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Graduate study in Communication at Cornell appeals to students willing to rethink how the traditional categories, such as mass and interpersonal communication, still fit in an age of chat rooms, virtual reality, cell phones, and 500 channel cable systems. We’re looking for students who, for example, see that when a community is upset over a public works project this is not just a public relations problem, but a complex system of social influences that needs to be understood.

Cornell Communication students are the kind of students who think differently and change things. They may be interested in changing how institutions collaborate to improve natural resources management, or in exploring how teenagers combine the use of TV and Instant Messenger. We don’t believe in shoving students into a mold. There are few required courses. With the guidance of a committee of faculty members, each student designs a rigorous program that fits his or her goals.

The Communication program at Cornell examines communication in a variety of domains, including:

  • media psychology
  • youth and media
  • risk and environmental communication
  • groups, organizations, and communities
  • science and technology
  • social networks
  • technology and social behavior
  • media, technology, and society
  • human-computer interaction
  • social influence and persuasion
  • cultural and inter-cultural communication
  • communication and public policy

Our faculty approach these domains at various levels of analysis (individual, dyadic, group, organizational, cultural, institutional, and societal) and with a variety of methods and theoretical approaches for the purpose of generating knowledge about communication as a process and set of institutions that shape the social world. We expect all our students to be familiar with the range of tools used in the program (level of analysis, theories, and methods) and prepared to draw from them as appropriate.

Our students will become communication scholars who are critical thinkers looking at socially-relevant questions, based on global knowledge and using their abilities for research, teaching, outreach, consulting, and government service.

Communication at Cornell isn’t for everybody. Our approach is firmly embedded in the social sciences but also draws from both the humanities and natural sciences. We are proud of our base within Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences – a connection that provides special opportunities for students interested in health, risk, and environmental, as well as the use of technology and media to address contemporary social issues.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

The Field of Communication at Cornell University offers a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. The Ph.D. degree is a research degree. The doctoral program in the Field of Communication at Cornell is designed to be a small, high quality program that will encourage students’ interests in proposing, testing, and refining communication theory using empirical, social science research methods. Doctoral students will become active, independent researchers.  Program graduates will compete successfully for teaching and research positions at colleges and universities, work at consulting firms, or conduct research and contribute to policy in government and private organizations.


This digital manual is intended to help Ph.D. students in the Field of Communication. The information has been compiled by the Field’s Graduate Program Committee (GPC). In general, the GPC establishes the detailed requirements and regulations for students in the Field listed in this manual.