Doctoral Degree Handbook

What follows is a combined listing of program and Graduate School requirements and a suggested timeline. It is understood that each student's situation is unique and that the actual timeline for each student may vary, but it is important to remember that all master's degrees conferred by the University of Minnesota must be earned within five calendar years of initial enrollment in the program. Additional information about completing a Masters Degree at the University of Minnesota can be found on the Graduate Student Services and Progress (GSSP) website

Additionally, please see our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Prior to Arriving on Campus

  • Your relationship with your advisor(s) is arguably the most important relationship you will have in graduate school. Early on, communicate with your advisor(s) about your role as their student, mutual expectations, your assistantship (if applicable), and courses you plan to take for the first semester.
  • Students may choose to refer to the Advisor-Advisee Agreement (PDF) document to help facilitate conversations, and may choose to discuss completing the document with the advisor.
  • Consider consulting the Best Advising Practices (PDF) document as well.
  • Register for classes with the help of your advisor(s). If you're new to the University, you'll need to activate your University e-mail address.
  • Be sure to enroll in our required orientation course, NR 8101.

Upon Arrival

  • Meet with your advisor(s) and establish a meeting schedule. This can vary a great deal from person to person - some students meet weekly with their advisor; others may meet once or twice a month or less seldom. It is also common for this to change from semester to semester depending upon the student's needs.
  • Introduce yourself to the NRSM Program Coordinator and Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).
  • Go to your major advisor's departmental office to visit departmental administrator. Here you will likely obtain a mailbox, office assignment, keys, employment forms, and information about your assistantship (if applicable).
    • If you do have an assistantship, you will likely need to provide various documents to a payroll contact to make sure you are eligible to work at the University.

First Year

  • If you already possess a master's degree, you may be ready to work with your major advisor(s) to identify your thesis topic and develop your research prospectus. If you do not possess a master's degree, your first year will be largely focused on taking coursework and getting accustomed to being a graduate student, and you will most likely not submit these materials until your second or even third year.
  • At some point, all students must submit the GPAS Degree Plan and the NRSM Research Plan form. There is no one right time to submit this paperwork; there are many variables that affect the doctoral degree timeline. The only stipulation is that these documents must be on file and fully approved before you can sit for prelims and advance to candidacy.
    • Your advisor has the option of submitting their portion directly to the program coordinator or giving it to you for inclusion with the rest of the document.
    • Please note that approval of the degree and research plans can take up to a month.
  • Talk to your advisor about taking thesis credits (NR 8888). These can be taken at any time, pending your advisor's approval. By the time you graduate, you must have taken 24 thesis credits.
  • Meet with major advisor(s) at the end of each academic year to complete an Annual Student Review and discuss degree progress and goals for the future. This is a mandatory process, and each spring we will share necessary information for completing it.

Early to Mid Doctoral Career (Years 2 - 3 or 4)

  • Complete course requirements:
    • 24 thesis credits - NR 8888
    • 35 coursework credits (minimum),
      • Applicable graduate coursework credits may be transferred in pending committee, program, and Graduate School approval. Pending this approval, there is no limit on how many credits may be transferred, but the University requires that at least 12 course credits be completed here at the University of Minnesota.
      • NRSM Seminar - NR 8107
        • Doctoral students who completed NR 8107 during their MS degree do not have to retake the seminar requirement.
  • Complete the Written and Oral Preliminary Examinations.
  • Work with your advisor(s) and committee members to conduct research and prepare your dissertation.

Late Doctoral Career (Year 4 or 5)

  • If you have completed prelims and otherwise qualify, complete the advanced doctoral status form and register for NR 8444. This special registration status allows you to maintain full-time status, which enables you to maintain an assistantship or fellowship. For international students, it generally allows you to maintain your visa status as well.
  • Work with advisor(s) and committee to prepare for dissertation defense.
  • When preparing to defend your dissertation, visit the Final Doctoral Examination page for important information about preparation, paperwork, and requirements.
  • Record your final oral exam committee
  • Apply to graduate no later than the first day of the anticipated month of graduation. 
  • Initiate your Reviewers’ Report form at least one week before your final exam at:
    • All committee members designated as “reviewers” submit their responses before your final exam.
  • Schedule your exam at least one week in advance. You will be emailed a link to access your Final Exam form for graduate students after you have met all of the above requirements. Your record will also be reviewed for completion of coursework and adherence to policy.
  • Prior to the last business day of the month, initiate your Thesis/Dissertation Approval & Deposit AgreementAdvisors must submit their approval no later than the last business day of the anticipated month of graduation, so please plan accordingly.
  • Submit your dissertation to ProQuest no later than the last business day of the anticipated month of graduation. 
    • Ensure your dissertation meets University formatting guidelines and is free of errors prior to submission. Details about dissertation formatting requirements and submission are available at
  • Return keys to your department, along with any other equipment you may have borrowed.