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Best Doctorates in Communication: Top PhD Programs, Career Paths and Salaries

Odedeyi Feyisayo Anthonia - June 19, 2022


Knowing the best PhDs in Communication to help you advance your career is a smart place to start. This is especially because a doctorate is the highest form of academic achievement. It encourages you to practice critical thinking and come up with creative solutions needed for higher-level roles. In this article, we’ll go through the top universities offering communication PhD programs and the high-paying communication jobs you can get once you complete your degree.

What is a PhD in Communication?

A PhD in Communication is a social science degree program that requires extensive research on communication processes and outcomes. It provides students with advanced training in media and cultural analysis. Students of this doctoral degree learn to ask important questions about different communication issues and address them in their research problems.

How to Get Into a Communication PhD Program: Admission Requirements

The requirements to get into a communication PhD program are a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Communication or related fields, official transcripts, and a minimum GPA score, specified by the school. Applicants are also required to provide a statement of purpose, academic writing sample, and letters of recommendation. Some schools require Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.

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PhD in Communication Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Communication or related fields
  • Official transcripts
  • 2

    Minimum GPA

  • GRE Score
  • Statement of purpose/interest
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Academic writing samples

Communication PhD Acceptance Rates: How Hard Is It to Get Into a PhD Program in Communication?

It’s hard to get into a PhD program in communication. For example, in 2020, University of Washington received 140 applications from graduate students but only 14 were offered admission .

How to Get Into the Best Universities

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Best PhDs in Communication: In Brief

School Program Online Option
American University PhD in Communication Yes
Clemson University PhD in Rhetoric, Communication, and Information Design Yes
Drexel University PhD in Communication, Culture & Media No
George Mason University PhD in Communication No
Indiana University of Pennsylvania PhD in Media and Communication Studies Yes
Michigan State University PhD in Communication No
North Dakota State University PhD in Communication Yes
Syracuse University PhD in Mass Communication No
Rutgers University PhD in Communication, Information and Media No
Temple University PhD in Media and Communication No

Best Universities for Communication PhDs: Where to Get a PhD in Communication

In this section, we list the best universities for communication PhDs. We also provide an overview of the best PhD in Communication programs and the requirements for admission.

1

American University

Washington, DC

Founded in 1893, American University allows its doctoral students to research the convergence of media, technology, and democracy. It also allows students to produce scholarly work using both quantitative and qualitative methods that look into real-world connections and impact. It has around 14,000 students enrolled in more than 170 programs.

PhD in Communication

In this doctoral degree program in communication, students learn how media and technology interact with culture and politics. Its mission is to encourage students to practice a healthier democratic process. It’s an interdisciplinary program that benefits from diverse academic resources across the university, such as the Internet Governance Lab.

As soon as you arrive on campus, you’ll be working in a highly structured program toward your dissertation. You’ll also establish and leverage your professional networks to develop valuable and publishable content. You’re also expected to use your knowledge to address pressing political and social issues in your research.

PhD in Communication Overview

  • Program Length: 3 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 39% (overall school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition and Fees: $1,866/credit hour
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Tuition remission, graduate assistantships, merit package

PhD in Communication Requirements

  • Master's degree
  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume
  • Transcripts from all universities attended
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • GRE scores
  • Master's thesis

2

Clemson University

Clemson, SC

Clemson University is a public research university founded in 1889. It’s known for its cross-cultural, transdisciplinary approach, especially in its communication programs. The school currently has over 5,600 graduate students. The school's doctoral programs prepare students to conduct research and publish their findings in popular professional journals.

PhD in Rhetoric, Communication, and Information Design

This study program focuses on not only communication but also rhetoric and information design. It prepares students for a professional career in research work with the government, nonprofit organizations, and private sector companies. The curriculum is divided into four phases, which include enrollment, research, examination, and dissertation.

PhD in Rhetoric, Communication, and Information Design Overview

  • Program Length: 5 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 62% (overall school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition and Fees : $4,938/semester (in state); $10,405/semester (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Teaching or research assistantships

PhD in Rhetoric, Communication, and Information Design Requirements

  • Master's Degree in English, Communication Studies, Media Studies, Art, Professional Communication, or other fields
  • Minimum 3.5 GPA
  • Transcripts from previous undergraduate and graduate work
  • A CV containing information about assignments in English or communication studies
  • A personal statement expressing your interest in pursuing a PhD at this institution

3

Drexel University

Philadelphia, PA

Drexel University is a private university founded in 1891. It presently has a population of 8,850 graduate students. The school seeks to educate students in creating bold, original, and socially meaningful research. Graduates of its doctoral programs have published work on a range of study areas including politics, new media, and intergenerational perception.

PhD in Communication, Culture, and Media

This PhD program’s curriculum includes core courses, seminars, electives, independent study work, and dissertation credits. It covers a diverse field of communication topics, ranging from conflict resolution and social justice to consumer culture and social media. All PhD students at Drexel University are required to serve as teaching fellows.

PhD in Communication, Culture, and Media Overview

  • Program Length: 1.5-3 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 10% (overall school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition and Fees: $1,342/credit hour
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Assistantships, Gold Graduate College Fellowships, Drexel Common Good Award

PhD in Communication, Culture, and Media Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Minimum 3.2 GPA
  • GRE scores
  • Essay
  • Resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts of all college-level coursework

4

George Mason University

Fairfax, VA

Founded in 1957, George Mason University is a research and educational institution that aims to enable students to make a difference in the world through research. To date, this school has attained $186 million worth of sponsored funding. It’s known for its research in-flight safety, T-cells to target HIV, and detecting and fighting COVID-19.

PhD in Communication

The courses in this doctorate program explores important communication areas, such as conveying complex information and learning intercultural sensitivities. Graduate faculty and students conduct important research, ranging from risk communication, crisis communication, health campaigns, and other important issues. Students must earn at least 60 credits for graduation.

PhD in Communication Overview

  • Program Length: 4-6 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 89% (overall school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition and Fees: $693/credit (in state), $1,581/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Graduate fellowships, graduate research, teaching, or professional assistantships

PhD in Communication Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • College transcripts
  • Goals statement
  • Recommendation letters
  • Resume
  • Writing sample

5

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Indiana, PA

Founded in 1875, Indiana University of Pennsylvania as a research-based, student-centered educational institution. It currently offers over 100 programs across degree levels, including 14 doctoral programs. The university has high research activity based on the National Center for Postsecondary Research’s 2021 Carnegie Classification of Higher Education .

PhD in Media and Communication Studies

This program is designed to teach PhD students the theoretical, cultural, and educational foundations of media and communication. The doctoral program ensures that students learn through practical, hands-on experience. With this preparation, graduates can forge a career path in the media, business, government, or higher education.

This program has weekend classes to cater to both full-time and part-time students. Full-time students can take three courses per semester and complete the entire coursework within two years. Part-time students can take two courses each term and complete coursework in three years.

PhD in Media and Communication Studies Overview

  • Program Length: 2-3 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 93% (overall school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition and Fees: $853/credit (in state), $,1,218/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Research grants, fellowships, research funding

PhD in Media and Communication Studies Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Official transcripts (undergraduate or graduate)
  • Updated CV
  • Research or academic writing sample
  • Professional goal statement
  • Two letters of recommendation

6

Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI

Michigan State University (MSU) is part of the top six percent of Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings . It has a 94 percent placement rate for its graduates. It was founded in 1855 and is best known for its research contributions in healthcare and food supply.

PhD in Communication

MSU’s PhD in Communication is a short-term program that requires research, writing, and a dissertation. In this program, students learn how to generate independent hypotheses and research designs. They also master the art of working together.

This degree’s coursework covers communication theory, empiricism, quantitative methods, and teamwork. First-year students focus on core theory and research courses. Once they master these core subjects, they are directed toward a specialization in communication.

PhD in Communication Overview

  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 76% (overall school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition and Fees: $817/credit hour
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Teaching and research assistantships, fellowship programs

PhD in Communication Admission Requirements

  • Master’s degree
  • Official transcripts
  • CV
  • Personal statement
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Two samples of written work
  • GRE scores (optional)

7

North Dakota State University

Fargo, ND

North Dakota State University is a student-focused, land-grant research university. It’s rated R1 (very high research activity) university by the Carnegie Classification of Higher Education. Founded in 1890, the university now has over $155 million in research expenditures as of 2020.

PhD in Communication

This doctoral program requires 60 credits beyond a master’s degree. It has two areas of concentration: organizational communication and media and society. The program’s coursework covers theory, research, and dissertation. Students are expected to focus their research on solving real-world problems in education, business, and technology.

PhD in Communication Overview

  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 94% (overall school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition: $405/credit (in state); $608/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Grants, graduate assistantships, fellowships, federal funding

PhD in Communication Admission Requirements

  • Master’s degree
  • Statement of purpose
  • Transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • CV or resume
  • Scholarly writing samples
  • GRE scores
  • Evidence of effective teaching potential (such as teaching evaluations)

8

Rutgers University

New Brunswick, NJ

Rutgers University was established in 1766. The school is committed to collaboration, research, and innovation. As of 2021, it has more than 1,000 active issued worldwide patents and has already spent over $900 million dollars in research grants and sponsored programs.

PhD in Communication, Information and Media

This communication PhD program is an interdisciplinary program. It has three concentration areas, which include communication, library and information science, and media studies. The program’s core courses include research foundations and design. Students learn theoretical and research skills that they can use for their academic careers and professional leadership in various fields.

PhD in Communication, Information and Media Overview

  • Program Length: 2 terms
  • Acceptance Rate: 67%
  • Tuition and Fees: $9,090/semester (in state), $15,456/semester (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Fellowships, grants, merit awards, teaching assistantships, graduate assistantships

PhD in Communication, Information and Media Admission Requirements

  • Master's Degree in Communication, Information Science, Library Studies, Media Studies or related academic or professional field
  • Personal statement
  • Academic writing sample
  • CV or resume
  • Transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation

9

Syracuse University

Syracuse, NY

Syracuse University is a top-caliber research institution founded in 1870. It has over 21,000 students, more than 6,000 of which are graduate students. The university advances collaborative research discoveries that impact society.

PhD in Mass Communication

The communication PhD program requires a total of 60 credits for completion. This is a combination of semester coursework and a dissertation. Its course topics include media ethics and diversity, media sociology, new media, political communication, popular television, public relations, and social effects.

PhD in Mass Communication Studies Overview

  • Program Length: 3 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 69% (overall school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition and Fees: $17,808/quarter term
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Scholarships, assistantships, internal fellowships, grants funding programs

PhD in Mass Communication Studies Admission Requirements

  • Academic credentials
  • Statement of research interests
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Writing sample
  • GRE scores

10

Temple University

Philadelphia, PA

Founded in 1884 as a night school, Temple University has evolved into a renowned institution for higher education. It’s also considered a top-tier research university. It promotes an interdisciplinary research approach to prepare students in making a real impact on real-world problems.

PhD in Media and Communication

This 48-credit multidisciplinary degree studies the relationship between the media and people.

It uses cultural, economic, historical, and socio-psychological lenses to analyze research problems. The program provides students access to individualized courses tailored to their needs and guidance from faculty advisors.

Two of the core courses in this program include communication theory and a doctoral colloquium. The program also requires a preliminary examination and a dissertation to earn the degree. PhD in Media and Communication graduates set themselves up for jobs in administration, research, and teaching at universities or other organizations.

PhD in Media and Communication Overview

  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 71%
  • Tuition and Fees: $1,078/per credit (in state), $1,441/per credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Fellowships, scholarships, federal Stafford loans, federal work-study programs

PhD in Media and Communication Admission Requirements

  • Master’s Degree in Communication, Media Studies, or The Humanities or Social Sciences
  • GRE scores
  • Resume
  • Statement of goals
  • Formal academic paper
  • Recommendation letters

Can You Get a PhD in Communication Online?

Yes, you can get a PhD in Communication online. As the world is going digital, there are a few prestigious universities already offering online communication PhD programs. We list a few of these universities below.

Best Online PhD Programs in Communication

School Program Length
North Dakota State University Online PhD in Communication 4 years
Liberty University Online PhD in Communication Studies 8 weeks
Regent University Online PhD in Communication 2 years
Robert Morris University Online PhD in Information Systems and Communications 3 years
Texas Tech University Online PhD in Technical Communication and Rhetoric 3 years

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD in Communication?

It takes four to seven years to get a PhD in Communication. It’s a multidisciplinary field of study that attempts to understand human communication with social, cultural, economic, and political institutions. Thus, the program requires sufficient time for in-depth study and research.

The curriculum is split into four phases. In the first year, students learn the foundations of communication studies. Then, they are introduced to three to six core classes. After completing core classes, students continue with specialization coursework. In the last stage, students set up a committee to work on their dissertations, and they also get ready for the qualifying exams.

Is a PhD in Communication Hard?

Yes, a PhD in Communication is hard because you’ll have rigorous research experience. The program aims to prepare you for a career as a professor, teacher, researcher, or administrator.

A communications PhD means that you can have a significant impact on the real world by conducting meaningful research. It also means that you’re open to a multitude of career options.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a PhD in Communication?

It costs an average of $19,314 per year to get a PhD in Communication . Tuition costs differ between public and private universities, as well as for in-state and out-of-state residents. Public universities are estimated to have $12,171 for graduate tuition while attending private universities costs $25,929.

How to Pay For a PhD in Communication: PhD Funding Options

The PhD funding options that students can use to pay for the best PhD in Communication programs include scholarships, graduate assistantships, and tuition waivers. Students may also apply for student research funding, grants, and fellowship programs.

Best Online Master’s Degrees

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What is the Difference Between a Communication Master’s Degree and PhD?

The difference between a communication master’s degree and a PhD is research extensiveness. A master’s degree in communication is for professionals who want to advance their careers by learning more about principles, theories, and strategies in communication.

A communication PhD equips students with advanced knowledge and communication skills needed to conduct academic research. The aim of the research is to solve questions around communication. It also prepares them for professional and leadership roles in journalism, advertising, corporate communication, and government and non-profit organizations.

Master’s vs PhD in Communication Job Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment with a master’s degree in communication is expected to grow by nearly 17 percent from 2016 to 2026 . This is the fastest of all education levels. Employment with a PhD in Communication is expected to grow by about 13 percent , which is faster than the seven percent average for all occupations.

Difference in Salary for Communication Master’s vs PhD

The difference in salary between a Communication Master’s and PhD program is around $7,000 per year. According to PayScale, the average salary for a Master’s in Communication is $67,000 per year. In comparison, the average salary for a PhD in Communication is $74,000 per year.

Related Communication Degree

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Why You Should Get a PhD in Communication

You should get a PhD in Communication because it gives you advanced training and broader knowledge of the communication field. A doctorate degree is the highest academic qualification, and having this degree helps you secure top positions in a company, organization, or industry. Listed below are four reasons you should get a PhD in Communication.

Reasons for Getting a PhD in Communication

  • You become more knowledgeable. Getting a Doctoral Degree in Communication makes you more knowledgeable, and this knowledge grants you access to higher places. Through research, you’ll gain in-depth knowledge of communication and its important role in organizations and society.
  • You acquire specialization. With a PhD in Communication, you get to choose a communication area where you want to specialize. Through your dissertation and scholarly work, you can establish yourself as an expert in your chosen specialization.
  • You have access to diverse job opportunities. As a PhD student, you have access to teaching opportunities as a professor in an educational institution. You can also build your career in entertainment, journalism, advertising, and marketing.
  • You earn more money. A communication PhD degree provides you with valuable knowledge, which leads to firms, institutions, and organizations offering you high-paying jobs. According to PayScale, a person with a Doctorate in Communication receives $74,000 per year on average.

Getting a PhD in Communication: Communication PhD Coursework

A young girl in a black shirt using a laptop
A communication PhD focuses on providing students with research knowledge.

To succeed in getting the best PhD in Communication, you need to make the academic process leading up to securing the graduate degree. That is what the communication PhD coursework focuses on. Discussed below are some of the courses required for a PhD in Communication.

Communication Theory

This course introduces students to theory testing and theoretical development in communication. It also teaches students the fundamentals of theory in communication and social science.

Introduction to Communication Research

This course provides an overview of the concepts, methods, and tools by which communication research is designed, conducted, interpreted, and carefully evaluated. It helps students develop skills in collating, organizing, interpreting, and disseminating research information.

Language and Social Interaction

This course studies how language is used for interaction and negotiation in our daily lives. It urges students to carry out critical research and analyze data obtained from different studies and related literature.

Media Effects

This course brings into focus the social and psychological effects of media content and technology on users. It studies the effects of media by evaluating people’s responses to media content through experiments, surveys, and content evaluation.

Political Communication

This course focuses on the role that communication plays in politics, giving students access to political research materials. Topics in this course help them develop an original research piece in the field of politics.

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How to Get a PhD in Communication: Doctoral Program Requirements

Getting a PhD in Communication is hard but viable. With the right training and coursework, you’re on your way to obtaining that degree. Discussed below are the steps you’ll need to take to get a PhD in Communication.

1

Coursework Credits

Most schools require 60 credits of coursework to earn your communication PhD. These credits are divided into core courses, electives, research work, dissertation, and defense.

2

Minimum GPA

To graduate, you should also maintain an acceptable GPA, which is typically 3.0 cumulative GPA. If a student fails to meet this requirement, they are placed on academic probation. If you don’t improve by the end of the semester, you’ll be dismissed from the program.

3

Final Exam

You must pass a written and oral examination about your area of specialization and methodological competence. A student supervisor prepares and administers the final exam.

4

Thesis Defense

To prepare for your thesis defense, you must form a dissertation committee consisting of four members. This dissertation committee functions as your consultation group. After completing your dissertation research hours, you can go on to schedule a thesis defense.

5

Dissertation

A dissertation is a carefully written piece that is extensively researched. This contains your analysis, insights, and conclusions about your topic in the field of communication.

Potential Careers with a PhD in Communication

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PhD in Communication Salary and Job Outlook

Following the completion of your communication PhD is the question of what you can do with the degree. In this section, we’ll go through the high-paying jobs, job outlook, and salaries for  PhD in Communication roles.

What Can You Do With a PhD In Communication?

A communication PhD means that you have access to career paths in various communication areas, such as journalism, digital media, advertising, and marketing. You can get roles in news broadcast organizations and government agencies.

Best Jobs with a PhD in Communication

  • Information Security Officer
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Advertising/Promotion Director
  • Technical Writer
  • Business Reporter

What Is the Average Salary for a PhD in Communication?

The average salary for a PhD in Communication is $74,000 per year. This may change depending on the role. It may also vary depending on the experience level that’s required for the job.

Highest-Paying Jobs for PhD Grads

Communication PhD Jobs Average Salary
Marketing Manager $135,030
Human Resources Manager $126,230
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $119,860
Technical Writers $78,060
Market Research Analyst $63,920

Best Communication Jobs with a Doctorate

The best jobs for people with a Doctorate in Communication are typically rewarding and high-paying jobs. Below, we provide more information about these high-paying careers, their average salaries, and their highest-paying states.

1

Marketing Manager

PhD Salary: $135,030

Marketing managers develop, guide, and plan solutions for businesses, corporations, and industries. They study their target market and figure out how to best promote the company, products, or services.

2

Human Resources Managers

PhD Salary: $126,230

Human resources managers coordinate the needs of the workforce in an organization or firm. They manage employee benefit programs and deal with workplace issues like sexual harassment and equal employment opportunity.

3

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

PhD Salary: $119,860

Public relations managers plan and direct the creation of content that will boost their employer's or client's public image, while fundraising managers plan and execute campaigns to raise funds for their organizations. Both work closely.

4

Technical Writers

PhD Salary: $78,060

Technical writers create instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other writings to help complex technical information be expressed. A technical writer also develops, gathers, and distributes technical information.

5

Market Research Analyst

PhD Salary: $63,920

Market research analysts evaluate market conditions to determine whether a product or service will sell. They assist businesses in determining what items consumers want, who will buy them, and how much they will cost. They also monitor and try to predict marketing and sales trends, and they evaluate marketing plans and strategies.

Is a PhD in Communication Worth It?

Yes, a PhD in Communication is worth it, as it allows you to specialize in areas such as market research, technical writing, public relations management, and human resources management. It gives you a competitive advantage in the job market, allowing you to be an expert in any field of communication.

Earning a doctorate degree is worth it , as it grants you access to rewarding careers with benefits, such as a very high income and credibility in your chosen profession.

Additional Reading About Communication

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PhD in Communication FAQs

Can I get a PhD in Communication part-time?

Yes, you can get a PhD in Communication part tine. If you’re looking to get an advanced degree while pursuing a career outside school, there are select universities that allow students to obtain a PhD in Communication with their part-time program.

What is the GRE and why do I have to take it?

GRE is an abbreviation for Graduate Record Examination. It is a standardized test that students must take prior to enrollment in a graduate degree program.

Can I get a PhD in Mass Communication?

Yes, you can get a PhD in Mass Communication. It’s an advanced level of communication study. The program prepares students for academic, teaching, and research professions in media-related fields such as public relations, journalism, advertising, and mass media.

Are there other communication graduate programs?

Yes, there are other communication graduate programs. You can get a Master’s Degree in Communication to examine how humans create and share information, both at interpersonal communication and organizational level. The types of communication master’s degrees include Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc), and Master of Commerce (MComm).

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Odedeyi Feyisayo Anthonia

About the author: Odedeyi is an expert content writer. She has written content in various niches, including but not limited to finance, technology, and arts and culture. She attended the University of Lagos and also has a certification from the Association of Accounting Technicians of West Africa.

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