Ph.D. in Communications

Program Overview

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in Communications offers a multidisciplinary approach to the study of the relationships between people and media in their cultural, social, political, historical, economic and technological contexts.

With the guidance of an interdisciplinary faculty advisory committee, students craft individual courses of study drawing on the university's graduate resources in the humanities, the social and practical sciences, the arts, and the professional schools. 

Our goal is to connect the strengths of the Columbia journalism tradition with intellectual work in the humanities and human sciences to enhance our understanding of media and journalism in society. Recent dissertation projects have included conservative social media influencers; native advertising; the ordinary person’s experience of appearing in the news; the making of a left-wing Spanish political party in the digital age; surveilling religious expression in the U.S.; sabotage and speech in Progressive-era politics; and media, trust and political polarization in the U.S. and Germany.  More than half of our graduates are currently teaching in colleges or universities, the great majority of them in full-time tenured or tenure-track  positions, while others have chosen work in government, industry, consulting, research, policy, finance, journalism, or the law.

A full-time Ph.D. student is generally offered a standard financial aid package that can include tuition exemptions, coverage of medical fees, and a stipend. Some service as a teaching or research assistant is required. We do not accept part-time students for doctoral study and we do not offer a terminal master’s degree.

Fall Colloquiums


Ph.D. Requirements

To graduate, each candidate must demonstrate a general understanding of the field of communications as a whole and acquire deep knowledge in an area of concentration through research and coursework in appropriate disciplines ranging from history, sociology, or religion to business or international affairs.

Read the full requirements

Financial Aid

The standard financial aid package offered to full‐time Ph.D. students who do not receive significant awards from outside sources consists of a stipend for four years and a tuition exemption for the student's two or three years of coursework (the length of study depends on whether advanced standing has been granted).

During the first year of coursework no service is required, but in each semester of the second, third, and fourth years students will be assigned an assistantship that will require research or teaching.

The university's Columbia Plan health insurance and the university health service fees are covered for all funded Ph.D. students through the fourth year after their completion of coursework—i.e. for a total of six or seven years depending on transfer credits.  Students must actively register for their health insurance after the completion of coursework; enrollment is automatic while taking classes. University matriculation fees are covered for funded students for the first four years after their completion of coursework.

Read on for more information on financing and housing.

Ph.D. Program Faculty

Richard R. John, Professor of Journalism

Michael Schudson, Professor of Journalism and Program Chair

Andie Tucher, H. Gordon Garbedian Professor of Journalism and Program Director

Casey Blake, Professor of History 

Jelani Cobb, Dean and Henry Luce Professor of Journalism

Victoria De Grazia, Moore Collegiate Professor Emerita of History

Mark Hansen, Director of the Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation and Professor of Journalism

Eli Noam, Director, Columbia Institute for Tele-Information, and Garrett Professor of Public Policy and Business Responsibility, Emeritus

David Pozen, Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law

Anya Schiffrin, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Technology, Media and Communications Specialization, School of International and Public Affairs

Robert Y. Shapiro, Wallace S. Sayre Professor of Government

David Stark, Arthur Lehman Professor of Sociology and International Affairs

Diane Vaughan, Professor of Sociology