Course Load and Curriculum

The program requires completion of 76 semester units and an approved dissertation; most candidates complete the degree program in four to five years.

In the first year, students take four required core classes: two in communication theory, one in quantitative methods and one in qualitative methods, as well as one elective each semester. Beyond the required core, students choose their courses in consultation with the graduate advisor and faculty mentor.

1st Year

Completion of two core courses each semester and the screening process by the end of the spring semester. Move from faculty mentor to faculty advisor. The core courses are:

  • COMM 525 Humanistic and Social Scientific Approaches to Human Communication I
  • COMM 526 Humanistic and Social Scientific Approaches to Human Communication II
  • COMM 550 Quantitative Research Methods in Communication
  • COMM 552 Qualitative Research Methods in Communication

2nd Year

Selection of cognate courses. Setting parameters for working paper and formation of five-member guidance committee. By completing a minimum of three courses (12 units), you choose to specialize in one of seven tracks:

  • Rhetoric, Politics and Publics
  • Media, Culture and Community
  • Health Communication and Social Dynamics
  • Groups, Organizations and Networks
  • Information, Political Economy and Entertainment
  • Political Economy of Global Communication
  • New Media and Technology

3rd Year

Completion of working paper which demonstrates original research on a communication problem by November 1. Completion of coursework.


4th Year

Arrange and complete the qualifying examination. Complete dissertation prospectus which is defended by the end of the fall semester.


5th Year

Research and completion of the dissertation and prepare for the job market.

In addition, you must take at least two courses in one other track outside your specialization (eight units total). Finally, you must pursue an approved cognate elective in which at least two courses (normally eight units) are taken in a related field outside the Annenberg School.

If you enter the School of Communication with a master’s degree, with permission, you may apply part of their previous graduate course work to the electives.