Hi everyone! The spring semester just started, but I am already in a frantic schedule. I am a senior PhD student, i.e., no more classes but working on a dissertation (= thesis to complete the PhD program), so the school schedule does not quite matter. But let me tell you why I am SO busy now. Yes, I am going to graduate from the PhD program in a month.
Before starting the PhD program, I did not exactly know how I would be able to complete the degree. Even after starting the program, it took me a while to understand the complicated, multi-layer process to finish. Today, I would like to explain how the system/process works (for PhD degrees). Of course, the process may vary by the program, so I will describe a general frame, which may be applicable for most programs.
1) Complete required classes/credits
Required classes and number of credits vary by the program, for sure. In the program I am in (PhD in epidemiology), all students have master's degree, and many of them completed their master's degree at our division. They can transfer some classes and credits, so they can decrease class loads and focus on research. Unfortunately, I did my master's at the different school and it was not in epidemiology, so it took 2 years for me to complete all the requirements.
2) Take and pass a preliminary written exam(s)
Many programs offer one preliminary written exam to test students' knowledge (mostly what they have learned in classes), but a form of the exam varies. In my program, students have to take TWO written exams - one to test their knowledge in epidemiologic methodology and the other one to test their ability to write a grant proposal. The first one is a two-day exam - you are isolated in an assigned faculty office and take an exam from 9 am to 3 pm for two days. The second one is a 17-day exam - you have to write up a grant proposal within 17 days.
Once passing the written exam, you will start work on your dissertation.
3) Take and pass a preliminary oral exam
You prepare your dissertation proposal and present it to faculty members in your dissertation committee. There are usually 4 to 5 faculty members in the committee. After the presentation, committee members ask you questions on your proposal. Usually takes 2 to 3 hours.
4) Take and pass a final oral exam (final defense)
After completing your dissertation, you will have a presentation on your dissertation. It is usually open to the public. After the public presentation, a 2-hour exam (only you and the committee) will follow. You may (or may not) be grilled...
5) Submit a dissertation to the Graduate School - on line
Once your entire committee agree that you have passed the final exam, all you have to do is to revise the dissertation (if needed) and submit it to the graduate school!!
Again, the process may vary by the program. More information can be found at the Graduate School web page.
My final defense is scheduled in 22 days. That is the reason why I am frantically busy right now. I am aiming at circulating my dissertation to the entire committee tomorrow, but there are tons of things to do to complete it...Well, I have to go back to work on it. I will update you with the next step in 2 weeks!