2021 Best PhD in Communications Online [Doctoral Guide]
To increase your contribution to the field of communications, you may want to think about getting a PhD in communications online.
This degree can help prepare you to stand at the forefront of research, to teach new generations of communications students, or to serve as a leader in business, government, or nonprofit work.
Doctoral communication studies can help you launch an academic career. Other professionals in the field hold leadership positions in various industries, such as advertising, media, marketing, public relations, or journalism.
Online PhD in Communications Programs
If you want to make your mark in the field of communications, then a Ph.D. in Communications might be the path for you. Getting a doctoral degree can be quite the undertaking, but it can also lead to opportunities for you to make a lasting difference.
With a doctorate, you might be recognized as a leader who’s trusted to educate students, deliver messages, or spearhead change.
Doctoral programs in communications often include classes on communication theories, interpersonal dynamics, and mass media. Some courses may cover modern issues in communication as well as the influence of digital technologies.
In addition, there’s usually a core curriculum that focuses on doctoral research. Those courses teach you to develop research topics, conduct studies, analyze statistics, and write in an academic style.
Communication is important in all sectors, so this is a broad, versatile field. You may be able to tailor your course of study to your particular goals. Some students build their programs around specialties like:
- Digital media
- Family communication
- Health communication
- Intercultural dynamics
- Mass communication
- Public relations
Some PhD graduates go on to become professors who teach communication studies or media studies. Tenured roles, in particular, usually require holding a doctorate. This academic track can also lead to research opportunities.
While professorships are often associated with PhDs, you may also find work as a practitioner in a variety of fields, such as journalism, marketing, public policy, or media relations. Jobs may be available in corporations, government agencies, think tanks, and nonprofit organizations.
Communications Careers & Salary Data
Many communications doctoral students have academic careers in mind. PhD graduates may become community college or university professors of media studies. Depending on experience, job titles include assistant professor, associate professor, or department chair.
Being a professor isn’t the only option in higher education. Many college administrators, such as deans and provosts, also need to have PhDs. A PhD can also lead to research positions.
Even if you’re not employed in academia, you can still consider a research career. Market research analytics and survey research are two fields where you could apply your scientific training. Government agencies, for instance, may hire social science researchers.
While academic roles are common, many communications students also have non-academic careers in mind. You may apply your doctoral expertise as a practitioner in a variety of settings. For example, many organizations hire communications directors, digital media specialists, or public policy directors.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in media and communications pay a median annual salary of $61,310, and the median salary for management occupations is $109,760.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers||$141,490|
|Public Relations and Fundraising Managers||$118,430|
|Training and Development Managers||$115,640|
|Postsecondary Education Administrators||$97,500|
|Social Scientists and Related Workers||$87,260|
|Postsecondary Communications Teachers||$71,030|
|Market Research Analysts||$65,810|
While an online PhD in Communications isn’t required for all of the above careers, it could enhance your earnings and contributions to any of these fields.
The business fields of public relations, advertising, and marketing, for example, rely heavily on communications principles. Having a PhD might qualify you for a management role in one of those departments. Your knowledge of communications could also help you design employee training modules as a development specialist.
This specialized degree might even justify your advancement to one of the top spots in your company. Sometimes, experts in communications, media relations, or marketing are named chief officers of their organization.
As a communications professional, writing might be one of your strengths. Technical writers sometimes contribute to grant proposals, user experience research, and scientific journalism. News reporters for print and digital media also rely on communication skills.
Online Doctorate in Communications Curriculum
For your communications PhD, you may take a selection of core classes and electives. The coursework can bolster your research skills and help you work toward your career goals.
The curriculum for the communications program at your school might include classes like the below examples:
- Communication Theories: During your time in this course, you’ll read published research from the communications field and compare and contrast theories on how communication occurs.
- Digital Media: This course applies communications principles to website design and may include lessons on coding.
- Family Communication: You can explore the dynamics of communication styles in various family structures and discuss roadblocks to effective family communication.
- Health Communication: In this course, you might discuss the role of communication in health promotion, provider-patient relationships, and health informatics.
- Historical Foundations of Communications Study: This class covers major events in human history that have shaped communication practices and explores the technologies that have played a role.
- Modern Trends in Communications: You’ll learn about the latest research in this field and become more familiar with scholarly journals and other influential resources.
- Research in Communications: By introducing you to research methodologies used in the humanities and social sciences, this class can help get you ready for your dissertation.
- Social Science Statistics: In preparation for the dissertation, you can increase your understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies and statistical analysis.
- Social Marketing: Your time in this class will explore the idea of communicating in ways that bring about social change or encourage healthy living.
- Workplace Communication: You can learn about the dynamics of interpersonal communication in professional settings and discuss how communication theories can shape workplace practices.
Your program will also likely include a dissertation, which you may work on for several years. For this major project, you will typically draft proposals, conduct research, write a dissertation, and defend it before a committee.
Before you can begin your doctoral studies, it’s necessary to apply and be admitted to a program.
GRE scores were once a standard prerequisite for graduate school, but a number of schools no longer requires test scores for admission. The requested application materials for your PhD program may include:
- Reference letters
- Scholarly writing sample
- Transcripts from all colleges you’ve attended
Many PhD programs are reserved for students who already hold masters degrees, but some allow you to begin this level of study with only a bachelor’s degree.
Regional accreditation is given to colleges that meet quality standards. To earn it, schools have to be evaluated and approved by a regional accrediting agency. If a college is accredited, you can trust that it meets high educational standards.
A doctoral degree will often garner more respect if it comes from a regionally accredited college. This can be especially important when you’re looking for jobs or postdoctoral fellowships.
Accreditation is considered especially important in academia, so an accredited doctorate is necessary for professorship. Attending an accredited school can also play a factor in determining eligibility for receiving financial aid from the government.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Financial assistance may help you achieve your goal of earning a doctoral degree. To begin your search for tuition support, you can fill out the government’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
As a doctoral student, you might qualify for low-interest loans through the federal government or a state program. Scholarships and fellowships can contribute to your tuition assistance as well. You may be able to secure awards through professional associations or philanthropic groups.
As a doctoral candidate, you might also qualify for tuition relief and a stipend in exchange for working as a teaching or research assistant. Such arrangements are most common at on-campus colleges, but some online opportunities may be available as well.
If you intend to use your PhD in your current workplace, your employer might even help pay for your schooling.
What Can You Do with a PhD in Communications?
Being a professor is one of the top jobs that many students consider when getting a PhD in Communications. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most communications professors earn between $40,690 and $137,520 annually.
A PhD might also contribute to a career in government, business, or community development. Some professionals in the field work as communications directors, public relations managers, and marketing managers. Marketing managers typically earn between $74,620 and $208,000 each year (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Some communications graduates use their expertise to pursue or advance their careers in technical writing, journalism, or survey research.
What’s the Difference Between Marketing vs. Communications?
In both communications and marketing, communication skills are critically important. The communications field is quite broad and has many applications. Marketing, on the other hand, is specifically tailored toward building brands and selling products.
For communications, you may study:
- Communications history
- Interpersonal dynamics
- Public relations
- Social media
Topics covered in marketing programs can include:
- Market research
Even though these two programs are different, a communications degree can also be useful for a marketing career.
Is a PhD in Communications Worth It?
Yes, a PhD in Communications is worth it for many professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for postsecondary teachers are expected to grow at a 9% rate over the next decade. Since communications plays a role in nearly every field, this PhD can be useful outside of academia too.
Several relevant careers are also experiencing growth rates above the national average. For example, marketing management jobs are increasing at a 7% rate, and positions for public relations and fundraising managers are expected to grow by 9% over the next ten years.
Universities Offering Online PhD in Communication Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
American University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.
Clemson University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Colorado State is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, a Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.
The Indiana University of Pennsylvania is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Robert Morris University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Texas Tech University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of North Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Earning Your PhD in Communications Online
A communications doctoral degree can help you further develop your expertise in this versatile field. A PhD can help you qualify for positions in both academic and non-academic sectors.
Just as you can earn an online master’s in communication, an online PhD program can be a convenient way for you to complete doctoral studies. Online programs allow you to take classes through distance learning and communicate remotely with your doctoral advisor.
With the flexibility of an online communications degree program, you may be able to keep up with work or family responsibilities while also taking steps toward your degree. If you’re ready to find the PhD program that’s right for you, you may want to take a look at the various online communication programs from accredited universities.