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Degree Types

Below you will find the wide variety of degrees offered at the Curry School ranging from our bachelors degrees (and even a minor) to our doctoral programs.

In addition, you can see that we have a portfolio of non-degree offerings that include certificates, course series that are designed to fulfill Virginia endorsement requirements, as well as workshops.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

The Ph.D. program prepares scholars who engage in original research.  Students participate in research apprenticeships, assisting their faculty mentors in such activities as conceptualizing research projects, collecting and analyzing data, and writing for publication.

Coursework includes topics covering research foundations (e.g., rules of inference, logic, philosophy of science), quantitative and qualitative research methods, and in-depth seminars focused on seminal and cutting-edge scholarship and evidence-based practices in their respective fields. 

Students also complete a pre-dissertation research project resulting in a manuscript submitted for publication, a written comprehensive exam covering the knowledge base and methodology of their disciplinary area(s), and a traditional dissertation or a three-paper option, described in the Curry Dissertation Manual. 

Upon completion of the Ph.D., students are prepared primarily for positions as faculty members in higher education or as researchers at research centers, policy centers, or government agencies.

Applicants must meet any additional program-specific requirements noted on the Curry website.

Academic Tracks Offered

Enrollment Requirements

Students must be enrolled continuously at the University during the fall and spring semesters while working toward the Ph.D. degree. If students are not taking courses or working with a committee, they may maintain enrollment by paying a University non-resident fee through the Office of Admission in the Curry School. Failure to maintain continuous enrollment will require students to reapply for admission. Students must be enrolled for dissertation hours during any semester in which they are working with their committee.

Learn more about admissions and enrollment requirements

Time Limit

All requirements must be completed within four years after passing comprehensive examinations and within seven years of admission to the Ph.D. program. In special cases, upon approval of the mentor, department chair, and associate dean, out-of-date work may be revalidated by examination.

Program Features

Goals of the PhD program:
All Ph.D. programs in the Curry School are designed to prepare professors and scholars with demonstrated ability to conduct research in their field of study. Programs may establish additional requirements and goals consistent with their field.

Faculty Mentors:
All entering Ph.D. students will be assigned a faculty advisor who serves as a mentor. 

Coursework and Residency:
The PhD program requires a minimum of 72 credits, although programs may require more. Students must complete at least 54 credits of coursework. This includes content courses and research methodology courses, and up to 3 credits of research apprenticeship per semester, but does not include internship and dissertation credits. At least 36 course and apprenticeship credits must be completed after admission to the program. Students can apply up to 12 credits of dissertation work towards the total of 72.

Students entering the doctoral program with a master’s degree can apply up to 24 hours of credit to their doctoral program, provided that the program area and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs agree that the courses are comparable to substitute for specific courses required in the doctoral program.

Students will ordinarily complete the program in 4 years of full-time study, or 3 years of full-time study beyond an applicable master's degree.

Research Apprenticeship:
Ph.D. students will participate in a research apprenticeship with their faculty advisors. This apprenticeship will occupy approximately 10 hours of each student’s week during the first and second years of study and may increase during the third and fourth years. During this apprenticeship, the student will assist with the advisor’s research and scholarship, which may include data collection, data analysis, library research, presentations, writing for publication, and other related activities.

Research Methodology Coursework:
All Ph.D. students will take the Research Foundations course. Students will take Stats I and Qual I, except under two circumstances: (1) the student has completed comparable coursework elsewhere; or (2) program areas makes the case that their discipline does not require one of these courses.

Individual program areas will require, in additional to the introductory courses above, several additional courses in research design, methods, measurement, and/or statistics that prepare the student to carry out research comparable to first-rate publications in the student’s field of study. It is expected that some of these courses will be at advanced levels and that students will be encouraged to take research-methods courses from other departments in the University (e.g., Sociology, Economics, History, Psychology, Public Health, etc.).

Pre-dissertation research manuscript:
Under the guidance of their program area, students will complete a pre-dissertation research project that results in a manuscript submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal or an alternative scholarly publication consistent with the program area’s discipline. The manuscript must be submitted before the student undertakes dissertation work. There is no requirement that the paper be accepted for publication, but students are encouraged to revise manuscripts if resubmission is likely to result in publication. Advisors are encouraged to work with students to shape these papers toward eventual publication; co-authored papers are acceptable.

Program areas will determine key student competencies across each year of the doctoral program. Programs may use accreditation or licensing requirements as the foundation for these competencies. Students will document their evolving competencies annually and receive written and oral feedback on their annual progress.

Qualifying Examination:
Students will complete a written comprehensive examination that covers the knowledge base and methodology of their discipline and demonstrates their readiness to undertake doctoral dissertation research. The examination will be graded independently by at least two faculty members.

All Ph.D. students will complete a dissertation proposal and a dissertation following either the traditional model or the three-paper option described in the Curry Dissertation Manual which can be found in the Resources section on the Curry website.

Life After Curry

Upon completing the Ph.D., Curry graduates typically assume positions as faculty members or post-doctoral fellows in universities or as researchers at research centers, policy centers, or government agencies.  

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