Study for the master's degree takes students beyond undergraduate work in both scope and depth to meet a variety of interests. Some M.A. students aspire to positions in business, in government, or in teaching, while others see the master's degree as one stage on the road to a doctoral program.
Completion of the M.A. program of study requires a minimum of thirty-two hours of graduate credit. For a student holding a half-time assistantship, thirty-two hours can be completed in two semesters plus a summer session (though most students take more time than this). The program may include eight hours in courses outside the department. Each candidate builds an individualized program with the counsel of an adviser chosen by the student or assigned by the Director of Graduate Study.
Each candidate must pass a final comprehensive examination prepared and supervised by the adviser and the candidate's examination committee based primarily on courses taken. A master's thesis is optional.
Students in the M.A. program who wish to continue in the Ph.D. program must apply to do so. Admission to the Ph.D. program is not automatic but rather is based on evaluation of the student's total record including performance in the master's program and recommendations from department faculty.
Beginning Fall 2010, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign made available a new online degree: a Master of Science in Health Communication.
The degree, delivered completely online, is offered through the College's Department of Communication. Students who aspire to become communication specialists within health environments comprise the target audience for the program.
Faculty members associated with this degree program are engaged in cutting-edge research and teaching that addresses major societal challenges related to communication and health. Major areas of research and teaching will study the relationship between communication and health in interpersonal (e.g., family communication and health, doctor-patient communication, social networks and social support), organizational (e.g., communication about health care reform, health delivery systems and communication patterns, health care teams and decision making), and mediated contexts (e.g., health campaigns, the influence of media on health attitudes and behaviors, health informatics). Students will complete 32 hours of coursework to receive a Master of Science degree in Health Communication. Coursework will include four hours of Health Communication Research Methods and four hours of a Capstone Individual Study project. Participants will require a computer with an Internet connection and will also be engage in class sessions with fellow students by means of an online learning management system such as Moodle or Elluminate.
Doctoral programs exist to train research scholars, and the Ph.D. degree is awarded to persons who have demonstrated a capacity for making a contribution to knowledge. This does not mean, however, that everyone who earns a doctoral degree becomes an academic. The Ph.D. programs in the Department of Communication are designed to prepare persons both for college and university teaching and for those other professions where extensive knowledge of theory and research concerning communication is needed. The department trains persons for research and teaching within most of the major domains of the study of human communication, as discussed above, but there are no fixed 'tracks' to constrain a student's definition of a field of interest. Each Ph.D. candidate plans an individual program of study and research with the help of an adviser and a program planning committee.
In brief, the main requirements for the Ph.D. degree are: (1) the successful completion of a program of coursework designed by the students, a faculty adviser, and a program planning committee; (2) demonstrated proficiency in research methods, ordinarily accomplished by successful completion of appropriate courses in research methods; (3) passing a preliminary examination that has both a written component (addressing general questions concerning the field, questions on research methods, and questions on the candidate's areas of special competency) and an oral component (an oral examination by the student's committee concerning the written examination); and (4) successfully completing and defending a dissertation. There are a number of specifications and other requirements not described here (e.g., a requirement that two successive semesters must be spent in residence), but those listed are the central requirements. A minimum of three years of graduate study beyond the M.A. is usually needed to complete all the requirements for the doctoral degree.