Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) offers an online Master of Arts in Mass Communication through its Department of Mass Communication (in the College of Liberal and Applied Arts). The program’s requirements can be completed without any required visits to campus. SFA Online uses Brightspace, a learning management system from Desire2Learn (D2L), for its online program delivery. Through Brightspace, students can access their class materials, submit assignments, participate in online discussions, and communicate with instructors and professors through multiple communication channels, including email and video conferencing.
The Master of Arts in Mass Communication requires 36 credit hours of study, which can typically be completed in two to two and-a-half years, and enables students to specialize in Advertising and Public Relations, Broadcasting, and Journalism by selecting electives according to their interests (under faculty advisor guidance and approval). The program is designed to help students develop advanced media skills applicable in a wide range of professional contexts. In addition to selecting one of three specializations, students can also choose between three tracks: a non-thesis track (36 coursework credit hours), a thesis track (30 coursework credit hours, 6 credit hours of thesis) and a media project track (30 coursework hours, 6 credit hours of media project).
The 12-class curriculum is divided between four required courses (12 credits) and eight electives (24 credits). Required coursework covers the fundamental principles of mass communication research and theory. The four required courses include Media Theory, Media Law and Ethics, Media and Society, and Media Research Methods. These classes give students a strong foundation in the central theories of mass communication and their applications, qualitative and quantitative research methods, and legal and ethical considerations in the mass media industry.
After finishing fundamental coursework, students transition into elective classes. Electives allow students to shape their course of study around subject areas that align with their academic goals and professional development needs, with courses primarily emphasizing Advertising and Public Relations, Broadcasting, and Journalism concepts and skills. Example courses that students can take as electives include but are not limited to Media History, Management Problems in Media, Media and Politics, Media Sales, International Media, Topics in Mass Communication, and individual Seminars in Public Relations, Journalism, and Broadcasting. Students are also allowed to pursue an Independent Study in Mass Communication and/or take courses outside of the Department of Mass Communication to fulfill their elective requirements, as long as they consult with and receive approval from their faculty advisor.
The master’s degree culminates with varying options, depending on the student’s academic track: non-thesis, thesis or media project. The non-thesis track requires students to successfully pass a comprehensive examination that is administered by a committee of three faculty members in the Department of Mass Communication (students select faculty members for their committee in collaboration with their academic advisor, and according to their individual academic trajectory in the program). For the thesis option, students also form a faculty committee of three and consult with them to select and refine a research question pertaining to mass communication and its effects; through the thesis, students explore and compose a piece of original scholarship, and present their findings to their committee.
The media project is designed by the student to apply their advanced knowledge of mass communication research and best practices to a concrete project that is of professional significance. Example projects include advertising campaigns for national clients, management plans for media organizations, or public relations campaigns. As with the other two culminating experience options, students who select the media project track consult with a faculty committee for guidance and feedback.
Stephen F. Austin is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges.
Online Master of Arts in Mass Communication
Department: Department of Mass Communication
Specializations/Concentrations: Concentrations in Advertising and Public Relations; Journalism; Broadcasting
Websites: Department and Program
Structure: Online program with no required campus visits
Instruction Methods: Program uses synchronous and asynchronous instruction including live lectures that students must attend
Campus Visits Required: No
Program Length: Program can be completed in 2 to 2.5 years
Curriculum and Graduation Requirements
Thesis Required: No
Capstone Options: Comprehensive exam (with 2 additional courses), thesis, or media project (students who choose the thesis or media project options take two fewer courses)
Credits Required: 36 credits (12 courses)
Example Courses: Media & Society; Media Theory; Media Research Methods; Media Law & Ethics; Management Problems in Media; Media & Politics; International Media; Seminar in Public Relations
Degree Required: Bachelor's degree
GPA Requirements: Minimum cumulative GPA 2.5 or a minimum GPA 2.8 in last 60 credits of undergraduate degree
Testing Requirements: GRE not required
Start Dates: Four starts per year - Fall, Spring and Summer (I and II) admission
Estimated Tuition*: ~$12,420 + fees (in-state); ~$27,360 + fees (out-of-state)
Cost per Credit Hour: $345 per credit hour (in-state); $760 per credit hour (out-of-state) (equals Texas resident tuition plus designated tuition plus discretionary graduate rate plus university service fee)
State Authorizations: Program accepts students from all 50 states