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We offer five types of doctoral degrees in over eighty fields of study. Most of our doctoral degrees are PhDs; we also offer a Doctor of Education, Doctor of Environmental Science and Engineering, Doctor of Public Health, and Doctor of Musical Arts.
A Doctoral degree at UCLA averages 5 years to complete. The first year tends to be foundational—with coursework designed to immerse your incoming cohort into the field. During subsequent years, you will complete coursework, take examinations, assemble a Doctoral Committee chosen from faculty, advance to candidacy, and write a dissertation. It is also a time open to myriad research and professional development opportunities. Below are the UCLA-wide steps. Details will vary by program.
Doctoral programs vary widely in the number of required courses as well as additional requirements. Most programs use the first year to prepare students for their chosen field. Some programs conduct an end-of-the-year exam for each first-year cohort, while others evaluate student by courses, papers, and projects completed in that first year. In addition to being assigned a Student Affairs Officer (SAO) by your program, you’ll also mutually choose your Faculty Advisor. Generally this is a natural process where a student’s and a faculty member’s interests and areas of specialization align. This relationship is an important one, which lasts well beyond a student’s tenure at UCLA. In your first year, you’ll take courses with a wide variety of faculty and make lasting friendships with your cohort.
We’ve assembled all UCLA-wide forms that may be useful to a graduate student on a Master’s track in one place: Forms for UCLA Doctoral Students. Your specific program may provide additional forms for your use. Here are some of the most common.
To keep on track, a Doctoral student must meet specific requirements for a student’s program.
Type the name of your program to jump straight to its requirements:
Your Program Requirements cover most things a current student needs to know in order to graduate on time. Our FAQs answers a few common questions about program requirements. Any outstanding questions can be answered by your program through their website or from your Student Affairs Officer (SAO).
If your program offers a Master’s Degree along the path toward a Doctorate, you’ll be required to initiate a specialized process and meet criteria specific to your program.
During your second or third year, you’ll begin assembling (nominating) your Doctoral Committee. Your committee is comprised of 4 or more faculty members (3 or more faculty members for professional (non-Ph.D.) doctoral committees) who are experts in your field who can guide you in your research. Some committee members will be on-campus while a few may be located at another academic institution. All committee members will be responsible for reviewing your work periodically, advising you on your direction and independent research, assessing your university oral qualifying exam, and approving your dissertation.
On occasion, your committee will fall out of compliance, in which case you’ll be required to reconstitute your Doctoral committee. Common reasons include when one of your committee members leaves her or his post at UCLA or when you or a current committee member decides that you’ll benefit more by working with a different faculty member.
For more about your doctoral committee, see the Graduate Council’s guide Graduate Student Academic Rights and Responsibilities and Standards and Procedures for Graduate Study at UCLA.
Becoming a doctoral degree candidate is not a given. The first phase of your doctoral program is supervised by a faculty advisor or guidance committee. Your program will administer the written, and in some cases the program’s oral qualifying, exam after you complete courses and other preparatory work recommended or required by your program
Your doctoral committee may also require additional written exams. Only upon satisfactory completion of the written and oral qualifying requirements may you advance to candidacy. A student must also have met language requirements for advancement. This accomplishment generally happens between your second and fourth year.
With the guidance of your Doctoral Committee, you’ll conduct fieldwork, research, writing, and independent study all the way up through your dissertation.
Some programs require you to present your dissertation to your doctoral committee in a time-honored event called the final oral examination (or final defense). To find out if your program has this requirement, consult your program requirements for the year you were admitted (see KNOW YOUR PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS above).
You will complete an approved doctoral dissertation that demonstrates your ability to perform original, independent research and constitutes a distinct contribution to knowledge in your principal field of study.
Doctoral Degrees are awarded four times a year, and are integrated into a single commencement—called the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony—held once each year at the beginning of June. UCLA Graduate Commencement for Doctoral Students is where you’ll find info about tickets, locations, schedule, parking, and dress code (including caps and gowns). For information on commencement ceremonies hosted by various graduate departments and programs, search for your program on this year’s schedule.
Once you graduate, our support continues. You’ll find great resources, guidance, career support, and opportunities to network with fellow graduates through UCLA’s Alumni Association.