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 who enter the Ph.D. program with a completed relevant master’s degree at the time of enrollment can transfer up to 30 hours of graduate credit from academic courses, including up to 3 credit hours for the thesis. Students who will have not completed a relevant master’s degree by the time of enrollment should apply for our M.A. program. M.A. students who complete their degree requirements and successfully pass the qualifying exam will be considered for admission to the Ph.D. program.

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
Humanistic Approaches to Media Communication3
Social Scientific Approaches to Media Communication3
College Teaching for TAs1
Communication and Media Colloquium4
Guided Reading3
Dissertation (see below)4
Credit from master's degree and/or additional Ph.D. courses30
Total Hours72

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

At the completion of coursework (typically in the fourth or fifth semester), each doctoral student will enroll in Guided Reading for Comprehensive Exam (JMC:6920). For this course, students will work with three committee members to create three reading lists on topics that (a) relate to the student’s dissertation area and (b) relate to the respective committee member’s expertise. For each reading list, students will spend 4 weeks reading and writing a response paper based on a prompt provided by the committee member. The advisor will not be responsible for any individual reading list but will oversee the entire process. During either the last week of the semester or finals week, the student will have an oral defense of their three written responses. The response papers and oral defense will serve as the Comprehensive Examination.


Students who are enrolled in the Ph.D. program are required to complete a scholarly dissertation. The dissertation committee is composed of at least four faculty members. At least three must be members of the University of Iowa tenure-track faculty, at least two must be members of SJMC (which may include faculty with 0% appointments), and at least one must come from outside the department. By special request, the program may request permission from the Graduate College to replace one committee member with 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.