Degree Requirements for Doctoral Programs

The following information comes from the 2017-2018 Graduate Bulletin


It is the student's responsibility to be informed concerning all regulations and procedures required by the course of study being pursued. In no case will a regulation be waived or an exception granted because a student pleads ignorance of the regulation or asserts that information was not presented by advisors or other authorities. Therefore, the student should become familiar with the Graduate School Bulletin, including 1) the section presenting the requirements for degrees and 2) the specific program offerings and requirements. The Program Coordinator in the student's major program should be consulted concerning course requirements, any deficiencies, the planning of a program, and special regulations. Programs may have degree requirements that are not listed in the Bulletin.


The purpose of academic residency is to provide doctoral students with significant time for extensive involvement with faculty, professional colleagues, and peers and to provide a period of time for concentrated study and coursework. It is structured as a full-time experience. The following are options for satisfying the residency requirements: (a) two consecutive terms of twelve (12) hours each, (b) two consecutive summer terms of twelve (12) hours each with continuous enrollment during intervening terms, or (c) three consecutive terms of nine (9) hours each. Students must consult with individual departments regarding which of these options are approved and whether online or off-campus courses can be used to establish residency. This policy differs from Mississippi residency for in-state tuition purposes.

Course Requirement & Transfer Credits

A minimum of fifty-four (54) graduate semester credit hours are required for any doctoral degree. Many departments require more than the minimum. Students must enroll in a dissertation course (898) during the degree program. No more than twelve (12) hours of 898 may be included in the program of study, according to requirements of the degree program, although additional hours may be taken. Consult specific department requirements for additional information.

Continuous Enrollment

Students must be enrolled continuously (each fall and spring semester) after completing required coursework and passing the comprehensive examination through the completion of the degree program. Students must enroll as stipulated: A. Students must enroll for a minimum of one (1) hour each fall and spring semester to maintain continuous enrollment. B. Students must enroll for one hour of dissertation (898) during the semester they expect to take the comprehensive exam  or defend and complete the doctoral nursing capstone project or dissertation. The final version of the document, approved by both the graduate committee and Documents Specialist, must be deposited in The Graduate School no later than the specified deadline. If a student fails to meet the deadline for submission, he/she must register for one (1) hour of dissertation (898) until graduation. C. Failure to enroll for at least one (1) hour during the fall and spring semesters will result in discontinuation from the university. A student who has been discontinued and seeks readmission must apply for readmission, pay an application fee, and remit payment for one hour of tuition, at the current tuition rate, for each fall and spring semester not enrolled.

Time Limitation

A doctorate must be completed within eight (8) calendar years from the date of initial enrollment in a doctoral program. Eight (8) years is the maximum age allowed for graduate credits toward a doctoral degree. A student must meet the requirements and adhere to the policies described in the Graduate Bulletin that is current the first semester of enrollment through the eighth (8th) year in the program. If a student's degree progress is slowed due to an extreme hardship, he/she may petition the department for a short extension which will be reviewed by the Dean of the Graduate School. If an extension is granted, the student becomes subject to the Graduate Bulletin that is current the semester the extension is granted, including responsibility for any changes in the requirements of the degree and/or departmental or university policies. Course re-validation will be required.

Qualifying Exam

At or near the beginning of the student's work, the department or school may require a preliminary examination to determine the student's qualification to pursue a doctoral degree and to assist the student's advisory committee in planning the degree program. The expectations for the qualifying examination are determined by the department or school, and information should be obtained from those units. The Results of the Comprehensive and/or Qualifying Exams Form should be submitted to The Graduate School immediately after the exam.

Major Professor

Your major professor is the committee member from your major field who serves as your primary academic advisor, your principal dissertation advisor, and the general mentor for your academic program and your research.

Degree Progress Report

What is a DPR?DPR is an acronym which stands for Degree Progress Report. We also refer to it as your Advising report or SMART Sheet. They all mean the same thing. Why do I need to know what my DPR is? Your DPR shows you ALL course requirements for your major, and it lists requirements for any double majors and minors. It will show you what requirements you have completed or “Satisfied,” which one’s you’re currently working on “In Progress,” and which requirements you still need to meet “Not Satisfied.” 

Comprehensive Exam

A comprehensive examination is required of all doctoral students to assess knowledge of the major field of study, and thus, must be taken after all coursework has been completed. The major department will determine whether the comprehensive exam will be written, oral, or both. It is prepared, administered, and assessed by the student's graduate committee. If an oral examination is required, the chair of the student's committee will notify the Graduate School of the time and place of the examination. A student who fails the comprehensive examination may retake the examination no sooner than three (3) months after the first attempt and may repeat the examination only once. A student being examined as a part of a cohort or group may repeat the comprehensive examination at the next scheduled administration if at least three (3) months have passed since the first attempt.Failure to complete the comprehensive examination successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. The Results of the Comprehensive Exam form must be submitted by the major professor/committee chair to the Graduate School immediately after completion of the exam. Students must register for a minimum of one (1) credit hour the semester the comprehensive exam is taken.Doctoral candidates should complete the comprehensive examination at least one (1) semester prior to the defense of the dissertation or capstone project. Note: Deadlines for Comprehensive Exams are established by the student's academic unit.

The Doctoral Dissertation or Nursing Capstone Project

The dissertation/nursing capstone project committee must be assembled before the proposal can be defended. Any change to the membership of the committee at any point requires the submission of a new Graduate Committee Request Form to the Graduate School. A dissertation/nursing capstone project proposal/prospectus should describe an original project that contributes new information to the field of study. It should be defended early in the degree program and no later than one semester before the defense. The Dissertation, Nursing Capstone, and Thesis Proposal Approval form must be submitted by the major professor/committee chair immediately after the proposal defense. As appropriate, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) must approve the project methodology before any research begins. Guidelines and templates for the preparation of the dissertation/nursing capstone project must be followed. These documents are accessible via the Communication and Documents Specialist section of the Graduate School website. The Communication and Documents Specialist ensures that dissertations/nursing capstone projects meet the university requirements, including formatting and originality. Students should allow ample time for required revisions to be done as required by the Communication and Documents Specialist. One signed original of the approved title page must be submitted to the Communication and Documents Specialist before the published deadline. If the department requires a bound copy, 1 copy of the signed title page will be required. Students are responsible for meeting all published deadlines found on the Graduate School website. If a student fails to submit the document prior to the published deadlines, the degree will be awarded the following semester, and the student must submit a deferment form and enroll in one (1) hour of 898 during that semester. The committee chair must verify that the dissertation/nursing capstone project was checked to ensure originality prior to the student's submission of the document to the Graduate School. The student must be registered for at least 1 hour of 898 the semester in which the document is defended and for subsequent semesters until the defended document is submitted, finalized, and the student graduates.

Dissertation Committee

The student's work toward the doctoral degree is supervised by a departmental committee comprised of the major professor/committee chair and three to four (3-4) additional graduate faculty members. Qualified individuals from outside the department may serve on a graduate committee if the individual has specialized knowledge that enhances the committee make up and is approved by the Graduate Council and the Dean of the Graduate School. A Graduate Committee Request Form must be submitted to the Graduate School early in the student's degree program, prior to defense of proposal or the comprehensive exam, whichever comes first. When voting on a student's performance on the qualifying exam, comprehensive exam, proposal/prospectus defense, and defense of dissertation a simple majority of the committee determines a pass.

Final Defense

A defense of the dissertation/nursing capstone project cannot occur until after the student successfully completes the comprehensive examination. The dissertation/nursing capstone project must have been submitted by the student to the graduate committee with ample time for their review. The oral defense will be conducted by the graduate committee and any other faculty members designated by the Dean of the Graduate School. A final seminar, if required by the department as a part of the defense, will be open to the public. The examination part of the defense will be closed to the public, but open to any member of the graduate faculty. Members of the graduate committee only will vote on the results of the examination. A simple majority will designate a pass. The major professor/committee chair must submit the Results of the Oral Defense form to the Graduate School immediately following the defense. If the student fails the defense on the first attempt, he/she has one additional attempt to defend the document successfully. Failure to defend the document successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. Following a successful defense any required revisions should be completed in a timely manner and the finalized document submitted to the Graduate School.