Graduate students

Requirements for Doctoral Degrees: Ph.D.

Policy Number: 100805

Current Policy

Category: Academic » University Requirements



The following general requirements pertain to all students pursuing the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree.

Find additional information about a particular degree program through Degree Search or by contacting the specific department.

Requirements for Graduation—Ph.D.

To be eligible to graduate with the Ph.D. degree, the student must have been admitted to candidacy and have completed the following requirements:

  • An approved program of studies totaling the number of units specified for the program. NAU requires at least six semesters beyond the bachelor’s degree to complete a doctoral degree.
  • A dissertation on a topic related to the student's major area of emphasis, and this must be approved by the student's dissertation committee. aA minimum of 15 dissertation (799) units may be applied toward the Ph.D. degree; (9 units of 799 for the Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.) However, the student may end up taking additional units because the student must register for dissertation credit each semester while working on the dissertation and at least 1 unit during the term in which they defend.
  • You must pass a final oral exam (dissertation defense) primarily over your area of research. This exam is administered by your dissertation committee.

Residency Requirements

The purpose of doctoral residency requirements is to provide students with opportunities to attend on-campus conferences, presentations, and seminars, and to personally interact with resident faculty and other graduate students. If you work full time, you cannot satisfy this residency requirement.

To make this possible, student's must agree to remain free from outside activities that would detract from their scholarly study, research, writing, and other kinds of professional activities that further the program of study.

Students must spend two consecutive semesters of full-time study in residence after they have been admitted to the doctoral degree program. Residency is defined as carrying at least 9 units during a semester or carrying 5 units during a summer session. In all cases, courses taken must be approved by the student's advisor and program committee. The student may only accrue course credits counting toward this residency requirement after being formally admitted to the doctoral program.

The Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and the Ph.D. in Political Science have slightly different requirements. (See Special Circumstances, below.)

In addition, students must maintain continual enrollment of at least 3 units per semester (excluding summers), including one face-to-face course (3 units) per academic year. This rule applies until the student has passed comprehensive exams.

Application for and Admission to Candidacy

Students must apply for candidacy using the form available at the Graduate College. Submit the form to your advisor or Dissertation Chair for approval and subsequent submission to the Graduate College.

Before applying for candidacy,students must satisfy the following requirements:

  • The student's program of study and research plan must be approved by the graduate committee and filed in the Graduate College, and the student must have completed all course work on the program of study except the dissertation.
  • The residency requirement must be met.
  • The dissertation committee must be approved.
  • An approved dissertation prospectus must be submitted.
  • Students must demonstrate reading competence in one foreign language (in an exam administered by the Department of Modern Languages)—or in a research skill if approved for the program by the University Graduate Committee. Biology or Forestry may, in consultation with the graduate program committee, select either the foreign-language option or the research-skill option. Educational Psychology students must complete the research-skill option.
  • Students must remove any course deficiencies specified by the committee.
  • Students must successfully complete a comprehensive written and oral exam administered by the department. Ordinarily, students take the comprehensive exam no less than six months before the final oral exam (dissertation defense).

After the application for candidacy has been approved, the student will be notified by the Graduate College. If admission to doctoral candidacy is not approved, the student's enrollment will be terminated.

Time Parameters to Complete Degree

Students who are admitted to Ph.D. program with an earned master's degree have eight years to complete all requirements for the doctoral degree. The eight years starts with the first semester of doctoral study at Northern Arizona University. If students do not complete the degree in eight years, they may petition the Graduate College for one extension of this time limit.

Students who start the Ph.D. program with a bachelor's degree have ten years to complete all requirements for the doctoral degree.

Special Circumstances

  • The Ph.D. in Educational Psychology requires that the "two consecutive semesters" of residency be Fall and Spring, during the academic year, to meet full-time residency requirements.
  • Students completing the Ph.D. in Political Science may also complete residency through an alternative path. Within the first six semesters of doctoral study, they must maintain 6 face-to-face credit units toward the program of study for three semesters (excluding summers), and complete one of the following options:
    • Present one academic conference presentation;
    • Publish an academic article or book chapter; or
    • Take the Professional Development Seminar (POS 691).

In addition, students must maintain continual enrollment of at least 3 credit units per semester until comprehensive exams (excluding summers), including one face-to-face course (3 units) per adademic year.

Students can petition for exception

Students may petition for an exception to any academic, non-grade-related, graduate regulation, in writing, to the associate dean of the Graduate College. The student’s letter of petition should be endorsed by her/his advisor and department chair.

Related Policies