Ph.D. Program Requirements

Ph.D. Program Requirements

The general characteristics of the graduate programs of study are outlined below; but as with admissions, specific requirements for all graduate degrees, including concurrent and dual or joint degrees, may be obtained from the schools in which the programs are to be carried out.  For maximum periods of time to complete requirements for these degrees, see Tenure for Degree Students.

Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Students undertaking work for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D.) should understand that this degree is awarded not for an accumulation of course credits only, but for superior independent research and scholarship in the chosen field, as evidenced in the dissertation.

Admission to Degree Programs

Admission to all graduate studies programs at Tulane is on the basis of academic accomplishments and potential, regardless of race, sex, color, religion, national/ethnic origin, citizenship, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, or veteran status.

Specific admission standards are set by the individual schools or programs, but in general, only applicants who have earned an undergraduate degree from a recognized institution may be admitted if their academic records and personal attributes indicate the ability to pursue advanced study successfully. Applicants must present evidence, to the satisfaction of the department or the program committee concerned, of adequate preparation for the subjects in which they seek to specialize. All students must hold the undergraduate degree before enrolling. Only students with undergraduate averages of B or better, or with undergraduate study of otherwise certifiable equivalent quality, ordinarily are admitted.

A master's degree is not prerequisite to the beginning of study for the Doctor of Philosophy degree, but a student may be required to qualify for the master's degree while working toward the doctorate.

Prospective students should consult the graduate admissions offices of their program of interest for additional admission requirements, application deadlines, and degree requirements.

PhD Minimum Degree Requirements

The PhD is awarded not for an accumulation of course credits only, but for superior independent research and scholarship in the chosen field, as evidenced in the dissertation.

Minimum Credit Hour Requirements

The minimum credit hour requirements for the PhD are 48 credit hours; however, some programs may require additional hours of coursework.

Continuous Registration Requirement

A student admitted in a degree program must be continuously registered in a degree-granting division of the university during the academic year (exclusive of summer session) in either full-time or part-time status from the date of first registration until the awarding of the degree, unless the registration is terminated by resignation or by dismissal for academic or disciplinary reasons.

A student who has not completed the minimum coursework requirements for the degree must either enroll for a minimum of three hours per semester (exclusive of Summer Session) or register for Dissertation Research in order to maintain continuous registration. A student who has completed the minimum hours of coursework required for the degree must register for Dissertation Research (no credit hours) in order to maintain continuous registration. Some schools may require registration for a higher number of credit hours or may charge a continuous registration fee.  

Failure to be continuously registered is de facto withdrawal and the school reserves the right not to readmit. A student who is readmitted is obligated to pay any applicable fee required to maintain continuous registration. Under exceptional circumstances a student may be granted leave by the dean of the appropriate school, and during such period of leave, a student will be considered in continuous registration without payment of fee.


A student must be in residence at Tulane for at least two semesters.

Full-Time Registration Status

Full-time status consists of registration for at least nine hours of graduate credit per semester, or a combination of coursework and equivalent academic activities such as teaching or research. PhD students must be in full-time status for at least one academic year (exclusive of summer session), though some schools and programs may require full-time status for a longer period. To hold a Tulane-sponsored fellowship, scholarship, or assistantship, a student must be in full-time status. Off-campus employment may disqualify a student from receiving a Tulane-sponsored fellowship, scholarship, or assistantship.

A student who has completed the minimum hours of coursework and is registered for Dissertation Research (no credit hours) can be classified as a full-time student with full student privileges. Schools, however, may require the department or program committee to certify that the student is engaged in academic activities equivalent to a full-time commitment.

Part-Time Registration Status

Part-time status consists of registration for less than nine hours of graduate credit without certification by the department or the program committee that the student is engaged in a full-time academic program.

Transfer Credit

Tulane University’s graduate departments may accept transfer credit at their discretion. This policy is intended to clarify minimum standards and provide guidance on university-wide policies and best practices.


Graduate students may transfer credit from graduate courses taken at other accredited institutions. Students must provide a sealed official transcript from the other institution, a course description from the course catalog, and may be required to provide a syllabus and/or samples of coursework. Transfers are made on the recommendation of the student’s departmental/program advisor and/or Director of Graduate Studies, in conjunction with the faculty member who teaches the most closely equivalent course. If the course does not have a direct equivalent, it may be transferred as a “special topics” course. Only courses in which the student achieved a grade of B or higher, and which are no more than seven years old, will be considered for transfer. Grades earned on transferred credit do not affect the student’s Tulane grade point average.

50% of all credits for a graduate degree must be completed at Tulane University.

Credits completed at an institution that uses a quarter credit system rather than a semester credit system will be accepted at 2/3 the number of hours on the transcript. For instance, a three credit hour course from an institution that uses quarter credits will transfer to Tulane University as two hours of credit, if the course is accepted.

Generally, no credit is given for graduate courses taken before a student has completed a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. The exception to this policy is for students who have been accepted into a 4+1 accelerated master’s degree program or dual bachelor’s and master’s degree program. Students from collaborating universities participating in certain +1 accelerated master’s programs are also exempt from this policy. For those groups of students, course credits for graduate-level courses taken before the bachelor’s degree was awarded may be used towards the master’s degree, per the specific program requirements and/or the Memorandum of Understanding between the universities. The courses may also ultimately fulfil requirements for other graduate degrees, with the approval of the director of graduate studies of the department or program.

Tenure for Degree Students

Tenure is the maximum period of time normally permitted for the completion of all requirements for a degree, and it is determined on the basis of consecutive academic years from the date of registration for graduate study at Tulane. Tenure for the PhD degree is seven years. Tenure is not affected by registration status. Under certain circumstances, upon the recommendation of the chairperson of a student's department or program committee, the dean of the school may extend tenure, but a student whose period of graduate study is unduly prolonged or interrupted may be required to perform additional work. Tenure regulations are applicable to all degree students, regardless of date of first registration. A registration block will be imposed by the school dean for those students who are beyond their time of tenure. The registration block can only be removed with permission from the school's dean.

Dual Degree Programs

Tulane offers a number of dual degree programs with the PhD. In all instances, the requirements for the PhD degree must be maintained and satisfied in order to receive the PhD degree.

Dissertation Committees

PhD dissertation committees must consist of at least three faculty members, the majority of whom are Tulane faculty. Exceptions to this stipulation may be made by the school dean.

Admission to Candidacy

Admission to a PhD program does not constitute admission to candidacy for the PhD.  To be admitted to candidacy, a student must complete certain degree requirements, as specified by each school or graduate program. See the department or program director of graduate studies for specific information.

The Prospectus

A student must write a prospectus in order to graduate. See the department or program director of graduate studies for specific requirements related to when and how a prospectus should be completed.

The Dissertation

The dissertation is the culmination of the PhD degree. It is the necessary demonstration that the candidate is worthy of taking a place among research scholars in the discipline. It must demonstrate not only mastery of the literature of the subject, but also the ability to carry on independent research that results in a genuine contribution to knowledge or an original interpretation of existing knowledge, and it must do so in a literate and lucid fashion. The dissertation committee shall pass on the acceptability of the dissertation before it is submitted in final form. Acceptability, however, is not final approval. The candidate must defend the dissertation successfully before the degree is awarded. Consult the dean of the appropriate school or program for regulations regarding formatting of the dissertation and submission deadlines.

Students are required to submit their completed dissertation to the University's Theses and Dissertation Archives ( Schools may require students to submit a paper copy of their dissertation.

Additional Requirements

Schools and graduate programs may have additional requirements for completion of the PhD degree. Students are advised to consult with the appropriate departmental graduate adviser or dean for this information.

Registration Policies and Procedures

Registration information for graduate students is the same as that for undergraduate students.

Change of Courses

Students wishing to add or drop courses should consult the Schedule of Classes for instructions, as well as the official Academic Calendar for relevant deadlines. Failure to make schedule adjustments promptly and accurately may result in financial or academic penalties.

Change of Departmental Program

A student who has been admitted to a degree program in one department and wishes to transfer to a program in another department must obtain the approval of the chair of both departments concerned and the approval of the dean of the school before the change is official. The necessary form for such changes is available in the dean's office of the appropriate school. A student who wishes to transfer to a program in a different school must apply to and be admitted by the other school.


Grades are reported as follows:

Grade Description
C+ A course in which a grade of C+ or less is earned cannot be counted toward a graduate degree.
I Incomplete - This grade will automatically become F unless the work is made up within 30 days after the beginning of the following semester, excluding Summer School. This grade is not to be used as an automatic extension but only for unavoidable delays caused by illness or other emergencies.
R Research - In those cases where research or experimentation, or both, cannot be completed within the 30-day limit following the end of the semester, this grade will be given to indicate this circumstance. This grade carries a different meaning from that of IP which is given at the end of the first semester of a two-semester course.
IP In Progress - Satisfactory progress at the end of the first semester of a year-long course; grades are assigned upon completion of the course.
W Courses may be dropped without record within six weeks of the first day of classes. Refer to Academic Calendar for exact dates each semester. Withdrawals with the grade of W after these dates may be accomplished only if the instructor notifies the dean that the student is passing and recommends permission to withdraw. WF (withdrawn failing) will be assigned if the student's work in a course is unsatisfactory at the time of withdrawal.

In some departments grades for certain courses are reported as follows:

Grade Description
S Satisfactory
U Unsatisfactory

In some departments, grades for certain other designated courses may also be reported simply as S or U at the student's option, provided that the option is declared by the student no later than the end of the second week of class.

Medical Excuses

Students are expected to attend all classes unless they are ill or prevented from attending by exceptional circumstances. Instructors may establish policies for attendance of their classes, which are announced at the beginning of the semester. Students who find it necessary to miss class must assume responsibility for making up the work covered during that session, including quizzes, examinations, and other exercises; they also are responsible for obtaining notes on material covered in lectures or other class sessions.

Students are responsible for notifying professors about absences that result from serious illnesses, injuries, or critical personal problems. However, medical excuses are not issued by the University Health Service, except in instances of illnesses or injuries that involve hospitalization.

Required Withdrawal and Denial of Enrollment

A student may be required to withdraw from any course or from the university, temporarily or permanently, for any of the following reasons:

  • Work below the standard specified by the college in which the student is enrolled.
  • Violation of the honor system or other misconduct.
  • Possibility of danger to the health of the student or to other students if enrollment is continued.

The university reserves the right to forbid any student's continued enrollment without assignment of reason. The school, however, will provide a student with a statement of reason in writing from the department. An appellate procedure has been established in cases involving academic performance or possible infringement of academic freedom. Schools also have appellate procedures in cases involving non-reappointment of fellowships or scholarships when the formal terms of the first award have given reasonable expectation of renewal. Such procedures may also apply to cases in which a graduate, teaching, or research assistant, is relieved of a position before the end of the term of the appointment or is not reappointed when the formal terms of the first appointment have given reasonable expectation of reappointment. Copies of these procedures are available in the dean's office of the appropriate school.

The Graduate Student Dismissal Policy, outlines the standards and review process for probation and dismissal on the basis of academic or research performance. It is distinct from policies concerning academic misconduct or student conduct based dismissals.

Resignation from a graduate program must be made in writing to the dean. The student who finds it necessary to withdraw or to resign should report to the dean's office to complete a withdrawal or resignation form.

Conferring of Degrees

All degrees are conferred by Tulane University. Degrees earned at the graduate level are awarded three times a year in December, May, and August. There is one commencement program each year in May. Candidates for degrees are required to complete an application for degree form on or before deadline dates, as stipulated by each school.

Dual Degree Programs

Tulane University offers a number of dual or joint degrees that are pursued as single coherent program of study. Up to 12 credit hours may be shared between the two degrees to meet Master's degree requirements and up to 24 credit hours may be shared to meet Ph.D. requirements. For joint Ph.D. programs, the requirements of the Ph.D. must be maintained and satisfied in order to receive the Ph.D. degree.