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Graduate School Policies & Procedures

This section includes basic information about graduate school in general and about the Master of Mass Communication at SDSU.

How does the program relate to others?

Master’s degree programs in most disciplines fall into three general categories:

  • Option A, thesis only;
  • Option B, research paper or project;
  • Option C, classwork only.

Typically, option A is 30 credits, including a thesis for five to seven credits. Option B is often 32 credits, with a paper or project for two or three credits. Option C is usually around 36 credits. The MMC is available as Option B (32 credits) and C (36 credits), with Option C requiring students demonstrate their skills through a professional portfolio featuring their current work or that from an intensive internship experience.
In Journalism and Mass Communication, a master’s degree has either an academic emphasis (typically a Master of Arts or Master of Science) or a professional emphasis. The online MMC is a professional or skills-oriented degree.

What is a plan of study?

The plan of study is your individualized list of courses to complete the required 32-36 credits. Your adviser will help you complete and submit it. The SDSU Graduate School requires that students submit their plan of study during the first semester of graduate work and no later than the end of the first year or completion of 50 percent of the credits needed for graduation.
Students in your cohort will take some classes together, but, in other cases, you will have elective choices. (The students who start the program each fall are considered a new cohort.) Typically, during the second eight weeks of the spring semester, we offer two classes. You select the one you want to take and cohorts “mix.”  This means that students from more than one cohort can be enrolled in the same course at the same time.
Half of the total credits must be 600/700 level courses open only to graduate students. This requirement insures a higher-level classroom experience that is more challenging than 400/500 classes which contain both undergrad and grad students.
Your plan of study may also be individualized in two other ways. MCOM 791: Independent Study (up to four credits) allows you to pursue a topic of interest working under a professor’s direct supervision. You may chose to build on some of this work as you design your research paper or project. And, the capstone course, MCOM 788: Master’s Research Paper/Project, is tailored to your interests and needs.

What is a graduate committee?

Faculty committees are a key part of master’s and doctoral programs. Your committee will consist of your major adviser and at least one other MCOM faculty member. The committee will approve your project and assist, as needed, through its completion. In some cases, your major adviser and research paper or project adviser may be different professors.  The graduate school does not require a committee for projects, however the School of Communication and Journalism still has committees and a defense process for projects as part of our assessment plan.

Can you transfer coursework?

The SDSU Graduate School allows students to transfer up to 12 credits of approved coursework into a master’s degree program. These may be graduate credits from a different program or a different university. Among the first 20 graduates of the program, however, none have transferred courses from other universities. This coursework cannot be six years or older by the time of graduation, as it becomes invalid after that time.

Is there a time limit?

Graduate programs have time limits for completing a degree. Part of the reason for this is that education beyond a bachelor’s degree is considered to be especially current or cutting edge and can become obsolete quickly. This is due to the constant growth and changes occurring in both journalism and strategic communication industries.
At SDSU, students must complete a master’s degree in six years. After that time, the plan of study must be reevaluated, and courses will become outdated. (A validation process is in place through the Graduate School that may allow some of these courses to be counted).

What are the important dates?

The most important dates, of course, are when classes begin and when they end. When you enroll for classes via Self Service, the starting and ending dates are listed for each course.  These dates are particularly important for 8-week classes, some of which begin mid-semester.
When you approach the end of the program, the graduation application deadline is a very important date.  It usually falls mid-September for a fall graduation and early February for a spring graduation.
Another important date is the deadline to defend your project and coursework. For a fall graduation, the last day to defend is typically in mid-November, and for a spring graduation, it’s mid-April. For more information about the project, see the document titled “The Master’s Project.”
You can also graduate in the summer, with a defense deadline typically in mid-July. SDSU, however, only holds a graduation ceremony in May