Doctor of Philosophy



Graduate students are responsible for knowing the graduate requirements of both the Graduate College and their academic departments. The University of Arizona offers six doctoral degrees: the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), the Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.), the Doctor of Public Health (D.P.H.), the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and the Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.). The University of Arizona also offers a first professional degree, the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD). For information on the PharmD, please refer to the General Catalog. The UA General Catalog also provides definitive information regarding Graduate Minors and doctoral Second Language Requirements, as well as the Academic Calendar.

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Credit Requirements and Transfer Credit

The equivalent of at least seven semesters of full-time graduate study is required for the Ph.D. A minimum of 36 units of coursework in the area of the major subject, a minimum of 9 units in the minor subject, and a minimum of 18 units of dissertation must be completed.  Most students will take more than the minimum number of units for a given degree.

All grades for Incompletes and current semester coursework must be received before the degree is considered completed. A student must have a cumulative GPA in all graduate coursework of at least 3.000 in order to graduate. 

All required units of credit counted toward the degree must be taken for graduate credit, including any courses transferred from another institution. With program approval, up to 12 graduate units taken for graduate credit only as an undergraduate may be applied towards doctoral requirements - however units used towards an accelerated masters cannot also be used towards a doctorate. With program approval, up to 12 units of professional coursework (Medicine, Law, Pharmacy, Veterinary Medicine) may be applied to graduate degree requirements. Students in an approved dual degree with Medicine, Law, or Pharmacy may be able to apply more than 12 units from that career toward their graduate degree, depending on the dual agreement.  Students admitted to their graduate program prior to Fall 2014 may be able to apply up to 6 units of 400-level credit from the University of Arizona toward their minor if not used toward an undergraduate degree (these units will not receive graduate credit or be calculated in the graduate grade-point average.)  At least 22 units (i.e. half the required coursework) on the Doctoral Plan of Study must be in courses in which regular grades (A, B, C) have been earned. Courses for which the student has earned a D grade cannot be counted toward a graduate degree. While a grade of D or E does not earn units for a grad student, they will still figure into the GPA.   A minimum of 12 units of regular grades taken at the University of Arizona are required to establish the Grade Point Average (GPA).

Non-credit based requirements such as comprehensive exams, dissertations or thesis requirements, research requirements, and professionalization requirements may not be transferred from another institution.

Transfer Credit

Graduate credit earned at other approved institutions may be counted toward the requirements of a doctoral degree, but will not be included in the calculation of the University of Arizona GPA

Transferred units are subject to the following restrictions:

  • The credits must be approved by the major or minor department and the Graduate College.
  • The minimum grade for transferred credits must be an A or B or the equivalent at the institution where course was taken.
  • Transferred units may not count toward more than one doctorate.
  • No more than 12 units taken in Medicine, Law or Pharmacy Practice may be used toward a doctoral degree.
  • A maximum of 30 units of transfer coursework may be used toward the Ph.D requirements.

Students who wish to transfer credit must submit a Transfer Credit form in GradPath before the end of their first year of study to have the courses evaluated for transfer eligibility.

Grades and the number of units for transfer credits may be adjusted so that they are consistent with the University of Arizona grading and credit system. Transfer credits used on a fully approved Plan of Study appear with a grade of “T” on the University of Arizona transcript and are not calculated in the University of Arizona GPA. The name of the transfer institution appears on the University of Arizona transcript with the number of transfer units from that institution that were brought in towards the graduate degree.

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Doctoral Minor Requirements

PhD students are required to complete a doctoral minor. A doctoral minor gives students an opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge in a cognate field of interest and to expand interdisciplinary knowledge necessary for solving complex problems and addressing grand challenges. 

Each doctoral minor program determines their own curriculum, academic requirements, and required credits. However, the minimum required credits for any doctoral minor is 9 graduate units. A comprehensive exam covering the minor is required to complete a minor. 

The credit earned toward a doctoral minor can only be counted toward the doctoral minor and not also counted toward the major (no double-dipping). Specifically, students may not apply minor course credit to both the minor and major area of study. 

The doctoral minor is a required part of the doctoral oral comprehensive exams. A written and oral comprehensive exam is required for the major degree portion of the exam; however, the minor department determines whether to require a written portion of the exam. The oral portion of the comprehensive examination must cover both the major and the minor disciplines during a single oral examination with the major and minor committee members participating.

A student considering multiple minors should talk to their faculty advisor in advance taking into consideration the additional cost, time to degree completion, and planning with regard to comprehensive exams. 

Students admitted to their graduate program prior to Fall 2014 may be able to apply up to 6 units of 400-level credit from the University of Arizona toward their minor if not used toward an undergraduate degree (these units will not receive graduate credit or be calculated in the graduate grade-point average). 

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Courses Shared Between Degrees

There are limits on coursework that can be counted toward more than one degree earned by the student at the University of Arizona or elsewhere.

  • If a student counts credits from a UA master's degree towards a UA Ph.D., then additional transfer credit may be limited to ensure that some UA coursework is taken while in the doctoral program.  Thesis credits used for a master's degree cannot count toward the Ph.D. course credit requirements.
  • Up to 30 units of credit counted toward one or more master’s degrees earned at UA or elsewhere may be counted toward the Ph.D requirements.
  • No course may be counted toward the requirements for more than two plans (at UA or elsewhere).
  • A student earning two UA doctoral degrees may use up to 9 units of coursework toward both doctoral degrees (as long as courses were not used toward any other degree).

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Graduate Non-Degree Coursework

Students who have completed graduate non-degree* coursework at UA may count no more than 12 units of non-degree credit toward the Ph.D requirements.

The graduate certificate is considered distinct from a graduate degree (masters or doctorate). Limits regarding the use of units applied towards a graduate certificate and a graduate degree are determined by the certificate program. Graduate certificates are exempt from the 12 unit non-degree policy above and are determined by the certificate and the degree program.

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Continuous Enrollment

A student admitted to a doctoral program must register each fall and spring semester for a minimum of 1 graduate unit, from original matriculation until all course and dissertation requirements (including submission of the dissertation to the Graduate College) are met. A semester in which a student is enrolled for course credit will be counted toward continuous enrollment. Non-credit courses, audited courses or courses from which the student withdraws do not count toward the determination of continuous enrollment. 

Students receiving funding, such as assistantships, fellowships, loans, grants, scholarships or traineeships, may be required by their funding source to register for more than 1 unit to meet the full-time status requirement. Similarly, international students may have different requirements to maintain their visa status.  All students should check with their program advisor regarding such requirements to ensure that they remain qualified for funding and/or their visa.

Doctoral students who have maintained continuous enrollment and are taking only comprehensive exams during a summer or winter term do not have to register for graduate credit during that summer or winter session.

Doctoral students must enroll in at least 1 unit of dissertation (or Nursing DNP Project unit, or Doctoral Recital unit for students in relevant programs) in the Spring or Fall semester that they undertake their final oral defense. Doctoral students who have maintained continuous enrollment, fulfilled all their other degree requirements, as well as the 18 hours of dissertation, and were enrolled in the prior semester may defend and file for the degree in the summer or winter term without registration while they complete their dissertation. If, however, students need library privileges or plan to use other University facilities or need significant faculty time during the summer or winter session, enrollment is required. Enrollment in GRAD 922 to allow access to the Library during the summer or winter terms is available to eligible master's and doctoral students.

Unless excused by an official graduate Leave of Absence (which except under exceptional circumstances, may not exceed one year throughout the student's degree program), all graduate students are subject to the Continuous Enrollment Policy. Students requiring significant faculty time (e.g. advising, reviewing, collaborating) must be enrolled rather than on Leave of Absence. If the student fails to obtain a Leave of Absence or maintain continuous enrollment, he or she will be required to apply for re-admission and to pay the Graduate College application fee. There is no guarantee of re-admission. Tuition or registration waivers cannot be applied retroactively.

Please note that "continuous enrollment" is not the same as "full time enrollment" for financial aid purposes. Please refer to the University policy on Full-Time Status

Continuous Enrollment and Incompletes

Students who have maintained continuous enrollment, fulfilled all their other degree requirements and are only completing an incomplete in coursework (a class other than 900 level) are not required to enroll while they complete the incomplete. If, however, students need library privileges or plan to use other University facilities or need significant faculty time while they complete their incomplete, enrollment is required.

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Time Limitation

Students must meet all requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy within 5 years of passing the Comprehensive Exam or risk being dismissed from the program. Programs may have more stringent time to degree requirements.  Should a student not finish within that time, the program may petition the Graduate College for an extension to time to degree. If the extension is approved, the student may be required to re-take the Comprehensive Exam before proceeding to complete requirements, e.g., the dissertation. 

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Qualifying Examination

A qualifying examination or diagnostic evaluation may be required to demonstrate acceptability to pursue the doctorate as well as to determine areas of study where further course work is necessary. Please review the requirements of the program for more information.

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Major Professor

The major professor serves as the student's faculty advisor and mentor. The DGS may designate a temporary major professor (faculty advisor) for incoming students. During the first year, students should select a major professor who must be approved by the DGS. Students may change major professors with departmental approval, but are required to have a major professor in order to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress.

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Plan of Study

In conjunction with his/her major professor or faculty advisor, each student is responsible for developing a Plan of Study during their first year in residence, to be filed with the Graduate College no later than the student's third semester in residence. The Plan of Study identifies

  1. Courses the student intends to transfer from other institutions;
  2. Courses already completed at the University of Arizona which the student intends to apply toward the graduate degree; and
  3. Additional course work to be completed in order to fulfill degree requirements.

The Plan of Study must have the approval of the student's major professor and Director of Graduate Studies before it is submitted to the Graduate College.

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Comprehensive Examination for Advancement to Candidacy

Before admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree, the student must pass a written and an oral Doctoral Comprehensive Examination. This examination is intended to test the student's comprehensive knowledge of the major and minor subjects of study, both in breadth across the general field of study and in depth within the area of specialization. The examination, therefore, should not take place until the student has completed all, or almost all, of their coursework. The student must be in good academic standing to sit for the comprehensive exam. The Comprehensive Examination is considered a single examination, although it consists of written and oral parts. While the Graduate College sets general policies and guidelines for exams, it is expected that each program will have different ways of assessing a student's knowledge of the field and their preparation to begin the dissertation. Each program determines the format and administration of the written portion. The minor department controls the minor portion of the written examination and may waive it at their discretion.  A student will pass the written portion before sitting for the oral portion. Programs will have written policies regarding whether or not students may retake failed written exams as well as specific policies regarding second attempts of the oral. The time between the written and oral portion is determined by individual programs, but the oral portion should come early enough to allow the student to advance to candidacy in a timely fashion. Normally, the written and oral portions of the comprehensive examination should take place at least three months prior to the Final Oral Examination (defense of dissertation). The exact time and place of the oral comprehensive examination must be scheduled with the department and announced in GradPath using the Announcement of Doctoral Comprehensive Exam form before the exam can take place.

Upon successful completion of the written portion of the examination, the Oral Comprehensive Examination is conducted before the examining committee of the faculty. The oral portion of the examination must cover both the major and the minor. The Oral Comprehensive Examination should last for at least an hour but must not last more than 3 hours. Remote participation by one or more committee member by video or phone conference is permitted on the condition that the student and all committee members can effectively communicate.  All members must participate in the entire examination.  The oral examination is the occasion when faculty committee members have both the opportunity and obligation to require the student to display a broad knowledge of the chosen field of study and sufficient depth of understanding in areas of specialization.  Discussion of proposed dissertation research may be included.  The examining committee must attest that the student has demonstrated the professional level of knowledge expected of a junior academic colleague. The Graduate College allows no more than one re-take of the oral exam.

When the student has passed the written and oral portions of the Comprehensive Examination, and the Graduate Student Academic Services office has confirmed completion of the required courses on the approved doctoral Plan of Study, the student will advance to doctoral candidacy.  The student will be billed the graduate candidacy fees and will be notified by e-mail of the advancement and fees. The candidacy fees are one-time fees and the student will not be billed again if the reported graduation date is changed. Students required to do a terminal internship or clinical residency during their final semester (Clinical Psychology and School Psychology) may advance to doctoral candidacy while enrolled in this internship or clinical residency course. Please consult with your Graduate College Degree Counselor to confirm your eligibility.

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Comprehensive Examination Committee

The student is responsible for forming a comprehensive examination committee of faculty representing both the major and the minor programs. The examining committee must consist of a minimum of four members. The Major Advisor and two additional members must be members of the Graduate Faculty. The fourth member may be a member of the Graduate Faculty or an approved Special Member. Any members beyond the fourth can also be members of the Graduate Faculty, or approved Special Members.

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Dissertation Prospectus/Proposal

Every student in a doctoral program needs to have an approved dissertation prospectus or proposal on file within their department.  As soon as the student has an approved prospectus/proposal on file within the department, the department's Graduate Coordinator will submit the prospectus/proposal confirmation form in GradPath on behalf of the student.

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Committee Appointment Form

When the student has an approved doctoral Plan of Study on file, has satisfied all course work, language, and residence requirements, and passed the written and oral portions of the Comprehensive Examination, he or she must file a Committee Appointment form. Any changes to the committee should be reported to the Graduate Student Academic Services office.  Under normal circumstances, submission is expected at least six months before the Final Oral Examination (i.e., Defense).  Deadlines for the submission of paperwork pertaining to doctoral programs are available online at Deadlines for Completion of Degree Requirements.

The Committee Appointment form reports the student’s planned dissertation committee, dissertation title (subject to change) and the expected graduation term. It requires approval from the dissertation director and the major and minor departments. The approval signature from the minor department on this form indicates both approval of the reported dissertation committee and confirmation that the student has satisfied all requirements for the minor.

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All Ph.D. programs require the completion of a dissertation which meets required standards of scholarship and demonstrates the candidate's ability to conduct original research.

The structure of the dissertation varies depending upon the discipline and the program offering the degree. See the program's handbook for the details of how your program structures their dissertation requirement. A common measure of quality of the dissertation is whether it is "publishable" in disciplinarily-recognized publication venues. Note that the determination of whether a dissertation meets this criteria lies solely with scholars on the dissertation committee. Programs and committees may not require that the work actually be published. The committee cannot require that outside actors such as editors, publishers, editorial reviewer, accreditation boards, etc. make that determination for them. 

Research involving human subjects or vertebrate animals requires permission from the relevant University committee. Consult your research director and the Office for the Responsible Conduct of Research for details. Their telephone number is (520) 626-5515.

Research activities involving the use of human subjects require the review and approval of the University Human Subjects Committee.

Any research involving vertebrate animals must be approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). The student must be listed on an approved IACUC protocol before they begin their animal research.

Instructions relating to the format of the dissertation and required abstracts are included in the Dissertation Formatting Guide (including those that include previously published papers, papers accepted for publication, and/or papers with multiple authors).

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Dissertation Committee

Students will form a dissertation committee by the time of advancement to candidacy. Some departments require earlier committee formulation. Individual faculty members may decline membership on committees for academic reasons. Candidates must be able to develop a proposal of sufficient academic merit and on a topic that satisfies their committee. Candidates may be discontinued from their program for failure to make academic progress if they do not have an approved dissertation chair and committee.

The Graduate College requires a minimum of three Graduate Faculty members on a dissertation committee. Fourth and subsequent members may be Graduate Faculty or Special Members. If a committee has only three members, all must approve the dissertation. In departments that require four or more members, there may be one dissenting vote. All dissertation committee members are expected to attend the entire final defense.

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Final Oral Defense Examination

Upon the completion of the dissertation, the candidate must submit to a Final Oral Defense Examination. A student must be in good academic standing to schedule the defense. The examination focuses on the dissertation itself but can include general questioning related to the field(s) of study within the scope of the dissertation (Final Oral Defense Instructions and Final Oral Defense Instructions for doctor of Audiology).

The date, time, and location of the final examination must be scheduled with the Graduate College in advance using the Announcement of Final Oral Defense form in GradPath. Candidates should indicate in the comments section of this form if the Final Oral Examination will be held remotely or in a hybrid format. This form should be submitted far enough in advance of the examination that all approvers can grant their approval in time for the form to reach the Graduate College one week prior to the exam.  The Graduate College will place an announcement on the UA master calendar to invite the public to attend the candidate's presentation of his or her work.  Final Oral Examinations should be scheduled during days when the university is in session and during normal business hours. Permission to hold examinations during University holiday closures or outside of normal university business hours may be granted by Graduate College.

The dissertation director presides over the examination. The initial seminar portion during which the student presents the dissertation and entertains questions is open to the public.  This is followed by a closed session with just the committee and the candidate. The committee's deliberation is closed to the public. 

There is no minimum time limit for the Final Oral Examination, but the entire proceedings may not exceed three hours. Members of the committee must be present for the entire examination. Should special circumstances require a member to attend remotely, prior permission from the Graduate College is necessary.

If the committee requires revisions, those must be done in a timely manner, not to exceed one year.  If the revisions are not completed by the dissertation submission deadline for the term when the student defends, the student will be required to register for the next semester and will graduate in the semester when the revisions are complete and approved.  If revisions are not done by the end of the time to degree period, the student will have to re-take comprehensive examinations to demonstrate currency of knowledge.

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Submission of the Dissertation

Upon successful completion of the Final Oral Defense examination, and having gained final approval from the dissertation committee after completing any revisions needed following the defense, the candidate submits the dissertation electronically via the submission website maintained by ProQuest/UMI.  This submission must be made by the submission deadline for the desired graduation term.  The Graduate College will check the formatting of the submitted dissertation and may request changes before accepting the submission.  When the dissertation has been accepted by the Graduate College, completion of requirements has been fulfilled, and all other final items are accounted for, the degree will be awarded provided the degree conferral date for the graduation term has been reached. Please refer to the Academic Calendar for the relevant semester for the conferral date.

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Storage and Publication of Dissertation

ProQuest/UMI catalogs and stores the dissertation and sends catalog information to the Library of Congress for distribution for depository catalogs and libraries. The dissertation will also be archived in the University of Arizona Campus Repository, where it serves as the record of the student's research.

Publication of the dissertation by ProQuest and the Campus Repository does not preclude publication by other means, and successful candidates are urged to submit dissertation material for publication in a scholarly or professional journals. Suitable acknowledgment must indicate the publication was a dissertation, or portion of a dissertation, submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona.

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Completion of Requirements

All grades for Incompletes and courses taken in the final term must be received before the degree is considered completed. For students in the School Psychology program, completing the SERP 693 internship course on or before June 1, will enable the degree to be awarded for Spring of that year. If the candidate completes the internship after June 1, the degree will be awarded for summer. 

A student must have a cumulative GPA in all graduate coursework of at least 3.000 in order to graduate.

For dates by which requirements must be met to graduate in a particular term, please refer to our Important Deadlines.

The diploma is ordered and mailed once the degree has been awarded. Changing the name on a student's record and diploma may require that an official name change be filed with the Registrar's Office. Any outstanding financial debts with the University will prevent the student from ordering official transcripts or receiving their diploma. Please contact the Bursar's office at 621-3232 for assistance with student accounts. 

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Second Doctoral Degrees

The Graduate College does not generally permit a person who holds a Ph.D. to pursue a second Ph.D. Persons holding a Ph.D. who wish to expand their training are encouraged to pursue post-doctoral training, a graduate certificate, or a professional degree (e.g. MD, JD, PharmD).  In the rare case a graduate program wishes to admit a student for a 2nd Ph.D., the case must be justified by the department in a petition subject to approval by the Graduate College. The department must explain why the 2nd Ph.D. would be qualitatively different from the first.  This rule applies to cases where the first degree is from the University of Arizona or from another domestic or international institution.  Admission to a second Ph.D. will be allowed only with strong rationale from the program.  If admitted for a second doctoral degree, students will be held to all the usual degree requirements and University regulations pertaining to fees, registrations, examinations, advancement to candidacy, residency, internships, etc. Not more than 9 credits from the prior degree may be applied toward the second degree.  Applicants who already have a doctoral degree may not be given special preference for admission or for financial support.

Students sometimes want to pursue a UA master’s along with a UA doctorate in a different major. This is allowed, subject to the following restrictions:
  • No credit may be counted for more than two degrees. Thus UA credits could not be used for a master’s in UA major 1, a doctorate in UA major 1, and a master’s in UA major 2.
  • A student may use no more than a total of 30 credits from all master’s degrees toward a doctorate. Thus, if a student earned a non-UA master’s, up to 30 credits could be used toward a UA doctorate. In that case, none of the transfer credit nor any additional coursework toward the UA doctorate could be used toward a UA master’s in a major that differs from the doctorate because the student would have exhausted the 30 credit limit of master’s coursework that can be shared with a doctorate.

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