Ph.D. in Health Communication

Preparing you for teaching and research in health and interpersonal relationships

Choosing to pursue a doctorate in the Health Communications program will prepare you for teaching and research in the areas of health and interpersonal relationships, intercultural health, and mediated communication in healthcare contexts. You will be prepared to tackle the development of healthcare campaigns as well as the ethical questions surrounding the communication of healthcare messaging. Your coursework will prepare you to engage with clinical problems affected by communication and develop your ability to translate research into practice, putting you in a prime position for advanced work in academic and healthcare professions.


Course 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. Coursework that does not meet this criterion may be revalidated.

Overall, the requirements include core courses (15 credit hours), seminars in content areas focused on (but not limited to) interpersonal relationship communication, intercultural communication, mediated/campaign communication (at least 15 credit hours), minor (9-12 credit hours), field work/research (6-9 credit hours), and dissertation credits (12 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 International 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 Area of Emphasis (9-12 credit hours):

All students must complete a minor in an area related to their primary health communication focus. 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.

Comprehensive Examinations:

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.

Fieldwork /Research (up to 9 credit hours):

All students are required to initiate or participate in original research with the approval of advisor. This field/research work is geared to focus the student’s research interest to serve as a springboard for the dissertation work.

Ph.D. Dissertation (up to 12 credit hours):

Dissertation credits are structured so that the student is unencumbered with completing coursework and can focus completely on conducting research and writing the dissertation for completion of the degree.

Core Courses

COMM-C 500 Advanced Communication Theory (3)
COMM-C 504 Pro-Seminar in Communication Graduate Studies (3)
COMM-C 592 Advanced Health Communication (3)
COMM-C 680 Doctoral Qualitative Research 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)

Admission Requirements:

Required Coursework:

Students entering the program must have at least a Master’s degree (minimum of 30 credit hours) in Communication or a related social science or health discipline.

Preference will be given to those students with degrees from communication studies programs.

Students should have a GPA of 3.5 or higher in their Master’s coursework.

Students are expected to have taken some foundational coursework in Communication. For students entering the program with no background in Communication, additional preparatory coursework in the discipline may be required as a condition of admission.

Required Testing

Beginning in 2021, interested applicants are no longer required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Revised General Test (Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical Writing).  Applicants may still want to submit their GRE scores to be considered in their application, and they may do so.

Successful candidates typically have scores between 150-170 in Verbal Reasoning and in Quantitative Reasoning and a score between 4.0-6.0 in Analytical Writing.

In addition, non-native English speakers who did not complete a degree at a college or university in the U.S. must take an English competency test. The student may complete either of the following:

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The expectation for admission is a minimum score of 88 on the TOEFL iBT (internet based test). Please note that this score represents the minimum that will be considered. In practice, we look for scores above 100.
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The minimum acceptable IELTS score is 6.5; in practice, we look for an IELTS of 7 or more. It is required that applicants take the academic reading and writing modules, not the general training reading and writing modules. Please note that this score represents the minimum that will be considered. In practice, we look for scores above 7.

Additional Required Materials

  • A written statement of purpose for entering this Ph.D. program
  • Three letters of recommendation from individuals in professional positions able to judge success
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Graduate and undergraduate transcripts
  • A writing sample demonstrating academic writing ability

Undergraduate Record

Graduate School requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, a minimum 3.0 grade point average on a scale of 4, and a minimum 3.0 average in the major field.

Applications will be viewed in their entirety. A candidate’s outstanding qualifications in one area can be balanced against more marginal qualifications in another dimension. Keep in mind that admission is competitive and financial support even more competitive. Most of the students admitted and supported will exceed the minimal requirements

More Info

Contact Kim White-Mills, Director of PhD Program and PhD Minors.