Doctorate in Journalism and Mass Communications

Program Overview

The school’s Ph.D. program offers innovative and rigorous education in research skills leading to original research and the creation of knowledge. The program of study leads to the student’s dissertation proposal and dissertation. Ph.D. students work closely with the school’s publishing faculty members, creating original research examining real-world issues. Students take up to 46 hours, including a core of theory and research methods courses; 12 hours in a concentration in an academic unit outside of the J-School; a comprehensive exam, and then complete an acceptable dissertation. 

Since 2015, our Ph.D. graduates are employed at Chicago State University (Illinois), Esri (California), Hannam University (South Korea), James Madison University (Virginia), Kuwait University (Kuwait), Intouch Solutions (Kansas), Middle Tennessee State University (Tennessee), University of Kansas (Kansas), University of Missouri-Columbia (Missouri), University of Nevada-Las Vegas (Nevada), University of St. Mary (Kansas), Queens University of Charlotte (North Carolina), Washburn University (Kansas), and Weber State University (Utah).

Ph.D. Requirements

The Ph.D. program offers intensive rigorous education in research skills leading to the student’s dissertation proposal and dissertation. All journalism and mass communications electives have an expectation of significant original research leading to publication.

The Ph.D. program requires a total of 46 course credit hours (7 three-hour core journalism courses and a one four-hour statistics class with a lab), a one-hour pro-seminar (JMC 901) each fall semester, a 12-hour concentration outside the journalism school plus dissertation hours, which are variable. 40 course hours are prescribed; the others (six credits) are journalism electives. Students who hold a master’s in journalism may have the 46-hour requirement adjusted due to prior course work (up to six credits in electives). The student completes study of appropriate research skills, designed in consultation with the faculty advisor. The student also must meet KU’s requirements for dissertation hours.

The Ph.D. student takes a 19-hour core of interdisciplinary study of scholarly theory and methodology in mass communications and a second discipline. The program requires 9 hours of enrichment in ethics and legal issues, grants development and administration, and university-level faculty development. The student then applies those principles to a specialized area in another discipline, such as Communications Studies, Public Administration, Political Science, Health Policy and Management, units in the School of Education or others for 9 hours of coursework. The student works with an advisor in that discipline to plan that part of the program.

Electives include JMC 840 seminars, which can be repeated. Each seminar is research-based, and requires the student to complete an original research project. Each seminar is geared to advance the student’s competency in the methodology and theory of the discipline. The student is encouraged to do publishable work building towards the dissertation and his/her research trajectory. The papers and presentations in these seminars are primary components of the student’s research portfolio. The student also will build his/her research competency in courses in the concentration in another unit. That work, too, is expected to form a part of the student’s research portfolio.

The student also must complete KU’s research skills and responsible scholarship requirement. The Ph.D. student will select theory and methodology courses appropriate to his/her proposed research trajectory, as reflected in the student’s positioning statement of research and teaching goals and interests. Training in responsible and ethical scholarship will be included in JMC 901 Introduction to Doctoral Studies .

Once admitted to candidacy, the student completes KU’s dissertation hours requirement, producing a dissertation acceptable to his/her committee.

The Ph.D. program will have an MSJ option for students who, for whatever reason, may not complete the Ph.D. Students may earn the MSJ by completing: JMC 818, JMC 750, EPSY 710 & 711, JMC 801, JMC 802, JMC 803, a concentration of two courses inside or outside of the school, and one additional elective. The student then must produce an acceptable thesis (enrolling in JMC 899). The MSJ student must successfully present and defend the thesis.

Funding Support

The school provides up to three years of funding support for Ph.D. students. The generous support package includes:

  • Graduate Teaching Assistantship.
  • Minimum salary of $22,650 paid bi-weekly over nine months, paid through normal university payroll with customary deductions.
  • Newly admitted students will receive a $1,000 new student award.
  • Assistance paying for insurance. You will receive the university’s 75% contribution toward health insurance coverage if you need it.
  • 100 percent tuition waiver for fall and spring semesters.
  • In their third year, doctoral students will receive a $1,000 research award.

Possible Ph.D. Concentration Areas



Health Communication


Women's Studies




Communication Studies


Business (2 credit hours)


Film and Media Studies


Political Science