About the PhD in Media Studies

About the PhD in Media Studies



The PhD in Media Studies at the University of Virginia is based in the interdisciplinary field of critical media studies, which emphasizes understanding the role of media texts, audiences, industries, and technologies in relation to economic, political, and social systems of power. Our curriculum draws on literatures in communication, cultural studies, film studies, sociology, media history, political economy, science and technology studies, and allied disciplines to provide students with theoretical and methodological fluency and familiarize them with core concerns within media studies. By exposing students to the diverse and interdisciplinary strands of critical media studies, we offer them a rich foundation from which to conduct novel research, contribute to theoretical debates, and teach various courses in media studies.

Our department is committed to forms of media studies that interrogate arrangements of power, historicize and critique narratives of media change or “newness,” tackle questions of policy and equity, interrogate international and global forms of media circulation, and explore race, gender, sexuality, and disability as axes of oppression. In short, we conduct media studies research through grounded analysis and theoretical intervention, with transformative goals.

This is a research degree primarily aimed at students who wish to pursue academic employment. As such, opportunities for professional development are central to the degree in the form of a pedagogy requirement and teaching assistantships, regular colloquia that provide professionalization opportunities, and close mentorship from faculty advisors. We also encourage students to pursue resources for academic and alternative career development offered elsewhere in the University of Virginia community.

Questions about the PhD in Media Studies can be addressed to the Director of Graduate Studies.


The Department of Media Studies is committed to providing full funding to all doctoral students for the duration of the PhD degree. The award package includes an annual stipend of $30,000 for living expenses in Charlottesville. This package is comprised of a combination of graduate teaching assistantships (GTAs) and fellowships, is guaranteed for up to five years.  It also covers tuition, fees, and comprehensive health insurance.  This funding package guarantees graduate students two years of full funding with no teaching duties, one year during the first year of the program and one year near the completion of the degree.  


The Department of Media Studies boasts a world-class and interdisciplinary group of graduate faculty with expertise in a range of media studies subfields and methods. Potential students may wish to familiarize themselves with our graduate faculty members’ interests and may reach out to potential advisors via email. Potential students should also be aware that graduate admissions are made by committee and students are admitted to the department as a whole—students are not admitted directly to any one advisor.

Faculty members who are members of the Academic General Faculty or Professors of Practice are not, generally, considered members of the graduate faculty for the purposes of doctoral advising.

Degree Requirements

The PhD in Media Studies is a 72 credit hour degree. Course requirements are below.

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at http://records.ureg.virginia.edu/index.php

Core Courses: 21 credit hours

  • MDST 8000 – Media, Culture & Technology (3 credits)
  • MDST 8500 – Media Studies Pedagogy (3 credits)
  • MDST 8900 – Developing Media Research (3 credits)
  • MDST 9000 – Colloquium (1 credit; students must enroll for a minimum of 6 semesters)
  • MDST 9100 – Qualifying Preparation (3 credits)
  • MDST 9200 – Prospectus Development (3 credits)
  • Media History Requirement (3 credit hours)
    Students will select a course from a list of courses that can fulfill this requirement.
  • Media Research Methods Requirement (6 credit hours)
    Students will select courses from a list of courses that can fulfill this requirement.

Electives: 30 credit hours

Selected courses must be approved by the student’s research advisor. Students may request approval to complete electives from elsewhere in the university.

Students may wish to explore various GSAS Certificate programs as they plan their elective coursework.

Research Requirement: minimum of 12 credit hours

All students will enroll in the non-topical (independent) research course (MDST 9999) repeatedly while completing independent research and writing (e.g., major research project, dissertation proposal, and dissertation). Students may enroll in this course prior to advancing to candidacy.

Additional Benchmarks to Degree

In addition to course requirements, doctoral students must meet specific benchmarks in their progress. These include:

  • Successful completion of a major research project, often following MDST 8900, that is evaluated by the Graduate Curriculum Committee;
  • Successful completion of comprehensive exams in which students demonstrate mastery of three bodies of literature, developed in consultation with their Advisor and a selected committee;
  • Successful completion of a dissertation proposal defense, laying out and justifying plans for the dissertation with their Advisor and a selected committee, often in the sixth semester and always prior to advancing to candidacy;
  • Advancement to doctoral candidacy is based on the student's successful completion of all required coursework and the major research project, passing the comprehensive exams, and successful defense of their dissertation proposal.
  • Completion and successful defense of the dissertation. Upon successful completion of the defense and dissertation, the student may apply for graduation from UVA with the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Media Studies.


The University of Virginia Community

Beyond the Department of Media Studies, the University of Virginia offers several programs aimed at supporting doctoral students during their time at the University and in their future careers.

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Certificates

Graduate & Postdoctoral Diversity Programs

PhD Plus

Teaching as a Graduate Student

Tomorrow’s Professor Today

Graduate Services at the UVA Libraries

The Scholars Lab