Graduate Program Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to questions that prospective graduate students frequently ask.


Questions About the Program

I do not wish to pursue a Ph.D. degree; I want to earn only a master’s degree. Should I apply?

No, our program probably is not well suited for you. Students in our master's program typically earn their M.A. on their way to earning a Ph.D., even if they are interested only in an M.A. at UC Davis. We encourage you to consider applying for the doctoral program even if your current highest degree is a baccalaureate.

How much time is required to obtain an M.A.?

The normative time is 2 years.

How much time is required to obtain a Ph.D. through the program

The normative time is 4–5 years.

What is a typical cohort size per year?

Ordinarily 6–8.

Do all students receive funding?

Although funding is not guaranteed, nearly all of our graduate students have received financial support. All graduate students, regardless of funding, have the opportunity to apply for departmental grants in support of research and conference travel. While many funding opportunities exist, funding always is competitive, and decisions about funding are made based on reviews of applicants' qualifications and the availability of funding.

If I do not receive funding as part of my offer, are other sources of funding available?

Many courses on our large, academically diverse campus employ teaching assistants (TAs) from other departments, thereby giving our students multiple opportunities to earn income. The pay rate for teaching courses in other units is the same as in the Department of Communication.


The Application Process

I am an international applicant; do I need to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores?

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is required if English is not your native language, unless you have received or will be receiving a degree from a university at which the primary language of instruction (through the entire school) is English. The minimum TOEFL score for admission is 100 out of a possible 120, counting all four sections of the iBT TOEFL (Internet-based TOEFL). TOEFL scores expire after two years.The minimum IELTS score for admission is 7.0 on a 9-point scale. 

What are the Institution and Departmental Codes for TOEFL?

The Institution Code for  TOEFL is 4834. The Departmental code for TOEFL is 83.

What is the deadline for applying for admission?

The application deadline for students seeking financial support is December 1. The Department of Communication will consider applications until February 1 for any remaining open positions . However, these applicants are not eligible for consideration for financial support for the first academic year.

I cannot obtain my transcripts before the December 1st deadline; can the deadline be extended?

The Department of Communication will consider applications until February 1. However, to be eligible for consideration for financial support, you must submit all your application materials, including transcripts, reference letters, writing sample and test scores, by the Decmber 1stdeadline.

Where should I send my transcripts?

UC Davis requires official transcripts from each college-level institution you have attended. You should upload scanned copies of your transcripts after you have submitted your online application. The UC Davis Office of Graduate Studies offers more details about transcript submission.

What should I write in the Statement of Purpose and in the Personal History Statement?

The Statement of Purpose should explain why you want to earn a Ph.D. in communication and should describe the educational experiences that have prepared you for graduate study in communication. You can describe the kind of work you hope to do professionally after earning your Ph.D.

The Personal History Statement should discuss your life experiences that led to your interest in studying communication. Be sure to include both of these statements in your online application.

What type of writing sample should I submit?

The online application requires you to upload one writing sample. Your composition does not have to be about a communication-related subject, but should be representative of your scholarly writing skills. You may submit a copy of your completed M.A. thesis or one or two of the initial chapters from the thesis you are writing. All writing samples must be in English.

From whom should I seek the letters of recommendation?

The letters of recommendation should be from persons who can evaluate your scholarly potential. We suggest obtaining at least two letters from faculty members with whom you have studied or worked. You must submit the letters electronically through the online application system. Paper copies will not be accepted. Please ensure that all three letters, along with other required materials, are submitted by January 5. After you have submitted your online application, you can check the status of your application by periodically logging back in to the online application system and seeing which materials have been received. The department will not contact applicants if materials are missing.

Do I need to take any additional English tests if I want to work as a TA?

In order to qualify to work as a teaching assistant (TA) or associate instructor (AI), you as an international graduate student must have a minimum score of 26 on the Speaking Subset of the TOEFL iBT test or a minimum score of 50 on the SPEAK test, which you can take after your arrival at UC Davis.

Can I transfer credits from a previous institution?

Usually, all work for the graduate degree is done in residence on the UC Davis campus. However, with the consent of the graduate adviser and the dean of Graduate Studies, some coursework taken elsewhere may be credited toward a student's degree, provided that the units were not used to satisfy requirements for another degree. You might be asked to send the syllabus of the requested course(s) so that the graduate adviser can compare your earlier course(s) with the corresponding course(s) here.


Admissions Standards and Criteria

How many applications do you typically receive each year?

We receive anywhere from 90 to 150 applications each year.

How competitive is the admission process?

Our program is highly selective; we usually make 15 to 20 admission offers (10–20 percent), Ph.D. and M.A. students combined. We are not able to re-offer admission to a student who declines an offer; if you decline an offer of admission, you may re-apply in a subsequent year.

What GPA is required for admission?

Graduate Studies requires a minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4-point scale.

Is the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) required for admission?

No, we do not require the GRE for our program. 

Is an M.A. degree a prerequisite for application to the Ph.D. program?

No, applicants can apply to the Ph.D. program if they have only a bachelor's degree, as long as they meet the other admission requirements.

Are applicants who already have an M.A. degree favored for admission over applicants who don’t?

No. What matters is how well the prospective student's application materials meet the admission requirements, and how well the applicant's research interests and goals match the strengths and goals of the department.

What are my chances of being accepted and receiving financial offer?

Chances for admission and financial aid depend on how your records compare with those of each of the other applicants. Unfortunately, we cannot estimate an individual's chances until all applications have been received and examined. Thank you for your understanding.


The Department of Communication at UC Davis offers a very limited number of application fee waivers for students who wish to apply for the Department’s Ph.D. program and who meet certain eligibility criteria, described in detail below. The UC Davis Graduate Studies office also offers a separate fee waiver program, please click here for more information. Any applicant may apply for both fee waiver programs, but an applicant may only receive one fee waiver.

If you meet the eligibility requirements for a Department fee waiver, please follow the application instructions listed below. Applications must be received by 5:00 pm Pacific time on December 11, 2023 in order to receive consideration. The Department has a limited number of fee waivers and will prioritize financial need if it receives more applications than available fee waivers. If there are any remaining fee waivers after considering applicants' financial need, the Department will allocate them to eligible applicants by a random lottery.


To receive a fee waiver from the Department, you must be a U.S. citizen, current permanent resident, international student, an AB540 student or a DACA student. You must also demonstrate either: (1) financial need, and/ or (2) that you served in the US military. 

Criterion #1: Financial Need

You can demonstrate financial need in one of the following ways:

  1. You are currently receiving need-based financial aid from your undergraduate or graduate institution. This includes (but is not limited to) being eligible for a federal Pell grant or a Cal Grant A or B as an undergraduate.
  2. You have completed the FAFSA form and your Student Aid Report (SAR) has an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $3,069 or below. 
  3. Your personal situation makes it financially difficult to pay the graduate application fee. This could include heavy child or elder care responsibilities, current unemployment or a recent emergency that depleted your financial resources.
  4. Your family’s 2021 tax return lists an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) less than or equal to an amount from the table below:
Total Family SizeAGI
For each additional family memberAdd $8,399 to the highest amount listed above.

Criterion #2: Service in the U.S. Military

If you have served in the U.S. military, you can apply for a Department fee waiver.


  1. Complete the Department’s online fee waiver application.
  2. The Department will notify you whether your Departmental fee waiver request was granted by December 19, 2023

You must complete the application by 5:00 pm Pacific U.S. time on December 11, 2023.

Note: if you apply for a Department fee waiver, please do not pay the application fee until you have received a notice of your fee waiver status. You will receive notification on or before December 19, 2023.