Am I a Ph.D Student, or Ph.D Candidate?

This is going to sound really nitpicky (it is, but so is much of academia), but I’ve noticed some confusion among graduate students in our department as to what constitutes a Ph.D Student and what constitutes a Ph.D Candidate. I’m sure this owes more to our department’s opacity in procedural matters than anything else.

The main reason I want to point this out is to help others avoid accidentally misrepresenting their place in the program, especially to someone on the outside, such as a job search committee or colleague at a conference. So:

One is only a Candidate (or ABD) once they are course complete, exams are taken, and the prospectus is finished. All three conditions must be met for the Candidate title to be applicable, as well as approval from Graduate Studies/your advisor for the change in status.

Again, I want to reiterate that I’m not trying to be overly retentive about this, but thought it worth mentioning. This isn’t just a nomenclatural difference, as some grants, such as those from NSF, require Candidacy status to even think about applying for money.

Hope everyone’s having a good summer.

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One Response to Am I a Ph.D Student, or Ph.D Candidate?

  1. Alex Kroeger says:

    Comprehensive Examination and Admission to Candidacy
    When a student has substantially completed studies in the doctoral program (PhD, EdD, DMA), he/she must pass a written comprehensive examination, in major and minor or related fields. The written comprehensive examination is not a repetition of course examinations but is an investigation of the student’s breadth of understanding of the field of knowledge of which his/her special subject is a part.

    At the discretion of the supervisory committee, the student may also be required to pass an oral comprehensive examination. The oral examination may include the minor or related fields in addition to the major field of study. The supervisory committee arranges for written or oral examinations.

    When the student has passed the comprehensive examination, satisfied language and research tool requirements of her/his approved program, and removed any provisional admission requirements, the committee will recommend to the Office of Graduate Studies the doctoral student’s admission to Candidacy by filing the Application for Admission to Candidacy for the doctoral degree, noting the dates of completing the comprehensive examination(s). The application must be filed at least seven months prior to the final oral examination (dissertation defense).

    Following admission to Candidacy the student must register for at least one credit hour during each academic-year semester until he/she receives the doctoral degree, even if the student has already met the total dissertation hours on their approved program of study. Failure to register during each academic-year semester will result in termination of the program of study.

    NOTE: Should the Supervisory Committee determine the student has failed the comprehensive examination, a letter must be submitted by the chair of the supervisory committee to the Dean of Graduate Studies stating the conditions under which the student may attempt another examination, or part thereof, not earlier than the following academic term. Typically, but upon the discretion of the supervisory committee, only two attempts to pass the comprehensive examination will be permitted.

    For the Application for Admission to Candidacy form, see doctoral deadlines and forms at

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