Students engaged in small group discussions.

The Ph.D. degree in mass communications is an interdisciplinary program offered jointly by the Department of Life Sciences Communication and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The program offers several internationally recognized areas of research and teaching excellence: 

  • civic and political communication
  • health and environmental communications
  • history of media institutions
  • information technologies
  • social networking and digital media
  • processes and effects of mediated communication
  • law and ethics of media
  • international and inter-cultural communication
  • public opinion
  • science and risk communication
  • social marketing
  • journalism studies
  • media ecologies
  • race and media

Working closely with their major professor and committee, students draw from courses offered in departments across the campus to develop a plan of study in preparation for independent and original research in their areas of interest.

Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline December 15
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) May be required in certain cases; consult program.*
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

See details at the Mass Communications PhD admissions webpage.

Applicants for this program are expected to have demonstrated an interest and background in communication research by having earned a thesis-based M.A. or M.S. degree in communication or other relevant disciplines. The admissions committee, however, may accept other evidence of suitable preparation.

Students must meet the minimum requirements for admission set by the Graduate School. Applicants must submit an online application, GRE scores, a statement of purpose, official transcripts from all previously attended institutions, a CV, and three letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation should come from people who can speak to the scholarly abilities of the applicant. International applicants are required to take and attain a satisfactory score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. Test scores must be furnished to the school before the application is considered complete.

For more information, visit the Mass Communications Ph.D. website.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

Prospective students should see the program website for funding information.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.


Minimum Credit Requirement 65 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement At least 50% of the required coursework (33 of 65 credits) must be in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.50 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements Courses in which the student earns a grade below B do not count toward the 65 credit minimum, but they do count in the cumulative GPA.
Assessments and Examinations Doctoral students must pass preliminary exams once coursework is completed.
Language Requirements No language requirements.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements Breadth is provided via interdisciplinary training (minor requirement waived).

Required COURSES

65 credits minimum in theory and methods/statistics courses, selected in consultation with the faculty advisor and approved by the Graduate Committee of the student's home department. Attendance of both seminars in the joint seminar sequence (JOURN 901 Colloquium in Mass Communication and LSC 700 Colloquium in Life Sciences Communication ) is strongly recommended for new graduate students.

Additional requirements are detailed in the Academic Policies and Procedures Handbook for Graduate Work in the joint Ph.D. program in mass communications.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

In consultation with the student’s advisor, and with program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 33 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

With program approval, up to 7 credits numbered 600 and above from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree. Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.  

UW–Madison University Special

In consultation with the student’s advisor and with program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 12 credits of coursework numbered 600 and above taken as a UW–Madison Special student. Coursework taken ten years prior to admission to the doctoral program is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


Doctoral students must do the following to maintain satisfactory progress:

  1. Earn a minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA by the end of the second semester in residence and maintain that GPA for the duration of the degree program.

  2. Remove grades of Incomplete in the semester following their occurrence. A course proposal cannot be approved until all incompletes are removed.

  3. Complete preliminary exams within three to six months of completing coursework.

  4. Maintain steady progress toward completion of degree, including final oral exam and deposit of dissertation. Fulltime students can expect four to five years; completion will vary for part-time students.


Doctoral committees must include at least two members from outside the Department of Life Sciences Communication and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.


15 credits

Time Constraints

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examination may be required to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

grievances and appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

 For students in the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences:

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences: Grievance Policy

In the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), any student who feels unfairly treated by a member of the CALS faculty or staff has the right to complain about the treatment and to receive a prompt hearing. Some complaints may arise from misunderstandings or communication breakdowns and be easily resolved; others may require formal action. Complaints may concern any matter of perceived unfairness.

To ensure a prompt and fair hearing of any complaint, and to protect the rights of both the person complaining and the person at whom the complaint is directed, the following procedures are used in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Any student, undergraduate or graduate, may use these procedures, except employees whose complaints are covered under other campus policies.

  1. The student should first talk with the person at whom the complaint is directed. Most issues can be settled at this level. Others may be resolved by established departmental procedures.
  2. If the student is unsatisfied, and the complaint involves any unit outside CALS, the student should seek the advice of the dean or director of that unit to determine how to proceed.
    1. If the complaint involves an academic department in CALS the student should proceed in accordance with item 3 below.
    2. If the grievance involves a unit in CALS that is not an academic department, the student should proceed in accordance with item 4 below.
  3. The student should contact the department’s grievance advisor within 120 calendar days of the alleged unfair treatment. The departmental administrator can provide this person’s name. The grievance advisor will attempt to resolve the problem informally within 10 working days of receiving the complaint, in discussions with the student and the person at whom the complaint is directed.
    1. If informal mediation fails, the student can submit the grievance in writing to the grievance advisor within 10 working days of the date the student is informed of the failure of the mediation attempt by the grievance advisor. The grievance advisor will provide a copy to the person at whom the grievance is directed.
    2. The grievance advisor will refer the complaint to a department committee that will obtain a written response from the person at whom the complaint is directed, providing a copy to the student. Either party may request a hearing before the committee. The grievance advisor will provide both parties a written decision within 20 working days from the date of receipt of the written complaint.
    3. If the grievance involves the department chairperson, the grievance advisor or a member of the grievance committee, these persons may not participate in the review.
    4. If not satisfied with departmental action, either party has 10 working days from the date of notification of the departmental committee action to file a written appeal to the CALS Equity and Diversity Committee. A subcommittee of this committee will make a preliminary judgement as to whether the case merits further investigation and review. If the subcommittee unanimously determines that the case does not merit further investigation and review, its decision is final. If one or more members of the subcommittee determine that the case does merit further investigation and review, the subcommittee will investigate and seek to resolve the dispute through mediation. If this mediation attempt fails, the subcommittee will bring the case to the full committee. The committee may seek additional information from the parties or hold a hearing. The committee will present a written recommendation to the dean who will provide a final decision within 20 working days of receipt of the committee recommendation.
  4. If the alleged unfair treatment occurs in a CALS unit that is not an academic department, the student should, within 120 calendar days of the alleged incident, take his/her grievance directly to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. The dean will attempt to resolve the problem informally within 10 working days of receiving the complaint. If this mediation attempt does not succeed the student may file a written complaint with the dean who will refer it to the CALS Equity and Diversity Committee. The committee will seek a written response from the person at whom the complaint is directed, subsequently following other steps delineated in item 3d above.

 For students in the College of Letters & Science:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.


Applicants are considered for funding as part of the admissions process. We offer a range of funding, including graduate assistantships, fellowships and research scholarship awards.

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

Program Resources

We offer two research colloquia (JOURN 901 and LSC 700) during the academic year where faculty share their research findings and methods and engage students in lively conversations about how to conduct research. We offer a teaching colloquium (JOURN 902) that explores pedagogical principles and applications that prepares students for teaching careers. Teaching assistantships provide hands-on training. 

Within our research groups and centers, graduate students work side by side with faculty and with each other, allowing the senior students to mentor younger students and for faculty to mentor students who are not their advisees. Our graduate students organize and host an annual day-long conference where they present their research in a series of panels, and they present their research at conferences around the world.

We offer a series of professional development workshops for graduate students with faculty and alumni panelists. The topics include: navigating the academic job market, exploring the non-academic job market, turning a paper into a presentation and how to find funding for research.

  1. Articulate research problems, potentials, and limits with respect to theory, knowledge, and practice within the field of study. Demonstrating comprehensive and intensive knowledge of the theories, concepts, frameworks, empirical findings, and controversies in the field.
  2. Formulate ideas, concepts, designs, and/or techniques beyond the current boundaries of knowledge within the field of study. Demonstrating a comprehensive and intensive knowledge of appropriate and relevant research methods and analytical techniques.
  3. Create research or scholarship that makes a substantive contribution to knowledge.
  4. Demonstrate breadth within their learning experiences.
  5. Advance contributions of the field of study to society.
  6. Communicate complex ideas effectively.
  7. Foster ethical and professional conduct.

Faculty: Professors Brossard (LSC Chair), Downey, Friedland, Kim, McLeod, Riddle (SJMC Director of Graduate Studies), Robinson, Rojas (SJMC Chair), Scheufele (LSC Director of Academic Programs), D Shah, H Shah, Wagner, Xenos. Associate Professors: Culver, Graves, Palmer, Shaw. Assistant Professors: Cascio, Chen, Chinn, Christy, Li, McGarr, Newman, Yang.