Graduate Program

eduniversal_top_50_rankingThe School of Communication offers an M.A. in Communication Studies. Full-time students typically take two years to complete the program.

The Communication MA program at SDSU is a well regarded masters-only program. In the most recent ranking of Communication programs, we were ranked #5 in the US. Looking only at Communication masters-only programs (not MBA or Mass Communication or doctoral programs) SDSU is the top ranked in the US. The reason is top notch faculty, small seminars, and successful graduates. We hope you will take the time to learn more about SDSU and the School of Communication.

  • For additional information about our program, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Kurt Lindemann.
  • For information about the application process, please visit our Applying page.



The Society of Communication and Leadership (SoCaL) is committed to promoting academic and social growth through enhancing connections among School of Communication graduate students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The organization coordinates both scholarly and recreational events designed to foster an equitable work-life balance for graduate students. Activities organized by SoCaL include the beginning of the year faculty/graduate student get-together, study sessions, happy hours, a Halloween party, multiple donation drives, and an annual buddy program created to connect incoming and returning students. Most importantly, members of SoCaL are dedicated to fostering a sense of community within the School of Communication, and just having fun!

Program of Study

The M.A. in Communication Studies provides advanced study of language, interaction, and communication in relational, cultural, and societal contexts. Individuals in the specialization draw from international developments in critical and cultural studies to explore culture and communication, develop a deeper understanding of the intercultural and international dimensions of communication, and explore communication as an interactive process across diverse social relationships, activities and contexts. The program of study prepares students for scholarly or applied careers in communication, including college-level teaching and preparation for the Ph. D. in Communication.

The following link will describe the requirements for a program of study. Students in Communication Studies specifically have a program of study with the following characteristics: Program of Study Requirements (PDF).

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Students in Communication Studies have a program of study with the following characteristics:

Core Theory and Methods 1 Course
Communication Theory 5 Courses
Research Tools 2 Courses
Electives 1 Courses
Thesis or Additional Course 1 Course


Seminar Descriptions

The following are brief descriptions of the seminars in our School.  Normal full-time load for graduate students is 6 units, or two seminars.  Methods seminars are offered once per year and other topical seminars are normally offered at least once within each 2-year period.  Enrollment in a particular seminar is not guaranteed, although we work very hard to ensure that each student is able to take their most desired courses. Therefore, a student can graduate by taking 2 seminars each semester for two years plus two courses during the summer.  The school offers two seminars every summer in our study abroad program.  Alternatives are to take an overload two semesters or take summer courses in other departments.

This seminar is taken by all M.A. students in their first semester, and it is required in order to progress in the major. This is an introduction to the history and trajectory of the field of communication and to the process of graduate study. During the semester you will begin your study of the discipline’s scholarship, journals, professional associations, epistemological foundations and paradigmatic distinctions. You will also begin to develop a scholarly voice in your writing. This will be one of the most demanding, yet ultimately rewarding, courses you will ever take. We have developed this course to provide you with the tools you will need to survive and prosper in the graduate program and in the discipline of communication.
This seminar critically examines the role of theories and meta-theories in the progress of social science generally, and of communication theories specifically. It examines (a) theory construction and evaluation, (b) evolution, social construction and accumulation of knowledge, and (c) influences of cultural, reflexive and anthropocentric biases (i.e., creating the world in our image) of scholarly thought. The course intends students. (a)To obtain an advanced understanding of the nature and function of theories in the endeavors of social science and the investigation of the empirical world; (b) To achieve an advanced comprehension of the tenets and comparative characteristics of communication-relevant theories and meta-theoretical perspectives; (c) To demonstrate ability to analyze, synthesize, compare and contrast relevant theoretical literature and ideas.
This seminar examines the presuppositions underlying quantitative research methods such as experimental and survey design as well as the tools of analysis necessary to understand and interpret findings from such methodologies. In so doing, the knowledge and skills essential to the conduct of empirical research, data analysis, and interpretation will be developed. The emphasis is on hands-on experience in the use of the statistical tools available in the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). This is partially achieved via the completion of in-class activities as well as ‘learning-by-doing’ assignments completed outside of class. The primary product from this course will be a small-scale individual or group research project and report of same.
This seminar explores critical methods for conducting research. We examine various rhetorical artifacts from a number of different theoretical lenses. Students learn to conduct rhetorical criticism and build rhetorical theory by completing a research project. Students also become familiar with various rhetorical forms, strategies, and different critical vocabularies. We will examine a number of different methods of rhetorical criticism spanning a broad range of ideological assumptions.
This seminar is designed as an introduction to ethnographic research along a continuum from art to science, with emphasis on the intersection of the two. The course is designed to pursue two goals. (a) to give an overview of ethnographic methods, including philosophical assumptions, issues, approaches, criteria for judging ethnographic work, and current exemplars, and (b) to assist students in “trying out” techniques and writing strategies as they compose their own research project. We learn how research techniques are interrelated with writing strategies. Students will collect data in the field by observing (writing field notes, videotaping, audiotaping) interviewing (videotaping or audiotaping), and investigating texts (documents, diaries, photographs, films, etc.). Students will try out varied writing/representation strategies, including autoethnography, grounded theory, co-constructed narrative, interactive interviewing, creative non-fiction, poetry, fiction, and performance.
Within the broad range of discourse approaches to the study of language and social interaction, this seminar focuses on the methods, techniques, and contributions of “Conversation Analysis” (CA) to an understanding of everyday communication. Particular attention will be given to ongoing analysis of audio/video recordings, and transcriptions, of diverse conversational activities and events. While seminar activities will involve lectures and discussions of relevant literature, the bulk of our time and efforts will be given to “data/listening sessions” – repeated, informally rigorous, and grounded attempts to identify and substantiate patterns of human conduct-in-interaction. The grist for our mill, then, are naturally occurring interactions and transcriptions, submitted to repeated listenings and discussions. The semester and seminar will be divided into two related halves. In Part I, we will begin by examining the basic working and methodological assumptions of CA. An emphasis will be given to storytelling activities in everyday life. In Part II, emphasis will be given to research projects selected by seminar participants.
Performance Studies is an interdisciplinary scholarly practice that critically examines the embodiment and enactment of written and spoken human communication in a variety of social and cultural contexts and practices, including ritual, play, narrative, storytelling, folklore, and popular media. More generally, performance studies scholars employ multiple methods–primarily ethnography, critical textual analysis, and performance–to study the ways humans enact and embody their identities and relationships in everyday life. Besides producing a conference-ready original research paper or project, students will also engage weekly readings through written and performed responses.
This seminar examines internal organizational communication and to a lesser degree external communication, in terms of organizational structure and networks; organizational culture; power, control, and politics; organizational identification; organizational socialization; corporate advocacy; organizational empowerment and spirituality, assessment of organizational communication systems, and global organizational communities. The seminar explores theory development and research methods as they apply to the organizational communication literature.
This seminar examines communication in the instructional setting, as it applies at various educational levels, specifically in terms of teacher verbal and nonverbal immediacy, communication apprehension, student motivation, cultural factors, power differentials, instructional modalities, distance learning, technology advancements, and computer-mediated communication.
This seminar examine the richness of nonverbal human behavior, including the sending and receiving of body movements, gesture, touch, vocalic, chronemics, eye behavior, facial expressions and proxemic behavior and how they work in conjunction with language.. It examines how these nonverbal message codes communicate gender, power, culture, deception, warmth, anxiety, stress, immediacy, emotion, and intimacy. While the focus is on face to face behavior the effects of mediated nonverbal cues are also examined. The opportunity to conduct original research is included in the course.
Health communication is a field of study that encompasses theories, research, and applications of the symbolic processes by which people, both individually and collectively, understand, share ideas about, and accommodate to health and illness. This seminar is designed to be an overview of significant concepts and issues that have emerged in health communication scholarship. The sources for this scholarship are interdisciplinary, but the core of our attention will be focused on the communicative implications of the personal, cultural, and political complexities of health. Emphasis is placed on health beliefs, practices, policies, and the core communication competencies of a health citizen. Students will develop a research project in a health communication context of their own choosing.
This seminar seeks to probe the communicative processes by which human relationships form, maintain, experience, enjoy, actualize and terminate human relationships. The focus is on friendships, romances, sexual relationships, marriages, and families. Process of attraction, uncertainty reduction, intimacy, relational maintenance, relationship stages, love, sexuality, intimacy, transgression, privacy, relationship dialectics, relational politics, conflict, and disengagement are examined in depth. The course includes an opportunity to conduct original research.
This seminar explores different ways of thinking about the role and importance of rhetoric in the field of communication. In this class we explore a number of different perspectives on rhetoric and human communication in an attempt to better understand historical and contemporary theories of rhetoric. Rhetorical theory undergirds the practice of human communication. Definitions of “rhetoric” vary widely but all assume that language is, in one way or another, an important and fundamental tool of persuasion, information exchange, and thought. We will endeavor to develop a theory of rhetoric that is both intelligent and informed which describes an understanding of rhetoric by examining and evaluating the theories of various rhetorical theorists. To that end, we will critically examine the work of a number of different theorists, practitioners, philosophers, and thinkers.
This seminar explores the rhetoric that constitutes the movement for women’s rights in the United States. Roughly divided into three “waves” of activism, we begin by exploring the rhetoric of the women’s suffrage movement (1848-1925) before turning to the revival of feminist thought in the rhetoric of the 1960s and 70s. We contrast these earlier veins of feminist thinking with contemporary feminist rhetoric and the current movement to enhance equality for both women and men. Various forms of rhetoric including speeches, pamphlets, books, consciousness raising activities, magazines, blogs, ‘zines, music and art comprise the data we examine more closely.
The special topics seminars can vary from semester to semester. These include seminars that are offered in the summer as part of our Communication in Europe study abroad program. Topics have included course topics such as Intercultural Communication in a Corporate Environment, Communication and Emotion, Visual Rhetoric, and The Rhetoric of Tourism. Maximum of 9 units applied to the M.A. degree (if no outside of department course are taken).
In this seminar gender is not viewed as a nominal, demographic variable (male/female), but instead gender is viewed as the fabric of life, socially constructed and ever changing through communication. Organizing shapes gender and gender shapes organizing through communicative practices including talking, constructing identities, displaying bodies, and any other forms of expression (art, politics, play, parenting, etc.). Taking a social constructivist and postmodern perspective on gendering and organizing, we will identify and as much as possible deconstruct dominant, hegemonic meanings of gender, race, and sexuality. Our ultimate aim is to search for, find, create, and shape alternative, more egalitarian ways of organizing in the modern workplace.
The “dark side” of communication, taken broadly, is a primitive metaphor intended to represent at least three basic claims regarding human relations. (a) Those aspects of communication that are normatively or expertly taken to be destructive, dysfunctional, evil, immoral, malicious, criminal, abusive, exploitative, lunatic, or otherwise really icky, naughty or not at all very nice. (b) Those aspects of communication that are ideologically or presumptively viewed as dark, but should not be (e.g., things presumed to be bad that function to produce preferred outcomes). (c) Those aspects of communication that are imbued presumptively and ideologically with goodness or badness, but should not be (i.e., things presumed to be good that function to produce dispreferred outcomes). (d) Those aspects of communication that are simply poorly understood, lying in the shadows of scholarly activity, staying in the darkness of ignorance.
Example: Presidential Rhetoric – This seminar deals with rhetoric and the American Presidency. We will examine the interaction of presidential communication, the public and the institution of the presidency. In this examination we will explore the concept that the president, the public in whose name the president acts and the media are rhetorical constructions. As we will explore, that rather simple proposition has some rather dramatic implications for political life in this country.
This seminar focuses on the study of interpersonal communication among individuals from different cultural backgrounds. The course provides an advanced understanding of the relevant scholarly literature; emphasizes the various theories, perspectives, and approaches to the study of intercultural communication; provides a survey of concepts, processes, and variables that affect encounters among people from different cultures; and examines the research issues relevant to the study of intercultural communication phenomena. Analysis of cultural influences on human communication acts. Emphasis on cultural values, perception, social organizations, language, and nonverbal codes.
This seminar focuses on communication in medical interviewing. A variety of types of clinical encounters will be examined, with primary focus given to patient-oncologist interactions. Opportunities will be provided to work with diverse literature, and to analyze naturally occurring video recorded interactions involving cancer patients, family members, and doctors. All (or most all) sessions will involve repeated and informal analysis of video recorded and transcribed medical interviews. The overriding focus of the seminar will be to begin to discover the kinds of interactional patterns providers and patients co-produce throughout medical interviews, particularly during visits within the Moores Cancer Center at UCSD. Emphasis will be given to making and analyzing “collections” of interactional phenomena, and seeking to substantiate their patterned nature.
This seminar is designed to explore current theory and research on the communicative aspects of leadership behavior in various contexts. The sources of leadership scholarship are interdisciplinary and this course reviews a wide spectrum of lenses and methodologies through which leadership has been viewed. Ultimately, attention will be focused on the communicative implications of leadership. Students will develop a research project on a leadership topic of their choosing.
This seminar examines theory and research in influence, persuasion, and compliance gaining across interpersonal, organizational, political and mediated contexts. Topics include classic theories of persuasion, principles conformity, liking, credibility, reciprocity, consistency, dissonance, commitment, self-persuasion, authority, power, scarcity, emotional appears, cognitive factors, and fear. Focus on theories of influence and persuasion as well as practical applications is covered.
Contract with professor required. Arranged with professor directing the special study and the Director of Graduate Studies to ensure it will count in the student’s planned Program of Study. Maximum of 6 units applied to the M.A. degree (if no outside of department courses are taken).