Fall Application Deadlines

US applicants: Jan. 15
International applicants: Dec. 1

In the online application, select Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design (APRD) as the department, Media Research & Practice as the degree, and Strategic Communication as the subplan/track.

How to Apply


The PhD in Strategic Communication offered by the Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design is one of three separate and distinct tracks of the Media Research and Practice doctoral program within the College of Media, Communication and Information.

A PhD in Strategic Communication is a distinct track that is designed to provide students with rigorous training in theory and research. Students gain an understanding through coursework that explores theories and methods that shape strategic communication research. This program emphasizes how theory informs practice, critically analyzing how advertising and public relations operate in ways that can—or could—constructively contribute to the successful, ethical and resilient functioning of society.

The strategic communication and journalism studies tracks for the PhD are administered together by the departments of Advertising, Public Relations and Design and Journalism. Students in both tracks are taught by and have access to the faculties of both departments. The curriculum includes an overview of mass/public communication literature with specific modules and courses dedicated to advertising, journalism and public relations. Classes also focus on areas that straddle each industry such as social media, political communication, ethics, media organizations, health communication and video games. We welcome and appreciate both qualitative and quantitative approaches to research. Graduates pursue teaching and research positions at universities as well as work in the private sector.

Why enroll?

  • One of the few doctoral programs offered in an advertising and public relations department
  • Study with award-winning researchers and teachers who are committed to assisting students achieve mastery of their work and chart a successful post-doctoral career
  • Faculty who have conducted research in an array of specialties (see list below)
  • Design a personally-designed plan of study to suit your interests
  • Collaborate with faculty and fellow graduate students on research projects
  • Study within a supportive environment, with the opportunity to teach courses relevant to your area of interest

Research interests of faculty teaching in the program

It is expected that a student will devote her or his full time to the doctoral program and assistantship duties during the fall and spring semesters while in the program, unless other arrangements have been made with the department.

The following is a summary of minimum requirements to earn a Ph.D. in Strategic Communication or in Journalism Studies. Students will take two semesters of Proseminar, two semesters of methods, four semesters of Doctoral Professionalization Seminar and 30 credits of electives, which must include 9 credits of advanced methods electives. Students are expected to take courses numbered at the 6000 or above levels. There are some exceptions to this in which doctoral students can receive permission to take 5000-level courses.

  1. Proseminar in Mass Communication (6 Credits): All doctoral students are required to enroll in JRNL/APRD 7001 in their first semester of study, and in JRNL/APRD 7003 in their second semester. These courses are designed to introduce students to the major paradigms within the field of mass communication.
  2. Doctoral Professionalization Seminar (4 Credits): All first- and second-year doctoral students will be required to enroll in JRNL/APRD 7004. The course, which is 1 credit each semester, prepares students for life in a doctoral program and for life after one, all while providing a sense of community amongst multiple doctoral cohorts and both departments’ faculty. 
  3. Methods (15 Credits): All first-year doctoral students enroll in Quantitative Research Methods in the fall, and in Qualitative Research Methods in the spring. These general courses deal with a variety of research methods used within the field. PhD students are also required to take three additional graduate level courses in the areas of research methods (9 hours). These may be taken inside or outside the departments.
  4. Area of Concentration (18 hours): Doctoral students are required to take a minimum of 18 hours of course work selected on the basis of the student’s area(s) of research interest. These courses should come from a combination of both inside and outside electives. For example, for a student interested in media effects, a combination of classes from both APRD/JRNL and psychology would make sense.
  5. Independent study: Ph.D. students may take a maximum of two independent study courses in their course of study, either inside APRD and JRNL or outside of those home departments. Generally, these will be taken no earlier than the third semester of the program.
  6. Comprehensive examinations: Each doctoral student will be required to pass comprehensive examinations, consisting of four questions, which are generally administered after the last semester in which the student takes course work. The examinations are individually tailored for each student and comprise both written and oral examinations.
  7. Dissertation: A minimum of thirty hours of dissertation credit, APRD 8991, must be taken. Various restrictions apply to these hours.
  • No more than 10 dissertation credit hours may be taken in any one semester
  • No more than 10 dissertation credit hours may be taken prior to the semester in which comprehensive examinations are taken.
  • No more than 10 dissertation credit hours may be taken in the semester in which comprehensive examinations are taken.
  • After passing comprehensive examinations, student must enroll for at least 5 dissertation credit hours (full time) or 3 dissertation credit hours (part time) each semester until graduation.

Typically students enroll for 10 dissertation hours in the semester they are taking comprehensive examinations and 10 dissertation hours each in the following fall and spring terms. Students must be aware of Graduate School rules regarding registration for dissertation hours.

Applicants to the Strategic Communication track of the PhD program in Media Research and Practice are expected to hold the master’s degree or equivalent graduate work. In exceptional cases, applicants without a master’s degree may be considered for admission.

Completed domestic applications must be received by the program no later than Jan. 15 prior to the fall semester for which entrance is sought. International applications should be submitted by Dec. 1. Late applications may be considered under special circumstances.

Successful applications typically have an undergraduate cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.2 and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 in previous graduate work.

Applicants are required to:

  • Provide three letters of recommendation.
  • Provide a 700-word Statement of Purpose.
  • Provide a resume or CV that includes academic and employment experience.
  • Provide a writing sample that exhibits the ability to undertake the conceptual and empirical studies required of doctoral students (e.g., a chapter from a master’s thesis or graduate-level term paper).

Meeting these criteria does not guarantee acceptance into the program. Because we accept relatively few new doctoral students each fall, we may have more qualified applicants than available openings.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are not requiring GRE scores at this time.

In the online application, select Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design as the department, Media Research & Practice as the degree, and Strategic Communication as the subplan/track.

For review and decision purposes you are required to upload an unofficial copy of your transcript(s) in the online application. We require one copy of the scanned transcript from each undergraduate and graduate institution that you attended. This includes community colleges, summer sessions, and extension programs. While credits from one institution may appear on the transcript of a second institution, unofficial transcripts must be submitted from each institution, regardless of the length of attendance, and whether or not courses were completed.   Failure to list and submit transcripts from all institutions previously attended is considered to be a violation of academic ethics and may result in the cancellation of your admission or dismissal from the university.

ONLY after you are recommended for admission will you need to provide official transcripts. 

Instructions for Uploading Unofficial Transcripts to Your Application (scroll to 'Uploading Unofficial Transcripts in the Application')


FAQ | Online Application | International Students Online Application

Research or teaching assistantships, including a tuition waiver and stipend, as well as fellowships, are available. PhD students may receive assistantships for a maximum of four years.

Erin Schauster

Associate Chair for Graduate Studies