PhD in Rhetoric and Professional Communication

Join a program committed to studying the rhetorical and technological complexities of contemporary communication practice. We embrace multimodal composition, new media, and digital collaboration. Founded in 1991, we were among the first PhD programs in the United States to feature the role of rhetoric in technical and professional communication. Our breadth of faculty expertise, robust technology infrastructure, multimodal pedagogy, and responsive curriculum make possible a comprehensive approach to graduate education.


Rachel Murdock and Matt Baker present at the Rhetoric and Professional Communication Colloquium Series.



Student Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate understanding and application of theories, research methods, and concepts in rhetoric, professional communication, and multimodal composition.
  • Use a variety of technologies and media for designing and implementing effective, audience-centered communication.
  • Analyze and critique communication in a variety of organizational and public contexts.
  • Synthesize multiple historical and contemporary sources within research projects.
  • Design and produce scholarship that makes a significant contribution to the field.

Program Goals

The program in Rhetoric and Professional Communication at Iowa State meets the needs of its students, the university, and the community at large by:

  • addressing the natural relationship between practical communication and science/technology, since the dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge depends on well-trained communicators;
  • advancing research in science and technology through the education of teachers who will in turn train our future scientists and professionals to write;
  • serving students in scientific, technical, business, and social science disciplines across the campus;
  • expanding the outreach mission of the university to include all those professionals who depend upon communication skills for the effective practice of their professions.

Measures for evaluating a student’s success in meeting these objectives include: display of an ability to develop a clear and cogent argument using relevant evidence in coursework, annual reviews, portfolio, and comprehensive exams; and completion and defense of the dissertation.



Information for Applicants

PhD applicants must have completed a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree prior to their first semester in the program and must meet doctoral-level application preferences and English proficiency requirements for nonnative speakers (111 TOEFL iBT/ 640 TOEFL PBT/ 8.0 IELTS/ 79 PTE).

Financial Aid

The majority of our doctoral students are funded through graduate assistantships which provide a full tuition waiver, stipend for teaching courses or for conducting research, and health insurance benefits.  Applications for assistantships are part of the graduate admission application process.

Application Process

The only way to be considered for admission to the doctoral program is to complete an application according to the English Department Graduate Studies program How to Apply page.

Application Deadline: January 5 (Fall entry only)