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College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Communication Studies

Communication Studies Students

Graduate Studies


Who should I contact for more information about the graduate programs offered and application process?

Please contact the graduate student services assistant at [email protected] or 303-871-2831.

When does the department accept applications and what are the deadlines?

The communications program accepts students on a rolling basis for fall, winter and spring quarters, with the majority of students starting in fall quarter.

Applications must be submitted online. All online materials must be submitted, and all supplemental materials must be postmarked by the program's stated deadline—December 15 for Ph.D. and February 15 for M.A. fall applications and financial aid consideration for the academic year; March 15 for the following winter application; June 15 for the following spring application. Start your application. A $65 non-refundable application fee is required for an application to be processed.

When do I need to start looking for an advisor?

Upon entering the program, all students are assigned temporary advisors who serve primarily as curriculum advisors during their first year. We ask students to choose a permanent advisor during their second year of course work. This advisor will direct the student through the comprehensive examinations and/or the thesis/dissertation project (which includes advising the student in preparing questions, reading lists, committee-formation, topic choice, writing, etc.). Typically, graduate students choose permanent advisors with whom they have taken courses and whose expertise relates to their own areas of interest.

What is the average class size?

Graduate seminars typically range from 4-10, and required courses (such as the four-course methods sequence) typically range from 8-16.

May I contact other graduate students who are current students?

Absolutely. Please contact the graduate student services assistant to arrange a conversation at [email protected] or 303-871-4313. We also encourage potential applicants to visit faculty and graduate students at DU's Graduate Open House as well as the Graduate School Open House at the National Communication Association (NCA) and Western States Communication Association (WSCA) conventions.

How does the comprehensive examination process work?

For master's students—comprehensive examinations may be taken throughout the year with the exception of summer quarter. Exams taken during breaks will be reviewed the next quarter following completion of the examination. Comprehensive exam questions are developed by a minimum of three faculty members from whom the student has taken classes. The committee is selected in consultation with the advisor. The overall exam consists of three questions, one of which must address methodology. The time period for answering the questions as well as the question format is to be determined by the faculty committee. The format, faculty readers, and schedule must be specified and approved by the advisor and director of graduate studies.

For Ph.D. students—the examination preparation and administration is under the supervision of an examination committee chosen by the student in conjunction with his/her advisor. The committee consists of a minimum of two tenure-track faculty in the Department of Communication Studies. The advisor serves as the examining committee chair, who in consultation with the student, convenes the committee to prepare the examination and offers the student guidance in preparation for the meeting.

The examination consists of two mandatory parts:

Part one involves three questions generated by the examining committee designed to test the student's understanding of concepts, theories, and methodologies relevant to his or her program of study. One of the questions must pertain to methods. These questions are answered in a three day answer period for each question.

Part two requires the student to answer one question selected by the examining committee from three to five questions generated by the student for consideration. These questions are created in cooperation with the student's advisor prior to the initial comprehensive examination meeting. The selected question should have the potential of becoming an original scholarly essay that contributes to the body of knowledge in the discipline and is a way of establishing a scholarly identity. With advisor approval, it is acceptable to approach this question by writing a dissertation proposal. This question is taken over a two-week period usually starting one to two days after the last of the three-day questions.

Part three is optional. In cases in which the written answers require clarification, the examining committee may conduct an oral examination following the written portion. Since the oral examination is optional, the content to be covered will be determined by the examination committee.

Does the Department of Communication Studies offer academic workshops for students? If, so when and on what topics?

Our faculty are committed to bringing leading scholars to the campus for lectures and informal conversations with faculty and graduate students. In previous years, we have organized campus visits with Drs. Kent Ono, Sally Planalp, George Cheney, and Tom Nakayama. In addition, the faculty present professional development sessions concerning teaching and job application preparation, often in conversation with Graduate Student Association Council (see above).

Do you offer a dual degree program?

Graduate Students at DU are also encouraged to explore diverse interests by combining any two graduate programs into a "flexible dual degree" program. This allows students to structure creative curriculum programs in the pursuit of specialized career objectives. Dual degree programs allow a limited number of credits from each degree to count towards the other degree.

Students may propose any dual degree program that seems reasonable to them and their advisors for academic and career objectives, so long as the program results in two master's degrees or a master's degree and a JD degree. The student's program proposal will also preserve the core courses in each program (so course reductions are only allowed in elective courses, and no program will ever allow more than a 15 credit-hour reduction in each program). In the past, communication studies graduate students have completed dual degrees by gaining an MA in human communication alongside an MA in social work.

Applicants interested in pursuing a dual degree are required to submit applications to both programs of study through the Office Of Graduate Education.

Do you accept students into the PhD program without a master's degree?

Yes. A PhD in communication studies requires completion of 135 quarter hours beyond the bachelor's degree or 90 hours beyond the master's degree.

Does the Department of Communication Studies offer funding for students? 

We offer a number of merit-based funding opportunities for our students. These include: graduate teaching assistantships, doctoral fellowships, inclusive excellence awards and a number of endowed scholarships.

Does the department offer graduate teaching assistantships?

The department has approximately 15 graduate assistantships to award each year for doctoral students (for all returning and incoming graduate students). These are highly competitive, merit-based positions. GTIs (graduate teaching instructors) normally teach four courses over the course of three quarters, which are assigned by the director of graduate teaching instructors by summer of the forthcoming academic year. Compensation includes a full-time tuition waiver, a nine-month living stipend and health benefits.

How does the quarter system differ from the semester system?

The quarter system breaks the school year down into four terms, but students generally attend fall, winter and spring term. Quarters run for ten week sessions. Credits transferred from a semester-system institution are calculated at a 1.5 equivalency. For example, a student with 30 semester credits from a master's degree would transfer in 45 quarter hours to a PhD program. Students within the communication program normally take two five-credit courses per quarter, for a total of 30 quarter hours per year.

Do you accept other standardized entrance exams besides the GRE?

No, we rely heavily on GRE scores.