Online PhD in Communications: Doctoral Program Overviews

Dec 03, 2019

Learn about online programs that offer a doctor of philosophy in technical communications and rhetoric. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

Essential Information

Few online PhD programs in technical communications and rhetoric exist. In an online PhD program in technical communications and rhetoric, students may complete all courses online, as well as participate in class discussions and group projects. However, campus visits may be required. These blended programs are rarely available but can be possible. Students generally need a master's degree to be considered for admission.

The PhD program focuses on qualitative and quantitative research, with courses that teach students research methods and skills. Students learn how to prepare research for presentation and publication. Many courses cover written communications and rhetoric while others focus on communications technology and media. A dissertation is required. If you have online courses, a Webcam and word processing software may be required.

PhD in Communications

Students explore how technical communication works. The research-based program focuses on written communication and rhetoric. Typically, an online PhD in Communications takes 2-3 years to complete. Courses are offered entirely online, with annual on-campus workshops to supplement web-based discussions, assignments and group work. Students also participate in video conferencing via webcam. Students must have reliable internet access and a working computer with common software programs, such as Microsoft Office.

Course Topics

Doctoral programs combine core communications courses in composition and pedagogy with research seminars and preparation for comprehensive exams and a doctoral dissertation. Common doctoral-level courses include:

Composition Research

Students become familiar with research trends and methods of gathering research related to communications to prepare for dissertation research. Additional course hours in the doctoral program are devoted to performing the dissertation research.

Theories and History of College Composition

Students study both historical and contemporary ideas in college composition. They also study changes in rhetoric through the ages.

Technical Communications Ethics

Students study ethical problems that arise in the communications industry. They gain practical experience researching and applying ethical solutions.

Discourse and Technology

Students examine how computer networks and other communications-related media work and their theoretical and practical knowledge.

Career Opportunities

A doctoral degree in technical communications and rhetoric can prepare a graduate for many positions, including working as a university professor or in communications research. In 2018, the median annual salary for professors was $78,470 across all fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (

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