Why study Communication?

What is a Ph.D. in Communication with an emphasis on Social Justice?

The Ph.D. in Communication at the University of Cincinnati gives students the opportunity to investigate the power of communication to shape our personal identities and impact our social, organizational, mediated, and political lives.

Given our location in the heart of the urban core of Cincinnati, as well as the mission of our department to explore and address social issues, much of our work emphasizes our value of social justice. We recognize the central role that communication plays in our understanding of key social justice issues (e.g., race, gender, health, environment, globalization-related, etc.) and in finding solutions to those issues.

As graduate faculty in communication, we have identified a trend that students approach communication studies from a social justice angle, and are seeking opportunities to advance academic training that prepare them to have a social justice focus in their research or praxis career trajectory. Through academic preparation and externship work, our program prepares students to lead positive change through academic, and applied work, or in professional careers through a blend of theory, research methodology, and practical application.

What are our focus areas?

  • Organizational Communication and Public Relations
  • Media and Cultural Studies, Traditional and Digital Media Effects
  • Health and Environmental Communication
  • Interpersonal Communication and Leadership
  • Culture and Globalization
  • Rhetorical, Interpretive, Critical, and Quantitative Methods

What are some of the advantages of this program?

  • Small classes mean you get concentrated attention from our award-winning faculty
  • You can customize the program to your interests by choosing electives and independently working on a completion project tailored to your interests
  • Many of our full-time Ph.D. students receive a graduate assistantship (GA), a competitive assistantship that pays your tuition and provides a $16,000 stipend each year for four years. Most GA students teach their own sections of public speaking and consider it a highlight of their experience.

Admission Requirements

You will need the following to apply:

Unofficial transcripts


  • A Curriculum Vitae (CV) for this program typically includes a summary of your research interests, the status of your thesis and name of your advisor, a list of peer-reviewed publications, book chapters, conference papers, panels, and, when applicable community service and any related work experience. In addition, should you have a resume demonstrating your commitment to social justice, you are encouraged to upload this document as well.

Personal Statement

  • This personal statement is an opportunity for you to describe your interest in the Ph.D. program. This enables the admissions committee to assess how well your goals match what our program offers. Below are a few components that you should be sure to discuss in this statement:
    • Please identify any specific area(s) of interest or specialty that you would like to study, and how your interest aligns with our program
    • Please identify specific social issues and topics that motivate your research interest
    • Tell us how your goals and research interests align with the department’s social justice focus
    • Please name 2-5 graduate faculty from the Department of Communication who you believe could best evaluate your application materials. We strongly recommend that you review faculty profiles on our website, skim through faculty CVs and publications for connections with your research interests, and identify those individuals who you would be excited to work with if you are accepted into our program.

Writing Sample

  • A writing sample showcases your ability to synthesize literature, articulate your ideas, and build an argument. Please submit a research paper, which includes academic citations. This may be a published article, book chapter, conference paper, or one written for a class, preferably in communication or a related field. If you have written a thesis or capstone paper, turning a portion of those in would be preferred. Your writing sample should be at least 5 pages (excluding references).

Proof of English Language Proficiency (for international applicants only)


Additional Notes About Applications

Submission Timing: We encourage you to submit your application as soon as it is ready. We can only see your application once it has been submitted. Seeing your application allows us to get in contact with you. Also, please email the Graduate Director to let them know that you have applied.

Official Review:  Your file will not be officially reviewed for admission until it is complete. Your file will be complete when:

  1. you have uploaded your cover letter, purpose statement, transcript, and writing sample
  2. your reference letters have been submitted electronically by recommenders
  3. you officially submit your application and pay the application fee

Helpful links about the Application Process:

Our program prepares students for careers in the academy and other industries. In addition to a path toward scholarly research, other career options include, but are not limited to: 

  • Academic Researcher
  • Non-profit/Industry Researcher
  • Health Medical Ethnographer 
  • Laber Relations Officer
  • Marketing Director
  • Public Relations/Communication Director
  • Writer/Copywriter/Technical Writer/Editor 
  • Medical Writer 
  • Proposal Writer/Grant Manager 
  • Project Management 
  • Social Media Management and Analysis 
  • Data Analysis  
  • Content Development and Strategist

Why UC? 

  1. Known for having one of the highest rated masters only Communication programs in the country
  2. Small program means strong faculty-student relationships
  3. Ph.D. program uniquely centering on social justice at the program level
  4. The social justice focus is reflected in our emphasis on engagement with real-life issues in research programs, particularly, through research externships that connect student research with local communities.
  5. The department and UC both have established internship-placement programs rated #3 in the nation that help to connect students to industry organizations
  6. Top scholar faculty in organizational, political, environmental, media, and health communication
  7. Graduate Assistantships are available in teaching or research

The Department of Communication at the University of Cincinnati promotes knowledge of human communication through research, teaching, and service. We are located in an urban center within a large research university, which provides a dynamic context for connecting theory and practice.

Our award-winning faculty members share a distinctive focus on contemporary social problems. Research centers on understanding issues of voice, identity, public participation, and advocacy/leadership across communication contexts including interpersonal, political, organizational, rhetorical, environmental, health, and mediated communication.

Degree Requirements

The degree involves a five-year program of study that includes the following elements:

Coursework: Minimum of 73 total hours are required to graduate

  • 15 Credit Hours Required Communication Courses 
    • COMM7001 - Advanced Rhetorical Theory
    • COMM7007 - Advanced Communication Theory
    • COMM7041 - Empirical Communication Research Methods
    • COMM7042 - Qualitative and Rhetorical Research Methods
    • COMM 8002 Communication & Social Justice
  • 15 Credit Hours Minimum of Communication and Outside Electives
  • 1- 6 Credit Hours of Research and Practice
    • COMM 8061 Research Practicum
    • COMM 8062 Communication  Externship 
  • 6 Credit Hours Qualifying Exams for Pre-Dissertation Prep 
    • COMM 9051 Comprehensive Exams
  • 1 - 30 Credit  Dissertation Hours
    • COMM 9061 Dissertation 

Additional Specifications

  • To achieve full-time status, students must take 10 or more hours of graduate coursework per semester. Students receiving assistantships or scholarships must maintain a 12-hour course load.
  • Full-time students are required to register for COMM8093 - Introduction to Graduate Studies during the Fall and Spring semesters of the first year, and COMM8094 - Academic and Professional Prep during the Fall and Spring semesters of the second year.
  • All students complete a Doctoral Dissertation, an independently developed and executed research project which may involve a variety of approaches and methods, including experimental, survey, observation/participation, fieldwork, or critical-textual. Students may register for 1 to 30 dissertation hours with an advisor. 

Application Deadlines

Fall Semester Application Deadline:

Part-Time Admission: February 1st
Full-Time Admission: January 15th

Spring Semester Application Deadline:

Full-Time Admission: NOT ACCEPTED
Part-Time Admission: October 15th

The University of Cincinnati and all regional campuses are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

The University of Cincinnati and all regional campuses are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Contact Information

Zhuo Ban
4270 Clifton Court
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, OH 45221
(513) 556-4454

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Program Code: 15DOC-COMM-PHD