PhD in Communications: Degree Program Overviews

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program in communications focuses primarily on research and scholarly analysis. Find out what kind of requirements exist for this degree, common courses to expect, and data about potential employment.

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Essential Information

Drawing on the social and behavioral sciences, PhD degree programs in communications explore verbal and nonverbal human interaction and mass communication. PhD programs emphasize communication within the context of society or community. Many allow students to choose a specialization within communications, such as rhetoric, public culture, or strategic communications.

Applicants to Ph.D. programs in communications need a master's degree, although the degree does not necessarily have to be in communications.


Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Mass Communication Studies
  • Speech Communications and Rhetoric

Doctor of Philosophy in Communications

To pursue a doctorate degree in communications, students will need to submit GRE scores, college transcripts, letters of reference, and a statement of purpose that summarizes their research interests in the field. Some schools may request a scholarly writing sample or a resume. In addition to a dissertation, many Ph.D. students create other writings for publication, developing their professional portfolios. They're also required to pass an oral or written examination. Some students may participate in assistantships during their degree.

A PhD program in communications is research- and theory-intensive, and these programs can take approximately five years to complete. Some programs require that students attend outside seminars, complete additional research projects, or work as a teaching assistant. Topics of study include courses in methodologies and theories in communication, such as:

  • Communications in society and environment
  • Intercultural or international communication
  • Communications research methods
  • Theories of media and communication
  • Communication laws, ethics and history
  • Cross-cultural communication

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Graduates with a PhD in communications are well suited for careers as teachers and researchers at postsecondary institutions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), postsecondary communications teachers earned a median annual salary of $63,410 in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Due to increasing enrollment, the BLS expects employment for all postsecondary teachers to grow by 13% between 2014 and 2024.

Communications PhD programs offer students the skills to research and improve communication in themselves and others. These five-year programs allow for many opportunities for employment in academia.

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