Communication
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

PhD in Communication

The doctor of philosophy degree in communication at Mason examines the powerful roles performed by communication in contemporary society. The program has two major areas of emphasis: health and strategic communication. Students may also emphasize science communication in conjunction with either of these.

For policies governing all graduate degrees, see the Academic Policies section of the catalog.

The University Catalog is the authoritative source for information on program requirements and courses. The Schedule of Classes is the authoritative source for information on classes scheduled for this semester. See the Schedule for the most up-to-date information and see Patriot web to register for classes. Requirements may be different for earlier catalog years. See the University Catalog archives.

Degree Requirements (Catalog Year 2016-2017)

Application Requirements

Applicants to all graduate programs at George Mason University must meet the admission standards and application requirements for graduate study as specified in the Admissions section of this catalog. Applicants to the PhD in communication must already have earned a master's degree in a relevant field.

For information specific to the PhD in communication, see Application Requirements and Deadlines on the departmental web site.

Reduction of Credit

Students must have a master's degree before being admitted to the PhD in communication. Most students receive a reduction of study of 30 credits based on their previous master's degree.

To receive the PhD in communication, students must complete a minimum of 90 credits, 60 beyond the master’s degree, including core courses in theory and research methods, course work in substantive fields of study, and a research practicum. Following completion of all required course work, students must pass a written qualifying examination and an oral defense of it, after which they are advanced to candidacy by the dean and complete a dissertation, an original and independent research project.

If specific requirements are waived, students must complete substitutions, which are recorded on their Program of Study. All substitutions to degree requirements must be approved by the graduate committee.

Doctoral Course Work (72 credits)

Four theory courses (12 credits)

One required theory course

COMM 700 - Building Social Science Theory Credits: 3

 additional theory course chosen from:

COMM 602 - Theories and Research of Mass Communication Credits: 3

COMM 605 - Intercultural Communication Credits: 3

COMM 632 - Persuasion Theory Credits: 3

COMM 634 - Theories of Interpersonal Communication Credits: 3

COMM 635 - Organizational Communication Credits: 3

Two additional theory courses chosen from:

COMM 602 - Theories and Research of Mass Communication Credits: 3

COMM 605 - Intercultural Communication Credits: 3

COMM 620 - Health Communication Credits: 3

COMM 630 - Theories of Public Relations Credits: 3

COMM 632 - Persuasion Theory Credits: 3

COMM 634 - Theories of Interpersonal Communication Credits: 3

COMM 635 - Organizational Communication Credits: 3

COMM 639 - Science Communication Credits: 3

COMM 642 - Science and the Public Credits: 3

COMM 706 - Strategic Communication Credits: 3

Three research methods courses (9 credits)

One required methods course

COMM 650 - Research Methodologies in Communication Credits: 3

One qualitative methods course

Students may take COMM 725 or another course at 700-level or above as approved by the graduate committee.

One additional research methods course at the 700-level or above

This course should be chosen to help prepare for the dissertation and must be approved by the graduate committee.

Six courses (18 credits) in one of the following substantive fields of study:

Health communication

Three courses (9 credits) chosen from:

COMM 620 - Health Communication Credits: 3

COMM 705 - Intercultural Health and Risk Communication Credits: 3

COMM 720 - Consumer-Provider Health Communication Credits: 3

COMM 820 - Health Communication Campaigns Credits: 3

Three elective courses (9 credits) chosen with approval of the advisor and director

Strategic communication

Three courses (9 credits) chosen from:

COMM 630 - Theories of Public Relations Credits: 3

COMM 705 - Intercultural Health and Risk Communication Credits: 3

COMM 706 - Strategic Communication Credits: 3

COMM 735 - Crisis Communication Credits: 3

Three elective courses (9 credits) chosen with approval of the advisor and director

One research practicum (3 credits) chosen from:

COMM 604 - Communication Research Practicum Credits: 3

COMM 890 - Special Topics in Communication Credits: 3

COMM 896 - Independent Study Credits: 3

Electives (0-30 credits)

Students complete the remaining credits through additional elective courses chosen in consultation with an advisor.

Advancement to Candidacy

To advance to candidacy, students must complete all course work required on their approved program of study. Students must also successfully pass a written qualifying exam and an oral qualifying exam. In addition, students must have a dissertation committee appointed by the Dean’s Office as well as an approved proposal. Evidence of the approved proposal must be on file in the Dean’s Office before a student can advance to candidacy.

Dissertation Research (18 credits)

Once enrolled in 998, students in this degree program must maintain continuous registration for at least 1 credit. Once enrolled in 999, student must maintain continuous registration each semester (excluding summers) until the dissertation is submitted to and accepted by the University Libraries. Once enrolled in 999, students must follow the university's continuous registration policy as specified in the Academic Policies section of the catalog. Students who defend in the summer must be registered for at least 1 credit of 999. Students complete a minimum of 3 credits of COMM 998 and 3 credits of COMM 999. They must apply a minimum of 18 dissertation credits (998 and 999 combined) to the degree. Because of the continuous registration policy, students may be required to register for additional credits of these courses.

COMM 998 - Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Credits: 1-15

COMM 999 - Doctoral Dissertation Research Credits: 1-15

Total: 90 credits

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