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Ph.D. in Communication 


badgeWelcome to the doctoral program in the Department of Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Ph.D. at UNC is an inquiry based degree, offering students the opportunity to build unique programs of study around their respective research interests. The program requires the student to define a program of study organized by an evolving research question or research problem. The program ensures foundational study in sub-disciplines of Communication Studies as well as encouraging interdisciplinary work also relevant to the research question or problem. The research question or problem and subordinate lines of inquiry that help to define it serve as the basis for selecting coursework, developing integrative reading lists for the doctoral comprehensive exam, and completing a major, original research project in the form of a doctoral dissertation. All students—whether admitted with a baccalaureate degree or a master’s degree—are admitted to the doctoral program; the Department does not offer a terminal M.A. degree.

Doctoral students (admitted with M.A. or equivalent) complete a minimum of 48 hours of coursework, including 4 core courses (12 hours), 10 research courses (30 hours), 2 professional development courses (COMM 702 and COMM 907 for 6 hours). Dissertation research hours are additional. Students admitted with a baccalaureate degree or equivalent take additional coursework and complete a qualifying exam in their third semester. A student may also wish to pursue formal or independent minors or certifications, language competence related to research, and/or additional courses as needed or desired. All students must demonstrate methodological competence through completion of a course relevant to the dissertation project.

SPECIAL NOTE If you are interested in public relations, advertising, journalism and related mass communication fields, please contact the graduate program in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Whether concerned with the everyday world of developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships, operating effectively in various organizations, acting in relation to cultural practices and contexts of power, or fulfilling the responsibilities of public citizenship and service, knowledge of and skill in the practice of human communication is essential to social effectiveness. Increasing societal interest in communicative phenomena, from face-to-face interaction to technologically mediated communication—also entails a greater need for individuals educated in advanced communication research skills and perspectives.

As the study of communication has grown in importance, so, too, has its programmatic study at UNC. The study of classical rhetoric was considered a valuable component of the curriculum as early as 1795, and the appointment of the first Professor of Rhetoric and Logic in 1819 began a period of growth and commitment that has continued to this day. For more than forty years, graduates from the Department of Radio, Television and Motion Pictures provided leadership and artistry for the broadcasting, media, and entertainment industries. For nearly fifty years, a Division of Speech in the English Department, and later a Department of Speech Communication, taught students about and conducted research in communication as it occurs in various aspects of our lives. On August 1, 1993, a still stronger commitment was made by the University to focus and expand its study of communication by combining the Department of Radio, Television and Motion Pictures and the Department of Speech Communication into a new Department of Communication Studies. Although the Department of Communication Studies is a relatively new department on the University of North Carolina campus, its history may be traced to the University’s inception.

The Department of Communication includes over 30 faculty members, approximately 700 undergraduate majors, and over 40 graduate students in residence. The Department is recognized for significant contributions to the profession and to the University, state, and nation.

Through its teaching, research, and service, the Department of Communication Studies addresses the many ways communication functions to create, sustain, and transform personal life, social relations, political institutions, economic organizations, and cultural and aesthetic conventions in society; promotes capacities required for various forms of communication; and cultivates skills for analyzing, interpreting, and critiquing communication problems and questions.

The program of study offered by the Department thus provides a firm foundation for enriched personal living, for professional effectiveness, and for informed participation in social life.