How do I Earn a Communication PhD?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2018
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To receive a communication Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) you should begin by completing a four-year degree such as a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as communication or journalism. Most communication PhD programs require a four-year degree, and some programs will also require that you have a master’s degree, while other programs may admit you and award you a master’s degree “en route” to your PhD. Once admitted into a communication PhD program you will then need to complete the necessary coursework, often two years beyond a master’s degree or four years beyond a bachelor’s degree, and complete and defend a researched doctoral dissertation.

A communication PhD is typically a research-based degree, so you should be sure you are interested in pursuing the amount of research work required for this type of degree. You will also want to finish work on a bachelor’s degree in communication, journalism, or a related field and apply to graduate programs in communication. Some communication PhD programs will require that you already have a master’s degree to be admitted, while others will accept candidates with a bachelor’s degree and award a master’s degree while you work on your PhD. You should be sure of any requirements for admittance, such as letters of recommendation and tests such as the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), and ensure you can satisfy these requirements as early as possible.


Once you are received into a communication PhD program you will likely have to take a certain amount of core coursework, as well as additional classes for the area of focus or specialization you might be interested in. Different graduate programs offer different areas of focus, so you should ensure that whatever field you are looking to specialize within, such as journalism in public life, political communication, or education, is offered by the schools to which you apply. You may also want to refine your research abilities while you prepare to work on your communication PhD, as most programs are heavily research-based.

The final test most graduate programs require you pass to receive a communication PhD is to research, write, present, and defend a doctoral thesis. This often includes years of research and investigation into a specific subject, usually approved by an adviser and with extensive preparation on your part. You then present your findings and your dissertation before a panel of professors and experts in the field, who will then challenge your findings as you defend your work. Once you complete this final step, you will likely be awarded your communication PhD and be qualified to work at a university or do further research in your chosen field.



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