Regulations and Requirements Governing the Doctoral Degree

Requirements given in this section are those which apply generally to all doctoral programs except as indicated. The programs of the individual colleges or schools may involve additional requirements applicable only to their particular programs.

Doctoral Degrees Conferred

Programs leading to the Doctor of Philosophy are offered in many fields in the College of Arts & Sciences, and the Schools of Public Health, Education, Social Welfare, Criminal Justice, Nanosciences and Nanoengineering, and the colleges of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy. An interdisciplinary Ph.D. program is additionally offered in Information Science. A program leading to the Doctor of Psychology is offered in School Psychology, and a program leading to the Doctor of Public Health is offered in the School of Public Health.

Credit Requirements

Each program, including the dissertation, leading to a doctoral degree requires as a minimum three years of full-time study beyond the baccalaureate or the equivalent over a longer period. In addition, special requirements for competence in research methodology, foreign languages, and in other research tools ordinarily extend the basic time requirement.

Each program leading to a Ph.D. includes as a minimum two years of full- time graduate study (60 credits), or the equivalent, and at least one additional year devoted to the necessary research and writing of an acceptable dissertation. The program leading to a Psy.D. includes as a minimum 91 credits of appropriate graduate study plus at least one regular session devoted to the necessary research and writing of an acceptable dissertation. However, the minimums in a particular program may and frequently do exceed these amounts, and students are held to those applicable to the particular program to which they have been admitted.

Residence Study and Advanced Standing

Subject to Resident Study Requirements as defined in the Graduate Regulations and Degree Requirements, applicants for admission to the doctoral programs who have completed graduate courses or programs elsewhere may apply for admission with advanced standing, subject to faculty approval and University Transfer Credit Regulations.

Doctoral Study in Residence

Prospective doctoral students should be aware that some doctoral programs require a period of full-time study in residence. Individuals should consult the policy guidelines of the specific doctorate-granting unit to which they seek admission with respect to this issue. If none is listed within the program description, then the policy listed below is in effect.

Each student in a doctoral program must engage in full-time study beyond the master's degree or equivalent at the University in at least two sessions after admission to the advanced program. This requirement is designed to insure for each doctoral student a sustained period of intensive intellectual growth. For this purpose a student will enroll in full-time study (9 credits) taken in each of two sessions, or in a regular session and a summer session, not necessarily consecutive, which must be completed satisfactorily.

Any appeals of this policy will be made and approved at the departmental level.

Research Tools

Programs leading to the Ph.D., Dr.Ph. or Psy.D. require the demonstration through examination at this University of a reading knowledge of at least one foreign language and/or the demonstration at this University of competence in another appropriate research tool.

Refer to the descriptions of individual programs for the requirements which apply.

General Regulations Governing Research Tool Requirements:

A competence in quantitative techniques, a knowledge of statistics, or mastery of other special tools for research and investigation, apart from a foreign language, is considered essential in many disciplines and for many kinds of research.

Descriptions of individual programs should be consulted for departmental requirements in these research tools and their evaluation.

Responsibility for the evaluation of a student's competence in such techniques rests with the student's major department. The department may, however, require the student to be examined, or otherwise meet standards of accomplishment in another appropriate department.

Foreign Language: Several graduate programs require a knowledge of an appropriate foreign language as a scholarly tool essential to research in the major field. In other programs it is an optional research tool. The requirement may call for a reading knowledge or for a high degree of competence in the language. In either case, a basic knowledge of the structure and vocabulary of the language is required in addition to a knowledge of the vocabulary of the field or discipline. A high degree of competence in a language requires, in addition, a knowledge of the language as a humanistic study and a sensitivity to it developed through a wide reading of its classics.

Responsibility for the level of competence required, for the nature of the examination to be taken by the student, and for the standards utilized in the evaluation rests with the department which offers the program.

General regulations and guidance to departments regarding the satisfaction of foreign language requirements follow. Description of individual programs should be consulted for departmental regulations and procedures., including information concerning schedules of examinations, reading lists, nature of examination, standards, and general procedures.

  1. Depending on the program, a foreign language requirement may be met by local examination constructed, administered, and evaluated by the student's major department or in conjunction with an appropriate foreign language department.
  2. Unless otherwise specified by the department, there is no limit on the number of times a graduate student may take a language examination;
  3. English may not be used to satisfy a foreign language requirement;
  4. With the approval of their major department, foreign students may present their native language in meeting a requirement for one foreign language;
  5. The limit of time between the satisfaction of a foreign language requirement and admission to candidacy for a graduate degree is at the discretion of the department;
  6. Graduate students may not be required to take a language course. However, students may be encouraged to audit or take a regular language course, or to take a language course especially designed to assist them, if this seems to be the best way to build language competence to the desired level;
  7. Official designees of a department may certify the language competence of candidates for advanced degrees who have completed graduate study in the language or who otherwise present superior qualifications in the language. This evaluation will be accepted by the Dean of The Graduate School in place of the required examination upon proper substantiation. This authorization does not include acceptance of a foreign language requirement completed at another college or university;

Comprehensive Examination

Prospective doctoral candidates are required to pass a comprehensive exam. The examination is designed to ascertain the student's general knowledge of the subject, acquaintance with scholarly research methods and skills, and ability to organize and present materials. The examination is not restricted to the content of graduate courses but is comprehensive in character. The timing, precise content, and format (written, oral, or both) of the comprehensive examination are specified by departmental/program regulations: Students have the responsibility to inform themselves of these details at the commencement of their program.

Admission to Candidacy

Admission to doctoral candidacy means that, in the judgment of the faculty, the doctoral student has an adequate knowledge of the field and the specialty, knows how to use the academic resources, has potential to do original research, and complete the dissertation. The qualifying procedures include the following:

  1. passing all requisite departmental/program comprehensive/qualifying exam(s)
  2. satisfying resident study requirements
  3. achieving a satisfactory academic record: at least a B (3.0) average in all resident graduate courses applicable to the degree  Note: graduate courses graded L do not earn credit applicable to the degree. 
  4. completing research tool requirements
  5. receiving research protocol approval for dissertation research involving human subjects, animal subjects, or biohazardous materials; acknowledging responsibility for such approval prior to the onset of research; or certifying that the research will not involve such subjects/materials.

    (An approval letter for human subject, animal subject, or biohazardous material research is obtained from the applicable University compliance committee: Institutional Review Board (IRB), Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) or an IRB, IACUC, or IBC that has been designated by the University. Written acknowledgement that such research must be approved in advance by the IRB, IACUC, or IBC and that engaging in such research without approval would constitute misconduct is obtained in writing via student and advisor signature placement on the Nomination of Doctoral Student for Admission to Candidacy form. Written acknowledgement that such research does not involve human subjects, animal subjects, or biohazardous materials and that engaging in such research without advance approval by the applicable compliance committee would constitute misconduct is also obtained in writing via student and advisor signature placement on the Nomination of Doctoral Student for Admission to Candidacy form.)

  6. satisfying all other program specific candidacy requirements.

Admission to candidacy is not automatic, and a graduate student becomes a candidate for a doctoral degree only with the approval of the Dean of The Graduate School, on behalf of the Graduate Academic Council, acting upon the recommendation of the program faculty and/or the dean of the school or college directing the program.

Students in doctoral programs should be admitted to candidacy at least one session (exclusive of a summer and winter sessions) before the acceptance of their dissertation and the completion of all requirements of the degree.

Continuous Registration of Doctoral Students

All students enrolled in doctoral programs must maintain continuous registration for each fall and spring session (except for periods of official leave of absence prior to candidacy) until they have completed all program requirements. Minimum registration consists of 3 credits of approved course work, registration for dissertation load (899 courses only), or registration for other field work courses that have been approved as full-time by the Dean of The Graduate School or the Graduate Academic Council.

Summer sessions registration cannot be accepted in lieu of registration for fall and spring sessions. A student who neither registers for each fall and spring session nor has received an official leave of absence is subject to termination unless good cause not to do so is shown by the student after notification of such pending action.

Statute of Limitations

All requirements for a doctoral degree must be completed within eight calendar years from the date of initial registration in the program.

This statute applies equally to students who enter with or without advanced standing and to students who formally change their areas of specialization after admission and study in one advanced program.

Policies Pertaining to the Doctoral Dissertation


Doctoral programs require the submission of an acceptable dissertation. The dissertation is the culmination of a program of advanced study leading to a doctoral degree and, as such, is expected to attest to the attainment of a high degree of scholarly competence. The dissertation must report in accepted scholarly style on an investigation of a problem of significance in the major field of study that modifies, enlarges and/or makes a unique contribution to what has previously been known. It must demonstrate that the candidate is capable of sophisticated, independent research, analysis, and scholarly reporting in an academic discipline or professional field.

Policies and procedures pertaining to dissertation development in each doctoral program, consistent with the minimal University standards that follow, should be available from each doctoral program office or department.

The Dissertation Committee

Doctoral students must have a dissertation or research committee to guide their dissertation project or research and to approve each stage of the process. Ordinarily, each dissertation committee must have a University at Albany full-time faculty member as chair. Individual exceptions to this requirement must be approved by the Dean of The Graduate School. A faculty member may continue as chair of the dissertation committee after leaving the University. It is the committee chair’s responsibility to be accessible to the student and to see that the other members of the committee are kept informed of the student’s progress so that the committee members may react constructively and in a timely fashion. It is the student’s responsibility to keep the dissertation chair informed of his/her progress.

Students must play a role in shaping the membership of their dissertation committee. The student and committee will have to agree mutually on a topic. There should be as much consistency as possible in the membership of the committee which initially agrees to the topic, advises the student, and recommends the final evaluation of the dissertation to the appropriate academic unit.

The dissertation committee must consist of a minimum of three members, two of which must be from the student’s school/college, and at least one of these must be from the student’s major program/department. Departments and /or programs are encouraged to include at least one committee member external to the department or program faculties. Ordinarily, only those with an earned doctorate or those who hold a full professorship are eligible to participate formally in dissertation advisement and the approval of a dissertation. The final membership of each dissertation committee must be approved in accordance with the process specified in the program specific policies/procedures.

Dissertation Approval

Responsibility for the final evaluation and acceptance of a dissertation rests with the departmental or program faculty and the candidate’s dissertation or doctoral committee.

While students must be given an on-going evaluation of their dissertation by their dissertation committee as various sections or chapters are completed, final approval shall be given only to a completed work. Departments and/or programs are encouraged to provide, or require, an opportunity for students to publicly present and defend the results of their research as part of the final approval process. Too, a final review or examination may be scheduled with the comments, advice, recommendations, and evaluations of outside readers being considered by the dissertation committee. To be accepted, a dissertation must be approved by a majority of the dissertation committee.

The final dissertation presented to the office of the Dean of The Graduate School in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the doctoral degree must be the one approved by the dissertation committee.

Submittal of Approved Dissertations

In order for a dissertation to be accepted by the University in partial fulfillment of requirements for the doctoral degree, it must be submitted in acceptable form according to procedures specified by the Office of the Dean of The Graduate School, by May 1 for degrees to be conferred in May, by August 1 for degrees to be conferred in August, by December 1 for degrees to be conferred in December, and by the last day of Winter session courses for degrees to be conferred in January. Specifications for such submittal procedures and “acceptable form” shall be developed and maintained by the Dean of The Graduate School in consultation with the Graduate Academic Council and University Libraries for archival purposes.

Doctoral students admitted in Spring 2006 or thereafter will be expected to submit the approved dissertation in authorized digital form. Students should familiarize themselves with all digital dissertation submittal regulations and procedures early in their doctoral studies.