The average time to degree is 7-8 years, depending on whether you enter with a BA or MA degree, your funding situation (fellowships give more time for your own work than teaching, though teaching experience is essential and opportunities will be provided), language needs, complexity of your dissertation research, and perhaps unforeseen personal issues. (These conform to Graduate College time limits). Typical yearly progress: 2-3 years of course work (depending on whether entering with MA or BA); 1 year for preliminary exams and defense of dissertation proposal; 1 year of full-time research; 2 years writing and revising and defense of final dissertation. Plan to take advantage of summer terms for language training, course work, prelim exam reading, and preliminary dissertation research. Concerns, whether academic or personal, that you feel are affecting your progress should be discussed with the Director of Graduate Studies and your faculty advisors. We are here for you. Life is complex.

In recent years, the Graduate College has been tightening its policies and oversight of graduate programs and individual students. Because many of these policies – documented in the The Graduate College Handbook – are unfamiliar to us, the most consequential have been outlined here. At the same time, the Executive and Graduate Studies Committees take this opportunity to remind faculty and students of the Department’s own policies (*) for measuring students’ progress, evaluating  their work, and helping them to succeed.

Annual Progress Reviews (APR) are required by the department and the Graduate College. These include an annual self-evaluation and a report on your progress from your advisor (though the latter are optional during your first two years). For details see

In general we encourage regular and active consultation with advisors and other faculty mentors. See

See PhD Progress Checklist

Approximate timeline (for students entering with a BA):

Years I-II (Year I for students entering with an MA):

Course work aligned with your likely major and minor fields (See Fields of Study for current major and minor fields)

Identify faculty who might serve on your field exam committees

Work toward completing all language requirements

Near the end of each year, first-year and second-year reviews with advisor and DGS

Year III (Year II with MA):

Complete all course requirements. (Language requirements must be completed by time of final preliminary exam)

Finalize agreements with faculty to serve as examiners in your three fields

File PhD Portfolio by September 15 if you wish to begin preliminary examinations ("prelims") in the spring semester (not common, but possible). File by February 15 to start exams in the fall of the following year. The portfolio is reviewed by the Graduate Studies Committee. (See menu item for details)

After approval, file Prelim Exam Schedule

You should also be working toward a dissertation topic and apply for pre-dissertation research for the summer

Year IV (III)

Preliminary exams: Prepare and pass prelim exams in your three fields.

Schedule Oral Exam and dissertation proposal defense

NOTE: All prelim exams, written and the final oral, must be completed in two consecutive semesters (not including summer). Language requirements must be completed by final oral.

Dissertation proposal: You will be working on this throughout the year in versions for grants and for your oral prelim defense. It is recommended you participate in the Dissertation Proposal Writing Workshop (for credit).

If eligible, apply for outside grants for dissertation field work for the following year.

Become ABD!

Year V (IV): Dissertation research!

Year VI (V): Dissertation writing. Participate in dissertation writing workshop and career development workshops.

Year VII (VI): Dissertation completion. Pre-Defense. Apply for jobs/postdocs. Final defense. Celebrate!