No clear-cut rankings exist for U.S. rhetoric and composition doctoral programs, as they do for disciplines like English, engineering or history. However, several schools across the country have strong reputations in the field. When evaluating doctoral programs, consider those reputations along with factors more specific to your area of focus, such as whether a school has at least one faculty member who would make a good dissertation adviser for you.


The University of California powerhouse has a top program in rhetoric and composition at its Berkeley campus. The program stresses interdisciplinarity, with faculty specializing in law, the history of rhetoric, film and media studies, gender studies, philosophy and theory and race and ethnicity. Doctoral students are eligible for four years of funding through teaching, as well as for fellowships. In the Southwest, Arizona State University offers a doctorate in English with an emphasis in Rhetoric, Composition and Linguistics. As the degree title suggests, structure is one of its focuses, but it also emphasizes cultural factors in textual creation.


The Ohio State University’s Department of English has a top program in Rhetoric, Composition and Literacy, and it emphasizes research that cuts across these three focuses, resisting categorization. The Composition and Cultural Rhetoric doctoral program at Syracuse University is similarly interdisciplinary and stresses graduate student professionalization through departmental involvement. In Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon and Penn State are both excellent schools for rhetoric and composition, with Penn state boasting an incredible 97.5 percent graduate placement rate in tenure-track positions.


Purdue University is famous for its Online Writing Lab, so its strength in rhetoric and composition isn’t surprising. A massive program with nearly 200 doctoral students, it offers a huge variety of special topics courses in the discipline. The University of Wisconsin at Madison program in Composition and Rhetoric emphasizes professional development through its many opportunities to teach and work in rhetoric-related positions.


The University of Texas at Austin has a strong doctoral program in rhetoric within its Department of English. The program advertises specializations in composition and rhetoric theory and pedagogy, the history of rhetoric, discourse analysis and literacy, including digital literacies. Austin offers doctoral students the opportunity to teach undergraduate courses in rhetoric, including sophomore-level topics courses as well as the freshman argumentation course.

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