theory that you plan to use in your analysis.
Discuss how the theories may relate to your work.
Include a bibliography of articles that discuss the theory.

The Job
Describe the organization and its purpose.
List your supervisor, his/her title and responsibilities.
Describe the department.
Describe your job.
Describe your hours and the job location.

Describe the importance of the work and paper and discuss how it will help you educationally and professionally.

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistantships may be awarded to qualified graduate students by a competitive application process. Assistants currently receive an $8,000 academic-year stipend ($4,000 per semester) and a tuition waiver for up to 10 semester credit hours each term of the appointment. Students are assigned departmental positions that focus on teaching or research. Some fees, such as computer and student activity fees, are the student’s responsibility. 

Students must complete a graduate assistantship application, GS Form 12, and submit three letters of recommendation. Students who wish to teach must also submit a statement describing their teaching philosophy. Students are encouraged to submit their completed application at least two months before the assistantship is scheduled to begin. If positions remain open, later applications may be considered. 

Graduate forms, including an assistantship application, can be found here.

Students with research assignments assist department faculty in research and office administration, help with special projects, and provide support or course instruction. 

Students with teaching responsibilities generally assist with the teaching of two sections of CA 110, public speaking, and attend weekly staff meetings. These graduate assistants are responsible to the Instructor of Record for the particular course. Teaching assistants are expected to strictly adhere to the guidelines set forth in the teaching assistants manual. Failure to do so may result in dismissal. 

Other responsibilities include: 

  • Working at least 20 hours per week.
  • Registering for at least 6 hours of course work. 
  • Reporting for work at the beginning of registration each semester. Final exam week is also a work week. 
  • Establishing regular office hours and keeping a weekly log of hours worked and work completed.
Evaluation and Renewal 
Assistantship renewal is contingent upon evaluations from the supervising faculty member, the graduate coordinator and the department chair. Renewal of an assistant-ship for a second semester or year is contingent upon remaining in good standing in department, satisfactory performance of duties, and financial exigency of the University. Failure to complete a given semester’s duties will necessitate reimbursement of tuition fees to the university. Students with full-time jobs are not eligible for assistant-ships. Students with part-time jobs must submit a written request for approval from the graduate coordinator and the department chair. Assistant-ships may not exceed two years. 

Graduate assistants are responsible for adhering to all rules and policies set for by the Graduate School.


Candidates for the master’s degree must apply for the degree approximately six months in advance of the anticipated graduation date. The Registrar’s Office oversees the process and requires an application fee. Once the application is submitted, the Registrar’s Office completes a checklist to determine if all requirements are met.

Graduate Faculty  


Mia L. Anderson – Assistant Professor, B.A., University of Georgia; M.A., University of Tennessee; Ph.D., University of Alabama. Research interests: advertising, public relations, and media history.

James L. Aucoin  Professor, B.A., University of Missouri-Kansas City; M.A., University of Colorado-Boulder; Ph.D., University of Missouri School of Journalism. Research interests: journalism, ethics and history. 

Delwar Hossain –Assistant Professor, B.A. and M.A. University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, M.A. Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Ph.D. Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Research interests: social media, new media, diaspora, international communication, political communication, journalism studies, and media ethics

Patricia Mark – Associate Professor, B.A. and M.B.A., University of South Alabama; Diplome D’estudes Superieures Commercials, Administrative et Financieres, Pau, France; Ph.D. University of Southern Mississippi. Research interests: advertising, public relations and integrated marketing communication. 

Reginald F. Moody – Associate Professor, B.A. and M.A., University of South Alabama; Ph.D., the University of Southern Mississippi. Research interests: mass media, advertising and public relations.

Steven Rockwell – Associate Professor, B.A., University of South Alabama; M.A. and Ph.D., University of Alabama. Research interests: new technology and broadcasting.

Jessica Sheffield – Assistant Professor, B.A., University of South Alabama; M. A., Pennsylvania State University; Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University. Research interests: rhetoric, technology, social movements, and environmental communication.

Richard Ward – Associate Professor, B.A., University of Southern California; M.S., University of Southern Mississippi; Ph.D., University of Texas-Austin. Research interests: television and film history.