Master of Arts in Journalism and Media Studies


Program Description

The hybrid program in JMS prepares students for careers in print, electronic and digital media or for college-level teaching, and provides a foundation for those students who elect to continue their studies at the Ph.D. level or teach at the post-secondary level. The program includes a mix of on-campus, online, and hybrid courses, requires a thesis or culminating professional project, and takes at least two years to complete. To conform with academic expectations, this degree requires 36 semester hours.

Students enrolled in the on-campus M.A. program may also take classes part time or full time. They may sample the program by taking courses as a non-degree seeking student. Up to 12 hours of graduate credit earned as a non-degree seeking student can count toward the degree. However, students are encouraged to apply soon after completing their first course as a non-degree seeking student, as success in a course taken as a non-degree seeking student does not guarantee admission to the graduate program. Students may choose electives, with their adviser’s approval, in any department at any USF campus. Students enrolled in the traditional program may also take up to two classes from the DJD course offerings.

Characteristics of Graduate Study

Graduate study differs from undergraduate work in substantial ways. Students are accepted into specific graduate programs based on disciplinary focus and relevant background for study in that particular field. Students often leave their graduate studies with educational or career goals different from when they began, but the focus will usually remain in journalism, mass communication or media studies. Graduate study requires that students engage in analysis, interpretation and original inquiry. These features are usually not emphasized in undergraduate study.

While undergraduate courses feature lecture or skill-building formats, the staple of our graduate programs is the seminar. The word “seminar” implies an interchange of opinion, information and ideas. Seminars encourage informed dialogue and debate, and depend on active student participation.

Many undergraduate programs involve a structured, highly directed path to a degree, but graduate students receive greater latitude in developing a plan for accomplishing their goals.

Undergraduate classes often require grade incentives for reading, study and attendance. None of this is deemed necessary in graduate classes, where students are expected to go beyond the assignments or stated expectations in exploring topics, issues and problems. For many students, undergraduate work focuses on learning the fundamentals of their craft. Graduate study calls for reflection, introspection and deeper understanding. Ideally, it is a time of satisfying, rewarding discovery for students and instructors.


The M.A. in Journalism and Media Studies requires 36 hours of academic credit. A realistic program for a full-time student involves a nine-hour load in the fall and spring terms, stretching out over two academic years. Summer courses including internships are also available.

Students in our program complete a thesis, with six hours counting toward the degree, or an applied research project, with three credit hours counting toward the degree.

At least 16 of the 36 hours must be at the 6000 level, and 20 hours or more must be taken in regularly scheduled course work. With permission from an adviser, USF graduate students may take up to two 4000 level courses, but graduate students are generally discouraged from taking undergraduate courses. Financial aid for graduate students usually will not cover the cost of an undergraduate course.

Required Courses:

  • MMC 6401 (3) – Mass Communications Theory
  • MMC 6612 (3) – Law and the Mass Media
  • MMC 6206 (3) – Mass Communication Ethics

Those who do a thesis must also take:

  • MMC 6421 (3) – Research Methods in Mass Communications.

Research Methods is also a good choice for students who have limited experience reading and writing academic research.

Area of specialization:

Students may take up to 12 hours of the 36-hour requirement in an area of specialization through other departments within the University of South Florida. Some areas of specialization include business, criminology, education, environmental studies, Florida studies, health communication, philosophy, and urban anthropology.

An academic adviser, chosen from among departmental faculty, helps each student decide on elective courses, and make progress toward their degrees.

Advising and Mentorships:

Advising is an important component of the program. An adviser works with students in structuring an individualized course of study. Students continue to work with their advisers each semester to review their academic progress and plan upcoming work. An important characteristic of our department is the individualized mentorships that develop between faculty and graduate students. It is not unusual for graduate students to be invited to participate in faculty research or for faculty to assist students in turning their course work into publishable pieces.


Students may apply for a professional practicum (graduate-level internship) in a journalism, mass communications or media studies setting after completing 12 hours of coursework within the department. Students intern in a variety of settings, including newspapers, television stations, radio stations, magazines, non-profit organizations, corporations, and in online media environments.

The internship requires 120 hours of work performed in a single semester and must be approved by the faculty internship supervisor prior to registration. Graduate students may receive credit for only one-semester’s 3-credit internship. Students will not receive internship credit for any position that they hold prior to internship approval. However, it is acceptable for a student to receive both credit and compensation for approved internships.

Recent internship hosts have included the following: Dow Jones, The Tampa Bay Times, The Tampa Tribune, Creative Loafing, Bay News 9, The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, WUSF, WFLA-TV, WTVT-TV, WTSP-TV, WDAE Clear Channel, and USFSP Office of External Affairs.

Comprehensive Examinations

Graduate students in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies must pass a comprehensive written examination, which can be taken after completing 21 hours of course work that demonstrates understanding of concepts from the three core courses. All core courses must be passed with a grade of C or better. Students should monitor their coursework and advise the graduate program director the semester before they plan to sit for the comprehensive exams. The graduate director will authorize the student’s eligibility to sit for the exam.

Comprehensive exams will be given in the fall and spring semesters on the Friday that falls three or four weeks after the start of classes and will be written in a four-hour period. Reading and concept lists for the three core areas, theory, law and ethics, are available in the Graduate Handbook. Students are expected to prepare for comps, supplementing what they’ve learned from their coursework with outside reading.

The subject exams will be graded by the particular subject instructor. Students will receive the grade of pass, low pass, defense or fail. Students who pass all three questions may register for thesis or project credits or commence work if registered. Students who receive a grade of “defense” will, at the faculty member’s discretion, respond to questions of clarification, either in writing or orally. Any defense must be successfully completed before students begin formal committee meetings related to culminating projects. Students who receive a “fail” for one or more exams may not attempt failed comps again until the following semester. A student may attempt a subject area comprehensive exam no more than three times. Students who do not pass comprehensive exams after sitting for each exam three times will be dismissed from the program.

Students may register for thesis or applied research project credits in the semester that they take comps, but must successfully complete all three exam questions before beginning formal work with their committee.

Last updated May 2018

About the School

The College of Arts & Sciences is USF St. Petersburg’s largest college, offering a wide range of academic programs. The College has a legacy of providing programs of excellence in a student-center ... Read More

The College of Arts & Sciences is USF St. Petersburg’s largest college, offering a wide range of academic programs. The College has a legacy of providing programs of excellence in a student-centered atmosphere. World-class research and creative activities are carried out in one of the most beautiful metropolitan campuses in the U.S. Take some time to explore our offerings, where “the world will recognize your degree and your professors will know your name.” Read less
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