PHD Program Requirements

History PhD Program


Admission to the PhD program is determined by the department when the student has completed work for the MA degree or its equivalent. All students who enter the program with an MA degree in history from another institution have their work reviewed by the department at the end of their first semester to confirm their admission to the doctoral program.

Admission to candidacy

At least two semesters must elapse between admission to candidacy and the granting of the degree. Requirements are:

  • Course Work: Not fewer than 56 graduate credits (excluding credit for the dissertation, but including credits earned toward the MA), with an average of B+.

These courses must include:

  • HIST 592: - Historiography;*
  • Two 600-level research seminars (one of which may have been taken at the master's level).

*Students are encouraged to fulfill this requirement of HIST 592, Historiography, early in their doctoral program.


All PhD students must demonstrate competency in at least one language other than their native language; the language, or in some cases, languages, will be determined in consultation with their Guidance Committee. International students for whom English is not their first language must demonstrate proficiency in English.

Comprehensive examination

Doctoral candidates must take a comprehensive examination in one major and two minor fields OR in two major and one minor field. Every major field has a written component, either a one-day exam of six to eight hours or a take-home exam completed over a period of two weeks. The student will be examined on the written answers in the subsequent oral portion of the examination, which also tests the student's knowledge in the minor field(s), includes a defense of the prospectus and lasts three hours.

Detailed lists of both major and minor fields are available from the department and in the departmental Graduate Student Handbook.

Dissertation Prospectus

Presentation of an acceptable prospectus is assumed to be part of the PhD oral comprehensive examination. A student may, in consultation with his or her guidance committee, separate their prospectus presentation from the comprehensive examination. In such cases, the student must have a colloquium on the prospectus within three months of the PhD oral comprehensive examination. If necessary, revisions to the prospectus may be made following the comprehensive examination or prospectus colloquium. The final prospectus must in any case be on file in the department within six months of passing the comprehensive examination.

PhD candidacy

Students are officially admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree upon satisfactory completion of the comprehensive examination. Candidates for the PhD degree must maintain registration (dissertation or continuous) until all the degree requirements are completed. (See also the Graduate School policy statement.)

Granting of the Degree

The PhD in history is granted, after admission to candidacy, on successful completion of the following requirements:

  • Submission of a dissertation approved by the candidate's dissertation committee. The dissertation must present a new interpretation of a familiar subject, or an investigation of a subject hitherto neglected, and must be written under the supervision of a member of the graduate faculty

  • Successful defense of the dissertation in an oral examination

Waiver of Regulations and Requirements

The department reserves the right to alter these regulations and requirements without notice, pending the publication of the next scheduled issue of this publication.


The History Department has produced over two hundred doctorates since 1970. The majority of our Ph.D.s have gone on to academic jobs in institutions ranging from large research universities to liberal arts colleges to community colleges. Some examples of the diverse academic positions currently or recently held by some of our doctoral alumni: assistant professorships at Wheaton College, Florida State University, and SUNY Delhi.

How to apply

Applicants should see admission requirements and the online application on the Graduate School website. Prospective students are encouraged to email or call The Graduate School at, 607-777-2151 with any questions they have during the application process. 

The application deadline for fall admission with funding is January 15 (April 15 without funding). For spring semester admission, the deadline is November 1.


Graduate Secretary:
Keith Limbach
Library Tower, 707