Doctoral Candidacy - Plan B

Plan B

Students are required to take a minimum of 30 quarter units of upper-division and graduate coursework (100 and 200 series) and submit a dissertation based on original research. The course requirements must be fulfilled by taking 20 units of core, elective, and (200 +) variable unit courses, which include research seminars and journal clubs. Elective courses are chosen with the approval of the graduate adviser. The remaining 10 units must be research units (for example, XXX 299) from the major professor or other collaborating faculty.

Degree Timeline


Here is a visual representation of the timeline to obtaining your doctoral degree. From being admitted to the program (Admission), to finishing the program (Commencement), you can see the milestone order and time spent in between.

Qualifying Exam (QE)


PhD students will complete all course requirements before taking their Qualifying Examination (QE). Passing this exam makes the student eligible for Advancement to Candidacy. The qualifying exam should be taken by the 6th quarter and no later than the end of the 9th quarter after admission to the Ph.D. program. According to Graduate Studies policy, students MUST Advance to Candidacy by the end of the 9th quarter to make satisfactory academic progress.


The primary purpose of the QE is to validate that the student is academically qualified to conceptualize a research topic, undertake scholarly research, and successfully produce the dissertation required for a doctoral degree. The QE must evaluate the student’s command of the field, ensuring that the student has both breadth and depth of knowledge, and must not focus solely on the proposed dissertation research. In addition, the QE provides an opportunity for the committee to provide important guidance to the student regarding his/her chosen research topic.


The QE will consist of written and oral examinations. First-year students are encouraged to attend the QE Information Session held annually in the Spring. GGIP’s QE Guidelines can be found here


Within our degree timeline graphic, you can see where important QE preparation takes place.

Advancing to Candidacy (Ph.D.)


All students must file an official application for Candidacy for Doctoral Degree immediately after completing their Qualifying Exam; this is typically by the Fall of Year 3. Students should initiate discussions about who should serve on their dissertation committee at the beginning of Year 2. 


The Candidacy for Doctoral Degree application will be completed online via GradSphere. A completed form includes a list of dissertation committee members.

How Much

Before beginning their Candidacy paperwork, students should pay the Doctoral Candidacy Fee ($90) via the Graduate Studies Form Store or in person at the Cashier’s Office in Dutton Hall; proof of payment (receipt) must be uploaded with their application. Candidacy Fees support professional development programming available to master’s and doctoral students through the GradPathways Institute for Professional Development.  


The Graduate Adviser and Committee Chair must approve the completed form on GradSphere after the student submits it.