Doctoral Degree Special Requirements

Visit the GW Bulletin for details on specific Ph.D. and Psy.D. program requirements.


The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

The Doctor of Philosophy degree requires satisfactory completion of a minimum of 72 semester hours of approved graduate course work (including Dissertation Research). The program is divided into two units:

  • Pre-Candidacy consists of course work, special departmental requirements, and the General Examination
  • Candidacy includes the research, writing, and oral defense of the dissertation, known as the Final Examination

A minimum of 45, but no more than 60, of the 72 hours must be taken in Pre-Candidacy in preparation for the General Examination. The remainder of the 72 hours is taken in Candidacy as Dissertation Research credits, which must be taken in multiples of three. CCAS requires students take a minimum of 6 Dissertation Research credits; exceptions to this require the approval of the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies. The number of semester hours required for any part of the total program is assigned by the department and may exceed the minimum required by CCAS. Many departments have special departmental degree requirements in addition to those listed here.

General Examination

The Ph.D. General Examination is designed and administered by the department and consists of several examinations, some written and some oral, that cover the whole range of the student's program of study.

If you fail any part of the General Examination you may, with the approval of the department, repeat the examination at the next scheduled examination date. If this is not approved, you may be academically dismissed from your program. If you fail the examination for a second time, or you do not perform at the level required by the department, no further opportunity is permitted and you will be academically dismissed.


Following the completion of all Pre-Candidacy requirements, the department will review the whole range of your academic performance with an eye to determining the likelihood that you will succeed at producing an acceptable Ph.D. dissertation. If your department decides that there is a good chance of success at this final, and most difficult, stage, and once a dissertation committee has been established, your department will recommend that you be advanced to Candidacy. Most departments require an approved dissertation proposal before they will recommend that you be advanced.

Upon entering Candidacy, you are expected to work closely with the department and the Dissertation Research Committee. The research committee consists of your director/co-director and two readers. The director or co-director must be a member of the department/program in which you are pursuing a Ph.D. You will register for Dissertation Research credits while working on the dissertation and until the required 72 credits are completed. If you are still working on your dissertation, have completed 72 credits, and are within the degree deadline, you may register for 1 credit of Continuing Research (CCAS 0940) until you have completed the Ph.D.

When the dissertation is complete and approved by the Dissertation Research Committee, the student takes the Final Examination or Defense. Information and deadlines on the electronic submission of post-defense, final approved dissertations can be found on the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) website. The dissertation must be written, defended, and accepted (and all coursework completed) within eight years of entering the Ph.D. program. If the dissertation is not accepted within this period, and you are granted an extension on completing the degree, you may be required to repeat the entire General Examination. If your extension request is not approved, your candidacy may be terminated due to lack of satisfactory progress. In special circumstances, the Associate Dean may approve a semester's extension, in which case you may be required to register for up to six hours of Reading and Research for Audit.

Human Research Requirements

If you are planning to conduct research at GW using human subjects, which will yield generalizable knowledge in the form of a journal article, poster presentation, or Master's thesis, you must obtain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval before collecting data. Once you have defended your proposal to your committee, you can initiate the process by:

  • Downloading and completing the Non-Medical Submission checklist and Non-Medical Submission form. These items can be obtained from the Office of Human Research website.
  • Preparing a submission packet. You can refer to the submission checklist in order to decipher what you will need to turn in.

If you have any questions about this process, you may contact the Office of Human Research at any time by calling (202) 994-2715.

Failure to obtain IRB approval will result in the following:

  • You will not be allowed to collect data until you obtain IRB approval.
  • You will not be allowed to use the data collected for the intended research purposes. You may be asked to re-register for your thesis research credits and start the data collection phase over again. 
  • You will not be allowed to use the data collected for future research, i.e., you will not be able to use the information to publish or as the basis for a future study.
  • If the study is funded, you will not have access to the funds.

Final Examination

The Final Examination or Defense is designed, scheduled, and administered by your department. It is an oral examination conducted by the Final Examination Committee, which consists of your Dissertation Committee (director and two readers at a minimum) and two other examiners, at least one of whom must come from outside your department or outside GW. Your current or prospective immediate supervisor of employment is not permitted to be an examiner.

Once you have successfully completed the Final Examination and the Committee has verified that any required revisions to the dissertation have been made, you must submit the following:

These materials must be submitted by the deadlines posted on the ETD website for the semester in which you are graduating. If you do not submit the required materials by the deadline, CCAS will not be able to clear you for graduation. You will then need to register for the next semester and reapply for graduation.

Formatting guidelines are noted on the ETD site. The guidelines are designed to produce documents that are uniform in style, but they also allow for the particular requirements of various disciplines.

The certification page in the dissertation should only include the core research committee (director/co-director and two readers). Please use academic titles only (you can find this information in the University Bulletin). Do not use titles such as Dr., PhD, or MD.

Dissertations will first be sent to the Gelman Library for approval. Once approved by Gelman, the dissertation will be forwarded to CCAS for a final check. You may receive instructions from Gelman or CCAS to make changes and upload a revised edition of your work. The student will be notified by email once the dissertation has been approved and forwarded to ProQuest. Requested changes must be submitted in a timely manner in order for CCAS to clear you for graduation.

You must pay any ProQuest fees directly online. The amount charged will depend on the publishing options you choose. GW recommends students choose the Open Access option in the interest of making their scholarship as accessible as possible.

Accepted dissertations and any accompanying illustrations become the property of the University. The University is to be given credit for material used in the publication of any portion of a dissertation, whether as a direct quotation or as an adaptation.

The Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)

The program leading to the degree of Doctor of Psychology requires the satisfactory completion of a minimum of 83 credit hours of approved graduate course work. A maximum of 12 credit hours may be taken in courses offered by the other affiliated members of the Consortium of Universities. Doctor of Psychology degree candidates have an overall five-year (10 semester) time limit for completion of all course requirements. 

Major Area Paper 

All Psy.D. students must complete a Major Area Paper (MAP). Submission of the MAP is handled internally within the Professional Psychology program, and papers are not submitted to the ETD website at this time. 

If you complete your MAP prior to the start of the semester in which you will begin your internship, you will be permitted to register for a special section of the zero-credit Continuous Enrollment course for the duration of your internship. If your MAP is not complete by the start of the semester in which you begin your internship, you are required to register for 1 credit of Continuing Research (CR). Your registration cannot be changed in the middle of a semester, so if you complete your MAP after the semester has started you must remain registered for CR. However, you may register for the zero-credit Internship course in subsequent semesters. 

Your MAP must be complete by April 1 in order for you to walk in the Spring Doctoral Hooding Ceremony and other graduation ceremonies. If your MAP is not complete by April 1, you will be invited to attend the Hooding Ceremony in the following year. 

The General Examination 

You are required to complete the General Examination. If you fail to pass any part of the General Examination you may, with the approval of the program, repeat the examination at the next scheduled examination date. If you are not approved to retake the general examination, your degree candidacy will be terminated. If you fail a second time, no further opportunity to take the examination is permitted and your degree candidacy will be terminated.