Ph.D. Program Summary

The program of study leading to a doctorate degree in philosophy includes:

  1. Course requirements
  2. Qualifying examination or paper
  3. Comprehensive examination
  4. Dissertation

An overview of each of these is presented below followed by a semester-by-semester summary of the doctoral program. For more information about each of these requirements, students should consult the unabridged version of the guidelines and requirements for the graduate program,

Courses requirements

 Credits: 45 units of graduate-level course work (15semester courses), at least 36 units allotted to one’s major field (philosophy) and the remainder to one’s minor field (either philosophy or an outside minor). For the philosophy minor, 9 units are required. For other fields, the number of units is fixed by that program. In addition to course work units, 18 units of dissertation credit is required.

Distribution: Two graduate-level courses with a grade of B or better in two of the following areas, and at least one graduate-level course in each of the remaining two areas:

  1. Metaphysics and Epistemology (broadly construed),
  2. History of Philosophy: if taking two courses, one course in Ancient Philosophy and one course in Modern Philosophy (normally a course covering one or more figures from Descartes to Kant),
  3. Ethics and Value Theory (including aestethics, and social, political, and legal philosophy),
  4. Logic, Language, and Science.

Formal requirement: 1 course in an area (e.g., mathematics or Greek) that will aid students in their research.

Logic competence requirement: This requirement may be fulfilled either by taking 1 course in formal or symbolic logic (which may be satisfied by an appropriate undergraduate course), or by passing a special logic examination to be given by the department. (Note: satisfying the logic requirement will often be sufficient for satisfying the formal requirement.)

Seminar Requirements: Of the 36 units of coursework required for the major, at least 18 units (6 courses) must be taken in seminars. If a student also minors in philosophy, an additional 3 units (1 course) of seminar work are required.

Transfer Credits: Students transferring from other institutions may be given up to 12 units in transfer credit toward the course requirements in philosophy, at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).

Qualifying Examination or Paper

A student must choose between two ways of qualifying to take the comprehensive examination: either by taking a qualifying examination intended to demonstrate breadth of knowledge in a primary and secondary area of specialization, or by writing a substantial, original qualifying paper. A student must choose between these options by the end of the third semester in the program, in consultation with an adviser among tenure eligible departmental faculty, who may be their individual adviser, the DGS, or a prospective dissertation adviser. The adviser will review the student’s choice and plan to implement it. Each student must inform the Graduate Coordinator of which qualifying option (s)he has chosen by the end of the Fall semester of the second year in the program, together with the names of the chair and other members who have agreed to serve on the qualifying committee. Students are permitted --indeed, encouraged--to qualify prior to completing all coursework, though all coursework must be completed before attempting the comprehensive examination.


Comprehensive Examination

To become a candidate for the doctorate, written and oral examinations must be passed by the student in a major and minor field (minors other than philosophy are subject to the requirements of that department). The  comprehensive examination is due to be attempted before the end of the Fall semester of a student's fourth year in the program. A students must file a Comprehensive Exam Committee Appointment in GradPath no later than the end of the second week of the Fall semester, and ensure that all administrative formalities are completed permitting scheduling of the examination before the end of that semester. For this purpose, the student (in consultation with the DGS) should assemble a committee of four faculty members: two with expertise in the major field; two with expertise in the minor field. At least three committee members must be tenure-track faculty at the University of Arizona. Students are strongly encouraged to attempt the Comprehensive Examination before the start of the Fall semester of their fourth year in the program in order to be eligible to apply for external dissertation fellowships.

If there are two or more negative votes, the student does not pass. In such a case, the committee may permit the student to repeat the examination or it may determine that the examination not be repeated, with this latter decision resulting in the termination of the student's eligibility for the degree and the student's removal from the program at the end of the then current semester.


After passing the comprehensive examination and finishing coursework, the student should submit a Doctoral Dissertation Committee Appointment Form (in GradPath) to verify that requirements are met.  Please consult the Graduate College Dissertation Committee Page. The committee head will act as the student's main advisor. This committee will often, but not always, have the same members as the major comprehensive examination committee. The student will usually show dissertation material to committee members as it is produced, and consult regularly with committee members on how to proceed with, and improve, the dissertation. Once the student produces a complete draft, it will be submitted to committee members, often leading to a process of revision.

Traditionally, a dissertation takes the form of a monograph. Under some circumstances, and subject to the advice and approval of the graduate student’s dissertation committee, an acceptable dissertation can take the form of a set of at least three thematically related papers. The substance and length of the papers (combined) should be comparable to a monograph dissertation. Except in unusual cases, the qualifying paper will not count among the papers in the minimal set of three.

In contemplating both the form and the substance of their dissertations, graduate students should be forward-looking. The object is to develop an original and fruitful research program that will extend beyond their tenure as graduate students.

Once committee members deem the dissertation appropriate for examination, an oral examination (dissertation defense) will be held. The oral examination will typically start with a brief presentation by the candidate, followed by questions from committee members.. At the end of the examination, the committee will choose one of three options: pass, pass pending revisions, or fail.

A complete draft of the dissertation should be submitted by the ninth semester. The oral examination should take place during the tenth semester.


Timeline for Steps to Degree

Semester 1:
Complete Coursework (Years 1-3)

Semester 2:
Responsible Conduct of Research Statement (GradPath)
Transfer Credit Form (GradPath)
Doctoral Plan of Study (GradPath)

Semester 3:
Choose Qualifying Option: Paper or Exam and Committee members

Semester 4:
Qualifying Paper Option: Draft due April 15/ Final due August 1
Qualifying Exam Option: Written component scheduled the week before Year 3 Fall/ Oral component scheduled as soon after the written as feasible
Students may enroll in 3-unit Inde Study with Chair of Qualifying Committee
Seek out potential Dissertation Committee members

Semester 5:
Comprehensive Exam Committee Appointment (GradPath)

Semester 6:
Announcement of Comprehensive Exam (GradPath)
Comprehensive Exam: Written component: submit dissertation prospectus and chapter/ Oral component: presentation and Q&A on dissertation topic and breadth of knowledge

Semester 9:
Dissertation Committee Appointment (GradPath)

Semester 10:
Announcement of Final Oral Defense (GradPath)
Final Oral Dissertation Defense


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