The PhD program trains students mainly for careers in higher education, though some COMM PhDs have also gone on to work in positions outside of academia. The program is marked by curricular flexibility and a commitment to supporting students as they work to become leaders in the field. Under close faculty supervision, students take courses within Communication and in other disciplines as they build expertise in an area of specialization and prepare their dissertation.

See what Memphis PhDs are doing.

Program Basics

Upon admission to the Doctoral program, students are advised by the Director of Graduate Studies until they choose a major advisor, convene a committee, and submit a Plan of Study for approval. Students work closely with their advisory committee to form a plan appropriate to the student's scholarly goals. The plan spells out the student's area of research emphasis, describes a dissertation topic, lists the courses that s/he will take, and offers a timetable for completion.

Students must complete 36 hours of doctoral-level coursework (12 classes) before moving on to their comprehensive examinations, which are administered by the advisory committee and tailored to the student's research interests. Upon successful completion of their exams, students submit their dissertation prospectus for committee approval. Upon approval of the prospectus, students begin writing their dissertation. Students earn the doctorate once their dissertation is approved by the full committee and the Graduate School.

Full-time students typically spend two years in coursework, one year taking exams and drafting their prospectus, and one year writing the dissertation. Obviously, this varies depending on the student's success in moving through each stage of the program.

For guidance on the steps needed for degree completion, and details about the Departmental and University rules that govern our program, click on the Policies and Documents link on the left.