You are here

What to Expect

Graduate programs are rigorous.

Regardless of the graduate degree program, there are periods of time common to all graduate careers:

admission (during which you find your way to the program that is best for you), the early period of pursuing your degree (primarily given over to coursework, developing additional skills, and working as a GA), and final years of degree completion (occupied with writing a thesis or dissertation, final exams, and commencement).

Doctoral Degrees

Doctoral degree programs create independent researchers who produce and share new knowledge. Doctoral students generally spend longer in both the early and later portions of their graduate careers, taking more courses, and conducting more extensive, and more original research to expand their field's knowledge.

Master's Degree Programs

Master’s degree programs develop highly skilled practitioners. Master's students spend their coursework acquiring the full scope of the knowledge within their field.

Doctoral Degrees

Doctoral Degrees

Creating New Knowledge

1 Admission

Admission varies by program.

Graduate and Professional Admissions

2 Coursework

Doctoral degrees require completing at least 80 credit hours; some programs require more. The nature of coursework depends on the program, but most programs divide coursework among graded graduate-level courses in your program, graded courses outside of your program, and research hours taken as S/U.

See Handbook 7.2

3 Candidacy Exam

Following coursework, doctoral students take a candidacy examination. With both a written and oral component, the Candidacy Exam tests comprehension of the field, allied areas of study, capacity to undertake independent research, and ability to think and express ideas clearly. The candidacy exam must be taken at least one term prior to the term of the defense.

See Handbook 7.4.

4 Dissertation

The dissertation is a scholarly contribution to knowledge in the student’s area of specialization. The dissertation is a demonstration of a doctoral student’s capability to function as an independent researcher and to contribute original knowledge to the field. The writing of the dissertation is typically begun in earnest once primary coursework has been completed and research is underway.

See Handbook 7.9

5 Final Oral Exam

The final oral examination is sometimes called a dissertation defense, tests originality, independence of thought, the ability to synthesize and interpret, and the quality of research presented. The final oral examination concerns principles and historic perspective as well as data. The final oral examination includes but is not limited to discussion of the dissertation. The examiners often pursue lines of thought and argument from the data and concepts that have contributed to the research and to its critical evaluation by the student.

See Handbook 7.10

Once a graduate student has completed his or her final oral examination, she or he must make any requested changes to the dissertation, submit the dissertation for final review by the committee.

6 Commencement

Whether you are able to attend the ceremony or not, commencement marks the conclusion of your degree program. Make sure you have the correct regalia, that your name is how you would like it on your diploma, and to let the Graduate School know if you are not attending. Doctoral students are hooded by their advisor or Dean of the Graduate School as part of the ceremony.

Learn More

Masters Degree Milestones

Masters Degree Milestones

Highly Skilled Practitioners

1 Admission

Admission requirements vary by program. Find out more.

2 Coursework

Master’s degrees require completing at least 30 credit hours of coursework; some programs require more. The nature of coursework depends on the program, but most programs divide coursework between graded graduate-level courses in your program, graded courses outside of your program, and research hours taken as S/U.

See Handbook 6.1

3 Thesis

If your program requires a thesis, you must follow the standards and expectations of your graduate program and Graduate School.

See Handbook 6.4

4 Master’s Examination

The master’s examination is a test of the student’s knowledge of the field. It is the final validation of performance for that degree.

See Handbook 6.2

5 Commencement

Whether you are able to attend the ceremony or not, commencement marks the conclusion of your degree program. Make sure you have the correct regalia, that your name is how you would like it on your diploma, and to let the Graduate School know if you are not attending.

Learn More

Professional Doctorate Milestones

Professional doctoral degree programs prepare students for advanced professional practice as required by the relevant licensing board and professional organization. The professional doctoral examination, final document, and exit requirement are components that provide examination and capstone experiences consistent with the profession’s standards and the Graduate School’s expectations for professional doctoral programs. See Section 7.17 of the Graduate School Handbook for more information.