The Doctor of Philosophy program in Mass Communication requires a minimum of 72 s.h. of graduate credit. The program provides training in research methods, communication theory, and teaching skills. Students in this program prepare for careers as professors, teachers and industry researchers.

The program emphasizes interdisciplinary studies, with coursework and research tailored to each student’s interests under the guidance of faculty members. The school offers several areas of strength to support graduate student research:

  • critical and cultural studies 
  • sports media
  • global media
  • health communication
  • journalism studies
  • digital media

Students may elect one of two paths for their graduate studies:

  1. Enter the PhD program with a completed relevant master’s degree, transferring up to 30 hours of graduate credit from academic courses.
  2. Enter the PhD program directly without a master’s degree, complete the master’s curriculum with one additional course. Successfully pass a qualifying exam in the second year. If the exam outcome is successful, the student continues in the PhD program. If not successful, the student is awarded a master’s degree and exits the program (provided that the student is in good academic standing).

For more information, refer to the Graduate Student Handbook or Frequently Asked Questions page to learn more about SJMC graduate programs. In addition, listed below are the general categories of coursework required to earn the degree; for more specific information on courses, curriculum, and requirements of the Doctor of Philosophy in mass communication, visit the UI General Catalog. Don’t find an answer to your question? Email it to us at

Degree Requirements
Title Hours
Humanistic Approaches to Media Communication 3
Social Scientific Approaches to Media Communication 3
College Teaching for TAs 1
Methods 3
Theory 3
Electives 15
Communication and Media Colloquium 4
Professionalization 3
Guided Reading 3
Dissertation (see below) 4
Credit from master's degree and/or additional Ph.D. courses 30
Total Hours 72

Important Deadlines

Application Deadline: January 1st (for Fall admission)


Admission decisions are based on prior academic performance, letters of reference, and the applicant's statement about background and purpose. Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College on the Graduate College website. For more information, see the Graduate Admissions Process page.

Comprehensive Examination

In the third year, each doctoral student completes and defends a dissertation proposal, which serves as their comprehensive exam. The dissertation proposal must indicate clearly the logical steps necessary for the completion of the project and suggest a plan of action. Generally, a dissertation proposal will include these areas: Introduction, Context for the Study, Conceptual/Theoretical Foundation, Research Questions, Research Methods, Bibliography, Chapter Outline, and Tentative Timeline. Once written, the student is required to present the dissertation proposal to the PhD Seminar. Following the PhD seminar presentation, an oral examination will be conducted by the student’s committee, usually within two weeks of the completion of the written proposal.


Students who are enrolled in the Ph.D. Program are required to complete a scholarly dissertation. The dissertation committee is composed of five (5) UI tenure track faculty. At least four of the five faculty members for each committee must be members of the University of Iowa tenure-track faculty, and at least three must be members of SJMC (which may include faculty with 0% appointments). By special request, the program may request permission from the Graduate College to replace one of the five members of the Graduate Faculty by a recognized scholar of professorial rank from another academic institution. Changes to committee membership are often necessary, and can be made at various stages in a student’s program, but should always be done in close consultation with their advisor and/or the Director of Graduate Studies.

NOTE:  Any research which involves "human subjects" must be reviewed by the University of Iowa Institutional Review Board (IRB) prior to the initiation of the project.  Proof of the determination/review process must also be submitted to the International Studies Program before the international experience proposal can be approved. For all questions contact the IRB at (319) 335-6465; or complete the IRB Determination Form to find out if your research meets the definition of human subjects research.