In Graduate Students

PR Student: K.B. Sutherland
This article was produced in cooperation with the COMMS 425 lab.

Students in the BYU Mass Communications graduate program have found their journey through the program has not just been a means to an end, but an exciting experience personalized to each student’s career goals and interests.

“My favorite thing about this program has been the freedom I’ve had as a student to pursue topics that interest me,” said Zachary Miller, a second year in the graduate program. “Here I can focus my studies and my assignments on a topic that I want to be more proficient in, like sports communications, instead of some curriculum-mandated topic that everyone focuses on.”

Tom Robinson, the Mass Communications graduate studies coordinator, said the program is designed so students get their master’s degree in Mass Communications, but have the freedom to take that in any direction they want to go. Those directions include public relations, advertising, journalism, mass communications effects and more.

The recent addition of an Academic and Professional track to the curriculum has made this program personalization possible.

The Academic Track: What does it take to be a professor?

The academic track is for students interested in pursuing a doctoral degree, a career in academia, or a research position in industry or government. Photo courtesy of Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan.

The academic track existed before but it was not formally offered as an option. It is for students interested in pursuing a doctoral degree, a career in academia or a research position in industry or government.

Classes in this track emphasize the theory and research methods needed to teach and conduct research on a college or university level. Students can specialize in areas such as mass communication law or history, media effects, new communication technologies and international communications.

The academic track requires a master’s thesis – which is a 50 to 75-page paper that demonstrates a student’s ability to plan, complete and analyze research.

The Professional Track: What if I don’t want to be a professor?

The Professional track was recently added to accommodate students interested in, or who already have, a mass communications job. A master’s degree could increase current salary or open doors to possible promotions.

Classes in the professional track are more skills-based, such as the Advertising Issues and Strategies class that covers target market analysis, media strategies, advertising promotions and more. Many of these classes are offered in the evening to better accommodate a working professional’s busy schedule.

Instead of a thesis, students in the professional track are required to complete a professional project. An example of one such project was an online class created by a graduate student that helped dentists learn how to advertise their services. Another example is carrying out a full advertising campaign for a non-profit company.

What about the Research?

The professional track is for students already in a mass communications profession that are looking to enhance their career. Photo courtesy of

As long as students can find a faculty member willing to support them, students can research anything related to mass communications. Such freedom can be intimidating, but most students flourish as they research subjects they are interested in.

“I didn’t expect this program to be so much fun,” said graduate student Jared Hansen. “All the faculty are very supportive of your research interests and hobbies. If you want to study memes, Snapchat or social media, they’re all for it. It’s great that this program is filled with fun faculty who aren’t caught up in doing stuffy research.”

Not only does this program offer students the ability to specialize their graduate experience, but it is also backed by enthusiastic professors who support the students every step of the way.

“I love working with graduate students. It’s one of my favorite things that I do. Just to train and mentor them so they can become better scholars,” said Pamela Brubaker, a professor in the Mass Communications graduate program.

The professors’ support is noticed and appreciated by their students. “The professors are amazing. Their encouragement, involvement and support make a huge difference,” said Hannah Chudleigh, a graduate student in the program. “The faculty’s broad range of backgrounds means that I can always find a mentor to help me with my studies.”

Advice from the Students

For those interested in BYU’s Mass Communications graduate degree program, several students have offered advice to make the journey as smooth as possible:

  • “Be committed to the program and put your school work first. If you’re going to come back to school, actually come back and dive into the work.” – Zachary Miller
  • “If you are lost or confused about what to do next in the program then go talk to a professor. They are all willing and interested in helping you out and they don’t want you to fail. They will treat you like an equal so take advantage of that and treat them like one of your peers.” – Spencer Christensen
  • “You’ll get what you put into the program. Be an adult and you’ll do great!” – Sara May
  • “Don’t be afraid of the professors. And don’t be afraid to get involved. Get to know your cohort and make friends! This is a unique opportunity where you learn and grow as a group. Take advantage of it.” – Jared Hansen
  • “If you plan on doing the professional track, be aware that the program is still very academic. Most classes are theory-focused, although they are trying to expand it and offer more professional classes. And if you aren’t planning on going into academia, don’t feel pressured into being a research assistant. Related work experience and writing samples will be more likely to help you get a job in the field after graduation.” – Hannah Chudleigh
  • “Love your study. It will consume your life for two years! And don’t try to change the whole world, just try to do your best and make some friends and connections along the way.” – Meghan Payne
  • “Be prepared to read a lot!” – Alyssa Davidson
  • “Get to know the faculty! Work with them!” – Katie Klotzer

More information about the BYU Mass Communications graduate program, such as program requirements and financial aid options, can be found on the BYU graduate program website.


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