Navigating your Doctoral Degree

All doctoral programs require that you 1) attain mastery of a field of knowledge through coursework and independent study as demonstrated by grades earned and by a general examination at the end of about two years of study and 2) present evidence of a capacity to complete a significant program of original work by preparation of a dissertation. Every doctoral program has specific requirements and timelines related to the milestones that must be completed to reach these two goals. You should become familiar with those requirements which are published in the University Catalog and in materials available on your program’s or department’s website.

Navigating your path to your doctoral degree

Starting Off

Review your degree requirements.

  • For a description of program specific requirements for doctoral students, go to your department or program’s entry in the University Catalog
  • Use the Catalog and your degree plan (GMAP) to identify courses you would like to take in the upcoming semester
  • Meet with your program’s Graduate Advisor to discuss your course choices and to clear any “holds” so that you can register for the courses you want

Complete a Milestone Agreement

Doctoral students must meet a number of different requirements and accomplish several different things on their way to their degrees. These include coursework, research/creative work, professional and academic development and career preparation. A clear plan that assures you manage all these tasks is immensely valuable. You are expected to create such a plan with the advice of you Graduate Advisor at the start of your doctoral studies by completing a “Milestone Agreement” that your program has created. It outlines requirements and tasks as a series of milestones and provides you an expected timeline for completing them.

  • Meet with your Graduate Advisor in your first semester of doctoral study and complete your department’s Milestone Agreement
  • Completing required coursework, the Diagnostic Examination and the Comprehensive Examination are among the first milestones all students must pass
  • Required coursework: A department or program may require a core group of courses for all of its doctoral students. Courses are generally concentrated in the student's major field, but some are normally taken in one or more complementary areas
  • Diagnostic Examination: This examination occurs after about two semesters of full-time study. It is intended to evaluate if a student will be likely to complete the Comprehensive Examination and remainder of the doctoral program successfully. The format and scope of this examination varies from program to program so you should contact your advisor for details
  • Comprehensive Examination: This examination is taken when a student has completed all or nearly all required formal coursework and is ready to focus their efforts on completing their dissertation. This examination is intended to show a student has attained the expected level mastery of their chosen field of study and is ready to move their focus from coursework to independent study and research. The format and scope of this examination varies from program to program so you should contact your advisor for details
  • Other milestones are related to professional development and dissertation completion
  • You should discuss your progress with your advisor at least annually

Be aware of these things:

Steps Required to Earn a Doctoral Degree



Select first semester courses and register

Graduate Advisor

Graduate Advisor

Prior to registration


Complete Milestone Agreement and timeline for completing degree requirements

Graduate Advisor

Graduate Advisor

Prior to or early in first semester


Schedule diagnostic examination

Graduate Advisor

Departmental examining

committee/Graduate Advisor

Usually after 18 hours of course work


Submit Diagnostic Examination Report

Graduate Advisor

Admissions, Records and Registration


When results have been finalized


Set up Supervising Committee

Graduate Advisor or

Chair of Supervising


Graduate Advisor or

Chair of Supervising


Shortly after completing the Diagnostic Examination


Make changes in degree plan. Milestone Agreement and timeline as needed

Graduate Advisor

Graduate Advisor

As needed


Take Comprehensive Examination







Typically when all or nearly all required organized course work is completed


Submit Comprehensive Examination Report




Admissions, Records and Registration


Shortly after completing the examination


Create dissertation proposal/prospectus (if required)



Supervising Committee

Deadline determined by College/Department (Consult with Committee Chair)


Complete the required number of dissertation research hours by enrolling in 6399,6699, 6999






When conducting research related to the dissertation


Enroll in 6999, 6699 or 7399 in final semester of graduation semester.

Student Responsibility

Graduate Advisor/



Semester of graduation


Apply to graduate

Student (with Grad Advisor/Supervisor approval)

Go to

for application instructions and deadlines

By the application to graduate deadline in the final semester


Schedule dissertation defense prior to semester deadline to hold defense (see Graduation website).

Graduate Advisor or Committee Chair

Graduate Advisor or Committee Chair

During registration


After the dissertation defense, obtain supervising committee signatures on Dissertation Defense Report

Supervising committee

Office of Admissions and Records via

By semester deadline to complete degree requirements


After completing all required revisions to the dissertation, submit a final PDF to the Digital Publishing Team at UTA Libraries

Student (with approval of


Committee )

UTA Libraries Open Partnerships & Services Digital Publishing Team

Prior to deadline listed here:


Submit all remaining documents required for graduation



Office of Admissions and Records and Registration

Prior to semester deadline to complete degree requirements

Doctoral student forms

Form for Diagnostic Examination Report (pdf)

Form for Comprehensive Examination Report (pdf)

Form for Dissertation Defense Report (pdf)

Milestone Conditions Update

Masters in Passing

Helpful links

Find Your Graduate Advisor

Information about degree requirements: University Catalog

 Applying to graduate

Submitting completed Dissertation Defense Report;

Submitting the final version of the dissertation manuscript to the Library


The Graduate School provides resources that can help you succeed and complete your degree. It provides advice regarding University policies and procedures that affect you and will direct you to resources that will help you solve problems you might experience. The Graduate School also offers academic, professional development and career-related programs and workshops that enrich your experience and expand your ties. Contact us at

The Graduate School does not oversee graduate coursework or graduation requirements. Departmental Graduate Advisors work closely with you on course and other requirements. When you reach the semester in which you will graduate, your advisor, together with staff in the Office of Records and Registration, will review your record and determine if you have met all degree requirements. If you have, Records and Registration will confer your degree. This means that you will need to work closely with your advisor to assure that you do not overlook requirements and will graduate on time.

Contact your graduate advisor with questions about:

  • your degree plan
  • degree requirements
  • examination requirements
  • graduation requirements

Contact Records and Registration with questions concerning:

  • whether you have met all degree requirements and are eligible to graduate
  • whether your degree has been awarded
  • your diploma
  • final transcripts
  • submitting the Diagnostic Examination Report
  • submitting the comprehensive Examination Report
  • submitting the Dissertation Defense Report

Steps to complete a doctoral degree plan

The road map above lays out the steps you have to complete in order to earn a doctorate. Steps 1-8 take you through the initial coursework-intensive phase of your doctoral studies and include the Diagnostic and Comprehensive Examination milestones. Steps 9-16 are activities that take place once you focus on your dissertation. Additional details can be found in the University Catalog, in the section on Degree Requirements and in your program’s/department’s Catalog information and website.

The Milestone Agreement you complete at the beginning of your doctoral studies provides you a list of these and related activities that are specific to your degree program and the timeline on which you should complete each. You should refer to the road map and the Milestone agreement when you review your progress annually with your advisor.