Degree Requirements


Students must complete a minimum of 33 semester hours of credit in approved 500-level courses. This includes 6 hours for thesis work. A minimum of 24 semester hours must be completed at the University of South Alabama. At least 27 semester hours must be taken in communication.

Non- Degree Seeking Requirements

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

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 up to 6 of the 33 required graduate hours outside of the Communication Department. Students should work closely with their advisors to develop a plan of study.

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 1 and 3 credit hours in CA 594 courses with course requirements determined accordingly. 

Students may take a maximum of 3 hours in directed study coursework. 

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 a failing grade in any graduate course may be dismissed from the program. 

Time Limitations

All degree requirements must be completed within 7 calendar years. Most students who take 9 hours per semester complete the degree within a 2-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.

Course Load

Two or three courses (6-9 credit hours) per semester constitute a full-time course load.

Written Qualifying Examinations

All degree candidates must successfully complete a written qualifying examination after successful completion of all core requirements and before the student completes 24 credit hours.  The exam lasts 4 hours and covers material from Department graduate core courses.  It provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate independent thought and depth of understanding of the discipline. Using examples from the area of specialization, students should be prepared to demonstrate the ability to:

  • Conceptualize problems
  • Create and critique research designs
  • Evaluate literature, research theories, models, and methodologies
  • Discern, discuss, and explain substantive issues, problems, trends, alternative perspectives and research approaches in both general and specific areas.

The qualifying examination may be attempted no more than 2 times.

A student who fails this examination must wait until the next, regularly scheduled examination before repeating it. Failure of the examination on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program.


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.