Program Milestones and Timeline
Although there is considerable variation, from person to person, on how long each aspect of a doctoral program takes, and how long is taken until degree completion, it is possible to offer some general guidelines for those pursuing a doctorate in this program on a full-time basis. In that situation, when students are full-time for fall and spring semesters only (without summers), the entire degree tends to take 4-5 years.
Coursework: Full-time students (fall and spring semesters only) typically complete their coursework by the end of their third year in the program. Those taking summer courses can complete as soon as the end of their second year in the program.
Comprehensive Exam: The comprehensive exam is typically initiated during the final semester of coursework, and includes an informal initial committee meeting, a proposal defense, and written document/oral defense of the exam itself. This entire process should generally take no longer than one semester.
Dissertation Proposal: Following a successful comprehensive exam, students can begin the Dissertation Proposal process, which includes compilation of a dissertation committee, an informal initial committee meeting, and a written proposal/oral defense of that proposal. In general, this process should happen within one semester, the semester during or immediately following the comprehensive exam.
Advancement to Candidacy: Once all coursework (except for dissertation courses) has been completed, the comprehensive exam has been passed, and the Dissertation Proposal has been successfully defended, doctoral students will apply for advancement to candidacy. Achieving doctoral candidacy (what some refer to as "All But Dissertation," or ABD) allows the student to begin doctoral dissertation research. For most, this happens at the beginning of year 4 in the program.
Dissertation Defense: The dissertation is a uniquely individualized process, so it is very difficult to provide even a general timeline for completion as this will vary by methodology, scope, committee membership, and so many other variables. After a complete draft of the dissertation has been judged to be acceptable overall by the Dissertation Chair and a majority of the dissertation committee members, the candidate, in consultation with the Chair, will schedule a two-hour Dissertation Defense meeting at the mutual convenience of all concerned.