PhD in Mass Communication

The PhD program is designed to prepare independent scholars for academic careers in teaching and research in mass communication and related fields. You will build a solid foundation in the discipline through multifaceted exploration of the theories and methods that influence the shape and scope of mass communication research. You are strongly encouraged to develop your own theoretical and methodological approach to mass communication research and to interact and collaborate with our multidisciplinary faculty on cutting-edge research in mass communication in the global and multicultural context.

Application Deadline

Fall 2024 Admissions Update: Applications for Fall 2024 Admissions are no longer being accepted for the Mass Communication M.A. and Ph.D. graduate programs. The program will begin to accept applications for Fall 2025 admissions in September 2024 and this page will reflect our program requirements for Fall 2025 admissions. Fall 2025 Admissions Deadline: Our program admissions deadline for the Mass Communication M.A. and Ph.D. graduate programs will be December 15, 2024. If you have additional questions about the application process, please email [email protected].

Program Eligibility

To be eligible to apply for the PhD program, you must have completed, or be in the process of completing, a master's degree or equivalent advanced degree. 

Once you're admitted to the PhD program, you will work closely with a faculty advisor to select your dissertation field and supporting coursework. Common areas of research include:

  • Advertising
  • Communication law and regulation
  • Health communication
  • History of mass communication
  • International mass communication
  • Journalism studies
  • Mass media structures, processes, and effects
  • Political communication
  • Public relations
Nick Mathews
Nick Mathews
PhD Alumni, Mass Communication (Current Role: Assistant Professor: School of Journalism, University of Missouri)

You do not know how strong you are until you are inspired to bring that hidden strength forward. That is the greatest strength of our graduate program: It guides you in surfacing your own individual greatest strengths—as a scholar, as a teacher, as a student and as a person. Our faculty, graduate students and staff members inspire you when you are at your most dire, lift you when you drift away and genuinely, deeply and faithfully value you every day.

Your Career Path

The typical career path for our PhD students is to take a tenure-track academic position at a university. Our PhD graduates have been placed at top-ranked universities in the U.S. and other countries, and have pursued careers at high-profile non-profit organizations, major advertising, public relations and media organizations, research firms, large corporations, and as consultants.

Degree Requirements

All PhD students must complete a minimum of 46 graduate credits, 24 thesis credits, and a dissertation. All course work must be taken on an A-F grading basis.

PhD Degree Requirements

All PhD students must complete a minimum of 46 graduate credits, 24 thesis credits, and a dissertation. All course work must be taken on an A-F grading basis.

The following requirements must be fulfilled to complete the Ph.D. program in mass communication:

1. Required Mass Communication Core (7 credits)

  • JOUR 8001: Studies and Theories of Mass Communication (3 cr)
  • One more theory course inside the HSJMC(e.g., JOUR 8514) (3 cr)
  • JOUR 8009: Pro-seminar in Mass Communication (1 cr)

2. Required Methodology Core (9 credits)

  • JOUR 8501: Research Methods in Mass Commucation (3 cr)
  • One additional method course inside of the HSJMC (3 cr)
  • One additional method course inside or outside of the HSJMC (3 cr)

3. Additional academic requirements:

  • 30 additional credits of coursework. 
  • 18 of the additional credits must come from HSJMC courses
  • 12 of the additional credits must come from courses outside of HSJMC. This can be achieved by any combination of theory, method and topic seminar courses taken outside the HSJMC. Students are encouraged to explore freestanding graduate minors or graduate minors related to another major.

4. Doctoral thesis credits (24 credits)
5. Preliminary written examination
6. Preliminary oral examination
7. Approved dissertation
8. Final oral examination


View curriculum & courses

Written Examination and Oral Examination

Preliminary written PhD examinations are scheduled to test mastery of the student's chosen area of study after coursework in the degree program has been completed. Written examinations cover the examinee's dissertation and supporting areas of study, including methodologies and mass communication research coursework.

Comprehensive and aimed at the highest levels of scholarship, the exams are designed to assess abilities in abstract and concrete thought, including an ability to:

  • Conceptualize problems
  • Create and critique research designs
  • Assimilate, associate, and synthesize areas of knowledge
  • Evaluate literature, research, theories, models, and methodologies
  • Discern, discuss, and explain substantive issues, problems, trends, alternative perspectives, and research approaches in both general and specific areas of the field

An examination may include all or any combination of the above. Students should plan ahead and budget preparation time for the examinations. Generally, most students allow at least one semester for review, reading, thought and reflection in preparation for the examination.

Once a student passes the written preliminary examination, they proceed to the oral defense examination where they are questioned by their committee members. Once a student successfully defends both the written and oral portions of the preliminary exam, they are considered to have reached ABD – All But Dissertation – status.



PhD Dissertation Process 

PhD students are eligible to defend their dissertation after they have passed their preliminary written and oral exams, as well having received approval of their dissertation proposal and dissertation from their committee members. PhD candidates work closely with their faculty advisors during the stages of writing their dissertation. Instructions for preparation of the dissertation (e.g.) margins are available from the Graduate School. 

A dissertation and final oral examination is required of all PhD candidates. 

Transferring Credits

With the approval of their advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the College of Liberal Arts (CLA), students may bring a limited number of credits with them from other graduate programs.

Learn more about transferring credits

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