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Department of Communication Studies College of Arts & Letters

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Graduate Program in Communication Studies

M.A. in Communication Studies


The graduate program in Communication Studies at Sacramento State is a rigorous, methods-driven program designed to increase theoretical and applied understanding of human communication. Our courses are taught by award-winning faculty with expertise across communication studies, including Mass Media, Organizational, International, Intercultural, Interpersonal, Rhetorical, Political and Instructional Communication.

The 30-unit program has an excellent track record of preparing students for doctoral study as well as entering communication professions. Details:

  • Small class sizes with lots of instructor-student interaction
  • Culminating experiences include thesis, project or comprehensive exams
  • Funding via paid Teaching Assistantship and Graduate Assistantship program
  • Evening classes to accommodate working professionals
  • Research and internship opportunities
  • Fall and Spring admissions

To learn more, please review the Graduate Document. For questions, contact Dr. Shawna Malvini Redden, Graduate Program Coordinator.

** Upcoming admissions deadline for Fall 2020 cohort: January 15, 2020 (priority deadline). Applications will be accepted until March 1, space allowing.**

Funded Student Teaching Opportunities

Unique among many master’s-level graduate programs, the Communication Studies department at Sacramento State offers the opportunity for paid graduate student teaching. Typically, new graduate students will start out as Graduate Assistants, and after gaining experience in the classroom, become Teaching Associates who design and lead their own classes. GAs and TAs work closely with faculty mentors to hone their teaching abilities. Likewise, we offer two courses to support teaching, Instructional Communication Theory and Practicum.

Graduate students who participate in the GA/TA program leave well prepared to teach in the community college system, as part-time faculty at Sacramento State or other CSUs, and in doctoral programs. Indeed, our alumni work in our department, as well as at universities and community colleges across the country.

The GA salary is $1,361 per semester, per lab section taught (spread over five months). GAs may teach up to three lab sections per semester. The TA salary is $7,099.20 per semester for two courses (spread over six months).

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Don’t I need straight As to get into grad school?
A: No. We require a 3.0 cumulative GPA, or a 3.25 in the last 60 units. If you don’t meet the GPA minimum, we recommend that you successfully complete some additional courses, preferably upper division communication courses, to raise it.

Q: What about pre-reqs?
A: There aren’t any, per se, although you might be asked to take extra undergraduate methods courses in rhetorical and/or quantitative methods if you earned less than a B- in your methods courses or did not complete any during your undergraduate program. These classes would count toward your M.A.

Q: Any advice for the academic writing samples?
A: Yes. Submit examples of your best academic writing that show your ability to critique and analyze ideas. Get feedback from peers and professors, and revise old class papers or create something new.

Q: What type of GRE scores are you looking for?
A: We don't have a specific number in mind, although we expect to see at least 50th percentiles in the verbal and quantitative reasoning. Definitely prepare for the test, especially the math section, if you haven’t had recent coursework. There are many study books and apps available online. That said, we consider an applicant’s whole package and the GRE is just one piece.

Q: Is the program compatible with working professionals?
A: Absolutely. Most of our students work full time during the day and take classes at night. Our courses are almost exclusively offered in the evenings starting at 5:30 or 6 p.m.

Q: How many classes do grad students usually take per semester?
A: Usually two classes. Full time graduate study is considered six units.

Q: How much does the grad program cost?
A: For in-state students, tuition is $5,790, including fees. (For comparison, basic undergrad tuition is $4,956). For non-residents, there is an extra fee of $396 per unit.

Q: Are grad students eligible for financial aid?
A: Yes. Turn in your FAFSA early!

Q: Is there funding available?
A: Yes. We offer funding in the form of the Graduate Assistant and Teaching Associate programs. The GA salary is $1,361 per semester, per lab section taught (spread over five months). The TA salary is $7,099.20 per semester for two courses (spread over six months).

Q: Advice for the application materials?
A: Proofread carefully, customize materials to our program, and get everything submitted on time.

Application Process


  1. Visit https://www.csus.edu/coms/graduate-student/ to learn about our program.

  2. Start your online application via the Cal State Apply portal, accessible via the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS): https://www.csus.edu/graduate-studies/. Send OGS your official transcripts and official GRE scores. (You MUST have this online application and transcripts submitted on time or your application cannot be considered.)

  3. Study, study, study and take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), general test.

  4. Prepare supplemental materials. Send these directly to the Communication Studies office either by mail or email (c/o: Vicenza Weeks). Include:
    • At least two polished academic writing samples that show your skills at using research sources, and critiquing research and/or analyzing texts
    • A statement of purpose explaining why you want to study communication at the graduate level in our program, who you want to work with among the faculty, and how graduate study connects to your professional goals. If relevant, offer context on weak parts of your application.
    • Unofficial transcripts (send official transcripts to OGS)
    • Unofficial GRE scores (send official scores to OGS)
    • Resume (optional)
    • Application for the TA/GA program (optional)

  5. Request letters of recommendation from three professors or professionals who can speak to your potential as a graduate student and your preparation for graduate school. Have these letters emailed or mailed directly to the Communication Studies department, c/o Vicenza Weeks

  6. Ask lots of questions. Contact the Graduate Program Coordinator, Dr. Shawna Malvini Redden at malviniredden@csus.edu

  7. Submit your materials no later than January 15 to start in Fall or September 15 to start in Spring. Note: For Fall admissions, our priority deadline is January 15. We will accept applications until March 1, but cannot guarantee that there will be space.

Departmental Forms

Communication Studies Graduate Classes

While our curriculum varies and includes “special problems” courses that feature various contemporary communication topics, below is a list of our regular course offerings. The three required core classes must be completed as soon as possible when students enter the program.

In addition, students can take up to six units of advanced undergraduate classes or graduate courses in other departments to develop a customized course schedule.

Core Required Courses

  • COMS 200 Qualitative Methods/Intro to Grad Studies (Offered in Fall)
  • COMS 202 Research Methods in Communication Studies (Offered in Fall)
  • COMS 213 Seminar in Criticism (Offered in Spring)

Graduate Courses

  • COMS 201 Communication Theory
  • COMS 206 Organizational Communication
  • COMS 207 Dyadic Communication
  • COMS 208 Communication and National Development
  • COMS 209 Communication and Social Change
  • COMS 210 Seminar in Mass Communication
  • COMS 211 Electronic Media and American Culture
  • COMS 212 Seminar in Small Group Communication
  • COMS 215 Communication and Public Opinion
  • COMS 216 Seminar on Contemporary Issues in Intercultural Communication
  • COMS 217 Assessment of Communication Behavior in Organizations
  • COMS 219 Conflict Resolution
  • COMS 221 Instructional Communication Theory
  • COMS 222 Instructional Communication Practicum
  • COMS 228 Corporate Advocacy and Public Policy
  • COMS 230 Computer-Mediated Communication

Variable Content Courses

  • COMS 285 Practicum for Teaching Associates in Communication Studies
  • COMS 297 Directed Study and Comprehensive Examination
  • COMS 298 Special Topics Course
  • COMS 299 Independent Study
  • COMS 500 Thesis/Project Units