The Ph.D. in Strategic Communication offers advanced instruction in health communication, instructional emergency risk communication, and crisis communication; it prepares students with the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue a successful, advanced career in communication and related fields in both academic and applied settings.
Strategic communication, one of the fastest growing areas situated within the broader field of communication, is an innovative and unique subfield. It is distinct from other communication subfields in that it is intentionally goal-driven communication wherein communication scholars work in partnership with professionals working in the public and private sectors to solve real world problems.
The curriculum provides a rigorous program of study preparing students to research, teach, develop, and test messages that prepare for, and/or respond to, critical situations where health and/or social and/or economic interests are at risk or in crisis. The core feature of this program is training experts to bring the best social science research and theory to instructional emergency risk communication, crisis communication, health communication, and public relations; and policy-relevant issues in both academic and non-academic settings.
The program emphasizes considerable flexibility in the theoretical, contextual, and methodological diversity characteristic of the field of strategic communication. The curriculum combines core offerings in strategic communication, theory building, and methodology; along with elective courses from concentrations in health communication or risk and crisis communication. After completing these requirements, students take the candidacy examination, and then complete the dissertation.
The applied nature of research and theory in the program concentrations prepares students for career success in non-academic and professional settings. For example, the instructional communication courses provide students with strategies to communicate with the public on issues of health and crisis related topics. Much of health, risk, and crisis communication involves instructing the public on issues such as safer-sex, disease management, preparedness for natural disasters, and other important issues related to the health and well-being of Florida residents, as well as national and international publics. To prepare students for an academic career, students in the doctoral program are required to present or publish original research under the guidance of a faculty mentor.
- Applicants must have an earned master’s degree or its equivalent in Communication or a related field (e.g., public relations, emergency management). The director of graduate studies will evaluate the suitability and applicability of M.A. or M.S. degrees in other related disciplines for admission purposes. Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 for all graduate work and must also have a cumulative 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate degree.
- A competitive score, with the range to be reviewed on regular basis, on each of the quantitative and verbal sections of the Graduate Record Examination (taken within five years prior to application to the program).
- Three letters of reference that evaluate the applicant’s academic performance, suitability, and potential for undertaking doctoral study, at least one of which must be written by a faculty member at the institution where the master’s degree was earned, preferably the thesis advisor or program director.
- A personal statement outlining the applicant’s academic and professional experience, the applicant’s professional and research goals, and a statement indicating a preference for working with a particular faculty member(s).
- A writing sample of the applicant’s work (at least 2500 words in length) demonstrating the ability to complete graduate-level research, preferably a portion of the student’s M.A. thesis.
- A CV or Resume.
- International applicants whose first language is not English are required to submit results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) unless they hold a degree from a U.S. accredited institution. The TOEFL is strongly preferred. The minimum TOEFL score for full admissions consideration is 90 on the Internet-based test (IBT) and must take the speaking portion of the TOEFL and score a 26 or higher, 232 on the computer based test, or 575 on the paper-based test. The minimum IELTS score is 7.0. Applicants should plan to take the appropriate test no later than December to ensure they meet the January deadline.
Please submit all application documents to via email to Kelsey.Loftus@ucf.edu or mail to:
Nicholson School of Communication and Media
Kelsey Loftus, Admissions Specialist
12405 Aquarius Agora Dr
Orlando, FL 32816
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Total Credit Hours Required: 60 credit hours minimum beyond the master’s degree.
Students must earn a grade of “B” or better in the program’s core courses and maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 in their plan of study.
Colloquium – 0 credit hours
- COM 7920 Doctoral Colloquium (0 cr., repeatable once)
Core Requirements – 9 Credit Hours
- COM 7464 Theory Building for Strategic Communication (3 cr.)
- COM 7821 Instructional Communication in Strategic Contexts (3 cr.)
- COM 7529 Strategic Communication (3 cr.)
Research Requirements – 12 Credit Hours
- COM 6303 Qualitative Research Methods in Communication (3 cr.)
- COM 6304 Quantitative Research Methods in Communication (3 cr.)
- COM 7528 Rhetorical Criticism of Strategic Communication (3 cr.)
- COM 7325 Seminar in Research Methods (3 cr.)
Community Engagement Requirement – 3 Credit Hours (select one)
- COM 6918 Directed Research (3 cr.)
- COM 6946 Internship (1-3 cr.)
- COM 7528 Communication and Community Engagement (1-3 cr., repeatable)
Restricted Elective Courses – 6 Credit Hours (choose one area of concentration)
Concentration in Risk and Crisis Communication
- COM 7815 Risk Communication (3 cr.)
- COM 7236 Seminar in Risk and Crisis Communication (3 cr.)
Concentration in Health Communication
- COM 7025 Health Communication (3 cr.)
- COM 7227 Seminar in Health Communication (3 cr.)
Unrestricted Electives – 15 Credit Hours
Choose from NSCM graduate courses below. Upon consultation with, and approval of the student’s advisor, a student may complete up to 6 hours of elective courses from outside the Nicholson School of Communication and Media (e.g., Emergency Management, Public Affairs). Note: Non-Nicholson School courses might not be offered on the Downtown campus and will require students to attend the course at the UCF Main campus.
- COM 6535 Communication Campaigns (3 cr.)
- COM 6046 Interpersonal Communication (3 cr.)
- COM 6145 Organizational Communication (3 cr.)
- COM 6425 Symbolism in Terrorism (3 cr.)
- COM 6463 Studies in Intercultural Communication (3 cr.)
- COM 6467 Studies in Persuasion (3 cr.)
- COM 7745 Current Issues in Communication (3 cr.)
- COM 7815 Risk Communication (3 cr.)
- COM 7025 Health Communication (3 cr.)
- MMC 6402 Mass Communication Theory (3 cr.)
- MMC 6567 New Media (3 cr.)
- MMC 6600 Media Effects and Audience Analysis (3 cr.)
- PUR 6403 Crisis Public Relations (3 cr.)
- PUR 6005 Theories of Public Relations (3 cr.)
Dissertation – 15 Credit Hours
- COM 7980 Dissertation Research (15 credit hours)
Upon completion of 36 hours of coursework, including a minimum of 9 hours of methodology coursework, all core courses and coursework in one area of concentration (6 hours), students will be eligible to take the written candidacy examination. The examinations will be used to determine the student’s knowledge of theory, methods, and past and present research in their chosen areas of focus. Candidacy examinations will be administered in the fall and spring of each year. Students must notify the graduate program director by September 1st for fall exams and by January 15th for spring exams. The exams will be administered by the academic advisor in collaboration with the graduate program staff. Students will complete the exam in a prearranged room on the UCF Downtown campus. The examination committee will be composed of three UCF graduate faculty members who will be expected to compose the student’s dissertation committee. At least two of the committee members must be members of the NSCM graduate faculty. The exam must be successfully completed prior to enrollment in dissertation hours.
Each student in consultation with an advisor will establish content areas reflective of program outcomes to account for 16 hours of examination over a period of days deemed appropriate (not longer than five days). The examination committee will generate the questions in consultation with the director of graduate studies to reflect program outcomes. The questions covered on the exams will consist of research methods, program core and specific topics in strategic communication. Exam areas will be identified within the areas of communication theory, research methodology, and applied strategic communication best practices by the student in consultation with his or her examination committee. The examination questions will be graded on a four-point scale (1 = fails to meet expectations, 2 = unsatisfactory; 3 = satisfactory; 4 = exceeds expectations). Students must achieve a 3 or 4 on all questions to receive a “pass.” Students achieving less than a 3 on one question may receive a “conditional pass.” Students who fail to achieve a minimum of 3 on two or more questions will receive a “fail.” Students failing, or needing to retake any question(s) may do so one time. Students will retake only the portion of the exam she or he fails. If the exam is failed a second time, the student will be dismissed from the program. If a student receives a “conditional pass” on the examination, an oral examination with her or his examination committee must be scheduled and held within two weeks of notification of exam results. At the oral examination, the committee will ask the student to explain or modify written responses. This oral examination is meant to give the student an opportunity to provide additional clarification or information pertaining to the written responses. The committee will meet within a two week period of time, after the oral examination to determine whether the student has demonstrated the knowledge and skill to proceed to the dissertation.
Admission to Candidacy
The following are required for admission to candidacy and enrollment in dissertation hours:
- Submission of an approved program of study.
- Completion of all previously identified coursework, except for dissertation hours.
- Successful completion of the candidacy examination.
- The dissertation advisory committee is formed, consisting of approved graduate faculty.
- Completion of academic integrity requirement.
Dissertation Committee Selection
Students who successfully complete their candidacy examination are allowed to form a dissertation committee, prepare and defend a dissertation proposal, conduct original and independent dissertation research, and present and defend a dissertation.
The student’s committee is comprised of at least four appropriately qualified individuals: a dissertation supervisor and at least three others approved by the director of graduate studies. The chair of the supervisory committee, who is also the dissertation supervisor, must be a full-time, tenured NSCM faculty member (tenure-earning may co-advise after their third year of service), and approved by the College of Graduate Studies to act as chair of the supervisory committee. Two additional members of the committee must be full-time graduate faculty of any rank, and must be faculty in the Nicholson School of Communication and Media. The fourth member must be a member of University of Central Florida’s graduate faculty or a graduate faculty scholar from outside of communication. Additional graduate faculty or graduate faculty scholars may be appointed.
Dissertation Proposal Hearing
The purpose of the dissertation proposal hearing is to explain the subject under investigation, place it within the existing scholarly literature and to present the planned approach for writing the dissertation. The proposal hearing takes place in the first semester a student is enrolled in dissertation hours; therefore, students may not schedule a proposal hearing with their dissertation committee until they have completed all coursework and candidacy exams. Students work with their dissertation committee to develop and refine the proposal. Immediately after the proposal hearing, the student’s Dissertation Committee will meet to decide whether the student passed the proposal hearing. A student who passes the proposal hearing then begins the actual research and writing of the doctoral dissertation. The committee may recommend that additional work must be completed prior to full consideration and approval.
The proposal will be comprised of introduction, literature review, and proposed methodology (including a data analysis plan) sections that the student intends to include as the first three chapters in the dissertation. The student will meet with the committee and offer an oral defense of the proposal. The student may be required to meet with the committee again if it deems that additional work is required before the student may proceed with data collection, analysis, and conclusions.
The Ph.D. dissertation entails independent original research. A student must complete a minimum of 15 credit hours of doctoral dissertation research (COM 7980). The work must represent an achievement in research; it must be a significant contribution to its field; and it should be deemed publishable in refereed journals or a quality press.
The student prepares to defend the dissertation in consultation with the dissertation supervisor. All members of the committee will agree to the date of the defense, and the dissertation must be made available to the committee at least two weeks before the examination date. The defense is given as a public seminar presentation of the dissertation (publicly announced two weeks before the defense), followed by an oral examination by the committee. If the candidate successfully defends the dissertation, the committee recommends that the final form of the dissertation be completed, and that University of Central Florida confer the Ph.D. degree.