What are the Different Communications PhD Programs?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
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  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2019
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A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in communications is usually the ultimate degree earned by people interested in either journalism or human communication. There are many different communications PhD programs, often based on the school at which the PhD is earned and usually divided into separate but somewhat interconnected categories. These communications PhD programs are typically named by the college or university that offers them, so there are not many strictly set titles for different programs. Common programs include areas of study such as journalism and public life, social impact of media, interpersonal and health communication, and rhetoric and political communication.

Communications is a field of inquiry, usually found at universities as part of the journalism program, which seeks to better understand how people transfer information. This can include a focus on interpersonal communication between two people or small groups of people, or mass communication between a news anchor and millions of viewers. The various disparate aspects of communication study means that a number of different specializations and fields of study are available to someone interested in pursuing a degree and a multitude of communications PhD programs are offered by many different schools.


Journalism and public life and the social impact of the media are both different communications PhD programs offered by various schools. The focus of a journalism and public life program is to analyze how journalists impact the daily lives of people in creating the sense of a “public life.” With 24 hour news broadcasters needing material to fill programming times, more and more information has become public knowledge over the past few decades. This has led to the formation of a public life that many people feel interconnected through and studying this modern phenomenon typically involves interdisciplinary study through both communications and sociology.

The social impact of the media is a branch of communications that examines how different forms of media impact society. These types of communications PhD programs will often combine aspects of social sciences and artistic analysis along with understanding communications to better comprehend the way media affects society. Other communications PhD programs might focus on issues such as interpersonal communications or political communications.

Interpersonal communications programs will typically focus more on how people relate to each other and small group communications rather than analyzing media trends or a larger public life. These types of programs may also have a specific aspect of interpersonal communications that is studied, such as changes in communications based on age or studying communication and familiarity. Political communications PhD programs will typically focus on how political leaders communicate and relate to people. These programs might focus on issues such as propaganda, public speaking, or the use of rhetoric and other communication methods to influence people.


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