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Program Overview

Ph.D. Program in Communication and Media

The Department of Communication and Media is a top department at an internationally renowned university. The newly redesigned Ph.D. in Communication and Media at the University of Michigan is an interdisciplinary program with two major strengths: the Social Scientific Analysis of Mass Media Effects and the humanities-based study of Media, Culture and Society.

What is distinctive about our program is that we introduce students to both humanities and social science methods and traditions, encourage students to choose the approaches that best suit their areas of interest, and especially promote the use of multi-methodological techniques.

The program offers a solid foundation in communication studies while also permitting you to design a highly individualized program of study tailored to fit your needs and interests. The program will provide you with advanced knowledge of the latest research and theory in the field, a solid understanding of the major analytical approaches to communication studies, and opportunities to do original and collaborative research beginning in your very first year of the program. To see if our program is a match for your interests, see our research strengths

Our faculty share a strong interest in the media's ability to advance or undermine democratic processes and institutions, their role in shaping individual and group identities, their centrality to globalization, their industrial practices, how they are regulated, and their persuasive capabilities.

Financial Aid

Our program provides assistance to all admitted students for the full five years of their study. We offer students a combination of fellowships, teaching assistantships and research assistantships that include a full tuition waiver for each term of enrollment, a stipend (approx. $12,000 per term), and eligibility to participate in the University's health benefits program. 

Fellowship grants for newly admitted graduate students are awarded upon admission to the program on the basis of academic achievement and the admission committee's expectations of student accomplishments. 

The department also offers Rackham Merit Fellowships (RMF) to students from culturally, geographically, or educationally underrepresented groups in our discipline or at the University. Currently, RMF funded students are provided with three academic years of fellowship funding and two academic years of teaching assistantships.

For more on funding your graduate education, see Funding.

Extensive Research Experience and Support

The department has several funds that allow us to support you and your research as a pre-candidate and candidate-level student for your first year project, summer research projects, dissertation, and attendance at national and international conferences if you are presenting a paper or poster.

Students at the pre-candidate level are eligible to apply for the Winthrop B. Chamberlain Scholarship for Graduate Student Research, which supports up to $1,500 in research costs. Students at the candidate level are eligible to apply for the Departmental Dissertation Research Award, which supports up to $3,000 in research costs. Additionally, the Rackham Graduate School offers several sources of research support to graduate students at various stages in their academic career. More information on Rackham's research support can be found here.

We are also home to The Howard R. Marsh Center for the Study of Journalistic Performance, which provides research grants to department faculty and graduate students studying the factors affecting the ability of the communication media to perform their functions in a democratic society. 

Curriculum and Program Requirements

Our curriculum provides a solid foundation in communication and media while also permitting you to design a highly individualized program of study tailored to fit their needs and interests.

What are the program requirements and how long does the program take to complete?
The Ph.D. curriculum is designed as a five-year program, although some students take slightly longer. The program requires each you to complete coursework in communication theory, communication research methods and statistics, and courses from related disciplines that will support the your research goals.  You will also complete a first year project under the direction of your advisor, which allows you to do original and/or collaborative research on a topic of interest to you very early in your graduate career.

In addition to coursework, you are required to devote substantial time to professional development activities and research projects. As a complement to these research efforts, all graduate students participate in a weekly colloquium in which you, faculty in the program, and outside guests present current research for discussion. You are also expected to teach for at least two terms at the college level as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI). One preliminary exam is offered in methods and theory, and it is a required milestone for your advancement to candidacy.


The Program consists of a minimum of 15 required courses, as follows:

Core Theory Seminars: (2 courses)
Comm 775 Theory Seminar in the Humanities Traditions of Communication Studies
Comm 776 Theory Seminar in the Social Science Traditions of Communication Studies

Research Methods: (4 courses)
Comm 781 Research Methods, Humanities Methodologies
Comm 783 Research Methods, Social Science Methodologies
1 elective course in Advanced Methods
1 additional Advanced Methods course, typically offered in the summer by the Institute for Social Research 

Individual Major Area: (7 courses)
7 additional seminars, at least three from within the department and at least two from outside the department, that form an individualized and integrated study of communication

Research Experience: (2 courses)
Comm 698 Planning for First Year Research Project
Comm 699 First Year Research Project

What are the additional program requirements for degree completion?
First-Year Research Project Presentation
Two Terms of Teaching Experience
Research Presentations
Methods and Theory Preliminary Examination
Advancement to Candidacy
Dissertation Literature Review
Formation of Dissertation Committee
Prospectus Defense
Dissertation Defense

Preparation for the Future

U-M is known across the world for the research conducted by our faculty and students, so students in the Department of Communication and Media enjoy a wide variety of opportunities to engage in research at U-M. In addition to working with the faculty in the Department of Communication and Media, students in the program also collaborate with faculty in other departments and in research institutes around campus. The Department and the broader U-M community provide a variety of opportunities for graduate students to teach and to refine their skills in the classroom through workshops and seminars. In addition, the department conducts a pedagogy seminar for all first-time instructors in the department. Students also have access to a variety of offices on campus designed to improve their teaching and understanding of pedagogy. These include: the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, the Sweetland Center for Writing, and the English Language Institute.

This combined emphasis on and experience with research and teaching has helped place our graduates in colleges and universities in the U.S. and around the world, including the University of Missouri at Columbia, University of California at Davis, the University of Haifa in Israel, Georgia State University, Nanyang University in Singapore, The Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California, Roger Williams University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago.