Graduation Requirements

So my candidacy is just over 24 hours away. I’m starting to get a little nervous, but am still mostly calm. We’ll see how this changes as the hours tick away.

As I prepare for my candidacy, it’s a good time to check on the requirements for getting my degree. Requirements for grad degrees can vary a lot from university to university. A PhD generally requires a candidacy exam and a final defence. But the rest is up in the air.

For me, my PhD requires me to meet the following criteria (although even some of this has changed in the three years since I started):

  1. Course requirements – choose one from each of column A, B, and C, plus one mandatory course.
  2. Ethics – all grad students at my university must take a short ethics course.
  3. Seminar requirement – give three one-hour length talks that are a) advertised to the whole department and b) attended by at least 2 professors. One of these talks is generally the one right before your final defence.
  4. Candidacy – pass your candidacy exam, preferably within your first couple of years (although most don’t have theirs until years 3, 4 or 5 – they are trying to change this).
  5. Final Defence – pass your final defence on your dissertation.
  6. Residency – you must be on campus for 4 full-time semesters (which seems like very little for a PhD).

When I finish my candidacy exam (and assuming everything goes well), I’ll have completed 1, 2, 4 and 6 from the above list. The current plan is for me to do a practice run through of a talk I need to give at a conference in September, which will count towards my seminar count.

While not a rule, it is also strongly recommended that PhD students form their supervisory committee by the end of their second year, and meet with them yearly. I met with my committee last December, and will,¬†technically, meet with them again at my Candidacy. I’m not sure when I’ll schedule another meeting with them, but one of the two who aren’t my supervisor often comes to our research meetings, so he’s generally up-to-date on my research.

The one thing not required from a PhD student, is any actual publications. Which is a little odd, and I know that some universities require them. However, I will have publications, so I’m not worried either way. More I’m hoping I can produce even more publications in the next couple of years than I have in the past.

What are the requirements at your university? Have you ever looked them up? Do they make you feel closer to finishing or farther away?


One thought on “Graduation Requirements

  1. First of all, at my university, graduation requirements are up to the individual departments. So in the department of Computer Science, the requirements include coursework, research, seminar attendance, residency, the qualifier, the preliminary (required for candidacy), and the final dissertation and defense.

    Coursework is pretty simple. We have two sets of masters-level Computer Science courses called “theory” and “systems”. Students must take two from each category, as well as two Ph.D.-level Computer Science courses (normally continuations of the masters-level courses), for a total of six courses. We also take a one-hour orientation course (which is basically faculty discussing their latest research to advertise to new students). After that, coursework is done, and you can fill your transcript with “research credits” until you reach the minimum of 72 hours (9-hours/semester is full-time). We are not required to give seminars, but we are required to attend them… eight of them over the course of our program. Research ethics are not formally required, but NSF requires you to take an ethics module anyway if you’re on an NSF grant, so that gets done either way.

    We don’t formally require publications either, but each year, we meet with our director of graduate programs, and unless you’re working on a government project under an NDA, you are expected to produce a paper if you’re taking research credits, since that’s the only way to measure “acceptable progress towards completion of the Ph.D.”. I like how the Ph.D. is a more holistic agenda than the micromanaged undergraduate career, since it puts the responsibility of the student’s success firmly in the hands of the students. We’re adults now, and while there are some formal requirements towards getting the Ph.D., it’s better for us when we have the freedom to pursue it our own way, whether that involves writing papers, taking classes, teaching, or performing service at other institutions.

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