PhD Program

PhD Student

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.

PhD Program Requirements

Doctoral degrees require at least 72 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree; however, many programs require additional hours. Specific requirements for the doctoral degree vary with the academic department; see the appropriate section in this Bulletin. The student’s program must be approved by the major academic department. A student may be required to take courses beyond the minimum to ensure balance and depth in the discipline.

No more than 15 post-baccalaureate hours of 6000 level courses may be applied to a doctoral degree.The last 30 hours of credit must be earned at the University of Memphis. Of the final 30 hours, no more than the maximum allowed by the program may be dissertation hours. A minimum of 6 hours of dissertation credit is required.

The maximum amount of combined hours of transfer credit, credit-by-examination, course validation and experiential learning that can be used to fulfill degree requirements is no more than two-thirds the number of hours required for the degree. The Graduate School sets minimum standards to which all the diverse graduate programs across the university must adhere. Individual colleges, schools, and graduate programs are encouraged to set more stringent requirements as necessary to meet their accreditation and student needs.

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.