Communication, PhD

The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication offers a transdisciplinary graduate program leading to a Ph.D. in communication.

This program provides coursework and resources in interpersonal communication, intercultural communication, organizational communication, health communication, rhetoric, and performance studies. Students receive training in communication theory, research methodology, and multiple areas of emphasis. They can also actively participate in one or more of the school’s research collaboratives.

The program is designed to meet the needs of students whose interests transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries and to prepare scholars for research-oriented careers in universities and in the public or private sectors.  

The Communication Graduate Student Association (CGSA) is also a valuable resource for students.  CGSA promotes interest in the academic, professional, and social well-being of all organizations' members in an effort to prepare for post-graduate school careers. 


4.3 years to degree
80% of students funded
90% completion rate

Degree Overview

The 66-hour program of study includes a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus, and a dissertation.  

For students who have completed only the bachelor's degree prior to admission, a minimum of 96 hours of graduate work is required, with the last 66 hours duplicating the requirements for those students admitted with a master's degree.  

Fields of Study

What We Study includes interpersonal communication, organizational communication, intercultural communication, rhetoric, performance studies, and health communication. 

Research Collaboratives include Health Communication (HCI), Strategic Communication (Center for Strategic Communication), Civil-Critical-Creative Communication (I4C Collective), Intercultural Communication and Global Engagement Interest Group (ICGlobal), and The Transformation Project. 

How to apply

The Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program In Communication application process is completed online through ASU Graduate Admissions.  Prospective students must submit the admission application form online, along with the fee and unofficial transcripts.  

All application materials are due by January 5 each year for fall admission consideration. We do not have spring admissions in our program.

In addition to submitting your Graduate Admission materials (click here for more information), the following items are required:

  • Goals statement (must be uploaded into the online application): Please include in your statement which emphasis area(s) (organizational, intercultural, interpersonal, rhetoric or performance studies) you wish to pursue. Please also mention any of our Strategic Initiatives that interest you (
  • Writing sample and Vitae (both must be uploaded into the online application): a sample of your writing (e.g., a chapter from master's thesis, course or research paper, published article, etc.) is required. Your current CV is also required.
  • Three letters of recommendation: Letters must be sent directly from the recommenders via email to At least two of these should be from references who know your academic potential and achievement. The Hugh Downs School does not use a recommendation form. Ensure that your recommenders send their letters to by the deadline date of January 5.


Number of students in the Ph.D. program

"The opportunities are endless in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. I have been able to teach a variety of courses, take seminars and modules in different topic areas and methodologies, collaborate with our initiatives and research teams, and explore other department's courses offered at ASU. The best thing about these opportunities is that our faculty, instructors, and department staff serve as guiding lights and mentors. Here, opportunity is coated in support."

Nikki Truscelli, Graduate Teaching Associate, Communication


The interdisciplinary nature of the degree and breadth of faculty expertise allow students to design a plan of study geared towards their area of interest and in line with future career plans.  Students develop a plan with the guidance of their principal advisor and their supervisory committee.  The program allows specialization in traditional areas of communication study while meeting the needs of students whose interests transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries. 

Requirements and electives                      Hours            
Core courses9
Interdisciplinary courses6
Electives 9
Total hours required (beyond a Master's degree)66

Courses and electives

Each student will develop an individualized plan of study based on professional interests and goals.  A proposed plan for the degree will be developed by the student with the direct guidance of a principal advisor and the student's supervisory committee. 

View all graduate communication (COM) courses

A required core sequence of a theory and methodology course(s) will be taken early in each student's program.  To complete the core, all students entering the program must take:

  • COM 604 Theory Construction in Communication

All students must also take two or more of the following methodology course(s):

  • COM 607 Contemporary Rhetorical Method
  • COM 608 Multivariate Statistical Analysis of Data in Communication
  • COM 609 Advanced Qualitative Research Methods in Communication


All students must have 24 hours of COM 691 seminars.  

Three 1-hour COM 692 Methods module courses can add up and count as a 3-credit COM 691 seminar (this can only be done once).

COM 691 Seminar, selected semesters (1-12): A small class emphasizing discussion, presentations by students, and written research papers.

Previous topics include:

  • Family Communication
  • Digital Technology Cultures
  • Performance Survey
  • Survey of Organizational Communication
  • Survey of Interpersonal Communication
  • Risk and Crisis Communication
  • Community-Centered Health Communication
  • Critical/Cultural Approaches to Gender & Sexualities
  • Health Communication Campaigns
  • Emotion in Organizations
  • Facilitating Intercultural Dialogue

Students will choose 6 credit hours of graduate coursework from disciplines outside of communication. 


Must have 9 credit hours of "other" coursework (can be COM classes or outside of COM, but not 792 or 799).


During the third or fourth year of doctoral studies, the student concentrates much of his or her effort on a scholarly review of the areas of communication.  The student works with at least three faculty committee members to put together a reading list upon which the comprehensive exams, (written and oral), are based.  The student completes 8 hours of "closed-book" written exam and 16 hours of "open-book" written exam, completed within one calendar week.  The oral exam is conducted after the conclusion of the written exam and serves to clarify the student's answers to the written questions.  Often, the literature review that the student conducts during this time period becomes the basis of the doctoral dissertation.   

Students are required to obtain a total of 6 credit hours of COM 792 that includes each of the following:

COM 792 Apprenticeship (2 credits): Work closely with one of our graduate faculty in designing and assisting in the execution of a doctoral seminar or a mix of various academic symposia, community workshops, organizational trainings, or other non-research professional development activities in which the student has opportunity to gain insight and experience into the process of facilitating high-level understanding and/or skill development. Students will work with their advisor to select opportunities that best meet their career goals.

COM 792 Professional Development Forum (1 credit): Pre-professional training workshops that help students (a) prepare for academic and professional positions and (b) provide support toward fulfilling dissertation requirements in a timely manner within a community of peers. Students must attend a minimum of 5 sessions after successfully defending comprehensive examinations.

COM 792 Research (3 credits): Independent study under the supervision of a faculty member that can be used to prepare for comprehensive exams, prepare the dissertation prospectus, conduct a literature review of a specific topic relevant to the dissertation, conduct research relevant to the dissertation (e.g., pilot study), and other independent work agreed between the student and advisor.

The doctoral dissertation is an extensive piece of original research that demonstrates the capability of the student to act as an independent scholar and use experimental methods.  The dissertation is closely supervised by the research advisor and at least two additional faculty members who constitute the dissertation committee. There are three components.  First, the student writes a formal dissertation proposal and defends it to the committee.  After the proposal defense, the student is admitted to Ph.D. candidacy by the Graduate College.  Second, following data collection, there is a “data meeting” at which the analysis is reviewed by the committee.  The process culminates with the student’s defense of the dissertation before the committee and the academic community. 

COM 799 Dissertation, selected semesters (1-15): Supervised research focused on the preparation of a dissertation, including literature review, research, data collection and analysis, and writing.