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College of Letters & Science

Journalism and Mass Communication

Requirements for the Major
Admission to the Journalism Degree Program
Graduation Requirements
Tracks within the Major
Honors in the Major
Distinction in the Major for Non-Honors Students
Thesis of Distinction
Practical Experience: Organizations
Job Information Service

5115 Vilas Communication Hall, 821 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-3691; www.journalism.wisc.edu

Professors Baughman, Blum, Downey, Drechsel, Dunwoody, Fair, Friedland, Gunther, McLeod, Mitchell, Rojas, D. Shah, H. Shah (Director), Vaughn; Associate Professors Kim, Riddle, Robinson; Assistant Professors Culver, Graves, Hull, Palmer, Steenson, Wagner, Wells

Undergraduate advisors in the major:

Faculty diversity liaison: Hemant Shah, 5115 Vilas Hall, 608-262-3690, hgshah@wisc.edu

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication, founded in 1905, offers professional education within the context of the liberal arts degree of the College of Letters & Science. The student earns the journalism bachelor of arts or journalism bachelor of science degree upon completion of the journalism program. Students are required to complete at least one of the two tracks described below.

The school seeks to provide students with both a broad cultural base for future careers and the competence to do professional work immediately after graduation. Of the 120 credits required for graduation, at least 21 must be in the social sciences/humanities—for example, economics, history, psychology, political science, sociology. In addition to skills courses, students are required to take courses in conceptual subjects such as law and history of mass communication, public opinion, international communication and communication theory. The student approaches mass communication as science, art, and service while relating it to many facets of society.

Requirements for the Major*

Students are eligible to apply for admission to the journalism degree program when they have completed (or will complete within the semester) a minimum of 24 credits (excluding AP and retroactive language credits) and Journalism 201. Final admission decisions are based on a comprehensive application packet including transcripts, a resume, personal statement, and work samples.

Students earning the journalism degree must satisfy all degree and track requirements. All students must:

  • have a minimum 2.0 journalism GPA and a 2.0 cumulative GPA
  • complete the introductory and upper-level social science/humanities course requirements specified in this catalog
  • complete one of the school's two tracks—Journalism (also known as Reporting) or Strategic Communication (forms of persuasive communication including advertising and public relations), and
  • complete three (3) courses in theories and topics

Both tracks (Journalism and Strategic Communication) have specific course requirements, and students should pay close attention to requirements listed in this catalog.

All students are required to fulfill the L&S requirement of 15 credits of upper-level work in the major completed in residence. All journalism courses numbered 300 and above (except 335, 345, 515, and 697) count toward this requirement.

*Please check with the undergraduate academic advisor regarding current requirements and prerequisites for the major.

Admission to the Journalism Degree Program

Students who wish to declare themselves as degree candidates in journalism should submit a formal application to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Generally, second-semester freshmen are eligible to apply for admission beginning their first semester of sophomore year. Prospective degree candidates must present to the school an academic record and writing ability that indicate a probability of success in some field of communication.

In order to apply for admission to the school, students must have met the following requirements:

  • A minimum of 24 credits completed by the end of the semester in which they apply, including transfer credits but excluding AP and retroactive language credits.
  • Completion of Journalism 201 by the end of the semester in which they apply. Students may have no more than 16 credits in journalism courses taken at UW–Madison when applying for admission.

Transfer students must be enrolled for at least one semester at UW–Madison before applying for admission to the school (their first semester may be in progress at the time they submit their application). Students transferring journalism course credit from other colleges and universities should check their record of transferred credit with a journalism advisor.

The school admits students to the program in the fall and spring semesters.  The number of students to be admitted is subject to change based on the school's capacity to adequately provide access to required courses.  Admissions decisions are based on the entire application, with particular emphasis on academic performance and writing ability.  Specific guidelines for submitting the application portfolio are available online at this link or through the undergraduate advisor.

After admission to the school, the student's classification will  be changed to JBA or JBS to reflect this change in status.

Graduation Requirements

  • Students must complete the B.A. or B.S. general course requirements; 120 credits are required for graduation. Of these 120 credits, a minimum of 30 credits must be in graded journalism courses. Students may elect approved courses in other colleges such as business, engineering, agricultural and life sciences, and education, but must earn at least 108 credits in L&S liberal arts and science  (LAS) courses.
  • A minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA in journalism courses, and not less than a 2.0 GPA in other courses taken at UW–Madison.
  • Introductory social science: of the following eight social science fields, the student must take three introductory courses, one from each of three different departments to include one economics or political science course: Anthro 100, 102, 104 or 204; Econ 101, 102 or 111; Geog 101, 102, 139 or 140; ILS 205 or 206; Philos 101, 102, 103 or 181; Poli Sci 101, 102, 103, 104, 106, 181 or 182; Psych 201 or 202; Soc 125, 130, 134, 138, 140, 170, 181 or 210. See the undergraduate academic advisor to substitute intermediate-advanced courses upper-level equivalent courses—however, intermediate-advanced courses taken to fulfill the introductory requirement cannot also count toward the introductory-advanced social science/humanities requirement (see below).
  • Introductory-advanced social sciences or humanities courses: 12 credits of courses with an I, A or D level designation and an H, S or Z breadth designation. One of these courses must be a History course. Courses crosslisted into the School of Journalism (such as History/Journalism 560) cannot count toward this requirement.
  • Courses taken pass/fail may not be used to satisfy either the introductory or intermediate-advanced social science/humanities requirement. Students must take these courses on a letter-grade basis.
  • Admission to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (see above).
  • Completion of Journ 202 (Mass Communication Practices) in the first semester after admission to the school.
  • Completion of at least one of the two tracks offered by the school—Journalism or Strategic Communication.
  • Completion of three courses in Theories and Topics courses, with one course from the Group B level of Theories and Topics courses: Journ 559, 560, 561, or 565; one course from the Group C level of courses: Journ 614, 616, 617, 618, 620, 621, 646, 658, 662, 669, 670, 675, or 676 (at least 3 credits); and the remaining course from either group.

Tracks within the Major

All students must complete either the Journalism or Strategic Communication track within the major. Both tracks are designed to provide breadth and depth of study as well as technical training to prepare students for careers after they graduate. The Journalism track addresses such elements as writing, reporting, editing and design for print, broadcast and new media, while strategic communication focuses on the principles behind advertising, public relations, integrated communications and other persuasive forms of mass communication.

Journalism: Journ 335; at least one among 401, 404, 405, 411*, 415, 417*, 419, and certain 475 topics courses depending on topic (consult the academic advisor or semester course guide emailed to majors).

Strategic Communication: Journ 345; at least one among 411*, 417*, 419, 445, 447, 449, and certain 475 topics courses (consult the academic advisor or semester course guide emailed to majors).

Students planning to complete both tracks should consult with the undergraduate academic advisor about course availability and planning.

Honors in the Major

The following requirements for Honors in Journalism have been established to provide greater rigor in coursework leading to research- and theory-oriented graduate study. Honors in Journalism students must:

  • Maintain a GPA of 3.4 or better in all journalism and mass communication courses and an overall GPA of at least 3.3 in all courses taken at UW–Madison at the time of graduation.
  • Complete two courses in each of the Group B and Group C Theories and Topics groupings.
  • Complete two semesters of Senior Honors Thesis (Journ 681 and Journ 682).
  • Students interested in Honors in the Major should contact Robert Schwoch, undergraduate academic advisor, at schwoch@wisc.edu. Students should be aware that Honors in the Major requirements specified in this catalog are subject to change. Students should check with the department honors advisor at least once a year to make sure that requirements have not been modified.

Distinction in the Major for Non-Honors Students

Distinction in the Major is awarded to the student who has a 3.5 grade point average in journalism and who completes a senior thesis (Journ 691 and Journ 692).

Thesis of Distinction

The award "Thesis of Distinction" is granted for an exceptionally good or original thesis, without consideration of the student's record in other work. The director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication will appoint a faculty member other than the advisor to read the thesis and then, upon the recommendation of the two readers, recommend to the dean that the "Thesis of Distinction" award be granted.

Practical Experience: Organizations

The school encourages students to gain practical experience through part-time jobs and internships. Campus publications include, but are not limited to, the Badger Yearbook, The Daily Cardinal, and the Badger Herald. Students in broadcast news courses can assist in the preparation of programs for WSUM radio. Professionals from the media and related fields appear often in classes and meet with students in professional student organizations.


Students planning careers as media professionals are encouraged to hold one or more internships in the area of their academic specialization(s). Declared journalism majors or prospective journalism majors with no other declared major may earn course credit for internships that relate to their professional tracks. As part of their degree programs, students may earn a maximum of 3 credits of Journ 697 Internship during their undergraduate careers. Students may only earn one credit of Journ 697 per semester, but may repeat the credit up to three times. Students who want to earn degree credit for their internships should consult with career advisor Pam Garcia-Rivera before they accept an internship. Students must enroll in Journ 697 at the time they hold the internship.

Journ 697 does not count as part of the 30 minimum journalism credits required for graduation. Students who wish to enroll in Journ 697 should see Pam Garcia-Rivera for authorization to enroll.

Job Information Service

The school provides a job listing service at this link on its website. Questions concerning that can be directed to Pam Garcia-Rivera.   

Current students and recent alumni are encouraged to meet with the undergraduate career advisor to discuss career and internship opportunities. Students may consult the school website or with the undergraduate career advisor for specific information.