Degree and Certificate Programs

Doctoral Degrees in Education

Doctoral Candidacy
Doctoral Candidacy
Qualifying Examinations

Prior to beginning a doctoral dissertation and at or near the time of completion of all course work, all doctoral students in the School of Education must pass a qualifying examination in their major areas of study. In effect, this examination process is intended to determine if a student is qualified to begin work on a doctoral dissertation.

A minor area qualifying examination is also required for all education majors who are minoring in another education program area. Students whose minor is outside of education may or may not have to take a minor examination, depending on the policy of the minor department. Students with interdepartmental minors must take a minor qualifying examination if their minor member is an education faculty member or if the majority of their minor course work is in education. Doctoral students whose major is outside of education, and who are minoring in education, may or may not be required to take qualifying examinations, depending on the judgment of the minor representative.



Education Major

Minor qualifying examination required

Depends on policy of minor department

Non-Education Major

Depends on judgment of minor rep­resentative


Departments and programs determine the specific form of qualifying examination their students will take and establish the times at which examinations will be administered. Students need to file an application with their major and minor departments in the School of Education to take their qualifying examinations. Such application forms are available in departmental offices.

All qualifying examinations contain written and oral components. The written component will take one of three forms: a proctored examination, a take-home examination, or a portfolio.

  1. A proctored examination in the major area is administered in the School of Education in two four-hour sessions on consecutive days. The minor area examination is administered in a four-hour session on a third day. The major and minor examinations may be taken in the same semester or in different semesters.
  2. Students completing a take-home examination in either their major or minor area should contact the appropriate program or department for examination requirements.
  3. For portfolios, students work with their doctoral advisory committee to determine the contents of the portfolio and a timeline for its completion. Students choosing this option should see their advisors regarding specific requirements for preparation of their portfolios.

Students are not required to register for the semester they are taking qualifying exams (see section on maintaining active student status).

After all portions of the written component of the qualifying examinations are taken, an oral examination must be held. The primary purpose of this examination is for the advisory committee to review the answers to the written qualifying examination questions, to request elaboration or clarification to questions that were poorly or incompletely answered, and to quiz the student in-depth over any or all of the examination material. The date of passing the oral qualifying examination is a critical date. The seven years for course currency are counted backward from this date, and the seven years for completion of the dissertation are counted forward from this date. (See "Seven-Year Rule" in the section titled The Dissertation.)

Students who fail some or all portions of the qualifying examinations may be allowed to retake these portions. This decision is made by the student's advisory committee and the department chair, and is based on the student's overall program performance and the extent of the deficits on the qualifying examinations. Only one retake of the qualifying examinations is allowed.

In order to be eligible to take the qualifying examinations a student must have:

  1. been admitted unconditionally to the doctoral program;
  2. an appointed doctoral advisory committee and a doctoral program of studies that has been approved by the Office of Graduate Studies; and
  3. completed all or nearly all doctoral course work, with no more than 6 credit hours graded as incomplete.

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Nomination to Candidacy

It is the responsibility of the advisory committee, either before or during the oral examination, to review all aspects of the student's doctoral program work, to assess the student's development as a scholar and a professional educator, and, if appropriate, to discuss topics for dissertation research and career goals. Thus, the committee is expected to assess the student's progress in the doctoral program, inventory the work remaining, plan program requirements to ensure a good fit to career goals, and offer criticism, advice, and encouragement.

Review of all scholarly work produced by the student is an integral component of this program review. It is the responsibility of the advisory committee, and especially of the committee chair, to examine all major scholarly works produced by the student during the program of studies. These works include the research manuscript that resulted from the early inquiry experience study, papers presented at conferences or published, and scholarly works produced in courses taught throughout the program of studies. (These may include literature reviews, position papers, curriculum development projects, program evaluation studies, measurement instrument construction studies, needs assessments, library research studies, and data-based research.) Some doctoral programs have lists and descriptions of the types of scholarly products expected of their students prior to nomination to candidacy.

When the advisory committee is satisfied with the student's performance in the written and oral qualifying examinations and with the student's overall progress in the doctoral program, the student is nominated to candidacy.

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Admission to Candidacy

Admission to candidacy is awarded after the student has been nominated to candidacy and after all required course work has been completed. Considerable time may sometimes elapse between nomination to candidacy and admission to candidacy, due to incomplete course work or old course work requiring revalidation.

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Additional program information can be found at the Office of Graduate Studies.