Best Doctorate in Mass Communication and Media Studies Programs

A doctorate in mass communication and media studies can open academic and leadership career doors. Find the best programs with costs or fully funded.

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by Alison Plaut

Published on July 27, 2022

Edited by Colin Weickmann
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A doctorate in mass communication and media studies prepares graduates to research, teach, or work in fields related to pressing communication issues. Topics span traditional media, web-based media, and social media, as it impacts areas from politics and healthcare to social justice.

Graduates with doctorates in mass communication and media studies often pursue academic research or teaching careers in communication. Some also work in corporate, government, or nonprofit positions as marketing managers, public relations specialists, or communications consultants.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for postsecondary teachers in communication was $77,560 in 2021. The number of positions is projected to grow by 12% from 2020 to 2030. Marketing managers earn a median salary of $133,380 and employment is projected to grow by 10% in the same time period.

Whether through an on-campus or online program, a doctorate in mass communication and media studies can take 3-5 years or more to complete. Several top doctorates in mass communications are fully funded with tuition and a stipend. For others, tuition ranges from $370 to $1,870 per credit hour.

Students need to account for true program costs and time out of the workforce when deciding whether to go into debt for graduate school.

Best Accredited Doctorate in Mass Communication and Media Studies Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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American University

School Information
Location Washington, District of Columbia
Admission Rate 36%
Graduation Rate 79%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,866
Out of State | $1,866

Credits to Graduate
54

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A 

AU's doctorate in communication program emphasizes the intersection of media, technology, and democracy. The three year accelerated curriculum looks at how media and technology influence and interact with democratic culture and politics. Students work towards dissertation research, building networks, and developing publishable papers from arrival. 

Applicants must submit a statement of purpose, resume, master's thesis, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and official university transcripts. Several doctoral students are selected each year for full tuition remission and a graduate assistantship.

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Clemson University

School Information
Location Clemson, South Carolina
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 84%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 29% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $855
Out of State | $855

Credits to Graduate
36

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

CLEM's hybrid Ph.D. in rhetorics, communication, and information design emphasizes a cross-cultural and transdisciplinary curriculum through knowing, doing, and making. Required courses include rhetorics, communication and information technologies, and cultural and empirical research methods.  

Doctorates prepare to teach, conduct research, and share their findings through publications in professional journals. Applicants must submit college transcripts, a personal statement, and a portfolio of previous graduate work. A minimum GPA of 3.5 for graduate courses is required.

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Drexel University

School Information
Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 75%
Graduation Rate 69%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 38% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Self-Paced Classes 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,342
Out of State | $1,342

Credits to Graduate
90

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

DU's doctorate in communication, media, and culture aims to develop innovative scholars and teachers who can share the theories and studies on social forces and communication. Topics include political communication, war and conflict, media treatment of immigration, consumer culture, social justice, and popular music and fashion. 

This Ph.D. readies graduates with research methods, including quantitative analysis, discourse analysis, network analysis, and mixed methods approaches. Prospective students should contact the office of admissions for deadlines, prerequisites, and other application details, including funded positions. 

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Regent University

School Information
Location Virginia Beach, Virginia
Admission Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 57%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Self-Paced and Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $950
Out of State | $950

Credits to Graduate
56-64

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Regent's online Ph.D. in communication emphasizes interdisciplinary training, scholarly writing, and research in communication studies through a Christian worldview. The curriculum includes communication history, theology, and theory. The hybrid curriculum includes a one-week summer residency in Virginia Beach, Virginia. 

This doctorate in communication readies graduates for careers in education, executive leadership, media relations, market analysis, or research. Applicants must submit a five-page minimum scholarly or published writing sample along with their application. Applicants must also submit a complete academic background questionnaire.

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Syracuse University

School Information
Location Syracuse, New York
Admission Rate 44%
Graduation Rate 83%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | Fully funded
Out of State | Fully funded

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

SU's Ph.D. in mass communication emphasizes social and behavioral sciences. Students can choose from specializations in the functions and social effects of print and electronic media or on media-related institutions in society. The curriculum includes mass communication theory, research methods and statistics, and core specialization elective courses.

This fully-funded doctorate in mass communication is designed to be completed in three years. Prospective students must hold a master's degree to be considered for admission.

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Temple University

School Information
Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 60%
Graduation Rate 74%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 21% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Self-Paced Classes 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,078
Out of State | $1,441

Credits to Graduate
48

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

TU's Ph.D. in media and communication emphasizes the strong ties to the humanities and social sciences. The curriculum includes communication theory and teaching in higher education. 

This doctorate takes over four years of continuous, full-time study. Students can choose an individualized course of study that includes speaking opportunities, professional collaboration, and undergraduate teaching experience. 

Applications to Klein College of Media and Communications must include a personal statement, resume, signed recommendation letters, and standardized test scores. Interested applicants should reach out to admissions for program-specific requirements.

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Texas Tech University

School Information
Location Lubbock, Texas
Admission Rate 69%
Graduation Rate 61%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 52% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | Fully Funded
Out of State | Fully Funded

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

TTU's Ph.D. in media and communication explores human communication research from a social science and humanistic perspective. The curriculum includes data analysis, research methods, advanced theory, and media and communication theory. Students can choose from between 17 sub-specializations. 

This doctorate in communication is designed to be completed in three years. Applicants must submit a resume, cover letter, personal statement, samples of academic and professional work, reference letters, and GRE scores.

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The University of Alabama

School Information
Location Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Admission Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 71%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 13% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus or 100% Online | Self-Paced Classes 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $370 on campus or $440 online
Out of State | $1,050 or $440 online

Credits to Graduate
72

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

UA's doctorate in communication and information sciences emphasizes interdisciplinary research in emergent media, health communication, and sports communication. 

Students can build an interdisciplinary plan of study or choose one of seven high-demand concentrations: advertising and public relations, publishing studies, health communication, interpersonal communication, media processes and effects, rhetoric and political discourse, or social justice and inclusion advocacy.

Applicants must submit a resume, statement of purpose, writing sample, transcripts, and three academic references. A minimum 3.0 GPA is required in the last 60 semester hours in a degree program, or an overall 3.0 GPA in a graduate or undergraduate degree program.

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The University of Tennessee-Knoxville

School Information
Location Knoxville, Tennessee
Admission Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 72%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Self-Paced Classes 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | Fully Funded
Out of State | Fully Funded

Credits to Graduate
62

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

UTK's Ph.D. in communication with a concentration in information sciences combines philosophical and theoretical foundations of communication and information with quantitative and qualitative research methods, statistical design, and analysis. 

This doctoral program offers students graduate teaching associateships, usually for three years or more. 

Applicants must submit a statement of goals and recommendation letters. Admission requires GRE scores at or above the fifth percentile in verbal, quantitative, and analytical tests. A minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and graduate GPA of 3.5 is required.

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University of Florida

School Information
Location Gainesville, Florida
Admission Rate 37%
Graduation Rate 88%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Self-Paced Classes 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | Fully Funded
Out of State | Fully Funded

Credits to Graduate
90

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

UF's Ph.D. in communication connects students with doctoral faculty in research areas from AI and emerging technology to social media, sports, or strategic communication. The curriculum combines core, specialization, methodological, and supporting courses. Topics include mass communication theory, graduate-level statistics, and grant writing.  

Applicants must submit a statement of purpose, three recommendation letters, official test scores, and transcripts. A GRE verbal score of 550/156 and a quantitative score of 550/146 or more are strongly preferred.

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University of Memphis

School Information
Location Memphis, Tennessee
Admission Rate 85%
Graduation Rate 53%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 44% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $521
Out of State | $733

Credits to Graduate
72

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

UofM's Ph.D. in communication program emphasizes curricular flexibility and supporting students to become leaders in their chosen fields. Curriculum topics include rhetorical criticism, critical discourse analysis, and communication theory. The curriculum follows a cohort model. 

Students can be admitted to this graduate program with or without a bachelor's degree. The admissions office will use multiple decision criteria, including undergraduate and graduate GPA, GRE scores, statement of purpose, writing samples, relevant employment history, and letters of recommendation.

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University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

School Information
Location Minneapolis, Minnesota
Admission Rate 57%
Graduation Rate 83%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | Fully Funded
Out of State | Fully Funded

Credits to Graduate
66 to 72

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

UMTC's Ph.D. in communication offers three tracks: critical media studies, rhetorical studies, and interpersonal and organizational communication. The curriculum includes research methods, introductory and major coursework, and thesis credits. 

Applicants must hold a bachelor's or master's degree in communications or a related field. A GPA of 3.5 is preferred. Applicants also need 15 credits in speech or communication courses in the proposed emphasis area. Applicants must submit a statement of purpose, diversity statement, sample of academic writing, resume, transcripts, and three letters of recommendation.

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University of South Carolina

School Information
Location Columbia, South Carolina
Admission Rate 69%
Graduation Rate 77%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Self-Paced Classes 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $572
Out of State | $1,240

Credits to Graduate
57

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

UofSC's Ph.D. in mass communication emphasizes one-on-one work with school faculty and collaboration. The curriculum combines core courses on communication research design, mass communication theory, and teaching media studies with mass communication electives. 

This doctorate in mass communication prepares graduates for research and teaching at the highest levels. Prospective students must hold or be completing a master's degree. Applicants need to submit transcripts, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, a written statement, a resume, and writing samples.

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Featured Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Doctorate in Mass Communication and Media Studies ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We identified 13 schools that qualify for our ranking, listed in alphabetical order. The programs in our list are based on the following criteria.

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mass Communication and Media Studies Programs

Is a doctorate in mass communication and media studies worth it?

A doctorate in communications is worth it for professionals who want to pursue academic research or teaching positions. A doctorate in mass communication and media studies can also open senior-level positions in government, nonprofits, or private corporations.

In terms of financial return, qualified candidates may be able to earn assistantships or full funding for the program, including tuition and a stipend for an assistantship. Graduates with a doctorate in mass communication and media studies can pursue careers in public relations or advertising, which — according to the BLS — had median salaries of $62,800 to $133,380 in 2021, respectively.

What can I do with a doctorate in mass communication and media studies?

Many students who earn a Ph.D. in mass communication and media studies pursue academic research, teachers, or professors in communication-related fields. Some graduates also use a doctorate degree to enter media-related industries such as advertising, mass media, public relations, or journalism.

Research topics related to mass communication and media studies include:

A doctorate degree in mass communication and media studies prepares graduates to conduct meaningful research and to teach key topics from politics to social media.

How long does it take to get a doctorate in mass communication and media studies?

A doctorate in mass communication and media studies takes students 3-5 years or more. Requirements vary by program and institution. Programs range from 48 to 90 credits.

Some doctorates in mass communication and media studies only accept students who have already completed a master's degree. Others accept students with a bachelor's in communication or a related field. Previously earned graduate credits can also affect the total time to complete a degree.

Some of the fastest programs use a cohort model for a three-year curriculum that includes research and dissertation preparation.

How much money can I make with a doctorate in mass communication and media studies?

How much money graduates with a Ph.D. in mass communication and media studies can make depends on the career path, years of experience, and location. According to the BLS, the median salary for post-secondary teachers in the communication field was $77,560 in 2021.

The top 10% of earners had a median salary of $132,720. The bottom 10% of earners had a median salary of $46,640.

Market research analysts and public relations specialists earned a median salary of $30 an hour, while marketing managers earned a median salary of over $60 an hour in 2021.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a doctorate in mass communication and media studies?

The highest paying jobs with a doctorate in mass communication and media studies include careers as a marketing manager, where the median salary was $133,380 in 2021. The top 10% of marketing managers had a median salary of $192,520.

Postsecondary teaching is one of the most common careers for doctorates in mass communication and media studies. The top 10% of postsecondary teachers in communication earned a median salary of $132,720. The top 10% of all media and communication workers earned a median salary of $98,070.

Feature Image: Mint Images / Mint Images RF / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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