Graduate Program

Frequently Asked Questions About the Graduate Program

  1. How do I apply?
  2. What is due, when?
  3. Are assistantships available?
  4. What forms go where?
  5. What are the benefits of an assistantship?
  6. What might I be doing for an assistantship?
  7. Do I really need to take the GRE?
  8. What score is needed?
  9. Are there other requirements?
  10. What is a temporary advisor and how do I get one?
  11. What is the completion time for the MA degree?
  12. What are other requirements for the degree?

How do I apply?
Apply online at

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What is due, when?
Consult the Graduate Catalog for application deadlines.

Generally, remember when assistantship applications are due (middle of February) and when registration for classes begins (i.e., around April 1 for Summer/Fall) and use those that fit your circumstances for a deadline.

Registration for classes is ongoing, but some classes fill quickly

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Are assistantships available?
Assistantships are available on a competitive basis. The department routinely has 28 students on assistantship

Assistantship applications should be received by the department by the middle of February. Please also have your admission paperwork and transcripts/letters of recommendation submitted to the Graduate School at this time.

Typically, assistantships begin in the fall semester.

The assistantship application is available on the graduate school website.

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What forms go where?
The application for admission to the graduate school is submitted online to the graduate school. Transcripts, letters of recommendations and GRE scores should be sent to the graduate school.

In person:
Reavis 107, COMS Graduate Office Support Specialist

Department of Communication
210 Watson
Graduate Office Support Specialist
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115

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What are the benefits of an assistantship?
When you have an assistantship:
You are working for the University.
You get a full tuition waiver, stipend, and experience valuable in the job market.

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What might I be doing for an assistantship?
Your assistantship may be in the areas of:

Teaching COMS 100
Media Production/Video Production Assistance
Editorial assistant for a journal
Forensics Assistance
Assistance with high enrollment undergraduate classes

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Do I really need to take the GRE?
The GRE is required

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What score is needed?
There is no minimum score: however, aim for 153+ on the Verbal and 144+  on the Quantitative, and 4+ on the writing.

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Are there other requirements?
Many factors go into your acceptance, such as a high undergraduate GPA from a good university as well as good academic letters of recommendation.

For international students the TOEFL is required as is the Test of Spoken English.

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What is a temporary advisor and how do I get one?
A Temporary Advisor is assigned to you at the time you are admitted to the department.

The Graduate Director (Dr. Kathleen Valde ) will also answer questions that you have.

Your Temporary Advisor does not necessarily become your Permanent Advisor. You decide during your course of study who you would like to ask to become your committee chair and the two of you discuss your plan of study and your thesis or comprehensive exams.

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What is the completion time for the MA degree?
It is not recommended for students to graduate in fewer than four semesters. It is possible to do so, but it requires an enormous commitment of time that many students find intimidating.

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What are other requirements for the degree?
As of 2012, 36 credit hours are required to graduate with an MA in COMS. Check with your advisor to see when and how often courses are offered.

It is recommended that you take COMS 691 in your first semester. It teaches you about the history of communication, different research methods, and the foundation of the discipline.

You must take one 600 or 700 level course from each of the four areas of concentration: Interpersonal, Organizational, and Persuasive Communication, Media, Rhetoric, and Journalism.

If you are a TA, you have to take COMS 630 your first semester.

With advisor approval, you may elect a maximum of 12 semester hours in allied studies in other departments.

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