Skip to Search Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

5. Doctoral Degree Regulations

Degree Requirements

University-wide Requirements

In order to receive a doctoral degree from UTSA, the following minimum requirements must be met:

  1. The student must be admitted as a doctoral degree-seeking student for the degree sought.
  2. The student must remove all conditions of admission, if any were assigned at the time of admission.
  3. The student must maintain continuous enrollment in doctoral-level courses until time of graduation. Exceptions are made for students on an approved leave of absence.
  4. Upon satisfying the admission to candidacy requirements, the student must be approved for admission to candidacy by the Graduate Program Committee, academic College and the Dean of the Graduate School.
  5. Upon satisfying the Dissertation Committee requirements and upon recommendation of the Graduate Program Committee, the academic College, and the Graduate School, the Dissertation Committee is appointed.
  6. The student must pass the final oral examination (defense of dissertation).
  7. All completed coursework included in the final program of study must have been taken within the preceding eight years to include successful completion and defense of the dissertation. 
  8. The student must formally apply for the degree in the Office of the Registrar no later than the deadline for the semester in which they intend to graduate (for deadlines, see the online registration calendar).
  9. The student must meet the grade-point-average requirement of 3.0 or higher (on a 4.0 scale) in all work counted as part of the degree program.
  10. No courses in which grades of less than “C” (below 2.0 on a 4.0 scale) were earned may be applied to a doctoral degree.
  11. To graduate, all doctoral students must have a grade point average of at least a 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) and be in good academic standing..
  12. The majority of graduate coursework must be completed at UTSA.

Residence Requirement

Depending on doctoral program requirements, a student may be required to spend at least two consecutive semesters (Fall and Spring, Summer Terms I and II and Fall, or Spring and Summer Terms I and II) in residence as a full-time student taking a minimum of 9 semester credit hours each residence semester.

Milestones Agreement Form

Doctoral programs in The University of Texas System are required to use the Milestones Agreement form to develop an agreement between each student entering a doctoral program and the department administering the program. The Milestones Agreement form will address time-to-completion and meeting program expectations. Students entering a doctoral program are required to sign the Milestones Agreement form and to work with program faculty on a regular basis in order to assess progress toward the milestones identified by their program.

Grade Point Average

A grade point average of “B” (3.0 on a 4.0 scale) must be maintained in each of the following:

  1. All coursework completed at UTSA.
  2. Graduate courses in the student’s major.
  3. Graduate courses in the student’s support field.

In computing grade point averages, grades from other institutions are not used.

Course Requirements

No specific number of semester credit hours of coursework has been established for doctoral programs at UTSA, although advanced coursework is an essential part of a doctoral candidate’s preparation. Individual doctoral programs may set minimum semester-credit-hour requirements for the attainment of the degree.

Support Work

In addition to courses and research in a field of specialization within the major, supporting coursework will be taken to broaden or supplement the student’s preparation.

Support work may consist of coursework in one area or several; it may be in conference, laboratory, or problems courses; it may be a supervised activity off campus relevant to the major interest. Some portion, not necessarily all, of the support work is normally outside the major area unless that area is of a multidisciplinary nature. At least three courses, or their equivalents, from outside the area of specialization are generally required.

Language Proficiency

Students are required to possess a competent command of English. Proficiency in a foreign language is a matter of degree option. Students should refer to individual degree descriptions for English and foreign language proficiency requirements.

Continuous Doctoral Enrollment

By the twelfth (12th) class day of each Fall and Spring Semester of each academic year, all doctoral students are required to be enrolled in doctoral level classes until the time of graduation. Some doctoral programs also require enrollment in the Summer Semester. Students should verify whether Summer Semester enrollment is mandatory in their program. For students whose programs do not require Summer enrollment, registration during the Summer Semester is not necessary unless the student intends to make use of University facilities or faculty time.

Doctoral students receiving funding may be required by their funding source to enroll on a full-time basis. Students should confirm with their doctoral program to ensure compliance with all funding requirements.

If a student has been admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree, registration in the dissertation course or the equivalent is required. The only alternative to continuous registration is a leave of absence.

If a student who is not on approved leave fails to register by the twelfth (12th) class day, he or she may not return to the University without applying for readmission to the graduate program and must pay the Graduate School application fee. The application is reviewed by the Doctoral Studies Committee, which may choose to readmit the student or to deny admission.

Leave of Absence

Students enrolled in a doctoral program may apply for a leave of absence for one Fall or Spring semester when events such as illness or injury, active military service, or the need to provide care for a family member prevent active participation in the degree program. Continuous registration as a doctoral student is required unless a formal leave of absence is granted by the dean of the college in which the student’s program is administered. A leave of absence may be granted for military duty or medical reasons. A leave of absence may be granted for other reasons if additional approval is obtained by the Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School. No degree examinations may be taken while a student is on a leave of absence. If the student has not yet been admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree, this request must be approved in advance of the leave by the graduate adviser. If the student has been admitted to candidacy, the application must be approved in advance by the graduate adviser and the graduate associate dean of the college and Dean of the Graduate School. A leave of absence is required for Fall and Spring semesters (and/or Summer if doctoral program mandates Summer enrollment). Under no circumstances may a leave of absence be applied retroactively.

A leave of absence will prevent the student from receiving student funding from his or her program and may affect ability to receive financial aid or loans and/or to defer payments on loans. Students should contact the Office of Financial Aid with questions regarding financial aid or loan status.

A student returning from a leave of absence must enroll for the following Fall or Spring Semester or provide a written request for a leave of absence extension (a leave of absence may not exceed one year throughout the student’s degree program).

A student who does not register or who does not secure an approved leave of absence extension each semester will be considered to have withdrawn and will be dropped from the program and from candidacy for the degree. Approval of a Petition for Reinstatement will be required for reinstatement. For more information, visit the Graduate School Web site at

Transfer of Credit

Students are expected to complete all coursework at UTSA. Exceptions require approval of the appropriate Graduate Program Committee, academic College, and the Graduate School, and must meet conditions for transfer of credit. Work counted toward a degree at another institution cannot be transferred.

Conditions for transfer of credit:

  1. Students must complete the form “Transfer of Graduate Credit towards Doctoral Degree.”
  2. The courses must have been completed with a “B” (3.0) or better.
  3. Coursework must be from an accredited university and have not been used in another degree program.
  4. An official transcript from the institution where the coursework was completed must be submitted.
  5. All coursework must have been completed no more than six years before the degree was awarded.
  6. Coursework is subject to approval of the appropriate Graduate Program Committee and academic College in which the program is administered.
  7. Courses must be defined as graduate-level work at the institution where the credit was earned.
  8. International transcripts must be evaluated by a UTSA approved foreign credential evaluation service agency.

Students should not take courses they plan to transfer from another institution the semester they plan to graduate due to the time limitation on receiving the grades and certifying the student for graduation.

Applicants with a master’s degree in the field of the doctoral program of interest or related field may apply a maximum of 30 semester credit hours of previously earned graduate credit toward a post-baccalaureate doctoral degree program, pending approval from the Graduate Program Committee, academic College, and Dean of the Graduate School; provided the credit has not been used toward another doctoral degree.

Limited Acceptability

UTSA Undergraduate Courses
Credit earned in undergraduate-level courses may not be applied to a doctoral degree program. Such courses may be taken to meet background or support requirements, if necessary.

Not Accepted

Correspondence and Extension Courses
Courses completed by correspondence or extension may not be applied to a doctoral degree program.

Courses Counted for Another Degree
No courses counted toward a master’s degree may be counted towards a doctoral degree requiring a master’s degree for admission.

No course counted toward another doctoral degree may be counted toward a doctoral degree at UTSA, either directly or by substitution.

Graduate Program Committee Requirements

The Graduate Program Committee specifies the coursework the student must complete, the qualifying examinations (written, oral, or both) the student must pass, the conditions under which the student may retake all or part of a qualifying examination, and the procedures the student must follow in developing a dissertation proposal.

In consultation with the graduate advisor, the student proposes a Dissertation Committee to advise or direct the student on the research and writing of the dissertation. The student selects the chair of the Dissertation Committee, with the consent of that person and permission of the academic College, and the Dean of the Graduate School.

Admission to Candidacy

Students seeking a doctoral degree at UTSA must be admitted to candidacy. In order to be admitted to candidacy, the student must comply with the following requirements:

  1. Fulfill the requirements for unconditional admission as a graduate degree-seeking student, which entails the removal of any conditions assigned at the time of admission.
  2. Satisfy any special admission requirements established for the degree program.
  3. Be in good standing.
  4. Pass a qualifying examination (written, oral, or both) prepared by the Graduate Program Committee and meet any other requirements specified by the Graduate Program Committee for the specific degree program.
  5. Submit a proposed program of study.
  6. Upon satisfying the above requirements, be recommended for admission to candidacy by the appropriate Graduate Program Committee, which in the case of interdisciplinary programs is a committee appointed by the Graduate School, consisting of no fewer than five members of the Graduate Faculty, with at least one representative from each of the disciplines included in the program.
  7. Having satisfied the above requirements, be approved for admission to candidacy by the academic College and the Dean of the Graduate School.

Back To Top

Completing the Degree

Program of Study

Before admission to candidacy, the student’s proposed program of study is under the direction of the Graduate Program Committee in the major program area through an appropriate program advisor, if designated, and the Graduate Advisor of Record. Upon admission to candidacy and the formation of the student’s dissertation committee, the program of study comes under the purview of the Dissertation Committee, which reviews the proposed program of study and recommends to the Graduate Program Committee any additional course requirements. The final program of study, as approved by the Graduate Program Committee, is then recommended to the academic College and the Graduate School for approval. Approval of the final program of study by the Graduate School is a degree requirement. All completed coursework included in the final program of study must have been taken within the preceding eight years. No course for which a grade of less than “C” was earned can be applied to the doctoral degree.

Students who are admitted to a doctoral program directly from the bachelor’s-level degree and who complete all requirements for the master’s degree and who pass their doctoral qualifying examination may apply to receive their master’s degree. Courses counted toward the master’s degree may also be included in the overall requirements of the doctorate. Final approval for the interim master’s degree will not be processed for the current semester if received after the Census Date.

Qualifying Examination

All students seeking a doctoral degree must pass a qualifying examination. This examination consists of questions to test the candidate’s knowledge and command of the major field. An examination covering support work is not a University-wide requirement, but it may be required at the discretion of the Graduate Program Committee or the Dissertation Committee.

Registration during Examination Semester(s)

Students must be registered during any semester or term in which they are taking required examinations.

Dissertation Committee

Upon admission to candidacy and in consultation with the Graduate Advisor of Record, the student selects their supervising professor with that professor’s consent. Upon recommendation of the Graduate Program Committee and the academic College, the Graduate School appoints the Dissertation Committee. The committee must consist of at least four members, including the supervising professor who consults with other members of the committee as work proceeds.

The Dissertation Committee advises the student on the research and writing of the dissertation, conducts the final oral examination, and approves the dissertation. The chair of the Dissertation Committee ordinarily serves as the supervisor of research. Other members of the committee should be consulted as appropriate. Occasionally, a research professor or researcher who is not a member of the Graduate Faculty may be recommended by the Graduate Program Committee to serve as the supervisor for a specific dissertation because his or her expertise would be valuable to the student. When the research supervisor is not a member of the Graduate Faculty in the student’s area of study, a member of the Graduate Program Committee will be appointed as co-chair of the Dissertation Committee. The chair of the Dissertation Committee must be a member of the Graduate Faculty for that graduate program. Changes to the Dissertation Committee require documentation to be signed by the Department Chair, the Dean of the College, and the Dean of the Graduate School and must be received by the Graduate School.

In addition to recommending the student’s final program of study to the Graduate Program Committee and supervising the research and writing of the dissertation, the Dissertation Committee certifies to the academic College and the Graduate School that all degree requirements have been fulfilled.

Time Limit for Completing Doctoral Degree

Doctoral students have a time to degree completion of eight years comprised of six years from admission to candidacy and two years for dissertation. If the student takes an approved leave of absence, the time limit for reaching candidacy or completing the degree will be extended by the number of terms the student is on approved leave of absence. All completed work that is included in a doctoral student’s degree program at the time of admission to candidacy must have been taken within the previous six years (exclusive of a maximum of three years of military service). The Graduate Program Committee will review the programs of students who have not completed the degree at the end of two years from admission to candidacy; the committee will review the status of the student’s program yearly thereafter. At those times, the committee may recommend additional coursework, further examinations, or termination of candidacy. In addition, the program is subject to review by the Dean of the Graduate School.

Doctoral Dissertation

A dissertation is required of every candidate and must be an original contribution to scholarship, based on independent investigation in the major area. It must be approved by the Dissertation Committee. Registration for the dissertation must be for a period of more than one semester. During each semester or term that a student receives advice and/or assistance from a faculty member or supervision by the Dissertation Committee or uses University resources, they are required to enroll in the appropriate dissertation course.

Final Oral Examination (Defense of Dissertation)

A satisfactory final oral examination is required for the approval of a dissertation. After the Dissertation Committee makes a decision, which must be unanimous, to accept a dissertation for examination, the supervising professor notifies the Graduate School at least two weeks in advance of the date of the final oral examination.

The examination covers the dissertation and the general field of the dissertation, and other parts of the student’s program as determined by the committee. All members of the Dissertation Committee must be satisfied that the student has:

  1. completed the work assigned by the committee;
  2. passed all examinations required by the program’s Graduate Program Committee, including the final oral examination;
  3. completed a dissertation that is an independent investigation in the major field, and that itself constitutes a contribution to knowledge; and
  4. submitted an abstract for publication in Dissertation Abstracts International that meets with the approval of the committee.

Once this is complete, the Dissertation Committee members sign the approval sheets for the doctoral dissertation and make an official recommendation to the academic College and the Dean of the Graduate School that the doctoral degree be awarded. Approval must be unanimous.

A student must be enrolled for dissertation hours during the semester the student plans to defend the dissertation.

Submission and Publication of Dissertation

When the student has successfully defended the dissertation, he or she is required to make arrangements for its publication with the Graduate School. Students are required to adhere to the detailed requirements of dissertation formatting guidelines and deadlines for submission of the dissertation. For information on deadlines, visit the Graduate School Web site at Dissertations received after the posted deadline will not be accepted. Two unbound copies, including the original of the dissertation, must be on file at the Graduate School by the submission deadline. The two copies are for the UTSA library. Students are responsible for uploading their complete dissertation to ProQuest UMI for publishing with the option of ordering personal copies for binding. The student is required to pay all associated fees.

The format of the dissertation must follow University regulations or it will not be accepted. The original copy must adhere to the most current dissertation formatting guidelines at time of submission. The student may request that the Graduate School delay in making the dissertation available to the public for one or more years in order to protect the patent or other rights. This request must be supported by a written recommendation from the dissertation supervisor.

Registration of copyright at the author’s expense may be arranged, if desired and appropriate, by completing the online form through ProQuest UMI when uploading the final draft. In order to protect patent or other rights, the student or supervising professor may request that the Graduate School delay publication for one year. This request must be supported by a written recommendation by the student’s supervising professor.

Acceptance of the dissertation requires final approval from the Dean of the Graduate School.

Approval of the Degree

Upon approval by the Dissertation Committee of the dissertation and its defense, the Graduate Program Committee certifies to the academic College and the Dean of the Graduate School that the student has completed all degree requirements, has passed all required examinations, and is entitled to the award of the doctoral degree.

Back To Top