Oct 26, 2021  
2020-2021 Graduate Bulletin 
2020-2021 Graduate Bulletin [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Communication (Mass Communication) PhD


The Doctor of Philosophy degree program with an emphasis in mass communication integrates research and theory into a broad-based curriculum designed to prepare recent graduates and experienced professionals for doctoral studies, professional advancement, and personal enrichment. The graduate faculty combine applied knowledge with communication theory and work to engage students while challenging them to think critically as they address communication practices and issues. Courses examine how mass communication creates, sustains, and changes political, corporate, non-profit, and cultural institutions, and society at large.

Admission Requirements

  1. A master's degree from an institution approved by a recognized accrediting agency.
  2. Graduate and undergraduate transcripts reflecting at least a 3.5 GPA on all graduate work and a 3.0 on undergraduate work during the last 60 hours of undergraduate study.
    • Applicants without an undergraduate degree in mass communication must present evidence of general knowledge of the field and basic skills in newswriting (including AP style) and design.
      • Such evidence may include courses taken post graduation and professional portfolios.
      • If applicants do not have sufficient evidence of a background in mass communication, they may be required to complete specified undergraduate courses before entering the program. The graduate faculty will provide a list of required courses.
        • Students must agree in writing to successfully complete the courses with a grade of "B" or better prior to graduation and in some cases as pre-requisites to graduate requirements.
        • Undergraduate deficiency courses are considered "out of career courses" and are not included in the graduate degree GPA.
        • Student must complete and submit and "Out of Career Coursework" form available at:
  3. Graduate Record Examination scores.
    • Scores in verbal and quantitative sections should be near or above the average of about 150 on the quantitative portion and 150 on the verbal portion.
    • Admission decisions are not solely based on test scores. Exceptional academic work and/or professional experience are also taken into consideration and may offset low scores.
  4. At least three letters of recommendation addressing academic preparation and readiness for doctoral studies.
  5. A statement of purpose, indicating why you wish to pursue a doctoral degree at USM.
  6. A current resume.
  7. A writing sample.
    • Writing samples may include academic research papers or professional communication materials such as news articles or background papers.
  8. International students must submit scores of at least 79 on the TOEFL exam or 6.5 on the IELTS exam.

See Admission Requirements and Procedures  for other requirements.

Program Requirements and Academic Policies

The doctoral degree requires 63 semester hours of course work beyond the master's degree. This includes:

  • 12 hours of core course requirement.
  • 12 hours of dissertation (COM 898 )
  • 18 hours of mass communication electives
  • 12 hours of electives
  • 9 hours of research tools.
    • Research tools classes may not be transferred or waived.
  • In brief, students should be continuously enrolled while pursuing the doctoral degree. Students must register every spring and fall semester after completing the comprehensive exam until degree requirements have been completed. The School of Communication requires that students register for at least 3 hours of COM 898  during any semester the student works with a professor on the dissertation, especially when defending a prospectus or dissertation. Students using other university resources such as the library can register for 1 credit hour of COM 898 .

Comprehensive exam. The student takes a rigorous written and oral examination to demonstrate mastery of knowledge about communication studies.

Grades. The student must obtain a 3.0 GPA over all doctoral coursework for graduation.

Colloquium/Seminar presentations. Students must make two presentations to the department's colloquium series (see below) or similar venues.

Residency. Students must meet the residency requirements specified in USM's Graduate Bulletin (http://www.usm.edu/registrar/graduate-bulletins). Normally this requirement is met by two consecutive terms in which the student enrolls for 12 hours or three consecutive terms enrolling for 9 hours.

Time Limit. Students must complete their comprehensive exam within 6 years of their initial enrollment in the doctoral program and successfully defend their dissertation within 8 years.

Training. All graduate students are expected to complete Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training, sexual misconduct training, and additional assigned modules available online.

See General Degree Requirements  and General Academic Information  for other requirements and procedures.

Course Requirements (63 hours)

The four-course research, theory, and methodology core is required of all students. 

Research Tools

Students must take 9 hours of research tools courses. These courses must be approved by the committee in the student's plan of study meeting. School of Communication courses that count as research tools may include but are not limited to:

Dissertation (12 hours)

Outside Courses

With committee approval, students may take appropriate courses outside the School. Depending upon the student's plan of study, research tools classes may be taken in other schools such as psychology, marketing, education, or history. Students, however, must secure committee approval before taking such courses to ensure that they will count either toward the degree or as a research tool.


Doctoral students may select an outside minor approved by the student's major professor and academic committee. Up to 12 minor hours may count as part of the 63-hour degree plan.