How do I Earn a Journalism PhD?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 August 2019
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There are many schools that offer a communications, mass media, or journalism PhD, and a few that offer combined legal and journalism studies. These programs are useful for those interested in pursuing careers in academia or research, or for those who want to take leadership roles in some form in media. Earning a journalism PhD is similar to many other programs of study for many doctoral degrees and requires time and scholarship to complete.

The first consideration for most students interested in this doctorate is whether they have the needed prerequisites to make applications successful. There can be some variance between schools on qualities or experience an individual must possess to be considered an ideal candidate. Many schools will be happy to take students who have completed only an undergraduate degree, though some universities only accept students with a master’s degree.

Typically, communications, media or journalism majors are preferred, and sometimes, a literature degree is acceptable. Some journalism schools will accept other majors, particularly if they’ve taken a few core journalism courses or worked on a campus paper. People with a degree in any subject and real world journalism experience may be welcomed as well.


Most journalism PhD programs have a minimum grade point average requirement in undergraduate studies or in the last 60 units taken. Applicants should check with schools to determine if they meet this minimum. Readiness to undertake graduate studies is often analyzed by schools by requesting students take the general Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Foreign-born students may need to take other tests to prove they have strong language skills.

Additional requests in an application can include that applicants provide two to three letters of recommendation from either academic or professional sources. Most universities require that students write a personal statement. Given the field, this writing project is very important and care should be taken to present the strongest writing possible.

With careful attention to all application details, student will hopefully be accepted to a journalism PhD program. They can expect two to three years of coursework, combining courses all students must study with electives in areas of interest. Some schools have comprehensive examinations after the second or third year of classes that student must pass before being advanced to PhD candidacy. Students may also teach undergraduate courses while in the program, for which they might receive a stipend.

After all course and examination requirements are met, the student begins work on a dissertation. The dissertation is a lengthy and thorough treatment of a topic that should represent new scholarship and usually requires a couple of years’ work to complete. A dissertation committee reviews and approves the work when it is finished, and provided approval is gained, the student then receives the communications or journalism PhD. A full-time student may earn a degree in about four to six years, depending on the length of time required to write a successful dissertation.



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Post 3

@Vincenzo -- Considering how traditional media is taking a beating these days, it might not be a bad idea to combine that journalism PhD with a master's in business administration or something in the technology field.

Journalism is moving online, but few journalists know how to run a business or build a good news site. Training in business and technology could help with that end of things.

Post 2

@Melonlity -- You probably won't find a whole lot of people with a journalism PhD working at newspapers or even working as editors or reporters in other media outlets. I do believe you will find a lot of people with that advanced degree teaching at universities.

That makes a lot of sense, really. Someone who has gone through the time and effort of getting a journalism PhD is very qualified to teach journalism students. Those students who get their bachelor's degrees are the ones likely to go actually work as journalists.

Post 1

The funny thing here is that it would be difficult to find working journalists who hold a journalism PhD. It wasn't until recently, in fact, that most newspapers started requiring reporters to have bachelor's degrees at all. Those who do hold college degrees don't commonly have degrees in journalism at all.

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