M.A. in Mass Communication

Philosophy and Purpose

Our residential master’s program balances training in mass communication skills, concepts and research methods for individuals interested in entering mass communication professions, professional communicators who want more education in a specialized field or individuals interested in mass communication research and teaching. Because we believe that our professional master’s curricula should prepare students to be leaders in the 21st-century workplace, this balance ensures an elevated discussion of the journalism and mass communication professions, how they work and where they’re going.

Total enrollment in our two-year residential master's program is usually 30 to 50 students (15 to 25 for each entering cohort).

Curriculum

We offer four tracks in the residential master’s program: a professional track, a research track, an Interdisciplinary Health Communication track and an J.D./M.A. dual-degree track in conjunction with the UNC School of Law. For UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduates, the MJ-school partners with the Curriculum in Environment and Ecology to offer the Environment and Science Communication M.A./B.A. dual degree. Regardless of track, students are taught to critically examine the role of mass communication in society, and all students are provided with a firm grounding in theory and analysis. By setting high standards for both scholarly and professional achievement, we prepare graduates to be leaders and critical thinkers, regardless of their career path. Please refer to the attached worksheets for each track.

All residential master’s students, regardless of track, are required to take the following two courses:

  • MEJO 701: “Mass Communication Research Methods”
  • MEJO 740: “Mass Communication Law”

Professional Track

Worksheets (PDF): Reporting | Strategic Communication | Visual Communication

The professional track is designed to educate students in an area of specialization within the field of mass communication in preparation for a career in industry. Areas of specialization within the professional track can be grouped more broadly into those that are news/reporting-focused, regardless of platform and topic (e.g., business and media, electronic and broadcast journalism, science and medical journalism, reporting, visual communication: interactive design and visual communication: photo-video) and strategic communication-focused, which include a mix of advertising, marketing communication, public relations and visual communication: graphic design.

Students in the professional track are required to complete 33 credit hours of coursework at the 400 level or above, including two courses outside of the MJ-school. Students have the option of completing a traditional research thesis or a nontraditional thesis project for three credit hours.

In addition to MEJO 701 and MEJO 740, students in the professional track are required to take the following courses:

  • MEJO 753: “Reporting and Writing News” or MEJO 732: “Public Relations Writing”
  • MEJO 782: “Multimedia Storytelling”

Professional-track students may choose from the following areas of specialization and may take a variety of advanced MEJO courses.

  • Business and media. Prepares students for careers in journalism (business reporters, as well as editors), media management, advertising and public relations. This specialization emphasizes the interchange between the media world and the business world, from how media cover business and economics to the evolving nature of media as a business and new media business models. Required courses: MEJO 452: “Business Reporting” and MEJO 551: “Digital Media Economics and Behavior.”
  • Electronic communication. Prepares students for careers in radio, television and related industries. Students learn all the aspects of generating and delivering content for electronic media platforms. Students leave the program with advanced skills in writing for electronic media, and audio/video acquisition and editing. The capstone experiences are the award-winning television newscast “Carolina Week” and the award-winning radio newscast “Carolina Connection,” where students fill a range of reporting and production roles. Required courses: MEJO 421: “Electronic Journalism” and MEJO 422: “Producing Television News.”
  • Science and medical journalism. Prepares students to work as science and medical journalists. Students also take at least two courses in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. In the last semester of the second year, students have the option of doing either a traditional research thesis or a thesis project in any media (print, radio, television or any combination of all three). Required courses: MEJO 560: “Medical Journalism” and MEJO 562: “Science Documentary Television.”
  • Reporting. Prepares students for careers in all facets of reporting, including research, analysis, writing and editing. Applicants who intend to specialize in reporting should possess an insatiable curiosity about the world. They should exhibit a strong interest in the changing media landscape and the possibilities for exploring and explaining complex issues to news consumers. Required courses: MEJO 754: “Specialized Reporting” and MEJO 890: Narrative Storytelling”, one cross-platform such as MEJO 463: “Newsdesk” or MEJO 484: “Information Graphics.”
  • Strategic communication. Prepares students for careers leading to management positions in corporations, nonprofit organizations, government or advertising or public relations agencies. Students with this specialization take skills and theory courses in public relations and/or advertising as well as outside areas of interest, including business, organizational communication and health communication. Required courses: MEJO 479: “Market Intelligence.” MEJO 730: “Public Relations Foundations” or comparable advertising course required. Students exempt from MEJO 753: “Reporting and Writing News.“
  • Visual communication:
    • Graphic design. Prepares students for careers in publication design, editing, informational graphics and online storytelling. In this specialization, issues related to the research, reporting and presentation of visual media are explored, with an emphasis on the technical skills required to create compelling stories. Students must take (or gain an exemption from) MEJO 182 “Introduction to Graphic Design.” Required course: MEJO 581: “Multimedia Design”. In addition, students must work with their advisers in this specialization to determine the correct combination of the following classes: MEJO 457: "Advanced Editing," MEJO 482: "News Design," MEJO 483: "Magazine Design," MEJO 484: "Information Graphics," MEJO 486: "Motion Graphics," MEJO 585: "3D Design Studio," MEJO 584: "Documentary Multimedia Storytelling," MEJO 587: "Carolina Photojournalism Workshop" and MEJO 782: "Multimedia Storytelling."
    • Interactive multimedia: Prepares students for careers in the creation and programming of interactive and mobile storytelling, including graphics, design and photo/video journalism. In this specialization, issues related to the research, reporting and presentation of visual media are explored, with an emphasis on the technical skills required to create compelling stories. Students must take (or gain an exemption from) MEJO 187 “Introduction to Multimedia.” Required course: MEJO 581: “Multimedia Design”. In addition, students must work with their advisers in this specialization to determine the correct combination of the following classes: MEJO 586: "Intermediate Multimedia," MEJO 583: "Multimedia Programming," MEJO 584: "Documentary Multimedia Storytelling," MEJO 587: "Carolina Photojournalism Workshop" and MEJO 782: "Multimedia Storytelling."
    • Photo/video. Prepares students for careers in photojournalism and video documentary storytelling for online audiences. In this specialization, issues related to the research, reporting and presentation of visual media are explored, with an emphasis on the technical skills required to create compelling stories. Students must take (or gain an exemption from) MEJO 180: “Beginning Photojournalism.” Required course: MEJO 581: “Multimedia Design.” Students exempt from MEJO 782: “Multimedia Storytelling.” In addition, students must work with their advisers in this specialization to determine the correct combination of the following classes: MEJO 181: "Intermediate Photojournalism," MEJO 480: "Documentary Photojournalism," MEJO 481: "Advanced Photojournalism," MEJO 582: "Multimedia Narratives," MEJO 584: "Documentary Multimedia Storytelling" and MEJO 587: "Carolina Photojournalism Workshop."

Research Track

Worksheet (PDF)

The research track is designed for students interested in pursuing a doctoral degree, a career in academia (teaching and research) or research positions in industry or government.

In addition to MEJO 701 and MEJO 740, students in the research track are required to take MEJO 705: “Theories of Mass Communication.”

Paths in the mass communication track can be very diverse. Students learn the theory and research methods they need to teach at the college level or to pursue a doctorate in mass communication. They can study mass communication law or history, media effects, new communication technologies or international communication, among other subjects. Depending on the course of study they select, they may also be prepared for a variety of research positions in the public and private sectors. Students in this track do not take professional skills courses such as news writing and editing.

Interdisciplinary Health Communication Track

Worksheet (PDF)

The Interdisciplinary Health Communication track provides students with specialized training in the multifaceted field of health communication and builds expertise for applied practice, academic and research settings. The IHC master’s track offers a broadened program to include the study of how to effectively communicate with diverse audiences about health issues. Students will learn about the possibilities of traditional as well as electronic forms of media and the psychology of persuasion. Each student will complete a project or thesis on a health communication topic.

The Interdisciplinary Health Communication track includes a core of 18 credits in journalism and mass communication and nine credits in information science, psychology and public health.

In addition to the core curriculum, students in the IHC master's track are required to complete a sequence of courses in an area of specialization. Four specializations are offered: information science, science and medical journalism, public health and social marketing.

J.D./M.A.Track

Worksheet (PDF)

The J.D./M.A. dual degree program is intended to create an efficient yet academically sound program of study for students interested in pursuing graduate studies in journalism and mass communication, and in law. The program is intended for students who plan to practice mass communication law, plan to practice professionally in a communication-related field such as journalism or public relations with a law-related emphasis, plan to pursue academic careers in law and mass communication fields or plan to pursue a doctorate in a related field.

Eligibility

Graduate courses carry grades of "H" (clear excellence), "P" (entirely satisfactory), "L" (low passing) and "F" (failing). For any undergraduate course that is 400-level or above, assigned grades must be at the graduate level. For any undergraduate course below 400-level (some basic foundation courses or specialization courses might fall into this category), assigned grades are at the undergraduate level (A, B, C, D or F). Courses that are 200-level and above in the UNC School of Law qualify as graduate-level courses.

Any master’s student who receives an “L” in a required MEJO course must pass a comprehensive exam given the following semester or retake the course. If a student retakes the course and again makes an “L,” the student may not continue in the program. Continued funding is based on a student’s satisfactory progress in his or her coursework and satisfactory performance in the assistantship. Satisfactory performance in the assistantship will be determined by the associate dean for graduate studies in consultation with the student’s assistantship supervisor, the student’s adviser and the M.A. director.

Exams

All students must pass the appropriate examinations, which include a comprehensive written examination covering the material in the student’s path courses. All course work must be completed before a student may take his or her path exams, which generally are administered in February of the second year of study. Each student must also pass an oral examination on the thesis or professional project, given by the student's advisory committee.

Thesis or Project

In the research track, a student must complete a traditional research thesis. In the professional track, a student has the option of writing a thesis or presenting a professional-quality series of articles or project. This nontraditional thesis project requires the same effort and professionalism as the thesis. In addition to the professional product itself, the articles or project option requires an extensive review of the literature and statement of methods.

Students enroll in MEJO 993: “Master’s Thesis” or MEJO 992: “Non-Traditional Thesis” for three credits as they write the thesis or the professional equivalent. If additional time is needed to complete the thesis, the student enrolls for three more credit hours of MEJO 992 or MEJO 993 as needed. A maximum of three thesis credits can be counted toward the credits required for the master’s degree.

Length of Program

Most students, with the exception of J.D./M.A. dual-degree students, complete the master’s program in two years, typically attending classes full-time during three consecutive semesters and completing the thesis, articles or project in the fourth semester. Some students take a semester off to work as interns in other cities; others stay on during the summer to complete course work or their theses, articles or special projects. Although it is possible to complete the degree by taking classes part-time, it is not recommended. Students who want to pursue the degree part-time must receive permission from the director of the master’s program.

J.D./M.A. students can complete the dual degree program over approximately five years depending on each individual student’s progress and program of study.

Master’s students must complete the degree within five years of admission to the program.

Admissions 

Admissions decisions are based not only on the standard criteria — GRE scores (or LSAT scores for some candidates for law dual degrees), grade averages and letters of recommendation — but also on a determination of whether the applicant's interests and goals fit with those of the program and faculty. For that reason, the statement of purpose that must accompany an application is extremely important, and applicants are encouraged to be as specific as possible in outlining their career goals.

The application deadline for fall 2017 admission is Dec. 13, 2016.

Cost and Funding

Tuition and fees for 2016-17 are now available. Funding is available through the prestigious Park Fellowships.

Learn More

To receive more information about the Ph.D. program,  please complete the form below (all fields required). Questions? Contact mjgrad@unc.edu.