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How to Look for a Master's Program in Communications

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: SForsyth•updated: 10/31/2010

Here is a look at what things to consider when looking at graduate programs in communications, such as cost, scholarships, program details, and more.

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    Communications is often a much more abstract and less professionally oriented profession, especially as communications studies heads into a more academic place. Much of what a person does as they head into a Master's, or PhD, program in communications is intend to focus on critical work, commentary, academia, and similar professions. With this in mind, there are certain things that you will want to keep in mind when you are looking for a Master's program in communications. Here are a few tips for finding the right Master's program in communication.

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    Pay Less

    The best advice that someone can give you is to not pay for graduate school. The majority of the government sponsored subsidies for extending education do not extend all the way to the graduate level, and the federal loans cap out at $20,500 a year. Though it is not always feasible to expect that your graduate program is not going to end up costing you any money, your first priority should be the find a program that is going to offer partial or full funding for the tuition. This can happen in a number of different forms, usually in a required teaching assistantship or graduate teaching fellowship. What is great about these features is that they may even offer more than tuition renumeration and could even give you a salary and benefits. All school's are going to be different in this respect, as are all Master's programs in communications, and so you will have to look at the specifics of the programs.

    An example of this is the University of Rochester's PhD program in Visual and Cultural Studies, which really drives together the fields of art history, communication, and general social study. Here you are required to work in other departments, but all admitted students are offered full tuition renumeration. The University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication is considered one of the best journalism school's in the country, and many of the graduate students get serious tuition reimbursement and financial benefits by being GTFs who contribute greatly in the classroom. Since these degrees are so academic it is going to be important to try to avoid debt as much as possible, and since you very well may go into academia you may just want to stay somewhere that requires you to have teaching as part of your tuition reimbursement.

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    Communications can be a broad field in general, and in those working in critical fields around media, modes of communication, and new technology are not going to be universal to all schools who offer Master's programs in communication. What this means is that you should have a relatively clear idea of the course of study you want to focus in in your graduate program so that you can choose a school where the faculty, research work, and resources are poised in the direction you want to focus. For example, if you want to try to develop critical work around Frankfurt School Marxist media criticism then it is important to go to a school that deal with these complex types of media analysis, and also has strong philosophy and political science departments.

    If you want to develop modes of communication for disabled people then it would be best to be at a school that works will with disabled students and has research work in this area. If you want to study the modern media then you should stay at a school that has professional programs around media such as a film school or journalism program, and also has professors that work closely at analyzing these fields. More than this, you should look for interdisciplinary programs that will integrate other fields into your communications program so that you can really try to develop your own perspective and ways of working, which is going to be much more useful when you are trying to grow as a communications centered academic, critic, and researcher.

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    Prestige and Appropriateness

    The pedigree of a school is not always important in your graduate work, but often times you need to consider how the school looks since you will likely be applying to other schools for teaching positions. Try to look toward schools that have a good reputation and also have a trackable record of producing tenured professors. Ivy league schools, private universities, and very specific programs are all going to be good choices, but they are by no means the only ones. You are going to have to negotiate the appearance of the school with the way that it will appeal to your actual goals.