Degree Requirements



PhD requirements overview

To earn a PhD from the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences at Washington University, a student must:

  • maintain satisfactory academic progress
  • pass program-specific qualifying examination requirements
  • complete a mentored experience
  • fulfill residence requirements
  • fulfill the program-specific teaching requirement
  • fulfill the University-wide teaching requirement (required for students admitted Fall 2004 or later)
  • write an acceptable dissertation
  • defend the dissertation before a committee of at least 5 members who normally meet two independent criteria. 
  • submit an electronic version of the dissertation online to the Office of Graduate Studies

In addition, there may be department or program specific PhD requirements.

Master's degree requirements overview

To earn a Master's degree in the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences at Washington University a student must:

  • complete the minimum units required; this will vary by program area
  • meet individual program requirements (required courses, courses from specific subject areas, and additional requirements)
  • fulfill residence requirement
  • maintain satisfactory academic progress
  • pass an examination which tests competence in the field of study for the "without thesis" option or prepare an acceptable thesis and successfully defend it before a committee of no fewer than 3 faculty members for the "with thesis" option

Any master's degree program can require a master's thesis, make the thesis optional or decline to offer a thesis option.

Semester hours

Coursework required for the PhD is determined by a student’s program.  Students usually complete their coursework before the end of their program length and maintain full-time student status by enrolling in LGS 9000 Full-time Graduate Research/Study or LGS 9001 Full-time Graduate Research/Study in Absentia.

To count toward the program requirement, courses must be offered at the graduate level, taken for a grade, and approved in advance by the student’s advisor and program as eligible to count toward the student’s degree. Depending on the program, graduate-level work begins with courses numbered in the 400s or 500s. Audited courses and courses taken pass/fail cannot be counted toward the degree and may not be eligible for tuition remission. Students should consult their advisors regarding these options.

Courses and Grades

Since the beginning of the 1982-1983 academic year, the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts and Sciences’ departments and programs have graded coursework on a for credit scale of A, B, C, D, S (Satisfactory), and F, including pluses and minuses. Audit grades are L (successful audit) and Z (unsuccessful audit). Other auxiliary marks are S/U (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory), I (Incomplete), X (no final examination), R (Repeat), and N (no grade reported).

The following scale is used in the calculation of GPAs:

A+    4.0
A      4.0
A-    3.7
B+    3.3
B     3.0
B-    2.7
C+    2.3
C     2.0


Zero-unit LGS 9xxx courses will have only the satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade option. A successful grade (S) will be assigned to these courses when a student is approved for subsequent registration, the student completes the degree, or with the Office of Graduate Studies' vice dean’s approval of a special grade report submitted by the student’s advisor.

Units taken for the credit option of S or for the S/U option successfully will count in cumulative units for the graduate degree but do not calculate into the GPA. Graduate students should maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0. Some graduate degree programs may require their students to have higher minimum cumulative grade point averages in order to graduate with their degrees.

Students are expected not to carry at one time any more than 9 units of incomplete, N, or X grades. The Office of Graduate Studies may deny a student with more than 9 unfinished units permission to register. Incomplete grades are considered permanent incompletes if a grade has not been submitted after one calendar year.

Undergraduate courses (399 and below), University College courses, and courses taken for pass/fail or audit grade options do not count in cumulative units toward any graduate degree. Graduate courses (400 and above) taken in other graduate divisions of the University will count in cumulative units unless specified otherwise by the student’s home department or program.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Satisfactory academic progress for students in Ph.D. programs is monitored by the Office of Graduate Studies as well as the degree program. Failure to maintain satisfactory academic progress may result in immediate dismissal or in placement on academic probation for the ensuing year. Most financial awards, and all federally funded awards, are contingent on the maintenance of satisfactory academic progress. Moreover, satisfactory academic progress is a prerequisite for service on any committee authorized by the Office of Graduate Studies. 


The following are minimal standards of satisfactory academic progress for Ph.D. students; degree programs may set stricter standards, but must not relax these.


  1. Students are expected to proceed at a pace appropriate to enable them to finish within their program length. No later than the end of the fourth year of full-time graduate study, students are expected to have completed all Ph.D. requirements except for the dissertation.

  2. Students are expected to maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale in courses that count toward their program requirements. Thus, among courses of equal weight, each grade of C must be balanced by at least one A. (Note that plus and minus marks alter the numerical value of a letter grade.)

  3. Students are expected not to carry at one time any more than 9 semester hours for which the grades of I (incomplete), X (final examination missed), or N (not submitted yet) are recorded. The Office of Graduate Studies may deny a student with more than 9 unfinished credits permission to register.

  4. After four years of full-time graduate study, doctoral students who cannot identify three faculty members who are willing to serve on their Research Advisory Committee are not considered to be making satisfactory academic progress. [The Title, Scope, and Procedure form must be filed before the 5th year in order to identify membership of the student's Research Advisory Committee.]

Students who do not complete their degree within their program length may apply for a one-year extension if circumstances warrant. Extensions are obtained by application by the student to the degree program, endorsement by the degree program to the Office of Graduate Studies, and approval by the Office of Graduate Studies.

Qualifying Examination

Progress toward the Ph.D. is contingent upon passing examinations variously called preliminary, qualifying, general, comprehensive, or major field exams. The qualifying process varies according to the program. In some programs, it consists of a series of incremental, sequential, and cumulative exams over a considerable time. In others, the exams are held in a relatively short period. Exams may be taken orally or in writing; they may be replaced by one or more papers. The program, which determines the form these required examinations take, is responsible for notifying the Office of Graduate Studies of the student’s successful completion of them.


Residence Requirement


PhD Residence Requirement

Each student must spend at least one academic year enrolled full-time at Washington University. Any exceptions must be approved by the vice dean of the Office of Graduate Studies.

Master's Degree Residence Requirement

The residence requirement for master’s degree students is that each student must spend at least one academic year registered for full-time credits (9-12 in the Fall followed by 9-12 in the Spring) at Washington University. Any exceptions to this requirement must be approved by the vice dean of the Office of Graduate Studies. All daytime programs prefer that students remain full-time and in residence throughout their work toward the degree.



Mentored Teaching Experience

Graduate students participating in mentored teaching experiences are highly valued members of the Washington University instructional team. The mentored teaching experience varies widely across the disciplines. They may include assisting faculty in the preparation, instruction and grad­ing of an undergraduate course; tutorial responsibilities; monitoring the laboratory segment of an undergraduate course; and, in some instances, full course responsibility.

  • Mentored Teaching Development -  Each department serves as the primary source of mentored teaching, through course-specific mentoring, evaluation and through discipline-specific instruction in pedagogy.
  • Uni­versity-wide Student Teaching Orientation - All students participating in mentored teaching for the first time are required to attend this annual Orientation which is organized by The Teaching Center. 
  • Mentored Teaching Seminars - The Teaching Center also sponsors seminars on student teaching topics specifically designed for Graduate Students. The Teaching Center offers a specialized series of  Technology Workshops led by the Liberman Graduate Fellows; these are designed to help PhD students learn to use new media options in University classrooms. PhD students may enroll in individual workshops or as part of the Teaching Center Citation Program.
  • Mentored Teaching Handbook - The Office of Graduate Studies has produced this Handbook in order to provide an overview of University policies and expectations, as well as resources available to support graduate students’ professional development.

For more information on Mentored Teaching Experiences, contact your Graduate Program Director.

Teaching Citations

The Teaching Citation is an optional program which requires attendance at non-credit workshops on teaching, varied teaching experiences, faculty and student evaluations and preparation of a detailed teaching philosophy statement. Students interested in earning a Teaching Citation should schedule a preliminary consultation with Dr. Beth Fisher, Director of The Teaching Center, (p: 314-935-5921). Students are encouraged to schedule this meeting during the first semester of the second year in a PhD program.

Language Instruction Graduate Certificate

This certificate is  related to teaching and is an advanced, for-credit option for PhD students, and includes course requirements and advanced discipline specific instruction.

I. Origin and Purpose

The Graduate Certificate in Language Instruction is an interdisciplinary certificate related to the fields of applied linguistics, second language acquisition, psychology, neuroscience, and other disciplines that has important implications for the way we teach foreign languages. Study within these different fields provides a fascinating examination of the way that second languages (L2) are learned and how second language is generated by learners. An understanding of second language acquisition processes both enriches our knowledge of how the mind works and serves to better inform the ways that foreign language teachers design and implement curricular approaches for different levels and skills.

In order to provide our graduate students with additional qualifications and formal training that will make them strongly prepared for a range of demanding academic positions, the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures offers the Graduate Certificate in Language Instruction for students enrolled in doctoral degree programs.

II. Program Requirements

Students must apply to be considered for the certificate program and will be evaluated by a faculty committee, twice a year, on approximately October 15 and March 15. (The committee is made up of co-directors and graduate directors of participating departments.) The certificate consists of five courses: 3 required courses and 2 electives. This application is submitted at the beginning of the student's doctoral coursework. M.A. students are not eligible for consideration. Since the certificate requires four additional courses beyond those required for a student's home degree, students accepted will receive additional funding as teaching assistants for the four courses beyond 501 and will receive 9 credits of 590 (dissertation).

The goal of the five-course sequence is to provide certificate students with a solid base in the theoretical and instructional implications of research on language acquisition across different linguistic subsystems (phonology, lexis, syntax, pragmatics) and different linguistic modalities (spoken and written). This formation will also prepare students to be involved in language program design and curricular development.

II. Specific Requirements of the Certificate

15 units of credit, one course from each of the following groups, is required.

  1. Language Teaching Methodology (Fr/Span 501) or the equivalent in another department for students of that language
  2. Linguistics and Language Learning (Educ 4111) or other approved equivalent
  3. Second Language Acquisition (Ling/Span/Fr 466, may have cross-listings with other languages)

Two elective courses are required.

  1. Reading and Writing in a Second Language (Educ 4692)
  2. Grammar and Vocabulary Acquisition (Fr/Span 467)
  3. Phonology and Second Language Acquisition (Span 417)
  4. Second Language Acquisition and Technology (Educ 4023)

The Dissertation

Each candidate, as evidence of mastery of a specific field of knowledge and capacity for original, scholarly work, must complete a dissertation. The subject must be approved by a Research Advisory Committee consisting of at least three tenured or tenure-track faculty members. This committee is ordinarily led by the student’s major advisor and must be approved by the Office of Graduate Studies. A Title, Scope, and Procedure Form for the dissertation must be signed by the committee members and by the program Chair, and then submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies, no later than the end of the student's fourth year.

Title, Scope & Procedure Form

Notice of Title, Scope & Procedure of Thesis (Masters only)

Notice of Title, Scope & Procedure of Dissertation (PhD only)

Defense of the Dissertation


The committee before which the student is examined consists of at least five members, who normally meet two independent criteria:

  • Four of the five must be tenured or tenure-track Washington University faculty; one of these four may be a member of the Emeritus faculty. The fifth member must have a doctoral degree and an active research program, whether at Washington University, at another university, in government, or in industry.
  • Three of the five must come from the student's degree program; at least one of the five must not.

All committees must be approved by the vice dean of the Office of Graduate Studies or by his or her designee, regardless of whether they meet the normal criteria.


Attendance by a minimum of four members of the Dissertation Defense Committee, including the committee chair and an outside member, is required for the defense to take place. This provision is designed to permit your defense to proceed in case of a situation that unexpectedly prevents one of the five members from attending. Do not plan in advance to have only four members in attendance; if one of those four cannot attend, your defense must be rescheduled. Note that the absence of all outside members or of the committee chair would necessitate rescheduling the defense.

Members of the Dissertation Defense Committee normally attend in person, but one of the five (or, in case of an emergency, one of the four) members may attend virtually instead.

The committee is appointed by the vice dean of the Office of Graduate Studies upon the request of the degree program. The student is responsible for making the full text of the dissertation accessible to his or her committee members for their review in advance of the defense. Faculty and graduate students who are interested in the subject of the dissertation are normally welcome to attend all or part of the defense but may ask questions only at the discretion of the committee members. Though there is some variation among degree programs, the defense ordinarily focuses on the dissertation itself and its relation to the student’s field of expertise.

Dissertation Defense Committee Form

Submission of the Dissertation

After the defense, the student must submit an electronic copy of the dissertation on line to the Office of Graduate Studies. The submission website requires students to choose among publishing and copyrighting services offered by ProQuest UMI, but the University permits students to make whichever choices they prefer. Students are asked to submit a Survey of Earned Doctorates separately. The degree program is responsible for delivering the final approval form, signed by the committee members at the defense and then by the program Chair, to the Office of Graduate Studies. Students who defend their dissertations successfully have not completed their Ph.D. requirements; they finish earning the degree only when their dissertation submission has been accepted by the Office of Graduate Studies.

Dissertation Submission Checklist


Examination Approval Form

Examination Approval Forms are Submitted by your Department. 

Survey of Earned Doctorates

The Survey of Earned Doctorates is one of the forms required for graduation. 

Please plan to complete your Survey of Earned Doctorates prior to the dissertation deadline. Our office will be notified automatically once you complete the survey.  Your electronic submission of your dissertation will not be processed until this email arrives.  Do this as soon as possible so that our office has record of its arrival in time for graduation requirements to be met.

You will have the option to have a Certificate of Completion sent to your email address for your records.

The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago conducts this survey for a variety of government bodies including the National Endowment for the Humanities and the U.S. Department of Education. The data are used, among other things, to set student stipends. We appreciate your answering all the questions you can, but you may submit the survey with some answers left blank if you cannot locate or choose not to share any piece of information.

Post-Graduation Job Survey

Please complete this form indicating your employment/research commitment or position. 

Once submitted, you will receive an email confirmation for your records.

We look forward to hearing about what you’re doing.  Remember you can file this form again to update us on any changes.

Post Graduate Job Survey

Electronic Submission

Hard copies of Dissertation for Binding

 This is an option, and not a requirement for graduation.