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Updated on January 23, 2023


We recognize that students entering our program have many pathways to success. Thus, rather than an overly prescriptive list of requirements, we think of our program as a series of milestones that students typically pass as they progress. Some students complete the program very successfully without passing all of these milestones.

Milestone Typical timing
Satisfactory course performance for two quarters; complete five quarters of core courses End of first year
Complete a total of seven quarters of core courses; complete Writing Milestone End of second year
Complete twelve courses at the 500-level or higher End of second year
Have a thesis advisor End of winter quarter, third year
Pass the general exam End of winter quarter, fourth year

The seven quarters of core courses and the writing milestone requirements only apply to students who are entering our PhD Program in September 2023 or later. 

While we believe that every student we admit is capable of earning a PhD in our program, we recognize that students may decide that leaving with a Master's degree is more compatible with their goals and aspirations. Students completing a PhD typically pass all milestones, while students completing a Master's degree only complete portions of the first three, together with other requirements.


  • Satisfactory performance in a graded course means obtaining a grade of at least 3.0. Grades below 3.0 will not count towards the course requirements for any graduate degree degree, unless permission is granted by the Graduate Program Coordinator.
  • If a student falls too far behind on the milestones, the Graduate Program Committee works with the student and any faculty advisors that student has to craft a suitable path forward. This path could include changes to the anticipated terminal degree or, in extreme cases, the loss of funding.
  • For part-time students, a "year" is considered to be any sequence of quarters during which the student registers for a total of 30 credits.