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MMC Frequently Asked Questions

The questions below are representative of the questions new students ask us. If you don’t find your question or answer below, ask your advisor.

How will a master’s degree benefit me?

Anyone, of course, can be a lifelong learner, but pursuing learning within the confines of an advanced degree has several benefits, such as:

  • Increased knowledge —A master’s degree can deepen your knowledge in familiar areas and broaden your knowledge in new areas, in both cases, helping you be more effective in your career.
  • Enhanced credentials—A master’s degree may allow you to advance in your current place of employment, move to a new position or change careers.
  • Material benefits—In many public and some private organizations, a master’s degree will move you up the pay scale. Journalism and mass communication graduates with a master’s degree tend to earn $6,000 more, on average, than bachelor’s degree graduates.

How does a master’s differ from a bachelor’s?

In an undergraduate class, the professor typically shares his or her expertise with students. In graduate courses, the model changes. The professor, of course, shares his/her expertise and knowledge and selects useful resources and assignments. But, the professor also guides and directs discussions of course content to take advantage of the knowledge, keen insight, and rich life experiences of students.
You’ll respond to readings, discussions, postings, etc. You’ll expand beyond knowing to higher level intellectual skills of application, evaluation, analysis and synthesis.

What are my chances of being accepted into the program?

The department’s policy is to give students a chance to succeed. Typically, if your undergraduate GPA is 3.0 or higher with good recommendations, you will be accepted unconditionally. If your GPA is below 3.0, you may be accepted conditionally, such as maintaining a B average in the first semester to stay in the program, a standard policy in other disciplines as well.

What happens after I’m accepted?

You’ll receive a letter of acceptance (via e-mail) from the SDSU Graduate School.
You’ll be assigned a student id number, which will allow you to enroll for classes online via Self Service. Your first eight-week class, MCOM 705: Introduction to the Masters in Mass Communication, will include information on using Self Service and Desire2Learn, the course management software public universities in South Dakota use.

What happens if I start and can’t finish?

If you’re admitted, begin the program, and have to drop out, there are options—add/drop dates for classes, incomplete grade options, etc. If you “sit out” a semester, you’ll be placed on inactive status in the Graduate School and will have to reapply, but you’ll likely be able to resume your program. The key is to keep your adviser informed.

How does a cohort work?

You’ll be part of a group of students who start the program at the same time and take most of the classes together. Class size will typically be around 10 to 15 students, mostly students in the online program, with a few on-campus graduate student students. Interaction with peers is an integral part of a graduate program. In MCOM 705, you’ll gain initial experience in working via an online community.

What will it cost?

You can find the most current information on tuition at this link. This does not include the initial application fee and books, and tuition may vary from year-to-year. This makes us very competitive with similar online master degree programs in terms of cost, as our tuition per credit hour is typically less than half of other programs.

How much time will it take?

It’s impossible to answer this question specifically. Some classes will be intense because of the amount of material to cover in eight weeks. Other classes may be very useful and interesting but less work than undergraduate classes. Often, graduate students comment that the combination of intellectual stimulation, high level of interest in the course content, and working toward a worthwhile goal makes the time commitment considerably less burdensome.
The program is designed for the part-time student, so the typical class load is no more than six credits (two courses) a semester.  This means that, if you stay on-track, you can complete the degree in just under three years.

What’s it like taking an online course?

Online learning is very self-directed, and in our program your instructors serve as facilitators to engage you in the content. The characteristics of successful distance ed students include: ability to communicate through writing; self-discipline and self-motivation; open-mindedness about sharing life, work, professional experiences. While there is flexibility in when you engage in course content, there are also clear deadlines and expectations. That engagement is also intense, as there is no where to hide in an online course. Graduates from this program mention how well they get to know their fellow students even without meeting them in-person.

Will my degree be less valuable because it’s online?

No. Online degree programs have become very common, and ours is the first to receive accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication (ACEJMC).  In addition, all online courses at SDSU go through the Quality Matters course review. This means that before we offer a course online, it has to meet a set of standards in course development and assessment. When done well, the potential for participatory, collaborative education can surpass brick and mortar education.

Are there any special requirements for this program?

Students must take 50 percent or more skills-based courses in the program in order to graduate with the MMC degree. This requirement is mandated by the ACEJMC for all professional master’s degrees. Your adviser will help you select those skills courses that are most applicable to your educational and career goals.

What is a project presentation?

At the end of your coursework, you will present a professional project. As a professional program, we require students to create a professional project rather than a traditional thesis. The project needs to demonstrate professional-level work in mass communication as well as an application of course concepts and skills. There are a variety of project categories that your adviser can discuss with you.
Students who go with a coursework option will still have to demonstrate their skills through a professional portfolio featuring their current work or that from an intensive internship experience.