Communication Studies

The study of communication is vital for societies becoming more complex in their daily functions; for institutions, groups, and individuals confronting the challenges of human diversity and technologically-mediated social and political relationships; and for a world that is increasingly interdependent and threatened by environmental change. Finding solutions to problems that confront business, government, schools, families, and social relationships can emerge from the careful study of how people communicate with each other. No matter what profession one holds, no matter what service a person provides to his/her community, no matter what an individual or group values in life, a broad understanding of the theory and practice of communication can be of importance.

To study communication is to study a variety of forms of human symbolic behavior that occurs in interpersonal, small group, organizational, mediated, and public situations. Communication is central to forming relationships, organizing collective behaviors, maintaining and changing cultures, making sense of our social and natural worlds, and fostering understanding among people; it is a fundamental part of our human nature. The study of human communication is based on the assumption that our ability to communicate in an effective and ethical manner is vital to productive human interaction. Communication scholars are committed to the idea that exploration of diverse understandings of communicative behavior enriches our participation in an increasingly complex and interdependent global society.

As a student in the MA in Communication Studies emphasis, you articulate and test your ideas, develop individual abilities, and gain competence in various communicative settings. You acquire knowledge and methods that apply to nearly every aspect of your private and public lives—in the classroom as well as outside it. In consultation with your advisor, you can design a program to meet your interests and needs. Graduate work in communication is rigorous and challenging. You are required to design, carry out, and present independent research. In doing so, you refine skills in writing, critical thinking and reasoning, presentation and defense of ideas, application of theory to everyday situations, and research. An advanced degree is proof that you are capable of designing and following through on projects expected of communication experts. 

The faculty at NAU believe that the Master of Arts in Communication will provide students with advanced skills in analysis, problem-solving, critical thinking, research, theoretical application, and written communication which can enhance the student's contributions to and success in Arizona's dynamic economy.


Meet the professors and advisers you’ll collaborate with.

See what current students are up to in activities and accomplishments. 

Read graduate profiles to see what you could do after you graduate.

Examine our Graduate Teaching Assistantships to see if there’s one that is best for you.

In the program, you will:

  • articulate and test your ideas
  • develop individual abilities and specialties
  • gain competence in various communicative settings

Graduate work in communication is rigorous and challenging. You are required to design, carry out, and present independent research.

In doing so, you’ll refine skills in:

  • writing
  • critical thinking and reasoning
  • presentation and defense of ideas
  • application of theory to everyday situations
  • research

An advanced degree is proof that you are capable of designing and following through on projects expected of communication experts.

Communication Studies Coursework

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Take the following 36 units: (courses and proposed plans subject to change)

Core classes (12 units)

COM 600 Communication Theory and Application (3 units)
Reviews the nature, history and types of communication theory with emphasis upon the use of theory in analysis and problem-solving. 

COM 601 Intro to Graduate Study in Communication (3 units)

Focuses on role and development of research in communication studies, including history and status of contemporary scholarship.

COM 603 Qualitative Research Methods (3 units)
Graduate level class in qualitative research methods, focusing on contemporary problems and practices of participant observation, interviewing and ethnographic inquiry, and developing background and skills to conduct qualitative research. [Highly recommended for Doc Studies students.]

COM 604 Quantitative Research Methods (3 units)

Students will learn the purpose, application and process of quantitative research methods in the field of Communication.

COM 698 Seminar in Communication (3 units)
Reading and discussion on selected advanced topics in communication theory. Topics vary each semester. Letter grade only. May be repeated for credit for up to 9 units with different content. (Will include documentary topics.)


CST 503 Communication in Instruction (3 credits)
CST 524 Gender and Communication (3 credits)
CST 560 Rhetorical Theory (3 credits)
CST 565 American Political Communication (3 credits)
CST 568 Communication, Technology, and Society (3 credits)
CST 572 Organizational Communication (3 credits)
CST 575 Health Communication (3 credits)
CST 577 Mediation and Conflict Management (3 credits)
CST 599 Contemporary Developments (3 credits)*^
CST 623 Intercultural Communication Theory (3 credits)
CST 685 Independent Research (1-6 credits)
CST 697 Independent Study (1-3 credits)
COM 599 Contemporary Developments (3 credits)*^
COM 530 Cultural, Psychological, and Social Aspects of Dress (3 credits)
COM 685 Independent Research (1-6 credits)
COM 697 Independent Study (1-3 credits)
COM 698 Seminar in Communication Theory (3 credits)*

* Denotes variable topics courses that can be repeated for credit under a different topic.

^ Recent topics in COM/CST 599 include:

  • performance studies
  • public culture
  • quantitative methods
  • mass communication and human behavior

You can also take, with adviser approval, up to 9 credits of electives outside of CST/COM.

Thesis/project completion

Students will be required to complete a thesis (COM 699, for at least 6 credits) or a graduate project (COM 690, for at least 3 credits).

A thesis will follow the guidelines identified in the graduate catalog and promote the appropriate use of scholarly rules for collecting, interpreting, and judging data as well as presenting findings. A thesis involves original research that adds to the body of knowledge. (If you chose the thesis option, you will complete 21 credits of electives.)

A project often involves the application of selected theories and research to a practical problem that confronts working professionals, but is flexible enough to allow for a wide range of options involving original research, application of existing research, or creative endeavors. (If you chose the project option, you will typically complete 24 credits of electives.)

For more detailed information, look in the academic catalog and download the MA in Communication Handbook.