Ph.D. Requirements

To earn your doctoral degree in philosophy, you must complete all course requirements, a qualifying examination paper, comprehensive examination, and successfully defend your dissertation. This page offers a summary of the Ph.D. requirements. See the full graduate handbook for greater detail.

Course Requirements

You must complete 63 units including:

  • 36 units in your major field (philosophy)
  • At least nine units in your minor field (either philosophy or an outside minor). For the philosophy minor, nine units are required. For other fields, the number of units is determined by that program.
  • 18 units of dissertation credit

       Find current classes


You should complete 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 areas:

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

Formal Requirement

Complete one course in an area (e.g., mathematics or Greek) that will aid in your research.

Logic Competence Requirement

This requirement may be fulfilled either by taking one course in either 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 (sixcourses) must be taken in seminars. If you also minor in philosophy, an additional  three units (one course) of seminar work is required. A seminar course may not be repeated more than three times.

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.

Qualifying Examination or Paper

You may choose between two ways of qualifying to take the comprehensive examination. You can either take a qualifying examination intended to demonstrate the breadth of knowledge in a primary and secondary area of specialization or by writing a substantial, original qualifying paper. You must choose between these options by the end of the third semester in the program, in consultation with an advisor among tenure-eligible departmental faculty. Your advisor will review your choice and plan to implement it.

You must inform the Graduate Coordinator of which qualifying option you have chosen by the end of your third semester, along with the names of those who will serve on your qualifying committee. You are permitted and encouraged to qualify before completing all coursework, though all coursework must be completed before attempting the comprehensive examination.

Comprehensive Examination

To become a candidate for the doctorate, you must pass written and oral examinations 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 end of your seventh semester. You must file a Comprehensive Exam Committee Appointment in GradPath no later than the second week of your seventh semester, and ensure that all administrative formalities are completed permitting scheduling of the examination before the end of that semester.

You should assemble (in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies) 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. You are strongly encouraged to attempt the Comprehensive Examination before your seventh semester in the program to be eligible to apply for external dissertation fellowships.

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


After passing the comprehensive examination and finishing coursework, you 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 your main advisor. This committee will often, but not always, have the same members as the major comprehensive examination committee. You 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 you produce 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, while subject to the advice and approval of your 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.

Once committee members deem the dissertation appropriate for examination, an oral examination (dissertation defense) will be held. The oral examination will typically start with you delivering a brief presentation, 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 your fifth semester / Oral component scheduled as soon after the written as feasible
  • May enroll in 3-unit Independent 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 the dissertation topic and breadth of knowledge

Semester 9:

  • Dissertation Committee Appointment (GradPath)

Semester 10:

  • Announcement of Final Oral Defense (GradPath)
  • Final Oral Dissertation Defense