Ph.D. process overview

Initial advising

An advisor is assigned to each student at the start of their program to help the student plan their studies and to provide academic guidance until the student identifies a dissertation advisor.

Plan of Work

The plan is initiated by the student and completed with their advisor to plan the sequence of study. It must be submitted to the Graduate School for approval. An approved plan is a requirement for Ph.D. candidacy. Please note that once a student has an approved Plan of Work on file with the Graduate School, any changes to that plan are made at the department level.

Ph.D. coursework

90 graduate credits beyond the baccalaureate degree are required — 60 in coursework and 30 in dissertation research and preparation. Completion of about 50 credits of coursework is a requirement for Ph.D. candidacy.

Annual Review/Individual Development Plan

The AR/IDP provides a structure to identify concrete steps toward long-term goals and a framework for constructive conversation between students and their mentors. An annual AR/IDP is required for all doctoral students regardless of funding status. 

Mandatory enrollment for pre-candidacy Ph.D. students using university resources

During the pre-candidacy stage, registration is required in all semesters in which the Ph.D. student uses university resources, including the semester(s) in which the Qualifying Examination is taken. The student must register for a minimum of one graduate credit.

Qualifying Examination

The Qualifying Examination contains a written portion and may include an oral component. Successful completion of the Qualifying Examination is a requirement for Ph.D. candidacy.

Dissertation advisory committee

The student selects a dissertation advisor and committee to guide them through the dissertation research and preparation. The naming of a dissertation advisory committee is a requirement for Ph.D. candidacy.


Ph.D. candidacy begins the dissertation preparation phase of the degree. The Recommendation for Candidacy Status form must be submitted to the Graduate School to advance the student to candidacy. If a student has completed all 60 credits of coursework and is not a candidate, 9990 can be taken for up to 12 credits.

Dissertation registration

Four consecutive academic-year semesters of registration as a degree candidate (9991, 9992, 9993, 9994) are required during the preparation of the dissertation.

Dissertation prospectus

The student prepares a description of the proposed research and dissertation for approval by their advisory committee. The committee's approval must be conveyed to the Graduate School via the Prospectus and Record of Approval form.

Oral examination

An oral examination is required of all Ph.D. students. It may be addressed as part of the Qualifying Examination, the prospectus meeting or another format approved by the student's department. The results of the oral examination must be conveyed to the Graduate School via the Report on Oral Examination or the Prospectus and Record of Approval form.

Dissertation preparation

The dissertation presents the original scholarship or research completed by the student. A dissertation format check by the Ph.D. Office is required before the defense.

Dissertation defense

The student presents and defends the dissertation in a public lecture. The results of the defense are conveyed to the Graduate School via the Final Report form.

Submission of approved dissertation

The student submits the approved dissertation electronically and must complete the paperwork required at this final stage.

View the Graduate Bulletin for additional information.