Graduate Program Overview
Orientation, Scope, Time Frame, and Placement
The Department of Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara offers advanced study leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. The department prides itself on a faculty of leading scholars all actively involved in communication research, teaching, and service. The graduate program at UCSB is designed to provide students with a theoretical understanding of the process of human communication. The department embraces a social science orientation to the field of communication. Faculty members use empirical methods to study important societal issues concerning human communication. The graduate curriculum provides students with essential preparation in theory construction, analysis, and research methodologies for conducting original scholarship in communication.
Our graduate program is relatively small by design. We maintain approximately 35 graduate students at a given time. Thus, we are able to offer our students the luxury of small seminars, individualized programs, and extensive student-faculty contact. At the same time, the scope of the program is broad, encompassing an array of subspecialties in interpersonal communication, media communication, and organizational communication. Students in our graduate program are drawn from various parts of the U.S. as well as from other countries. Most have backgrounds in communication although we also admit students with degrees in other disciplines such as psychology, sociology, and linguistics.
The Ph.D. program is structured to be completed in approximately five years by students entering with no previous graduate work. The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is earned in the process, typically after two years in the program. Students with an M.A. from another university should be able to complete the Ph.D. degree in approximately four years (see Program Guidelines & Handbooks).
Those completing the Ph.D. at UCSB typically pursue teaching and research careers in academic settings, though some find employment in private or public research environments. Graduates of the doctoral program have obtained faculty positions at such distinguished institutions as Cornell University; University of Wisconsin, Madison; The Ohio State University; University of Arizona; Indiana University; University of Texas, Austin; San Diego State University; Samford University; University of San Diego; and University of Southern California. Please look through our Graduate Alumni Profiles.
Areas of Study in Communication
Graduate training in Communication at UCSB is broadly based in the social sciences, with emphases in three primary research areas: interpersonal communication, media communication, and organizational communication. One of the strengths of our graduate program is that faculty routinely work in more than one of these three primary areas, and students are encouraged to explore overlaps between these traditional contexts. Our Research pages provide summaries of current centers, sites, and projects in these areas.
Interpersonal and Intergroup communication. Our approach to interpersonal communication focuses on the dynamic ways in which messages are constructed, exchanged, and interpreted in relational contexts – ranging from casual acquaintances to family members. Our approach to intergroup communication examines the impact of social context on the generation and interpretation of messages, symbols, and identity where frames of reference may (e.g., intragroup communication) or may not (e.g., intergroup communication) be shared. Each of these two areas operates with unique assumptions. Yet, our melding of these approaches recognized that interpersonal encounters can take place within underlying intergroup frames while between-group interactions can have interpersonal contingencies.
Media communication. Students and faculty in media communication examine issues involving the creation, distribution, use, context, reception, and effects of media and their messages. We in this area have a very diverse set of interests, with emphases that span the psychological, social, group, organizational, and global issues associated with the modern day media landscape. We conceive of media broadly, in both traditional (e.g., TV, film) and newer forms (e.g., the Internet, social media, video games). Our ongoing research programs examine a wide range of media contexts, including entertainment, advertising, communication campaigns, health, news, politics, policy and law, media literacy, and digital media.
Organizational communication. Students and faculty in organizational communication seek to understand the complex communication issues in contemporary organizing. We study the messages, patterns of interaction, new media, information flow, and interpretations of messages as they enact, emanate from, and shape forms of organizing in corporate, community, governmental, and nongovernmental settings. We explore topics such as collective action and collaborative relationships, new technologies in organizations, international and global organizing, organizational entry and exit, planning and decision making processes, gender issues, workplace participation, groups and teams, negotiation and conflict, and discourse.