Grad Program FAQs

Please note: The UMass Amherst Graduate School maintains its own comprehensive list of FAQs on its website. Please click on the above link if you can't find the answers you are looking for on this page. Also, please check the Communication Department's graduate handbook for more detailed information about our grad program.

Admissions Questions

  • What is your application deadline?

    The application deadline for Fall admission is in early January, typically January 2.

  • Do you have a Spring term admission?

    We do not have Spring term admission.

  • Must I have a background in Communication to apply to your program?

    No, you do not, though depending on your background you may have to take extra courses to fulfill the requirements for your planned research and study in the field.

  • May I visit with faculty and/or current graduate students?

    Our faculty and graduate students are always happy to talk to prospective students. You should contact faculty with whom you would like to work directly to set up appointments for a visit or telephone conversation. Please click here for their contact information. They can put you in touch with graduate students who might share interests with you. The Graduate Program Director is also available to answer questions about the program.

  • Do you accept non-degree seeking students?

    The Department of Communication does not normally accept non-degree seeking students, though students who have taken courses as non-degree students may apply to the program and, if admitted, may transfer up to six credits toward their degrees. Also, we do allow students from other departments in the University to take many of our courses.

  • Are applications reviewed on a rolling basis or all at one time?

    Applications to our graduate program are reviewed once a year in January after the application deadline. They are not reviewed on a rolling basis and we do not have rolling admission.

  • How soon will I find out whether I have been admitted or not?

    We inform students as soon as possible about our decisions, usually by the beginning of February.

  • Are there any special admissions issues that international students should know?

    We have no special considerations for international students. We are of course interested in the level of English proficiency of our international applicants. The University requires that international students take the TOEFL (or IELTS) and achieve a score above 80 unless they have a master’s degree from a university in the United States. The Department of Communication prefers, but does not require, a TOEFL score above 95.

  • What is the University code for the GRE and TOEFL?

    The Educational Testing Service (ETS) requires codes for sending GRE and TOEFL scores for your application. The ETS code for the University of Massachusetts Amherst is 3917. If asked for a department code, use 0000.

  • What are your minimum and average GRE scores?

    We do not require a specific score; rather we take your complete application package into account.

  • What are your minimum and average Grade Point Averages (GPAs)?

    We do not have a minimum GPA; we take the full application package into consideration when selecting who might be a good fit for our program.

Financial Questions

  • Is there an application for Teaching Assistant (TA) positions?

    There is not a separate application for TA positions. You should check the appropriate box under “Financial Aid” on your application. Virtually all admitted students who request funding are given TA positions to fund them.

  • If I'm admitted, how many years of funding would I get?

    We offer PhD students four years of funding, although we can officially tender contracts for funding only one year at a time.

  • What are the financial terms of a TA’ship?

    TA’ships pay about $23,050.80 per year and include a full tuition and curriculum fee waiver as well as coverage of 95% of health insurance fees (which can include a family plan). About $1500 in fees each semester are not covered by the TA’ship.

  • What work does a TA’ship involve?

    Several different kinds of activities count as a TA’ship. Students are assigned particular TA’ships based on academic interests and background, the department's curricular and scheduling needs (which can shift from semester to semester), the TA’s prior teaching experience, and English fluency. About one third of the TA’ships involve providing support to professors in two different lecture classes per semester. These assistantships do not involve instructing classes. The TA attends both classes, reads class material, does grading, proctors exams, holds office hours, and otherwise provides support. About half of the TA’ships are for teaching stand-alone classes, usually a required junior year writing course, introductory course, or a public speaking course. A few TA’ships involve leading sections or production labs attached to a larger lecture course. (However, only a few of our lecture courses have such separate, TA-led sections.)

Program Questions

  • Does the Department specialize in qualitative or quantitative research?

    About three-fourths of our faculty specialize in qualitative methods, which is an unusually high proportion among Departments of Communication in the US. Although we have a smaller proportion of quantitative scholars than most programs, our quantitative faculty are widely known for their strong research profiles.

  • How are advisors assigned?

    The Graduate Program Director is your temporary advisor upon entrance in the program. We do not assign you an advisor. We expect you to make contact with professors during your first semester to discuss your interests and see if you would like to work together. By the beginning of the second semester for MA students and the end of the semester for PhD students, you should identity the professor who will serve as your “Plan of Study” advisor and two additional faculty who together with your advisor will serve as your Plan of Study Committee to help guide you through coursework. By the fourth semester of the PhD program, you should constitute a Guidance Committee consisting of three faculty to administer your comprehensive exams.

  • What are your required courses?

    Introduction to Theories and Concepts of Human Communication (Comm 611); Qualitative Methods (Comm 620); Quantitative Methods (Comm 621); and a year-long Proseminar (Comm 891A and B).

  • May I transfer credits from another institution?

    You may transfer up to six credits from another program, but not credits that have counted toward another degree.

  • Are students required to attend graduate school full time?

    Students who take nine hours (three classes) per semester are considered full-time students. If you are offered funding through the department, you must be a full-time student. If you are not offered funding through the department, then you are not required to be a full-time student. We do, however, strongly suggest full-time enrollment. You will complete your degree in a much more timely fashion and get to know your fellow graduate students better. It is possible to work full time and get a graduate degree if your work schedule is flexible enough to take graduate courses when they are offered. Our program is not structured for students who work full time, but it can be done and has been done.