PhD Overview

Doctoral degree requirements

Addressed below:

  • A minimum of 66 credits
  • Coursework
  • Residency
  • Preliminary Comprehensive Examination
  • Degree Eligibility Form
  • Dissertation requirements

A minimum of 66 credits

The PhD requires a minimum of 66 credits beyond the Bachelor's degree. Many students complete more. Computation of the 66 begins with the completion of the bachelor's degree (not the MA) and does not include dissertation credits.


PhD students follow one of three sets of requirements, depending on their MA preparation. For details, choose your group from the PhD Overview menu.

Group 1: You earned an MA in the UMass Amherst Department of Communication.  
Group 2: You earned an MA in Communication at another university.
Group 3: You earned an MA in a field other than Communication.


Doctoral candidates must spend the equivalent of at least one continuous academic year of full-time graduate work (9 credits per semester) in residence at the university, in either a fall/spring or spring/fall sequence. During this year, you must spend some part of each week physically on campus. Doctoral students enrolled in recognized off-campus programs may satisfy this regulation at their off-campus site. Because funding in the department typically takes the form of a teaching assistantship, additional residency beyond Graduate School requirements is common.  We do not provide non-residential funding.

Preliminary Comprehensive Examination

The Preliminary Comprehensive Examination is prepared and administered by the candidate's department/program. Notification of the result of the examination should be forwarded to the Graduate Records Office.  For more information about the preliminary comprehensive examination, please see the Graduate Handbook (click on tab in left hand column above).

Degree Eligibility Form

This form must be completed by all doctoral degree candidates and signed by the Graduate Program Director and the department head. You should check the accuracy of the information put on this form against your permanent record. The completed form, along with all appropriate fees, signatures, and the Survey of Earned Doctorates and University Microfilms forms, must be received by the Office of Degree Requirements by the posted deadline (see “Check List for Doctoral Degree”). These deadlines will not be extended. Degrees will not be awarded retroactively. Get the form at the Graduate School website or at the Office of Degree Requirements.

Dissertation requirements


As soon as you pass the Preliminary Comprehensive Examination, the Doctoral Dissertation Committee is appointed by the Graduate Dean upon nomination and recommendation by the Graduate Program Director (GPD) or department head.

The committee comprises at least three graduate faculty members: the chairperson, at least one other member from the department, and one member from outside the department. Selection of the committee typically begins with an invitation to serve from the student to the faculty members, but is ultimately a matter of academic judgment on the part of the GPD and/or the department head or adviser, with approval by the Graduate Dean.

Committee members must agree not only to assist in the supervision of the dissertation project, but also to conduct the final oral examination. Remember that most faculty are on nine-month contracts and are not necessarily available during the summer months.

The committee has been officially constituted when the Graduate Dean sends formal notification to each committee member, the GPD, and the student.

Credit requirement

Students typically enroll for 18 dissertation credits (taken over a period of 2 semesters).  The minimum number of dissertation credits required by the department is 12. You will not be recommended to the Board of Trustees for the doctoral degree unless you have the requisite number of dissertation credits.

There is no limit on the total number of credits, but you cannot register for more than 9 per semester/session.


After passing the Preliminary Comprehensive Examination (see above), you must prepare a prospectus describing the research to be conducted, analyzed, and presented in the dissertation. Each member of the Dissertation Committee must sign the cover sheet to indicate approval of the topic and its plan of execution. The Graduate Program Director or department head then signs the prospectus and forwards it to the Graduate Records Office. This copy must be received at least seven months before the date of the Final Oral Examination.

Announcement of Final Oral Examination

  • All Final Oral Examinations must be publicly announced In the Loop to allow interested graduate faculty and others to attend*
  • The Office of Degree Requirements must receive written notification of an examination date at least four weeks ahead
  • The examination must be held on the Amherst campus
  • All members of the Dissertation Committee must be present at the examination

*All graduate faculty are invited to attend; departments differ in allowing others to attend. Courtesy suggests that the chair of the committee, whose name is published In the Loop, be consulted by others attending the examination, with the stipulation above.

Final Oral Examination results

The result is forwarded to the Graduate Records Office directly following the examination.

Electronic submission

  • Electronic submission is required. For details, see the Graduate School website.
  • The dissertation must be approved by all members of the Dissertation Committee and the department head; the Graduate School is the final and only arbiter of what is an acceptable dissertation
  • Copyrighting is required, but registering the copyright is optional
  • The dissertation will be cataloged in the Library of Congress and in the W.E.B. Du Bois Library
  • Microfilm copies may be purchased from University Microfilms Library Services, 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103-1500 or online at (publication by microfilm does not preclude the printing of the dissertation in whole or in part in a journal or as a monograph)