University of Minnesota
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
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Ph.D. Programs

Ph.D. Program

What’s inside:

Program Overview

The SJMC Ph.D. program is designed to prepare independent scholars for academic careers in teaching and research in mass communication and related fields. The program provides students with a solid foundation in the discipline through multifaceted exploration of the theories and methods that influence the shape and scope of mass communication research. Students are strongly encouraged to develop their own theoretical and methodological approaches 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.

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

Program Eligibility

To be eligible to apply for the Ph.D. program, you must have completed, or be in the process of completing, a master's degree or equivalent advanced degree. If you are interested in the Ph.D. program but do not have an advanced degree, you should apply to the M.A. in mass communication with the intent of applying for a change of status during your second year of master's study.

Once admitted to the Ph.D. program, you work closely with a faculty adviser to select your dissertation field and supporting coursework. Common areas of research include:

In addition, our curriculum's interdisciplinary nature and the ability of students to minor allows students to customize specific research and career interests.

Application Process

Information about how to apply to the program can be found here.

Ph.D. Degree Requirements

All Ph.D. 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 or outside SJMC (e.g. JOUR 8514) (3 cr)
    • JOUR 8009: Pro-seminar in Mass Communication (1 cr)

    Required Methodology Core (9 credits)

    • JOUR 8501: Quantitative Mass Communication Research (3 cr)
    • JOUR 8503: Qualitative Methods in Mass Communication Research (3 cr)
    • One additional method course outside of the SJMC (3 cr)

    In addition, you must complete

    • An additional 30 credits of course work. Minimum 18 credits of these additional credits must come from SJMC.
    • Minimum 12 credits of minor or a supporting program courses are also required as part of the additional 30 course credits. This can be achieved by any combination of theory, method and topic seminar courses taken outside the SJMC.
  2. Doctoral thesis credits (24 credits)
  3. Preliminary written examination
  4. Preliminary oral examination
  5. Approved dissertation
  6. Final oral examination

Doctoral students pursuing international communication are expected to have or obtain high language proficiency in an appropriate area. Doctoral students in other areas are encouraged to consult with their advisers regarding the appropriateness of language study.

Written and oral preliminary examinations cover the required methodology core courses, dissertation area courses and supporting course work, and are taken when your graduate course work is complete (usually at the end of your third year of study).

As a doctoral student, you may not register for thesis credits until you have passed the preliminary oral examination. Preliminary written and oral examinations cover the required methodology core courses, dissertation area and supporting coursework.

Transferring credits to the Ph.D. program

With the approval of your adviser, 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. Credits from correspondence courses, extension courses and courses taken prior to the bachelor's degree will not transfer. In the case of a transfer from a non-United States institution, graduate course credits to be transferred must have been earned in a program judged by the SJMC to be comparable to our peer programs in the United States. Transfer of thesis credits is not allowed.

How many transfer credits and what specific course credits students may apply toward their degree requirement is determined by the individual student's adviser and the DGS, on a case-by-case basis. However, doctoral students must take a minimum of 12 course credits at the University. Transferred credits can include a maximum of 12 graduate course credits taken as a non-degree seeking or non-admitted status.

For University-wide policies on transferring graduate credit, see this policy.

Written and oral examinations

Preliminary Written Examination

Preliminary written Ph.D. examinations are scheduled to test mastery of the student's chosen area of study after coursework in the filed 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 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.

Preliminary Oral Examination

After the Preliminary Written Examination Report has been submitted to the Graduate School, students may schedule the preliminary oral exam. Students are responsible for contacting their committee members and scheduling the oral examination. Students obtain the Graduate School Doctoral Preliminary Oral Examination Scheduling Form from the SJMC Graduate Studies Office. Preliminary oral examinations must be scheduled with the Graduate School at least one week in advance of the exam.

The preliminary oral examination is administered in compliance with the rules set forth in the Graduate School Catalog. All members of the committee and the student are expected to meet face-to-face for the examination in every circumstance possible. When a faculty member of a graduate committee cannot be present for an examination, special arrangements must be made well in advance with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Ph.D. Thesis Proposal

Before undertaking dissertation research, Ph.D. students, in consultation with their advisers, must prepare a written proposal, fill out a SJMC Thesis Proposal Form and hold a thesis proposal meeting with the dissertation committee members. The adviser and all committee members must sign the Thesis Proposal Form if they approve the student's proposal. Then, the student must submit the signed form to the SJMC Student Services Office, 110 Murphy Hall. While dissertation proposals are not required until after successful completion of the written preliminary and oral examinations, many students complete the proposal prior to the preliminary oral examination and distribute copies to committee members to take advantage of the opportunity to receive committee-wide feedback. Drafts of proposals are unacceptable, and students considering this process must consult with their adviser.

Candidates cannot file a thesis proposal form until their adviser and all members of the examination committee have approved the proposal by signing on the Thesis Proposal Form. The Ph.D. Thesis Proposal Form is normally submitted no later than the semester after passing the preliminary oral examination.

The candidate’s final oral examination committee (at least four faculty members, including two thesis readers from mass communication and one from outside the SJMC) must be listed on the Thesis Proposal Form. Committee composition commonly remains the same through both the preliminary and final examinations.