Columbia Journalism School

Doctor of Philosophy in Communications

A multidisciplinary approach to the study of communications

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in Communications offers a multidisciplinary approach to the study of the relationships between people and media in their cultural, social, political, historical, economic, and technological contexts. With the guidance of a faculty advisory committee drawn from the Journalism School, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the School of International Affairs, the Business School, the Law School, and Teachers College, students craft individual courses of study drawing upon the university's graduate resources in the humanities, the social and practical sciences, the arts, and the professional schools.


The goal is to connect the strengths of the Columbia journalism tradition with intellectual work in the humanities and human sciences in a way that enhances our understanding of media and journalism in society. The interdisciplinary program provides a unique preparation for students who wish to teach in colleges and universities, to conduct original research in communications, or to carry out policy or research work. Nearly half of our graduates now hold full-time tenured or tenure-track teaching positions, while others work in government, industry, consulting, research, policy, finance, or the law.

Recent or current dissertation projects include "fake news" and political culture; the ordinary person's experience of appearing in the news; the evolution of the photographic pose; fact-checking and objectivity in the age of digital media; mobile phone networks in India; journalistic authority in the Internet age; digital search engines and journalistic sourcing; Latin American narrative journalism; media, mobilization, and political campaigns; global iconic events; and the interplay of global media and foreign policy. Students come from a variety of backgrounds, including journalism, politics, not-for-profit organizations, filmmaking, business, and the law, while others are recent college graduates or have been pursuing graduate work elsewhere.

Candidates for the Ph.D. are required to:

1. Complete five core courses covering major areas of the field:

  • Journalism J6030 Journalism and Society

  • Journalism J8040 Proseminar in Communications

  • Journalism J9042 Communication Research Problems (the dissertation research seminar)

  • an approved course on contemporary organizations that is relevant to the study of communications

  • an approved course on comparative politics that is relevant to the study of communications

2. Complete a series of courses amounting to a total of 84 credits and constituting a concentration in an area such as history, religion, political science, sociology, anthropology, comparative literature, film studies, international affairs, or business;

3. Show mastery of research methods appropriate to the subject of the dissertation;

4. Show proficiency in a language other than English that is used in research;

5. Complete a set of comprehensive examinations;

6. Complete and defend a doctoral dissertation.

(Students who have begun graduate-level work in communications or a related field, whether in a different program at Columbia or at another institution, should note our Transfer of Credit Policy. Of the required 84 credits, up to 30 credits of previous graduate-level coursework may be accepted by the program for advanced-standing credit. Decisions are made by the doctoral faculty on a case-by-case basis. A minimum of two years' coursework in residence at Columbia is required to earn the Ph.D.)

A full-time Ph.D. student is generally offered a tuition exemption during the years he or she is completing coursework. Stipends are typically awarded for three years and generally require service as a teaching or research assistant. During the school year, stipend holders may not take outside paid work for more than 10 hours a week. The program strongly prefers applicants for full-time study and very rarely accepts part-time students.

Many students find they must supplement their stipends with loans, savings, summer jobs, or family contributions. Funded students must submit the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) every year.

Established in 1998 and administered by the Journalism School, the Communications Ph.D. program is, like all doctoral programs at Columbia, subject to the academic governance of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

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Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
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