Ph.D. in Communication

Since 1961, the Doctorate in Communication at Michigan State University has been one of the most prestigious communication degrees in the world. We produce well-rounded behavioral researchers, teachers and communication consultants by stressing communication theory, empiricism, quantitative methods and teamwork.

Students learn how to generate independent hypotheses and research designs, the critical importance of real-world relevancy in keeping with the land-grant tradition and the art of working together with others in teams for common objectives. Doctoral students have a variety of options that they explore in conjunction with their guidance committees. These options span the full range of specializations at Michigan State University.

The Ph.D. in Communication is designed as a 4-year program, culminating in a dissertation. First year students take core coursework in theory and research. Once the core material is mastered the program’s focus is directed toward specializations in communication as well as outside courses in one or more other fields. Internal specializations include social network analysis, social media, communication analytics, mass communication, persuasion and social influence, health and risk communication, interpersonal and group communication, diffusion of innovations, organizational communication and quantitative research methods.

For students interested in applying to the Department of Communication PhD program, there is an option to specialize in hospitality research and teaching and varied roles that communication plays in organizational, interpersonal and media context in relation to hotels, restaurants, resorts and other types of businesses in the hospitality industry worldwide.  The department admits small numbers of highly qualified students who will teach and work in the Michigan State University School of Hospitality Business while serving on research teams in the Department of Communication, ultimately earning the doctorate in communication. This collaboration has led to outstanding hospitality communication scholars who have faculty appointments with major universities.  Students interest in this option should communicate their interest at the time of application.

Graduates with this degree receive offers from research centers, government agencies, corporations and universities and colleges around the world.

Graduate Handbook

Graduate Forms



More Information on the Program

The COM doctoral program features outstanding faculty who are prolific researchers and effective advisors. Based on a longstanding combination of productive scholars and successful alumni, our doctoral program ranks at the top nationally in reputation, productivity and key awards:

NCA Reputation Survey

In the 2004 NCA reputational survey ratings of "effectiveness of Ph.D. program", MSU ranked #1 in health communication, #1 in communication and technology, #2 in mass communication, #4 in interpersonal and small group communication, and #4 in international and intercultural communication.

Among the subset of comprehensive doctoral programs (at least five specialties), MSU had the top average rating score.

Many of the faculty from this rating period are still in the Department.

ICA Fellows

The highest honor awarded to communication faculty by the International Communication Association is to be named a Fellow. The Michigan State Department of Communication has been directly associated with the careers of more ICA Fellows than any other university:

Patrice Buzzanell, Sandi Smith, Everett Rogers, Steve Wilson, Charles Berger, Michael Burgoon, Joe Cappella, Akiba Cohen, Brenda Dervin, Randy Harrison, Judee Burgoon, Peter Monge, Byron Reeves, Joe Walther, Frank Boster, William Donohue, Marshall Scott Poole, Jim McCroskey, Brad Greenberg, GR Miller, James Dillard, Edward L. Fink, Robert Craig, Jim Dearing, Ron Tamborini, and Mike Roloff.

Mentor Awards

Current and former COM faculty have won one-third of ICA mentor awards for doctoral advising, more than any other university:

GR Miller, Brad Greenberg, Frank Boster, Judee Burgoon, Edward L. Fink and Peter Monge.

Core Journal Productivity

COM researchers rank first in latest research productivity study published in the Journal of Communication, which analyzed authorship of articles published between 1999-2004 in eight leading journals sponsored by NCA and ICA. MSU was number one in publications by current faculty and students and #1 in publications by doctoral alumni.

COM placed 11 faculty and doctoral alumni among the top 50 most productive researchers in two dozen communication journals from 1996-2001, according to a study published in Communication Research Reports.

Questions? Additional information about the Ph.D. program in Communication may be obtained from:

Marge Barkman

Academic Programs
472 ComArtSci Building
404 Wilson Rd.
East Lansing, MI 48824