Female graduate student smiles at a table with an open laptop and books around her on the table. Two other students sit at the table with her, but are blurry

Ph.D. in Communication

Our Ph.D. Program

Our Ph.D. in Communication develops a cadre of scholars and practitioners who engage with academic and professional communities to meet the challenges of our increasingly interdependent and globally diverse social worlds.

Designed with 21st-century challenges in mind, our program prepares students for traditional tenure-track appointments, teaching intensive positions, and careers as researchers and administrators outside of academe. Our curriculum includes coursework in pedagogy, professional development, academic writing, and public scholarship.

We require all students to develop multi-methodological research expertise, and our faculty reflects diverse U.S. and global perspectives. We encourage timely degree completion and support students’ efforts to pursue their unique career goals.

“One of the greatest highlights of our program is the opportunity to teach a variety of different classes both in areas of our desired expertise and outside of that.”

- Emily Amedée

“As a community of grad students so many of us are friends. We choose to hang out and are really supportive of each other. I didn’t realize that that wasn’t the norm. All these wonderful people, that even if only here for a few years, are building meaningful, lasting relationships.”

- Hailey Nicole Otis, Ph.D. graduate 2021

“Developing and working within a highly collaborative Ph.D. cohort, and department community, has been one of the most nourishing aspects of my time at CSU.”

- Jordin Clark, Ph.D. Graduate 2021

Why Choose CSU?

Dynamic and Flexible Curriculum

Our Ph.D. program prepares students for a variety of teaching, research, and consulting careers both inside and outside academe. You are encouraged to develop a program of study that meets your unique professional goals by taking courses from any of our three areas of study:

Film and Media Studies
Relational and Organizational Communication
Rhetoric and Civic Engagement

You won’t be tracked into any one of these areas. Instead, you may draw on complementary and overlapping areas of expertise among our faculty.

Superior Faculty Mentorship

  • Our graduate program has won two program-level awards from divisions of the National Communication Association based on the stature of our faculty and our mentorship of graduate students.
  • You will study with award-winning faculty who have established national reputations.
  • Small Ph.D. cohorts ensure that you will receive focused attention from your advisor.

Graduate Student Support

  • We support graduate students with extensive teaching training and mentoring, funds for conference travel, and health insurance and parental leave.
  • International students receive focused support, including summer funding opportunities.

Rigorous and Supportive Academic Community

  • We believe that scholarly productivity is facilitated by healthy community. Faculty and students work collegially with one another in an environment that is rigorous, intentional, and humane.
  • We have distinctive programmatic features that you won’t find anywhere else in the nation, including the Center for Public Deliberation and the ACT Human Rights Film Festival.

“When I got admission, I was immediately connected to an international faculty member in the department...There is genuine care and a constant flow of information within the department regarding international students. So, I am not left wondering what to do. I am helped through the process.”

- Nancy Achiaa Frimpong

Program Requirements

Ph.D. in Communication Studies

The Ph.D. in Communication is an 81-credit, four-year program with the following requirements.

Several adults sit in an auditorium with red chairs, paying attention to whatever's happening on stage

Master Degree Credits*                                                                        27

Ph.D. Core                                                                                               30

SPCM 701           Seminar in Academic Writing                                 (3)

SPCM 702           Professional Writing and Public Scholarship       (3)

SPCM 712           Critical/Cultural Analysis in Communication       (3)

SPCM 793           Seminar: Communication Research Methods     (3)

SPCM 798           Research (comprehensive exams)                        (6)

SPCM 799           Dissertation                                                             (12)

Electives                                                                                                  24

500 level and above. No more than 6 from outside the department
may be
counted toward Ph.D. plan of study. Chosen in consultation
with your advisor.

Total                                                                 81

Master Degree Credits*                                27

Ph.D. Core                                                      30

SPCM 701 - Seminar in Academic Writing (3)

SPCM 702 - Professional Writing and Public Scholarship (3)

SPCM 712 - Critical/Cultural Analysis in Communication (3)

SPCM 793 - Seminar: Communication Research Methods (3)

SPCM 798 - Research (comprehensive exams) (6)

SPCM 799 - Dissertation (12)

Electives - 24

500 level and above. No more than 6 from outside the department may be counted toward Ph.D. plan of study. Chosen in consultation with your advisor.

81 Total Credits

Completing Your Degree

We provide students a comprehensive, flexible framework for completing their degree in a timely manner.

  • Ph.D. students receive 4 years of funding as a GTA in which they complete 2- 2 ½ years of coursework, 1 semester for their preliminary exam, and 1- 1 ½ years to write their dissertation.
  • Your Ph.D. Committee will help you develop your program of study, prepare and evaluate your preliminary exam, and support you throughout the dissertation process.
  • All Ph.D. students receive formal, annual mentoring in research, teaching, and professional development.
  • The Ph.D. in Communication Program Requirements section of our Graduate Student Manual provides a sample course rotation, notes on curricular requirements, and an outline of the preliminary examination design.

Program Funding

Students earning their Ph.D. in Communication from Colorado State University finance the degree from a variety of sources:

Graduate Teaching Assistantships
  • Ph.D. GTAs receive 4 years of full tuition remission, pending a positive annual review and successful progress toward their degree. CSU student fees not included.
  • GTAs receive a monthly stipend to defray cost of housing, fees, books, etc. The 2023-2024 stipend for Ph.D. students is $2,518/month for 9 months.
  • Funding is not provided during the summer; however, the department also offers modest Research Assistant stipends to graduate students on a competitive basis.
Diverse Teaching Assignments
Research Assistantships & Grants
Conference Travel Support
Additional Graduate School Financial Resources

Learn More

Selecting the right graduate program can be overwhelming. We invite you to talk with faculty and current graduate students. Start the conversation with an email to Dr. Elkins or our graduate studies coordinator. Then come visit to see what we’re all about!

Evan Elkins

  • Associate Professor | Interim Director of Graduate Studies

Khuc Phan

  • Graduate Studies Support Coordinator


Dr. Meara Faw is on sabbatical until the end of the Fall 2024 semester. She will resume her position as Director of Graduate Studies Spring 2025.