Programs leading to the master's degree may be constructed to meet a variety of objectives. For some students, a master's program is a continuation of liberal education, sometimes in preparation for professional training (e.g., business school or law school). For others, the master's program is the beginning of training as a research scholar and/or teaching professor. For some, it is a course of career-oriented training in some aspect of applied communication theory and research. The diversity of courses in the department, and the availability of cognate work in other departments, permit each student to shape a program of study tailored to individual needs. It is assumed, however, that all students' objectives are best served by a program that provides some breadth as well as specific grounding in one or more areas of communication theory and research. Although there are no specific courses required of all students, each person is encouraged to master certain knowledge and skills. Students are urged to take coursework that involves exposure to both the humanistic and social-scientific aspects of the field, and to acquire familiarity with various research methods (e.g., historical, critical, qualitative, and quantitative methods).


1. Thirty-two hours of credit minimum. Twelve of the 32 hours must be in courses numbered 500 and above with at least eight of these in the department.

2. At least 16 hours must be in courses meeting on the Urbana-Champaign campus or in courses meeting in other locations approved by the Graduate College for residence credit.

3. A thesis is optional. The thesis must meet requirements set forth in Instructions for Preparation of Theses. If a thesis is submitted, the candidate's committee must conduct an oral examination on the thesis.

4. A minimum grade point average of 2.75 on a 4.0 scale.

5. Completion of the degree within five years after initial registration in the Graduate College.


1. Thirty-two hours of credit are required (though some students without adequate preparation may be required to take more than this minimum number of hours). Of the 32 required hours, no more than eight hours may be outside the department. (A student might take more than eight outside hours, but only eight may count toward the 32 hours required for the degree.)

2. Only four hours of independent study (CMN 595) may be counted toward the 32 required hours. Special topics courses using an independent study number (e.g., CMN 595) do not come under this limitation if they meet as regular courses or seminars. Only eight hours of thesis credit may be counted toward the 32 required hours (note that although the Graduate College would permit 12 hours of thesis credit to count toward the hour degree, the Department accepts no more than eight hours of credit for a thesis).

3. The student's course work must be approved by a faculty advisor who is a member of the Graduate Faculty with an appointment in Communication.

4. Each candidate must pass a final written comprehensive examination based primarily upon the student's coursework.


All M.A. students take a final, written comprehensive examination (this is so even if you choose to write a thesis). The exam is prepared by the advisor and the candidate's examination committee. The examination committee is established by request of the candidate, in consultation with the advisor, and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. The examination committee must be composed of three or more faculty members (the advisor plus two others), all of whom must be members of the Graduate Faculty; at least half of the committee members must be departmental faculty. Only students in good standing who can complete all requirements during the current term and who have no ABS, DFR (temporarily deferred), or I (incomplete) grades (other than thesis hours) are admitted to the examination. A student need not be enrolled to take the examination.

Scheduling the Examination: Particulars concerning the scheduling of the examination, the physical location, the writing apparatus to be used, and the like are all matters at the discretion of the advisor. However, a student who expects to receive the master's degree in the term in which the examination is written should know that there are deadlines each term by which the Director of Graduate Studies must receive the committee's evaluation if graduation is to be possible. These deadlines generally fall about four weeks before the end of a term. As a practical matter, one who hopes to receive the master's degree in the term in which the examination is written should plan on writing the examination at least eight weeks before the end of the semester so as to allow time for evaluation of the examination. In addition, students who plan to apply for continuation in a Ph.D. program should make every effort to schedule comprehensive examinations so that the results will be known before their applications to continue are reviewed. That deadline is December 15 each year.

Examination Form and Procedures: The comprehensive examination is focused on the student's mastery of information gained from coursework taken to fulfill the requirements of the master's degree. Although examining committees have some leeway in designing examinations, the standard examination consists of seven one-hour questions: six questions based on courses taken by the student and one general question. The examination is thus seven hours in length. The standard procedures are as follows:

1. Reviewing completed coursework
The student and advisor should review the student's completed courses to ensure that all Graduate College and department requirements have been met. The student and advisor should complete the MA Student Course List form and give it to the Director of Graduate Studies. The form can be found here.

2. Appointing the examining committee
The student should consult with the advisor a couple of months before the examination is to be taken. Student and advisor should identify two other faculty members who, with the advisor, will compose the examining committee. The Director of Graduate Studies should be notified of the committee membership.

3. Identifying areas for examination
The student should provide the advisor with a list of courses completed or in progress and their instructors. The student and advisor will usually identify six courses over which the student will be examined. The advisor then solicits a question for each of these six courses and prepares a seventh, general question. It is customary for the student to consult each questioner for advice on preparing for the examination, but the kind and amount of advice given is at the discretion of the questioner. Courses outside the department are eligible for inclusion in the comprehensive exam.

4. Scheduling the exam
If the advisor approves, the student may take the examination over two days (though not more than eight days apart) rather than in a single day. Typically the advisor is present to administer and collect the exam. If the examination is taken on two days, then for each day the student will designate the courses whose questions will comprise that day's examination. The student will also designate the day on which the general question will be answered. (For example: the student designates the questions from courses A, B, C, and D as comprising the examination for Day 1; and designates the general question and the questions from courses E and F as comprising the examination for Day 2.)

5. Evaluating the exam
After the examination has been written, the advisor distributes the answers first to the individual questioners (the instructors of the six courses) who are asked to give an evaluation of the answer. Once the evaluations of the individual questioners have been returned to the advisor, the advisor circulates the entire examination (the six course-related answers, with evaluations, and the general question answer) to the examination committee. The committee as a whole then meets (or corresponds) to discuss its evaluation of the examination as a whole.

The examining committee evaluates the examination as Pass, Fail, or Continued. If the examination is judged to be a failure, the student is dropped from candidacy for an advanced degree. If the committee wishes to continue the examination, the committee will reexamine the student (over the whole of the examination or any portion of it) by whatever written or oral means it deems appropriate (e.g., another similar examination, an essay, an oral examination); such re-examination will continue until the committee reaches a judgment of Pass or Fail.

6. Reporting the results
The advisor should notify the Director of Graduate Studies of the outcome of the student's exam by completing a Report of MA Examining Committee form. The form can be found on the department web site here.

Many students continue for a Ph.D. after completing an M.A., but continuation is not automatic. Master's students who wish to continue as Ph.D. students must apply to do so. The deadline for applications is December 15. Applicants must (a) submit a personal statement indicating their desire to be considered for continuation; (b) arrange for three current letters of recommendation (e.g., from members of the comprehensive examination committee); and (c) provide a new sample of academic writing completed while an M.A. student. Applicants may also provide whatever other materials they think appropriate.

The decision on admission to the Ph.D. program is made by the departmental Committee on Graduate Admissions and Financial Aid. The committee considers each case in the context of the general pool of applicants for the doctoral program, those from outside as well as within the department. Just as it does with outside applicants, the committee may solicit additional information from internal applicants (for example, the committee may request that the student submit a preliminary program of study approved by a Ph.D. program planning committee). Because admission decisions (including decisions about continuation by master's students) are made in the spring, students are advised to plan their work so that an application for continuation in the Ph.D. program can be submitted in timely fashion (specifically, by the December 15 application deadline).


In a bureaucracy such as the University of Illinois, merely completing all degree requirements will not yield a degree. One's papers must be in order. A key to having one's papers in order is having one's name on the official degree list for the desired graduation date. Thus, if you are expecting to receive a degree you should do two things:

1. Arrange to get your name on the appropriate degree list. This must be done with Enterprise Self-service

If you are registering in the term in which you expect to graduate, watch the screens of BANNER for the question: Do you expect to receive a degree at the end of this term? Answer Yes.

2. Tell the Director of Graduate Studies that you are expecting to receive a degree at the given graduation date. (This way, when the preliminary version of the degree list is received by the department, the list will be checked to ensure that your name appears on it.)

If you do not do these things, then no matter what else you have done, you might not graduate, because only those on The Degree List graduate.

One need not be enrolled to graduate. One can graduate in August, for example, without having been enrolled in the summer session. Doctoral candidates must be enrolled in the term in which the final oral examination (the dissertation defense) is held, but they need not be enrolled in the term in which the final copy of the dissertation is deposited.

For each graduation, there is a deadline by which the appropriate examining committee (the comprehensive examination committee for master's students, the final dissertation examination committee for doctoral students) must convey its evaluation to the Director of Graduate Studies. The exact deadlines vary from year to year and are available at the Graduate College web page here. A student who hopes to make a certain graduation date will need to plan so that the Director of Graduate Studies will be able to certify (by the deadline) that all degree requirements have been met.

Checklist for M.A. Students