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Program Details

A Ph.D. program chart

The program requirements cover coursework, research, teaching and academic service.



The Ph.D. requires 72 credits beyond the baccalaureate degree, including 42 credits of coursework, 6 credits of summer research, and 24 credits of dissertation work, with additional coursework, as appropriate. Students entering with an MBA may transfer up to 9 credits toward the 42 credits of coursework.

Area of Coursework

Coursework is comprised of major field courses, supporting field courses, and research methodology courses.

Major Field

A minimum of 12 credits of typically four seminar and PhD-level courses. Additional advanced graduate courses, depending on your background.

Supporting Field

A minimum of nine credits of PhD-level coursework in a related field.

Research Methods

A minimum of 12 credits of graduate-level research methods courses, to be determined in consultation with the mentor and department program advisor.

Comprehensive Examinations

Students must successfully complete a comprehensive qualifying exam before starting their third year in the program. The exam requires demonstrating mastery of coursework materials and competent research capabilities. It determines whether a student should be permitted to "advance to candidacy" by identifying those students who are best suited for dissertation work and those who are not.


Students will engage in research and publication activities prior to beginning their dissertation work. Members of the faculty are involved in research projects with doctoral students, many of which may lead to joint publications or to presentations at professional meetings. Such accomplishments significantly improve the student’s academic job opportunities and general professional development.

Summer Research Project & 2nd Year Paper

Students begin a six-credit mentor-directed summer research project during the summer of year 1 and continues through year 2. The aim is to produce a paper publishable at a conference and/or a research journal.

Brown-Bag Presentations

To demonstrate progress on an ongoing or a new research idea, students in years 2 and 3 students will each semester: make a short brown-bag research presentation to their department faculty, and submit along an “evolving” draft paper documenting the progress presented.


Students should ideally complete three journal articles and their doctoral dissertation while in the program. This would be achieved through increased collaboration with faculty, where at least one of the papers will be coauthors with the mentor as the lead author. A strong publications record is probably the best predictor of the number and quality of academic job opportunities available to a student upon graduation.

Participation in Research Seminars

All departments run research seminar series where faculty, Ph.D. students and invited guests present their work. Doctoral students are expected to actively participate – attend and present – in these seminars.

Conferences and Doctoral Consortia

Students are strongly encouraged to submit their work to and attend professional meetings (conferences, workshops, etc.), and to take part in the doctoral consortia that these meetings organize. This is a valuable complement to the formal academic training of students.


Whitman doctoral students are required to complete 24 credits of dissertation work. Each student is required to form a five-person dissertation committee, defend a written dissertation proposal, and complete all dissertation requirements within seven years of the matriculation date.

After completing the dissertation proposal defense, the candidate concentrates mainly on the completion of the dissertation as specified during the proposal defense. Since the dissertation represents a major research project, a year or more of full-time work in close collaboration with the candidate’s research committee is normally required to complete the dissertation.

Year 4 by the student’s dissertation chair. It is open to Whitman faculty and Ph.D. students.


To develop as academics, doctoral students are required to teach up to three courses at the Whitman School. Generally, students will not be assigned to teach during their first two years in the program, and they may not teach more than the equivalent of two courses in any academic year. During semesters when the student is teaching, they will not be required to perform TA duties.

To help Ph.D. students develop the skills needed to assure success in the classroom, they are expected to take part in the following activities: participate in Syracuse University’s Teaching Assistant / TA Training Program, shadow the course(s) s/he are assigned to teach at least a semester earlier, and attend training sessions on use of technology inside and outside the classroom.

Academic Service

Students are expected to provide academic services to the Whitman school and their department only to the extent that it furthers their academic progress and does not interfere with meeting the program requirements.

Graduate Assistantship

For students fully funded by the Whitman school, the primary service requirement is a 20 weekly-hour teaching/research assistantship (TA/RA). Whitman-funded students will be assigned to the mentor and one other faculty member of the department, to help with a combination of activities. Activities could range from helping faculty members conduct research and teaching, through making progress on one’s own research under the direction of the mentor, to helping (or shadowing) on a course the student is planned to teach at Whitman.


Additional service requirements are determined on a case-by-case basis by the Department Chair. Examples include: reviewing papers for conferences and academic journals, helping to organize school / department-hosted professional research meetings, and hosting guest research scholars of the department.