First- and second-year students

On entering the Ph.D. program students work closely with the faculty members in their academic subfield (especially the convener) and the Director of Graduate Studies. Along with the matriculation committee, they assist students in the formulation of the first year of their programs and with the choice of courses.

Entering students must complete at least one language requirement by the beginning of the second year of study or their funding will be revoked until the language is passed. Students must pass foreign language competency exams prior to taking preliminary exams. See modern languages exam procedures.

Third- and fourth-year students

By the end of the third year of study, preliminary examinations must be taken or an extension must be requested from the Graduate School by the Director of Graduate Studies.  The faculty committee, in consultation with the student, sets the preliminary examinations guidelines, which are intended to test command of the subject areas as well as the student’s readiness to undertake the research and writing of a dissertation. There are four written exams—generally a four-hour exam in the student’s major, a three-hour exam in a broadly conceived dissertation area, and three-hour exams in each of the student’s two minors—followed by an oral exam.

Within six months of completing the preliminary exams, students submit a dissertation proposal to be approved by their committee. The proposal must be approved by the Committee on Dissertations Committee after it has been approved by the student's dissertation committee. 

Students fifth year and beyond

The dissertation must be completed within eight semesters (4 years) after prelims. Extensions of up to one year may be granted (for a total of 5 years) in certain circumstances. If this extension is granted and the dissertation is not submitted and accepted by the new deadline, the student may be dropped from candidacy. Students dropped from candidacy must then pass a second preliminary examination to be reinstated as a candidate for the degree.

At the start of the semester in which the student intends to defend the completed dissertation, he or she must apply to graduate through ACES. This form, giving the exact title of the dissertation, must be approved by the DGS and the chair of the dissertation committee. Note that it must be submitted one month before the dissertation is to be defended, and no later than January 25 preceding the May commencement, August 1 for a September degree, and December 1 for a December degree. Students who plan to finish in a specific semester must be sure to file this form. If a student is unable to finish, he or she simply completes the same form again the subsequent semester.  All dissertations must be submitted electronically.

The defense of the dissertation involves an oral exam after the written thesis has been accepted. Students must submit a copy of the dissertation in the approved format to the committee AT LEAST three weeks in advance of the defense.


If you have received any fellowships or awards in addition to those offered by our department, please send the official, signed offer letter(s) to the .

Career Services

Be aware that Duke has a Career Services office. Many of you will want to take advantage of this as you near graduation. They offer career counseling and workshops for writing cvs and resumes, networking, interview skills, job searches, etc.

Job Listings

Some current job openings in higher education can be found here.

Academic Job Search Series

Seminar series for those preparing for the academic job market.

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