PhD in Mass Communication

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The PhD program in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication provides training in research methods, communication theory and teaching skills. Students in this program prepare for careers as teachers and industry researchers.

For questions about our PhD program, contact the SJMC Director of Graduate Studies, Associate Professor Kajsa Dalrymple (


Student Research: Subin Paul

Paul, S., (Forthcoming, Summer 2017). “Mainstream Iowa Newspapers Neglect Endangered Meskwaki Language.” Newspaper Research Journal.

Abstract: An interpretive analysis of the coverage of endangered Meskwaki language in five Iowa newspapers shows that the language’s endangerment receives minimal attention. Moreover, while the top two Iowa newspapers acclaim English-Meskwaki bilingualism, they associate the sole use of the Meskwaki language with educational and economic impediments.

The PhD program emphasizes interdisciplinary studies, with coursework and research tailored to the student’s interests under the guidance of faculty members. The School offers several areas of strength to support graduate student research in both traditional and digital media:

  • Critical and cultural studies
  • Sports and media
  • International/development studies
  • Health and science communication
  • Journalism studies
  • History of media and media institutions

Students pursue their research through qualitative and quantitative methods, applying social science and critical/cultural theories. They build teaching skills from the faculty mentoring they receive in their teaching assistantship work.

The School is the home of the first PhD program in the field of mass communication, with the first student graduating in 1948. Graduate courses are small and many students collaborate with faculty members in their research.


Student Research: Byung Wook Kim

Lee, Suman and Byung Wook Kim. (Forthcoming) "A time-series analysis on international public relations expenditure and economic outcome."

Abstract: We tested a granger causal relationship between international public relations (IPR) expenditure and its economic outcome. The IPR expenditures of Japan, Colombia, Belgium, and the Philippines were collected from the Foreign Agency Registration Act from 1996 to 2009. Economic outcome was measured by U.S. imports from the countries and U.S. foreign direct investment toward them. The past IPR expenditure sufficiently explained the future economic outcomes for all countries but Colombia.

PhD Placement

Alumni of our doctoral program hold faculty positions at these and other institutions:

American University of Cairo New York University
Augustana College (IL) South Dakota State
Bangkok University Temple University
Fitchburg State University Trinity University (TX)
Florida International University University of Minnesota-Duluth
Grinnell College University of Missouri
Hamline College University of Nebraska-Omaha
Hope College University of Oklahoma
Indiana University University of Puerto Rico
Kansas State University University of Southern California
Louisiana State University University of St. Thomas (MN)
Luther College Virginia Tech
Marquette Univerity Wichita State University

PhD curriculum

Students in the PhD program must complete the following curriculum and are required to take at least 2 courses in SJMC in addition to Approaches to Communication: Issues & Concepts – these courses can be from the Methods, Theory or Electives areas:

  • Approaches to Media Communication – 3 hours
  • Methods area – 6 hours
  • Theory area – 6 hours
  • Outside concentration – 9 hours
  • Relevant electives – 6 hours
  • PhD Seminar – registered during entire program of study (typically 8+ hours)
  • Dissertation – 4 hours
  • Transfer credit from master’s – 30 hours maximum. (Students entering without a master’s will need to take an additional 30 hours of coursework.)

Minimum total credits for PhD degree: 72 s.h.

Paths toward the graduate degree

Students may elect one of three 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 fourth semester. 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).
  3. Alternatively, masters students wishing to apply to a PhD program—either our own or another—may choose to complete a thesis instead of a qualifying exam.  Students interested in this option must consult with the director of graduate studies, and apply to the PhD program in the thesis semester.