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J.D./Master of Arts (M.A.) in Media Studies

Penn State Law (PSL) and the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications (COMM) offer a joint degree leading to a Juris Doctor (J.D.); and a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Media Studies.

Admissions Requirements

Students must apply to Penn State Law and the Bellisario College of Communications Media Studies program separately and must meet each school's admissions requirements.

College-specific Admissions Requirements

Penn State Law

COMM Media Studies: Admission requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the GENERAL INFORMATION section of the Graduate Bulletin.  Scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) are required for admission. Students with at least a 3.00 junior/senior grade-point average are for admission. Three letters of recommendation are required. Applicants must also submit an autobiographical statement of about 1,000 words indicating the nature of the applicant's interest in Media Studies, reasons for wanting to do graduate work, and future aspirations relating to the field of mass communications. Experience shows that most applicants hold a bachelor's degree in a field of the liberal arts or the social and behavioral sciences, including journalism and mass communications. However, this does not preclude applicants with other backgrounds, abilities, and interests such as those whose undergraduate training may have been in a scientific or technical field. In every case, the applicant should explain in the autobiographical statement how his or her undergraduate education relates to the decision to seek admission to graduate study in mass communications. 

Special Note for Joint Degree Applicants: Formal admission to the M.A. program would normally take place during the student’s first year of law, but COMM may extend admission to the M.A. program at the time an applicant applies to PSL particularly where an applicant’s law school choice depends upon admission to the J.D./M.A. joint degree program. At the student’s request, the LSAT may replace the GRE for joint degree admission purposes.

Application Process

Students must complete the following Penn State applications, along with any other requirements in the College-specific Admissions Requirements section above. These applications may be completed simultaneously.

Penn State Law Application for Admission

Graduate School Application 

International Applicants

The language of instruction at Penn State is English. English proficiency test scores (TOEFL/IELTS) may be required for international applicants. Consult the English Proficiency section of the Graduate Bulletin Application and Admission Procedures page for more information. Applicants to the Media Studies program must have a score of 24 or higher on the speaking section of the TOEFL Internet-based test. 


A typical J.D./M.A. joint degree student will be in residence at PSL for six semesters and at COMM for two semesters.

College Liaisons

The department and faculty liaisons for PSL shall be the Director of Joint Degree Programs and the student adviser shall be the Director of Joint Degree Programs or such other faculty member(s) as may be designated by the Dean. The liaison for COMM shall be the Joint Degree J.D./M.A. Program Faculty Adviser.

Inter-program Transfer of Credits

Students must fulfill all requirements for each degree in order to be awarded that degree, subject to the double-counting of credits as outlined below.

Penn State Law:  A maximum of twelve (12) 500-level credits for Media Studies M.A. course work may be transferred for credit toward the J.D. degree at PSL. Students must obtain a grade satisfactory to PSL for the course work to be credited toward the J.D. degree. The following COMM courses may qualify for credit toward the PSL J.D.: COMM 504, COMM 505, COMM 506, COMM 511, COMM 513, COMM 516, COMM 517, COMM 518, COMM 580, COMM 582, COMM 585, and COMM 587.

COMM Media Studies: A maximum of twelve (12) credits of PSL course work will be counted for credit for the minimum requirements for a master's degree. These courses must be approved by the student's advisery committee and Joint Degree Program Faculty Adviser in COMM, normally during the Program Proposal Meeting.

Note: The J.D. seminar requirement and the Media Studies thesis requirement must be fulfilled separately, using unique research topics.

Sequence of Study

The sequence of courses will be determined by the student and their advisor(s). However, students must successfully complete the first-year curriculum with the law school before the inter-program transfer of credits for graduate coursework can begin. In compliance with ABA Standards and Rules law students may not enroll for more than 17 credits per semester at Penn State.

Recommended Program of Study and Advising

All students in the program will have two advisers, one from PSL and one from COMM; the adviser from COMM may be any member of the Graduate Faculty in the College. Periodic interaction between the two advisers is encouraged. A program of study is developed for each student, taking into account the fact that some courses at both locations are offered on a rotating or intermittent basis. Many courses are offered every year but some are offered every two or three years. Advisers will have available a list of projected relevant courses or educational experiences in order to work with the student on an individualized program of study. The standard committee structure will apply to the COMM M.A. program


Students will be charged the applicable PSL tuition to cover the J.D. program and the applicable graduate tuition to cover the M.A. degree program. PSL tuition will be paid for the semesters in which the student is registered for PSL courses, and graduate tuition will be paid for the semesters in which the student is registered for graduate courses in the M.A. program. A student may take up to one course (3 credit hours) per semester in the program where the student is not primarily registered without any change in tuition, but must pay additional tuition to the program that the student is not primarily registered if he or she wishes to take additional course work pursuant to that program during the semester.

Financial Aid and Assistantships

Decisions on financial aid and assistantships will be made by each school according to that school’s procedures. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load policy listed in the Bulletin.

Fulfillment of Degree Requirements and Graduation

A student in the program may complete the requirements for one of the degrees and be awarded that degree prior to completing all the requirements for the other degree provided, however, that the student shall have successfully completed at least two semesters of work towards the other degree. All courses in one program that will count towards meeting the requirements of the other must be completed before the awarding of either degree. Students will be required to fulfill all requirements for each degree in order to be awarded that degree, subject to the inter-program transfer of credits.

Important Note: If the joint degree student is using law (900-level) credits toward the graduate degree during their last semester of enrollment, they should be prepared to extend their graduate degree graduation to a subsequent semester (the following semester at a minimum). This is due to the graduate degree approval deadline falling before the law (900-level) course grading processes are complete. If students accepted into the joint degree program are unable to complete the J.D. degree, they are still eligible to receive the M.A. degree if all M.A. degree requirements have been satisfied.

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships and other forms of student aid available to students in this program are described in the STUDENT AID section of the Graduate Bulletin. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load limits set forth in the Graduate Bulletin.

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications Media Studies M.A. Degree Program

Penn State Law J.D. Degree Requirements