Answer: All master’s in communication programs listed on MastersinCommunications.com require that applicants have a bachelor’s degree for admission. While specific admissions requirements vary by program, the majority of programs require students to submit college transcripts and meet a minimum undergraduate GPA. Additionally, programs may require applicants to submit standardized test scores (typically from the GRE exam), a personal statement, letters of recommendation, academic writing samples, and/or a resume. Non-native English speakers are also expected to submit a minimum TOEFL score. Each program weighs these requirements differently, so students should think about their application holistically and reach out to prospective programs for advice on how to best prepare their application.
To earn admission to a master’s in communication program, students typically need to meet a minimum set of requirements. In addition, the majority of programs have a selective admissions policy, which means even if a student meets the minimum requirements, they are not guaranteed admission to the program. Consequently, for some programs, the average GPA (and potentially GRE scores) of students who are admitted to the program may be higher than the required minimum.
For some programs, applicants who do not meet the minimum requirements for full acceptance may still be admitted to the program on a conditional basis. In these situations, students typically need to achieve and maintain a minimum GPA in their graduate level courses in order to gain full admission. Students considering a program for which they do not meet the minimum requirements should contact the program before applying to determine if they may still be eligible for admission.
As with most aspects of graduate programs, requirements for admission vary by program; however, they usually include some or most of the factors listed below.
Specific Admission Requirements for Master’s in Communication Programs
Bachelor’s degree: Students are expected to earn a bachelor’s degree prior to attending a master’s in communication program. Students may be able to apply to a program in their final semester, but final transcripts are typically required before a student can attend a program. The majority of master’s in communication programs do not require a bachelor’s degree in communication for admission. However, there are some programs that do require an undergraduate degree in communication or a related field (e.g., business, marketing), so students should check with a program for specific requirements before applying.
Transcripts and minimum GPAs: Applicants are required to submit their undergraduate transcripts as evidence of graduation and achieving GPA requirements for admission. The minimum GPA required by most programs is a 3.0, although there are some programs with a minimum GPA of 2.5 to 2.75. As noted above, while this is the minimum, the average GPA for accepted applicants may be higher. In addition, some programs may offer conditional admittance to students who do not meet the minimum due to extenuating circumstances. Finally, there are a limited number of graduate programs that do not have a minimum GPA requirement; these programs typically examine an applicant’s application holistically, taking elements such as work experience into account to determine if applicants are qualified for admission.
Minimum GRE Exam Score: The GRE exam is used by some programs as a standardized measure of aptitude. However, there are many programs that do not require a GRE score. Students should research individual programs to learn whether the GRE is required for admission. In addition, some programs only require the GRE on a conditional basis. For example, some programs may waive the GRE requirement for applicants with a GPA greater than 3.0 or 3.5, for students who have already earned a master’s degree in another field, or for students with significant work experience. Conversely, some programs that do not require the GRE exam may still accept GRE scores if a student thinks they will improve their chances for admission. Students with a borderline GPA may want to consider taking the GRE, even if it is not required by their prospective programs.
Letters of Recommendation: Students are typically required to submit two or three letters of recommendation with their application. The best letters of recommendation tend to come from professors who know the applicant well and who can speak to the applicant’s potential to succeed in a master’s degree program. Internship supervisors also tend to provide helpful recommendations. For applicants who did not recently graduate, programs may accept or prefer a supervisor or past supervisors instead, especially if they can speak to a student’s potential for graduate work. Ultimately, students should seek references from people who know them well and who can speak to their ability to manage the rigor of a master’s program. There are a limited number of programs that do not require letters of recommendation, which may be preferred for some students.
Personal Statement: Applicants are often required to submit a personal statement, which is usually two or three pages and may have a maximum word limit. A personal statement should cover a variety of topics including personal background, purpose for application, academic goals, professional goals, and research interests. Students should explain why they are applying to that specific program, including why it is a good fit for them academically and/or professionally, and why they are a good fit for the program as well. The personal statement is also an applicant’s opportunity to explain any potential problems in their academic past (e.g., a lower than average GPA). For advice on completing a personal statement, see our featured article on Advice for Applying to Master’s in Communication Programs.
Essay Questions: In addition to (or in lieu of) a personal statement, applicants may be required to answer a series of essay questions. Students may be asked questions like, “How would you define communication as it relates to your research area of interest?” and, “How will a master’s in communication support you in the achievement of your short- and long-term goals?” The program coordinators who review applicants’ answers are interested in whether an applicant has the right reasons for earning a master’s degree, that they have researched the program to ensure it is the right fit, and if they have the skills, interests, professional/academic background, and goals that will make them a good fit for the program.
Academic Writing Samples: Beyond the writing required for other portions of the application, some programs also require academic writing samples. Students should consider submitting writing samples that exemplify their ability to synthesize research, use appropriate citation, and produce new ideas that go beyond restating existing concepts from course materials.
Work Experience and/or a Resume: Some master’s in communication programs, especially ones that are focused on applied skills development and career advancement (e.g., strategic communication, public relations and marketing communication, corporate communication), require applicants to submit a resume that details their work experience. In addition, there are some programs that do require applicants to meet a minimum work experience requirement to be eligible for admission.
TOEFL Scores: Non-native English speakers are typically required to submit TOEFL scores to earn admission to master’s in communication programs in the United States. The minimum TOEFL score required depends on the medium through which a student takes the test. The minimum online score is typically a 90, which is equivalent to a 233 if taken by computer, and a 577 if taken by paper.
How Applications to Master’s in Communication Programs Are Evaluated
When programs receive application packets, most make an intentional effort to evaluate applicants holistically, even if they favor specific pieces of the application more than others. In practice, this means that applicants who exceed GPA and GRE requirements may be declined admission compared to an applicant with lower scores who is accepted because they are a better fit for the program. That is why it is extremely important for applicants to research programs and to tailor their application specifically to the program to which they are applying.
For example, a student with a high GPA and fantastic letters of recommendation, who is interested in strategic communication or public relations, may not be accepted to a master’s in communication program that does not offer those specializations. This is because programs want to make sure both the student is a good fit for the program and that the program is a good fit for the student. Conversely, a student who has a lower GPA who specifically wants to study interpersonal communication and work with specific faculty in a program, and who demonstrates they have researched the program and the faculty, may be more likely to be accepted versus someone who submits a generic personal statement saying they are just interested in earning a master’s in communication. This is because the applicant is able to explain specifically how they would benefit from the program, and how in turn they will contribute to the student community through their research or career interests.
Students should research schools to identify programs that best align with their academic and professional goals. Once they identified those programs, they should reach out to professors and program directors to ask questions and let them know they are considering earning a master’s degree and potentially interested in applying. That way, when they submit their application, one (or more) professors who are tasked with reviewing applications will already know who they are and why they are applying to the program. This may be advantageous versus an applicant who just submitted an application without ever speaking to someone in the program.