Sometimes called media studies or cultural studies, pop culture studies is an emerging academic field that examines and analyzes current popular culture, including cinema, television, video games, comic books, etc. Those who specialize in this field can be effective journalists, media critics, artists, and bloggers. In this article, you will find some coursework that may be common to pop culture studies graduate programs, as well as general admissions requirements for these programs.
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General Pop Culture Studies Graduate Program Information
Coursework in a pop culture studies program may be highly interdisciplinary and cover a wide variety of media and forms of analysis. You also may have the option to design your own coursework or areas of focus. Common areas of study in pop culture studies are as follows:
These courses will consider television's history and role in shaping popular culture. You may learn about the economics of the television industry, analyze any number of different genres, the development of broadcast technology, and television's role in politics and everyday life. This course is designed to properly prepare you for further studies in media criticism, and to grant you a deeper understanding of television culture in your future life (and possibly career).
In these classes, you will analyze the history, development, and general artistic medium of film. You may learn about the history and development of the film industry over the past century; specific genres, actors and directors; the evolution of technology and special effects in film; and the social impact movies have had on everyday life. This course can be quite rigorous, with a lot of reading, writing, and analysis, as well as many required movie viewings that will occur outside of the regular class time.
History of Popular Culture
Here, students will explore the history and development of popular culture in America and around the world. It may be a survey course, covering global society in the era of mass media, or it may examine the popular culture of a specific geographic area, time period, and/or cultural group.
Critical theory studies are reading- and writing-based courses that will introduce you to the concept of criticism and analysis in media. You will read a variety of primary sources drawn from important and influential theorists and philosophers, as well as talk about larger questions and controversies of cultural analysis, both in academia and society at large. This course is designed to train students how to think and write about pop culture at a higher level of analysis.
A digital media course will introduce you to the critical study of digital media. This is a broad term that can refer to a lot of different forms of media, such as video games, web comics, blogs, e-books, etc. Sometimes this course will be part of arts or writing programs and include training on how to create these forms of media; other times, it will be analysis-based.
Program Admission Requirements
Graduate programs in pop culture studies require a bachelor's degree in any field, as well as official transcripts showing a strong undergraduate record. Most programs will require you to submit a 1-5 page statement of purpose, describing your past academic work and reasons for pursuing a graduate degree in this field. You may also be asked to submit an additional writing sample, showcasing your academic writing and critical thinking skills. Scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) will usually be required. Programs may require (or strongly suggest) 2-3 letters of recommendation from previous professors or people who can speak to the quality of your work.
Pop culture studies is a highly interdisciplinary field that is still in its nascent stages, with a small but growing number of programs. Whatever compels you to this field, you will likely be able to find a program that speaks to your interests.