Doctorate, with concentration in Media Studies

Studies Grad Student Awards

Program Highlights

The UT RTF department consistently ranks in the top ten programs in the U.S. for both the academic study of media and for media production.

We offer:

  • Mentorship and diverse coursework offered by world-class faculty across the humanities and social sciences
  • High rate of success in job placement in the academy, industry, government, and at non-profit organizations  
  • Interdisciplinary program options (e.g., Business, Latin American Studies, Public Affairs)
  • Wide range of Portfolio Programs (e.g., Women & Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, Museum Studies)
  • Internships with local media industry, festivals, policy institutions, and cultural organizations
  • Ability to supplement coursework in media studies with classes in media production and screenwriting
  • Professional development seminars every semester (e.g. developing resumes/CVs, designing conference presentations, preparing for job talks, etc.)
  • Pedagogy seminars and workshops for Teaching Assistants and Assistant Instructors
  • Opportunities to teach stand-alone courses
  • Structured timeline for successful program completion
  • Annual review meetings with detailed, constructive feedback
  • Access to the Harry Ransom Center’s research collections, including Mad Men, Robert DeNiro, Paul Schrader, David O. Selznick, Gloria Swanson, and much more
  • Editorial and organizational roles for department-based journals and conferences, including Flow and Velvet Light Trap
  • Vibrant Austin media community
  • Low tuition and fees relative to peer institutions
  • Collaboration with a dynamic graduate student community that offers professional development and social activities through a peer mentorship program, organized writing groups, and the RTF Graduate Student Organization (GSO)

UT RTF doctoral alumni are producing valuable research, publishing innovative work, contributing to academic and policy debates on key communication and media issues, and inspiring better media practices. Our students regularly publish in highly ranked peer-reviewed journals, including JCMS: Journal of Cinema and Media Studies; New Media & Society; Media, Culture, and SocietyTelevision & New Media, and more.

Our Primary Research and Teaching Areas

Courses offered in the History and Criticism cluster examine film, television, radio, gaming and digital media across the globe through a rich variety of methodological frameworks and critical lenses. A wide range of courses survey the historical contexts of media in relation to topics such as identity, region, audiences, genre, industry, stardom, and storytelling. We offer courses emphasizing the importance of historical context, aesthetic analysis, and critical theory.

RTF graduate students benefit from access to several archival collections, including the Harry Ransom Center (site for the Robert De Niro, David O. Selznick and newly acquired Mad Men collections, among others), the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, and the LBJ Library. They can also take advantage of proximity to Austin’s vibrant media industries.

Courses in the Identity and Representation cluster examine film, television, digital media, and mediated culture in relation to the construction and politics of gender, race/ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, citizenship and other axes of identity.

Topics addressed in these courses include representation, authorship, production and activism within media industries/cultures and social life more broadly, and community identities and formation in relation to popular and subcultural media.

Courses within the cluster are decidedly interdisciplinary and intersectional, with theoretical roots in critical and cultural studies, historical studies, critical race studies, feminist studies, queer studies, transgender studies, postcolonial studies, global studies, and other theoretical perspectives.

Students can specialize in areas that include Latina/o film and media studies, fandom studies, television and digital media studies, South Asian film and media studies, sports media, and gender/sexuality and media in a global context. RTF students engaged with this cluster frequently take courses in other departments and programs across the University, including Women’s & Gender Studies, LGBTQ+ Studies, Mexican American and Latina/o Studies, African and African Diaspora Studies, Asian American Studies, English, the LBJ School of Public Policy, Anthropology, and Theater and Dance, as well as in departments that focus on area studies outside the U.S.

This cluster provides students with exposure to histories, structures, and creative practices of the media industries from a variety of theoretical and methodological perspectives. Topics such as creative labor, production, distribution, infrastructures, regulation, and exhibition are examined in a wide range of media industry sectors including film, television, radio, gaming, and digital media. Courses such as Global Media Industries and Cultures; Race & Ethnicity in the Media Industries; Authorship, Industry and Archival Research; and Media Industries explore the media industries from a variety of local, regional, and global contexts, as well as through hands-on engagement with archival materials at UT-Austin’s Harry Ransom Center and Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The vibrant media and technology industries in Austin provide additional opportunities for both research and internships.

Graduate students also can participate as fellows or associates with the new Moody College Center for Entertainment & Media Industries (CEMI). Among the activities offered by CEMI include the Media Industry Conversations speaker series, which hosts industry-oriented guests, and the Global Media Industry Speaker Series, which features prominent industry-oriented scholars from around the world. The RTF Department also serves as an institutional member of the peer-reviewed Media Industries Journal editorial collective.

The Digital Media cluster explores the histories, social functions and cultural dynamics associated with digital media technologies. Courses address interactive and participatory media texts and cultures, social media, new media industries, social justice movements, and also examine ethical issues such as copyright, fair use, privacy and free speech developing around the digital media environment.

Courses in this cluster focus on global perspectives in media as well as specific regional and national contexts. Topics include film, television, digital and social media, as well as development, politics, and immigration, among others. Courses in global settings engage subjects in regions such as Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, and nations such as Mexico, Brazil, India, China, and the UK.

About the Ph.D. with Concentration in Media Studies

The PhD with concentration in Media Studies is a scholarly degree incorporating coursework, comprehensive exams, and research culminating in a dissertation. Students are expected to present their work at conferences and produce original work that is worthy of publication. Students admitted to this program must have already earned an M.A. degree. We do not have a PhD program in Film and Media Production or in in Screenwriting.

Curricular requirements include 6 credit hours in theory and literature (RTF 395), and 12 credit hours of research tools or language (including RTF 380). The department also requires students to complete nine credit hours in a minor field, outside the RTF department. Minor work may be taken in the College of Communication or elsewhere in the University.

All Ph.D. students are guaranteed four years of funding in the form of Teaching or Research Assistantships.

See Program of Work.

Portfolio Programs

Portfolio programs provide opportunities for students to obtain credentials in a cross-disciplinary academic area of inquiry during the same time that they complete the requirements for their doctoral degree. With these programs, students take thematically related graduate courses.

Current university-wide portfolio programs offered by the graduate school include: