Program Overview for Prospective Graduate Students

The Department of Communication takes as its intellectual focus the strategic use of discourse in the public sphere. Faculty members and graduate students in the Department pursue and produce research that spans a wide range of the Communication discipline, generally focused in three broad curriculum areas: Communication Science & Social Cognition, Public Relations & Strategic Communication, and Rhetoric & Political Culture. The Department encourages applications for graduate study from students wishing to pursue interests identified within these foci. 

Learn more about our Graduate Faculty here.

The Communication Science & Social Cognition area is dedicated to the study of the social cognitive aspects of human communication. Our faculty and graduate students investigate the cognitive and affective processes underlying the production, processing, and effects of communication messages, specializing in quantitative social-scientific methods such as experimentation, survey research, quantitative content analysis, and physiological measurement. Our research and coursework cover a wide range of topics including health and risk communication, intergroup and intercultural communication, interpersonal communication and argumentation, media processes and effects, and persuasion and social influence. Our faculty are committed to creating a rigorous graduate curriculum and mentoring our students through individualized programs of study to prepare them as future leaders in their respective fields of inquiry. 

The Public Relations & Strategic Communication area is dedicated to multi-methodological approaches that examine organizations, messaging and media, and the publics and audiences affected by those organizations and messages. The pioneer of graduate study in public relations, the area includes experts in health and risk communication, crisis communication, organizational communication, activist publics, campaigns, management theory, civil society, gender, and global public relations. Examples of recent faculty research include: development and evaluation of a mental health campaign for youth from underserved communities; analysis of how crisis communication can optimally prepare the public to respond to and recover from disasters; study of engagement tactics by public relations practitioners around the world; and examination of social media effects and use by activist groups. Students successfully present conference papers and publish articles in the most prestigious journals of the field. Alumni hold top academic positions, continuing the tradition of studying and teaching innovative public relations and strategic communication.

The area of Rhetoric & Political Culture is dedicated to the critical analysis of public discourse in historical and political contexts. Our faculty and graduate students produce scholarship at the intersections of criticism, history, and theory. The study of rhetoric and political culture draws especially on local resources that include a wide array of historical archives, grassroots activism, and political institutions based in the Washington, D.C., area. Our research and coursework cluster around the historical and theoretical study of political ideas; social movements, publics, and counterpublics; and presidential, legislative, and judicial politics.  We focus our critical attention on such texts as oratory, visual images, embodied protests, popular culture, news coverage, judicial decisions, monuments and memorials, and public deliberation.

The Ph.D. degree is research-oriented, and all graduate students engage in independent research projects, including the Ph.D. dissertation. Currently, most students admitted into the Ph.D. program aspire to academic careers as scholars and teachers, with some pursuing professional careers in government, non-profit organizations, or the private sector. The program currently admits only full-time students who are funded by teaching assistantships, administrative assistantships, and/or university fellowships. Learn more about our current graduate students here and our graduate student placement here.

Communication faculty and graduate students at Maryland enjoy unique research opportunities. The department houses two research centers: The Center for Political Communication and Civic Leadership and The Center for Health & Risk Communication. The Washington D. C. metropolitan area also provides rich resources including Congress, the Supreme Court, the White House, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Smithsonian, the national monuments, Embassies, media outlets, and the headquarters of major foundations and public granting agencies such as the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Institutes for Health, and the National Science Foundation. Private collections include the George Meany Labor Archives, the National Women's Party Archives at the Belmont-Sewell House, and holdings at the Folger Shakespeare Library and various universities. The nation's capital also is a magnet for political activism, public relations and political consulting firms, and advocacy groups. It is also among the most culturally diverse cities in the world.

For more information about applying to the Department of Communication's graduate program, click here. For Frequently Asked Questions click here, including who to contact for additional information. To keep up to date on the latest department news, connect with us on Facebook.

Additional Information on our Department and our Graduate Program

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