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Degree Programs
Communication Studies

The Department of Communication Studies offers a PhD in Health Communication and an M.A. in Applied Communication with optional concentrations in corporate communication, health communication, media criticism or public communication, a PhD minor in Health Communication and a graduate minor in Communicating Science.

These programs are unique applied programs that provides students with theoretical understanding of communication processes as well as with the competencies and skills necessary to address specific communication issues and problems by applying discipline-specific knowledge. The program readies the advanced student for professional career paths and future academic pursuits.

M.A in Applied Communication Program Goals

The overarching goal of this unique program in applied communication is to provide students with the competencies and skills necessary to address specific communication issues and problems that are socially relevant and to suggest or implement change. The primary intellectual goal of the program is to increase our students’ understanding of the theoretical implications of discipline-specific knowledge and to enhance their ability to understand and predict human interaction relative to realistic, applied outcomes associated with contemporary social problems. A practical goal of the program is to train a cohort of the population who will satisfy society’s increased need for professionals who grasp the complexities of communication problems and who are able to develop and execute strategies and programs to address such issues.

Requirements for Admission 
Degree Requirements

Completion of 36 credit hours, including:

  • 12 credit hours of core requirements. These include:
    • COMM-C 500: Advanced Communication Theory
    • COMM-C 501: Applied Communication Research
    • One of COMM-C 502, COMM-C 530 or COMM-C 531
    • COMM-C 503: Applied Learning Project, OR COMM-C 597: Thesis
  • 24 credits of electives  Students may take as many as 6 credit hours of approved coursework at the graduate level from outside the Department of Communication Studies

The student must maintain a B+ average (3.3) or higher in order to graduate. In addition, the student must pass the comprehensive examination and complete either a thesis or an applied learning project in order to complete the degree requirements.

Ph.D. in Health Communication

The Ph.D. program in health communication includes the following main program objectives. Students will: 

  • Obtain competency for teaching and research in areas that include: health and interpersonal relationships, intercultural health, and mediated communication in healthcare contexts including health campaign development. Ethical questions regarding each of these health communication contexts will be explored as well.
  • Initiate, participate, and develop competency in research on health and medical communication issues.
  • Gain skills in understanding clinical problems affected by communication. 
  • Develop the capabilities necessary to translate research on clinical problems impacted by communication into practice.
  • Receive training for academic jobs and healthcare professional positions. 

Requirements for Admission

Students entering the program must:

  • Have at least a Master’s degree (minimum of 30 credit hours) in a related social science or health discipline, completed with a GPA of 3.5 or higher (on a 4.0 scale).  Preference will be given to those students with degrees from communication studies programs.
  • Take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test (Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical Writing).
  • Submit a written statement of purpose for entering into this Ph.D. program,
  • Provide three letters of recommendation from individuals in professional positions able to judge success
  • Submit a curriculum vitae
  • Provide graduate and undergraduate transcripts
  • Submit a writing sample demonstrating academic writing ability
  • Non-native English speakers who did not complete a degree at a college or university in the U.S. mush also take an English competency test, either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). 

Degree Requirements

IU requires a minimum of 90 credit hours of approved graduate coursework beyond the Bachelor’s degree. A maximum of 30 credit hours of approved graduate work completed with a grade of B or better may be transferred with the approval of the advisory committee and the Dean of the University Graduate School. All coursework taken for the Ph.D. must be completed within seven years prior to the passing of qualifying exams, including any transfer courses.

Overall, the requirements include:

  • Core Courses (15 credit hours)
    • COMM-C 500: Advanced Communication Theory (3)
    • COMM-C 592: Advanced Health Communication (3)
    • COMM-C 680: Doctoral Qualitative/Rhetorical Methods (3)
    • COMM-C 690: Doctoral Quantitative Methods (3)
    • COMM-C 695: Seminar in Communication and Healthcare (3)
  • Seminars in Content Areas (at least 15 credit hours) – Students may select from the courses offered within Communication Studies.  In addition, other cross-listed seminars from affiliated faculty in departments or programs such as the Indiana Center for Intercultural Communication (ICIC), Medical Humanities, Medical Sociology, and other health-related areas may count toward the student's degree with approval from the student's advisor.
  • Minor (9-12 credit hours) -- All students must complete a minor in an area related to their primary health communication focus. Minor areas of Ph.D. study might include public health, health informatics, philanthropic studies, law & health, industrial organizational psychology, bioethics, nursing, bioinformatics, clinical psychology, medical sociology, marketing, social work, health economics, science, or any area in the health and life sciences disciplines or the Liberal Arts disciplines connected to the student’s area of primary focus. An interdisciplinary minor can be developed in consultation with the student’s advisor and advisory committee as well as a minor in research methods/tools. The minor area of emphasis must be approved by the student’s advisor and advisory committee and contain a minimum of three graduate level courses (9 credit hours) in accordance with the department or unit in which the minor is housed. Some departments require a 12 credit hour minor. 
  • Field Work/Research (6-9 credit hours) -- All students are required to complete 6-9 credit hours of fieldwork and/or additional coursework in research methods selected in consultation with the advisor. 
  • Dissertation (12 credit hours). 

In addition, all students must take written examinations that cover both broad knowledge of the health communication field as well as specialized knowledge of a chosen area of health communication. Comprehensive exams are taken after the student has completed a minimum of 39 credit hours (beyond the Master’s) including the required core, seminars, and minor coursework.

PhD Minor in Health Communication

The Department of Communication Studies is excited to offer a new PhD minor in Health Communication! Health communication is a rapidly growing field that contributes to the knowledge of and improvement in delivery of healthcare. Important work focuses on areas such as patient advocacy, empowerment, and activation; patient-provider communication; shared decision-making; patient-caregiver communication; successful transfers of care among clinicians; communicative approaches to reducing healthcare disparities; and addressing clinician burnout. The work of health communication scholarship adds unique and important dimensions to the study of healthcare and its delivery in a variety of fields, including public health, nursing, psychology, biomedical informatics, rehabilitation science, and other disciplines.


The PhD Minor in Health Communication consists of 12 hours of courses.

Two courses are required: COMM-C 592: Advanced Health Communication, and COMM-C 500: Advanced Communication Theory.

Students select two electives including:

  • COMM-C 695: Communication and Healthcare

  • COMM-C 650: Health Communication Media

  • COMM-C 510: Health Provider-Consumer Communication

  • COMM-C 591: Topics/Seminar in Applied Communication (rotating seminar topics)

Graduate Minor in Communicating Science

The minor in communicating science is designed for masters and doctoral students in the sciences and health professions to develop audience-centered communication, distill scientific concepts into meaningful narratives, and connect effectively with collaborators and funders. The program brings together communication and rhetorical theory with the techniques of applied improvisation to enhance students’ career prospects, help them secure funding, and serve as effective teachers.

Students are required to take two semesters of 3, one-credit hour co-requisite courses.

Co-Requisite Block 1 (3 cr hrs):
COMM-C 534: Distilling Your Message: Communicating Science (1 cr)
COMM-C 533: Improvisation for Scientists: Communicating Science (1 cr)
ENGL-W 533: Science Writing for Public Readers: Communicating Science (1 cr)
Co-Requisite Block 2 (3 cr hrs): COMM-C 535: Using Electronic Media: Communicating Science (1 cr)
ENGL-W 535: Science Writing for Public Readers II: Communicating Science (1 cr)
COMM-C 536: Connecting with the Community: Communicating Science (1 cr, Program Capstone)
Students will chose two courses (6 credit hours) from the following list:
  • COMM-C 510: Health Provider-Consumer Communication (3 cr.)
  • COMM-C 521: Family Communication in Health Contexts (3 cr.)
  • COMM-C 591: Topics in Applied Communication (3 cr.) with relevant topics in science/health
  • COMM-C 592: Advanced Health Communication (3 cr.)
  • COMM-C 650: Health Communication in Mediated Contexts (3 cr.)
  • COMM-C 695: Seminar in Communication and Healthcare (3 cr.)
  • ENG-W 600: Topics in Rhetoric and Composition (3 cr.), with relevant topics in science/health
  • HIST-H 546: History of Science, Medicine, and Technology
  • IBMG-G 655: Research Communications (3 cr.)
  • JOUR-J 528: Public Relations Management (3 cr.)
  • JOUR-J 560: Public Relations Research and Evaluation (3 cr.), with topics in Public Relations in the Life Sciences and Integrating Marketing Communication in Health Care
  • PBHL-H 612: Marketing for Health Services Delivery (3 cr.)
  • PBHL-S 625: Applied Public Health Campaigns and Social Marketing Strategies (3 cr.)
  • PBHL-S 622: Coaching for Health Behavior Change (3 cr.)
  • PBHL-E 606: Grant Writing: From Befuddlement to Brilliance (3 cr.)
Note The Communicating Science minor is not open to Health Communication PhD students or Applied Communication MA students.