The Department of Journalism and Creative Media offers the Master of Arts degree with a major in journalism. Students work closely with a faculty dedicated to the principles and practices of sound journalism and scholarly inquiry. The program offers three options for study:

  • Individuals who seek in-depth knowledge and mastery of one or more of the subfields and methodologies of journalism — for example, communication history, communication law, communication theory and methods. These individuals typically follow Plan I (see below) and go on to pursue doctorates. Those with significant experience in the journalism field may teach without the PhD degree.
  • Individuals who seek to work professionally in writing, editing, visual journalism and/or digital journalism, and who wish to develop conceptual knowledge of the field, as well as critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. These students typically follow Plan II (see below).
  • individuals who wish to earn graduate credit through distance education can enroll in our online journalism program. This program is ideal for journalists eager to expand their knowledge base, individuals looking to start a career in journalism, and those interested in teaching in the field of journalism.

The program serves both recent BA recipients, whether in journalism/mass communication or other fields, and professionals seeking to deepen their knowledge.

Admission Requirements

Admission to graduate work in the Program of Journalism requires a 3.0 or higher undergraduate GPA (on a 4.0 scale). Applicants not meeting this criterion may be admitted under permission to continue status if the program’s faculty agrees the student is likely to succeed in the program.

In addition to the online application, applicants must submit other documents to the UA Graduate School, including undergraduate transcripts and a statement of purpose addressing how the degree will advance the applicant’s professional and educational goals. Applicants should also solicit three letters of recommendation, which may be submitted online to the UA Graduate School or sent as hard copies to the Journalism program’s graduate coordinator. Applicants should send a resume to the program’s graduate coordinator, and they may also submit examples of journalistic work to the coordinator – e.g., stories, photos or multimediam -- via hard copy, disk, or website link.

The program faculty may require up to nine hours of additional coursework for applicants lacking undergraduate classes related to the professional values and competencies that are central to the master’s program.

The application deadline is March 31, but applicants are encouraged to apply by the end of January in order to be considered fully for University funding (assistantships or fellowships).

See the Admission Criteria section of this catalog for more information.

Degree Requirements

Each student entering the graduate program in journalism must complete 31 semester hours of credit, under either programs of study. Requirements for each plan are as follows:

Plan I, Master's ThesisMore Information

JCM 500Grad Studies Orientation1
MC 551 or Sem Communication Theory3
CIS 605 Cultural and Critical Theory
MC 550 or Research Methods3
CIS 609 Humanistic Research Methods
JCM 562 or Cont. Issues in Journalism or or 3
JCM 522 Science & Environment in Media
JCM 520 Media Effects
MC 526 Race and Gender in Media
JCM 563History of Jour. and Media3
Select one of the following:6
Thesis Research
Master’s Project (and 3 additional hours of graduate credit)
Total Hours31

Plan II, Master's ProjectMore Information

JCM 500Grad Studies Orientation1
JCM 552 or Journalism Theory and Research3
MC 550 Research Methods
JCM 553 or Making Media Innovation3
MC 551 Sem Communication Theory
JCM 562Cont. Issues in Journalism3
JCM 563History of Jour. and Media3
Journalism Cognate12
General elective3
JCM 597Master’s Project3
Total Hours31

All students must enroll in JCM 500 Grad Studies Orientation their first year of study.

Initially, the program’s graduate coordinator will serve as the student’s advisor. The coordinator will assess students’ undergraduate transcripts and will help the student establish a plan for cognate or elective courses that will provide students with core values and competencies for the program.

At the completion of 12 credit hours, the student should select a committee chair. The chair will serve as the student’s academic advisor and will help the student select members for the thesis or project committee. The thesis committee must comprise two faculty members from the Department of Journalism and Creative Media program and at least one member from outside the program. The project committee must comprise at least two faculty members from the program – no outside member is required. An Appointment or Change of Master's Thesis Committee form must be submitted to the Graduate School for the dean's approval of the committee members.

The following applies to students pursuing a master's degree under Plan I:

The student is required to pass a comprehensive examination in conjunction with an oral defense of the thesis or master’s project. Students are questioned on their thesis or project topic, and on core areas of their course of study. For the student to pass the examination, committee members must be satisfied the student has gained sufficient knowledge in core areas of the curriculum and has mastered a specific area of knowledge.

Under Plan I, with advisor approval students need not complete a thesis but instead can take comprehensive exams by enrolling in JCM 597 Master’s Project during their final semester. Such students must also complete an approved three-hour elective course to meet the requirement that 31 hours be completed in the program. Students must have completed their five core courses (JCM 500 Grad Studies Orientation, JCM 562 Cont. Issues in Journalism, JCM 563 History of Jour. and Media, MC 550 Research Methods, MC 551 Sem Communication Theory) before taking JCM 597 Master’s Project.

The following applies to students pursuing a master's degree under Plan II:

Plan II students take a comprehensive exam or produce a Capstone project. Similarly, a Capstone project or a comprehensive exam is required for distance learning students.

Capstone Project: The project option is competitive. Students wishing to pursue a project option must formally submit a brief proposal for the project to the student’s MA committee before the end of the first week of the student’s final semester. Students will be notified about acceptance during the second week. Detailed instructions for the proposal can be found on the program website.

The students’ master’s committees, each of which consists of the JCM 597 instructor and one other faculty member (see committee details below), will collectively review proposals and approve no more than five MA projects each semester –i.e., the five projects that are judged to be the best will be selected each semester. Judgment criteria include relevance, importance, coherence, thoroughness, creativity, practicability and writing quality.

Students who are not approved for the project option must pursue the comprehensive exam option. They will take comprehensive exams by enrolling in JCM 597 (three hours) during their final semester, and a three-hour approved elective, to reach the required 31 hours for a degree. Students must have completed their five core courses (JCM 500 Grad Studies Orientation, JCM 562 Cont. Issues in Journalism, JCM 563 History of Jour. and Media, MC 550 Research Methods, MC 551 Sem Communication Theory) before taking JCM 597.

About the project: The MA project may focus on a media work (e.g., an in-depth journalistic report, a documentary, etc.); a media innovation (e.g., an online entrepreneurial media product or app); or a scholarly research study (in the social sciences or the humanities). The project is not a fully completed work, but instead consists of the following three components: (1) a detailed plan for carrying out a completed work; (2) a “prototype” or “pilot” of the work; and (3) a conceptual paper in which the student reflects on the project.

Plan II also includes a one-year option involving a professional immersion experience in a newsroom. In recent years this option has been administered in conjunction with the Anniston (Ala.) Star newspaper. Admission criteria and core curriculum requirements are identical to the traditional Plan II option.

Details on Comprehensive Exams:

• Students are assigned a reading list in the JCM 597 course, with due dates throughout the semester.

• Students must take the written exam by week 11 of the semester (no later than three full weeks before the deadline for submitting examination results to the Graduate School) in order to graduate that semester.

• Students are tested over the program’s four core knowledge areas (theory, methods, contemporary issues, history) via four essay questions.

• Students will have 48 hours to complete the exam questions, with an open-book format.

• The examination committee will determine whether the student has passed, must perform additional work to demonstrate competency in one or more areas of the examination, or has failed the examination. This determination will be made within one week (seven days) of completion of the exam. When additional work is required, the examining committee may choose to administer another oral examination within the same semester. In the case of a clear failure, re-examination must take place after six months and before twelve months have elapsed. Each of the four portions of the preliminary examination may be taken only twice. The examining committee will rule either pass or fail on the second examination.

Master's Degrees

The primary purpose of master’s degree programs is to provide students with subject matter at an advanced level in their fields of study.  Master’s degrees are designed to assist students either to continue their graduate studies or to meet the goals of their professions.  In most cases, master’s programs also help students become familiar with methods of independent investigation.

Program Requirements

Two plans are offered for the master's degree:

Plan I.  Candidates for the master's degree under Plan I must earn a minimum of 24 semester hours of credit in coursework plus earn a minimum of 6 additional hours of thesis research hours, for a total of 30 hours.

Plan II.  Candidates for the master's degree under Plan II must earn a minimum of 30 semester hours of coursework credit and pass the comprehensive examination or complete a culminating or “capstone experience” as described under the Comprehensive Examinations section below.

Both plans require a minimum of 18 semester hours in the major subject.  With the approval of the major department, the remainder of the coursework may be completed in either the major or a related field.

In some divisions and in many departments of the University, candidates are required to do their work under Plan I.  Candidates working under Plan II may be required to participate successfully in seminar or problem courses that will give them an acquaintance with the methods of research and an appreciation of the place and function of original investigation in the field.

Residency Requirements

A student's program at the master's level must provide sufficient association with the resident faculty to permit individual evaluation of the student's capabilities and achievements.

Graduate Credit

A student must be admitted to the Graduate School and must register as a graduate student in order to receive graduate credit.  Approval for graduate registration must be obtained from program advisors prior to registration.

Graduate Credit for Noncredit Experiences

All course credit used toward a UA graduate degree must be taught at the graduate level.  No graduate credit may be earned by correspondence study or for experiential learning not conducted under the direct supervision of graduate faculty of The University of Alabama.  UA does not offer graduate credit for noncredit workshops, seminars, continuing education experiences, professional development, internships, work/life experience, and so forth.  

Transfer of Credit

Courses of full graduate-level credit earned in a regionally accredited institution where a student was enrolled in the graduate school may be submitted for review for inclusion in a master's degree program. Evaluation of credit for transfer will not be made until after the student has enrolled in the Graduate School of The University of Alabama. Acceptance of credit requires the approval of the student's advisory committee and the dean of the Graduate School.  Credit will not be accepted for transfer from any institution at which the student failed to achieve a "B" average on all graduate work attempted.  Only courses in which a student earned a "B" grade or better may be transferred. Thesis Research (599) may not be transferred in from an outside institution.

In some cases, foreign educational credentials may not meet the Graduate School's criteria for transfer of credit.  It may be necessary for students in this situation to secure an evaluation of their credentials from World Education Services Inc. (WES), an external foreign credential evaluation service.  Additional information on their services can be found at their website. 

A student initiates at the Graduate School’s website a Request for Transfer of Graduate Credit earned at another institution.  It is also the student's responsibility to assure that the Graduate School receives an official transcript from the other institution where the transfer credit has been requested, well in advance of the final semester. 

With the approval of the student's department and the dean of the Graduate School, the greater of 12 hours or 25 percent of the required coursework for a master's degree may be transferred from another institution.  All credit toward the master's degree, including transfer credit, must have been earned during the six years (18 fall, spring, and summer semesters) immediately preceding the date on which the master’s degree is to be awarded.  Revalidation or recertification of graduate credits that will be more than 18 semesters old at the time of UA master's program completion is not an option.

Please note that some departments allow fewer than 12 hours of graduate transfer credit.  Be sure to check with your department's graduate coordinator regarding your department's transfer policy.

400-Level Courses

A maximum of 6 semester hours of 400-level course credit may be accepted for a master's degree program, but only if a form for Approval of 400-Level Course Work for Master's Credit is approved by the Graduate School prior to the semester in which the 400-level coursework will be taken.

Time Limit

All requirements for the master's degree must be completed during the six years (18 fall, spring, and summer semesters) immediately preceding the date on which the degree is to be awarded.  There is no provision for an extension of the time limit beyond six years for master's students.

Admission to Candidacy

During the 2013-2014 academic year, the Graduate Council eliminated the master’s candidacy requirement.  Departments may monitor master’s candidacy if they wish, but the Graduate School does not monitor it and will not accept master’s candidacy forms.  Doctoral and Educational Specialist candidacy are not affected and remains an important program requirement.


A thesis evidencing research capacity, independent thought, and the ability to interpret materials is required of all master's degree candidates who pursue Plan I.  The subject chosen must be in the major field and must be approved by the graduate committee of the major department or school and by the head of the student's major department or division.

The final oral thesis defense is the culminating experience in the master’s program.  As such, all members of the thesis committee are expected to attend and participate in real time.  Virtual attendance via interactive video or teleconference is permitted for off-campus external committee members, but Tuscaloosa campus faculty should attend in person unless extraordinary circumstances dictate the need for virtual attendance.  

A thesis committee must consist of at least three members appointed by the dean of the Graduate School.  A form for Appointment or Change of Master's Thesis Committee is used to request that the graduate dean approve all members of a thesis committee.  The request normally is made as soon as the successful defense of the thesis proposal has been completed.  All members of a thesis committee must be members of the Graduate Faculty.  The Committee Chair must be a full or associate member of the Graduate Faculty.  One member must be from outside the student's major department.  If the outside member is not a full or associate member of the UA Graduate Faculty (e.g., a highly qualified person from another university, a business, or industry), the graduate dean needs to appoint that member by approving Temporary Graduate Faculty status for the specific purpose of serving on the student's thesis committee.  Unless there are extraordinary circumstances meriting approval by the graduate dean before the final oral defense of the thesis, all members of the thesis committee must attend the defense.

The candidate must give members of the examining committee a minimum of two weeks to read the thesis before the date of the final oral examination.  A final oral examination is required of all students completing a thesis.  All members of the thesis committee must be members of the UA graduate faculty and must attend the final oral examination unless there are extraordinary circumstances warranting the graduate dean's approval of the absence prior to the defense meeting.

Article Style vs. Journal Format

Article Style.

At the doctoral level, "article-style dissertations" are unified works that include several distinct but related studies of research or creative activity, each of which is of publishable quality.  The University does not permit an "article-style thesis" to be presented for a master's degree.

Journal Format.

A "journal-format thesis" is acceptable.  Such a thesis follows the format of a particular journal in which the student and advisor want the thesis to be published.  To prepare a journal-format thesis, the student uses the journal's "information for authors" or similarly titled guidelines in conjunction with the Graduate School's Student Guide to Preparing Electronic Theses and Dissertations.

As of August 15, 2009, all theses are submitted electronically rather than on paper.  See the Graduate School's homepage for a link to information on Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) for details.

Theses must comply with the regulations set out in A Student Guide to Preparing Electronic Theses and Dissertations, available on the Graduate School's website.  Approval of the thesis by the graduate dean is necessary before graduation.

The thesis should be completed, if possible, while the student is in residence at the University.  To request permission to complete a thesis in absentia, the student must, before leaving the University, submit a satisfactory outline of the thesis, as well as evidence that adequate facilities are available where the work will be done, to the head of the student's major department.

Protection of Human Subjects for Research

Scientific research involving human subjects has produced substantial benefits for society, but it also can pose troubling ethical questions.  The mission of the University's Institutional Review Board (IRB) for Protection of Human Subjects is to ensure that research involving human subjects is conducted ethically.  University and federal policies require that review and approval to use human subjects in research precede the research.  In the case of thesis research that involves the use of human subjects in any way, the principal investigator is responsible for contacting the college Human Research Review Committee to obtain approval for the planned research. 

Comprehensive Examinations

In addition to the regular course examinations, a final comprehensive examination representing a "culminating" or "capstone" experience for a degree is required of all candidates for the master's degree (except for those candidates pursuing the Master of Accountancy, the Master of Business Administration, the Master of Library and Information Studies, the Master of Social Work, and the Master of Tax Accounting).  The comprehensive examination is a culminating experience in which the student is expected to integrate prior learning.  Each department, with approval of the Graduate Council, determines the most appropriate format. The various exams may consist of one or more of the following: 

  • a written and/or oral examination based on the content of the degree program;

  • a thesis and final oral defense;

  • a course requiring interpretation and integration of information from previous courses;

  • a research paper, a "policy and practice" paper, or equivalent experience;

  • a public performance or exhibition along with a contextualizing paper; and/or

  • a practicum or internship.

If the comprehensive exam requirement is met with option 1 and/or 2 above, then the examining committee for comprehensive examinations must consist of at least three members of the graduate faculty from that department and appointed by the dean of the Graduate School.  The examination must be given at least six weeks before the date of graduation (two weeks before for Plan II) and reported promptly to the dean of the Graduate School on appropriate forms.  A final report, on the Master's/EdS Examination Form (this link needs to be changed to is on the Graduate School website.  The form should be submitted when all examinations are completed.  A student may take the final oral or written examination only twice.  Failing the examination twice results in dismissal from the degree program and the Graduate School.

Application for Graduation

Each candidate for a master's degree must apply for graduation through myBama no later than the last day to add a class for the semester or the first session of the summer term in which requirements for the degree are to be completed.  

Second Master's Degree

Six (6) semester hours of eligible credit from one master's degree at The University of Alabama may be applied to the requirements for a second master's degree, but only if the department of the second master’s agrees to the courses in the plan of study.  Any hours from the previous master’s degree must have been earned during the six years (18 fall, spring, and summer semesters) immediately preceding the date on which the second degree is to be awarded.  ***Please note that if a student double counts six hours between two master’s degrees, no hours may double count toward any additional master’s degrees.