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PhD Degree Requirements

Updated on August 15, 2023


A PhD candidate must satisfy the requirements for a doctoral degree as laid out by the UW Graduate School.  Some of the key Graduate School requirements and additional requirements from the Mathematics Department are listed below.  If you have questions about the requirements, please contact your preliminary advisor, Student Services or the Graduate Program Chair.  


Three years of full time study, two of which must be at the University of Washington.


All PhD students must take twelve 500-level numerically graded courses in Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, or Statistics in their first two years of study.  Students are expected to take seven quarters of core courses; at least five of them in their first year. The current list of core courses consists of MATH 504, MATH 505, MATH 506; MATH 524, MATH 525, MATH 534; MATH 544, MATH 545, MATH 546.  Courses from other departments may be included in the twelve with approval of the Graduate Program Coordinator. Students who have already met their core course requirement may take additional core courses for a grade of S/NS. It is the student’s responsibility to select S/NS credit if they wish to use this option

The seven quarters of core courses requirement only applies to students who are entering our PhD Program in September 2023 or later. 

Writing Milestone:

By the end of the second year, each student must produce a carefully written mathematical document. This could be in any area, not just a presumed area of specialization, with any faculty member, not just a potential advisor. Such a document can be an expository paper coming from deep study of material in a reading course with a faculty member, a write-up of a project done under the supervision of a faculty member, an existing research paper that the student has done could also count, if a faculty member agrees. In general, this is flexible but the resulting document must be substantial. 

The writing milestone requirement only applies to students who are entering our PhD Program in September 2023 or later. 

General Examination:

The General Examination is an oral examination on a special area of intended research, given by a committee after the student has passed the preliminary exams. This exam can be given only after two years of graduate study, to students who have formally declared an advisor, and have formed their thesis committee with the Graduate School. Normally, it should be taken by the middle of the student's fourth year. In extenuating circumstances, the exam can be postponed if approved by the Graduate Committee. In addition, the students must prepare a written General Paper and distribute it to the committee at least two weeks before the date of the General Exam. The content of this paper is decided upon in consultation with the committee. For example, this might be a 10-20 page expository account of the student's research area, culminating in a problem or list of problems to be studied, together with a discussion of some of the relevant literature.


A PhD thesis must be a well-written original contribution to the scientific literature.  This document will be archived by the University of Washington Library.   During the preparation of the thesis, a student must take 27 credits of Math 800 required over a period of at least three quarters.

Final Examination:

The PhD thesis defense is the Final Examination.  The defense is an oral exam given by the thesis committee consisting of the advisor as the chair of the committee, two additional members of the department who have been appointed to the Graduate School, plus one member of the committee from outside the Math Department called the Graduate School Representative (GSR).  Successful completion of the exam is required for the PhD.