The Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism is a program geared toward experienced journalists seeking subject matter expertise and toward experienced professionals in other fields seeking journalism skills to advance their expertise. The program is also open to recent School of Journalism graduates with records of excellence in their university classes and internships and a demonstrated aptitude and commitment to developing an expertise in a specialized field of reporting.

In the SJ program, award-winning, experienced journalists guide students toward publication in professional outlets, generating "impact journalism" that makes a difference.  Students are encouraged to explore documentary, investigative, and narrative journalism genres through a range of specialties and disciplines, including international reporting, social justice journalism, and reporting on religion, climate change, sports, entertainment, and other subjects.  Under the guidance of faculty advisers, and with a wide range of electives for study throughout the university, students craft their own unique master's degree. 

Students must begin the program in summer term, enrolling in a required 3-unit, intensive session course focused on journalism and society and on digital media. In addition to the formal classes, the course includes multimedia skills workshops. This gateway course provides the master's students with a working knowledge of the specialized journalism and the multimedia storytelling skills necessary for study in the program. It sets the stage for two semesters of access to courses as substantively broad as a major research university such as USC makes available and for advanced courses in the School of Journalism's graduate program. Students also take media law and usually one required writing course in the summer.

In the fall semester, students will enroll in one required critical thinking "Power of Narrative" course for journalists in the School of Journalism. With the advice of their academic adviser and faculty mentors, students will select elective course work totaling approximately 10 units appropriate to their fields of specialization. These courses will be drawn from regular graduate and 400-level courses taught in Annenberg or across the university. Students also will begin research for their master's professional project. Thesis topics must be approved in advance by faculty. These projects will be extended works of journalism, such as a full-length magazine article, similar radio, television or multimedia treatments or the equivalent in their professional field.

In the spring semester, students will enroll in a journalism graduate seminar, "Critical Thinking: The Art and Science of Not Getting Fooled,"  and approved electives. Students will also enroll in elective course work totaling approximately 8 units, chosen again from offerings across the university and in consultation with their faculty mentors. Finally, students will complete their master's professional project.

The 11-month program has been designed for a fall and spring semester enrollment cycle; however, students may also elect to complete the program over a longer time span on a part-time basis, but must start with the intensive summer course.

Studies toward the Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism require 34 units of prescribed courses and approved electives. No more than 10 units of 400-level course work may be applied toward the Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism.


The Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism can be completed in an 11-month enrollment cycle that includes the seven-week summer session, plus the fall and spring semesters. These programs may be attended on a part-time basis.

Foreign Language/Research Tool Requirements

There is no foreign language or research tool requirement for the master's degree.

Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation (GSP)

Journalism and strategic public relations graduate students are required to complete an online tutorial about Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation (GSP) and pass the GSP test before the end of the fall semester of their first year. Students who fail to complete the GSP tutorial and pass the test will not receive a degree from the School of Journalism.

Note: Students with disabilities may register with the Disability Services and Programs office (DSP) so the DSP staff can assess the nature of the students' disabilities and recommend the appropriate accommodations to be provided for each student.

Master’s Thesis

MA in Specialized Journalism students normally enroll in JOUR 594a (2 units) and JOUR 594b (2 units) in their single year of study.

For complete admission requirements refer to the section on the School of Journalism page. 

Course Requirements (34 units)

  • JOUR 528 – Summer Digital Journalism Immersion (3 units)
  • JOUR 560 – Seminar in Mass Communication Law (2 units)
  • JOUR 567 – The Power of Narrative (2 units)
  • JOUR 594a – Master's Thesis  (2 units)
  • JOUR 594b – Master's Thesis  (2 units)
  • JOUR 595 – Critical Thinking: The Art and Science of Not Getting Fooled  (3 units)

One course from:

  • JOUR 411 – Broadcast and Digital Writing for Video and Audio for Non-Majors (2 units)
  • JOUR 431 – Feature Writing (4 units)
  • JOUR 517 – Advanced Investigative Reporting  (4 units)
  • JOUR 519 – Advanced Writing and Reporting for Magazine and the Web (4 units)
  • JOUR 523 – Public Radio Reporting (2 units)
  • JOUR 525 – This California Life: Storytelling for Radio and Podcasting  (4 units)
  • JOUR 552 – Television Reporting and Production (2 units)
  • JOUR 582 – Specialized Journalism: Reporting Decisions  (2 units)

One course from:

  • JOUR 571 – 21st Century Sports Storytelling (3 units)
  • JOUR 572 – Reporting on Entertainment and Popular Culture (3 units)
  • JOUR 578 – Reporting on Globalization (3 units)
  • JOUR 584 – Specialized Reporting: Education, Youth and Learning (3 units)
  • JOUR 585 – Specialized Reporting: Religion (4 units)
  • JOUR 586 – Specialized Reporting: Science (3 units)
  • JOUR 588 – Cities, Climate and Risk (3 units)
  • JOUR 589 – Specialized Reporting: The Changing U.S. Population (3 units)
  • JOUR 596 – Follow the Money: Business and Economics (3 units)


  • Plus 12-15 approved elective units (400-level courses and above).*


*The number of elective units is based on which elective you select under the first elective category.

This page is based on the current 2020-2021 USC Catalogue. The 2021-2022 USC Catalogue will be published in Summer 2021.