PhD Degree Requirements

A minimum of 32 credits are required for the PhD degree, and depending on the academic background of the student, 16 to 24 credits must be didactic course credits. In addition to satisfactory completion of course work, a preliminary qualifying examination and a research dissertation and defense in the student's field of research must be completed. The academic program runs year-round. It is expected that students continue research during the summer.

Students are required to take three mandatory courses:

  • BMS 653 - Fundamentals of Animal Research I: Biostatistics
  • BMS 654 - Fundamentals of Animal Research II: Ethics

An intermediate/advanced statistics course to be determined in collaboration with the student's Thesis Advisory Committee and the Graduate Program Manager.

In addition, depending on their area of research, and in consultation with their mentors, students may request to take one or more veterinary professional curriculum core courses (for example: physiology, microbiology and immunology). Other courses may be required of students, but are determined by the student's Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC)

Some entering students may already have post-graduate training, and some recommended coursework may be waived by the PhD Program Committee, upon recommendation by the TAC, on an individual basis. However, the student will still be required to complete a minimum of 32 credit hours, of which 16 to 24 must be didactic credits.

In acknowledging the importance of obtaining teaching experience as part of one's graduate education, students are required to complete a teaching certificate offered through the Center for Education and Learning Technology (CELT), and/or participate in teaching activities as determined by the student’s TAC.

Transfer of Credits

Graduate coursework completed elsewhere for a previous degree may not be applied toward PhD credit for the program. However, if the student has taken prior coursework in a relevant field, the student can speak with their TAC to request a waiver of similar courses in the PhD program. If the TAC agrees, the student is not required to take these courses but will be required to take other courses to fulfill the didactic credit requirements.

Time Limit and Extension of Degree Time

The minimum time requirement for the PhD program is three academic years of full-time study and a dissertation. Most students take between four and five years to complete their degree requirements, but all must complete their work within seven consecutive years.

Thesis Advisory Committee

During the first year of study, the student and mentor must propose a Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC) for that student. Each committee is comprised of the student's mentor and three additional members, which should include at least one member from outside Cummings School. At least two of the proposed members must be program faculty members.

Qualifying Exam

All PhD students must present for the Qualifying Examination no later than the end of the fifth week of the first semester of their third year in order to receive the reduced post-Preliminary Examination tuition rate. If the student fails to successfully complete the Preliminary Examination by that date, the full tuition in effect at that time will be charged. In the event of extenuating circumstances, permission for delays in the Preliminary Examination date may be obtained through the PhD Program Committee. The Preliminary Examination consists of both a written and an oral presentation. Only students in their second year of study who are in good academic standing are eligible to take the Preliminary Examination.


A major portion of work toward the doctoral degree consists of the preparation of a doctoral thesis or dissertation. The topic of the dissertation is chosen with the approval of the mentor and TAC, and the dissertation is written under their supervision. The dissertation must demonstrate high achievement in a specific area of knowledge, the original development of an appropriate subject, and independent research. The TAC must accept the dissertation. The examination is oral and written.