Academic Programs Catalog

Graduate Education

Doctoral Programs

Michigan State University offers programs leading to the degrees of Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.), Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.), Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.), and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.).

Programs of study for doctoral degrees are administered by guidance committees, departments, schools, divisions, and colleges subject to policies approved by the University Committee on Graduate Studies.

Specific information about the programs leading to doctoral degrees offered by the colleges of Education, Human Medicine, Nursing, Osteopathic Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, and the College of Law may be obtained from the specific college sections of this catalog. The following information applies only to the Ph.D. and D.M.A. degrees.



Credit Requirements

Normally six or more semesters of study and research beyond the bachelor's degree are needed to complete a Ph.D. or D.M.A. program, although time is less important than scholarly achievement. The minimum number of courses or course credits required for a doctoral degree is determined by individual colleges and/or departments or schools.

 


Residence

One year of residence on campus after first enrollment for doctoral degree credit is required to permit the student to work with and under the direction of the faculty, and to engage in independent and cooperative research utilizing university facilities. A year of residence will be made up of two consecutive semesters, involving the completion of credits at the level of full-time status of graduate work each semester.

 


Planning a Doctoral Program and Appointment of a Guidance Committee

Each graduate student admitted to a doctoral program has the responsibility to form a guidance committee with the approval and the assistance of the department or school chairperson or director or designated representative. The guidance committee will consist of at least four Michigan State University regular faculty at least three of whom, including the committee chairperson, possess an earned doctoral degree, preferably of the same type that the student is seeking (for example, Ph.D.). For the D.M.A. degree, the guidance committee will consist of at least four regular MSU faculty, at least two of whom, including the committee chairperson, possess the D.M.A. degree. As defined in the Faculty Handbook:  “ The ‘regular faculty’ of Michigan State University shall consist of all persons appointed under the rules of tenure and holding the rank of professor, associate professor, assistant professor, or instructor, and persons appointed as librarians. In addition, the principal administrative officer of each  major educational and research unit of the university shall be a member of the ‘regular faculty.’ “

An exception may be granted by the Dean of the Graduate School to allow a non–tenure stream faculty member or an Academic Specialist to serve on a doctoral student's guidance committee as one of the four required faculty members or, in special circumstances, as the chairperson of a doctoral student's guidance committee. With the approval of the chairperson or director of the department or school, an exception may be granted to allow an Emeritus faculty member to serve as one of the four required faculty members on a doctoral student's guidance committee; in addition, an Emeritus faculty member may continue to serve as the chairperson of a guidance committee. More than four persons may be members of the guidance committee. Persons who are not Michigan State University regular faculty who can contribute to the student's program may serve as members of the guidance committee and assist in the work of the committee, providing that the number of such persons does not exceed the number of regular faculty on the committee. In consultation with the student, the guidance committee plans the entire program, including examinations, and thereafter supervises it, making modifications as needed until the degree is completed.

The guidance committee shall be formed no later than the third semester of doctoral study, or within two semesters beyond the master's degree or its equivalent. Within one semester after the committee has met, the student shall initiate and submit for approval a Ph.D. Degree Plan via GradPlan, listing all agreed upon degree requirements. This Plan, as changed or amended in full consultation between the graduate student and the committee and approved by the appropriate department or school chairperson or director and the dean of the college, shall be regarded as the official statement of program requirements. GradPlan user guides can be found at https://grad.msu.edu/gradplan. To start a Ph.D. Degree Plan go to https://grad.msu.edu/gradplan.  

The Ph.D. Degree Plan includes course requirements and comprehensive exam areas, with a timetable, and  a tentative dissertation topic. The committee also recommends whether to accept any graduate credit beyond the master's degree level that was taken at other institutions; whether any study may be done in absentia, and under what conditions; what language examinations or alternative program, if any, the student must complete; and which member of the committee should later direct the research that is to form the basis of the student's dissertation.

Once designated, the guidance committee has the responsibility to meet periodically to oversee the graduate student's progress for as long as the graduate student continues in good standing. Any desired or required changes in the membership of the guidance committee may be made by the graduate student with the concurrence of the unit chairperson or director or designated representative, or by the unit with the concurrence of the graduate student in accordance with university, college, and unit policy. The membership of the guidance committee, with the concurrence of the graduate student, may be changed as appropriate to the dissertation topic. Guidance committee chairpersons on leave shall provide for the necessary guidance of their advisees during their absence.

The guidance committee is responsible for insuring the adequacy of the overall program, in keeping with the general policy that six or more semesters of study and research beyond the bachelor's degree are required.


Program of Study

During the course of study leading to the completion of the doctorate, a student will meet university, college, and department or school requirements, including:

  1. taking certifying or qualifying examinations as required by the department, school, or college.
  2. completing courses in the major and related fields as prescribed by a guidance committee.
  3. fulfilling any college or departmental or school language requirements.
  4. meeting the academic standards, including maintaining a 3.00 cumulative grade–point average, required by university, college, and department or school policies. 
  5. passing doctoral comprehensive examinations covering the major and related fields.
  6. preparing a dissertation that is acceptable to the guidance committee and that is based on original research which makes a significant contribution to knowledge.
  7. passing a final oral examination in defense of the dissertation.

 


Examinations Other Than Comprehensives

Certain colleges, departments, or schools may require that a student early in the program take some form of certifying or qualifying examination. The results are used to determine if the student should be encouraged to proceed in a doctoral program, and, if so, to determine any weakness that exists in background knowledge which may be strengthened by including appropriate courses in the doctoral program.

 


Course Requirements

Courses (in addition to those numbered 999 Doctoral Dissertation Research) will be prescribed by the guidance committee to insure that the student will have a comprehensive knowledge of a major field and related subjects. The courses that a student is required to complete will depend upon prior academic background in relation to the selected graduate program.

 


Doctoral Comprehensive Examinations

When the prescribed course work is substantially complete as defined by the guidance committee, the doctoral student is eligible to take the comprehensive examinations covering the major and related fields. At least one component of the comprehensive examinations must be written and must be maintained in the department or school office for three years. Colleges, departments, or schools may also require an oral component. Students must be registered during the semester(s) in which they take comprehensive examinations (see Maximum and Minimum Credits). This requirement may be waived if the examination is administered during the summer session immediately following a spring semester during which the student was registered and/or prior to a fall semester in which the student will be registered.

Scheduling, composing, and evaluating the comprehensive examinations is done in accordance with college, department, and school policy. In the case of a comprehensive examination that consists of more than one part, the date that the student passes the examination is the date on which he or she passes the final component of the comprehensive examination. The department, school, or college shall make available to doctoral students upon matriculation a written explanation of comprehensive examination procedures. The comprehensive examinations must be completed before an oral defense of the dissertation can be scheduled.

For the Doctor of Philosophy and the Doctor of Musical Arts degrees, all of the comprehensive examinations must be passed within five years and all remaining requirements for the degree must be completed within eight years from the time when a student begins the first class at Michigan State University that appears on his or her doctoral program of study. Application for extensions of the eight-year period of time toward degree must be submitted by the department/school for approval by the dean of the college and the Dean of the Graduate School. Upon approval of the extension, doctoral comprehensive examinations must be passed again.

 


Research

Each student working toward a Doctor of Philosophy degree must conduct original research upon which a dissertation which makes a significant contribution to knowledge is to be prepared and published. The research is to be under the direction of and acceptable to the guidance committee. All doctoral students must register for and successfully complete a minimum of 24 credits and no more than a total of 36 credits of doctoral dissertation research (course number 999). For additional information see Costs in the General Information, Policies, Procedures and Regulations section of this catalog.

It is a policy of Michigan State University to permit and facilitate dissertation research by students from developing nations in their home countries, whenever feasible.

 


Dissertation and Abstract

The dissertation and an abstract of the dissertation must be prepared in accordance with the specifications in the Formatting Guide-Master's Theses and Doctoral Dissertations, a handbook that is available, along with a packet of required forms relating to the dissertation online from The Graduate School at www.grad.msu.edu/etd.

After the guidance committee chairperson—and, if required by unit bylaws, other members of the guidance committee—indicate(s) that the dissertation is acceptable for examination, and not later than the date determined by the department the semester in which graduation is anticipated, the student must submit copies of the dissertation and abstract for distribution to the guidance committee chairperson, other guidance committee members, and, if necessary, to any appointed examiner. The inclusion of a "public" abstract written in non-technical language is highly recommended. The dissertation must be in completed form, with finished diagrams, etc. It must not, however, be bound. After the guidance committee and any appointed examiner have reviewed and approved the dissertation and after the student has passed the final oral examination in its defense, the student must incorporate into the dissertation any recommended change(s) and corrections before presenting it to the chairperson of the guidance committee for final review and signature of the approval form. Not later than the deadline date indicated by the Graduate School for the semester in which graduation is expected, the student must submit to the Graduate School a final electronic copy of the dissertation online and the approval form signed by the dissertation advisor  following the instructions online at https://grad.msu.edu/etd/electronic-submission-to-proquest. Some departments, schools, or colleges require bound paper copies of the dissertation, and it is the student's responsibility to provide such copies to them.


Final Oral Examination

The final oral examination in defense of the dissertation is conducted and evaluated by the guidance committee and, at the discretion of the dean of the college, by one appointed faculty member whose voting status is determined by the college. Other interested faculty members and members of the public may attend the presentation portion of the examination without vote. Only guidance committee members may attend the examination portion of the defense per individual unit guidelines. The dissertation and the student's performance on the final oral examination must be approved by a positive vote by at least three–fourths of the voting examiners and with not more than one dissenting vote from among the Michigan State University regular faculty members of the guidance committee.

The final oral examination must be scheduled for a date not earlier than two weeks after the dissertation and abstract have been submitted to the chairperson of the guidance committee, other guidance committee members, and any appointed examiner. The student must be registered during the semester in which the final oral examination is taken. See Maximum and Minimum Credits in this section of the catalog.

 


Publication of Dissertation

An electronic copy of the dissertation will reside in the MSU library. The abstract will be published online under Dissertation Abstracts, at www.proquest.com. The student may order bound paper copies for the department, the school, the director, or others through ProQuest-UMI or may make other arrangements for obtaining bound paper copies.

An extra fee is charged by ProQuest-UMI if the dissertation is to be copyrighted.

 


Academic Standards

Michigan State University is committed to high academic standards and expects all doctoral students to excel in their programs of study.

A 3.00 cumulative grade–point average in the degree program is the minimum university standard, but colleges, departments, or schools may establish a higher minimum standard. However, attainment of the minimum grade–point average is in itself an insufficient indicator of potential for success in other aspects of the program and in the field. The guidance committee and academic unit are jointly responsible for evaluating the student's competency (as indicated by, e.g., grades in core and other courses, research performance, and development of professional skills) and rate of progress (as indicated by, e.g., the number of courses for which grades have been assigned or deferred). Written evaluations shall be communicated to the graduate student at least once a year, and a copy of such evaluations shall be placed in the graduate student's file. A student whose performance does not meet the standards of quality will not be permitted to continue to enroll in the degree program, and appropriate action will be taken by the college, department, or school.

 


Transfer Credits

Graduate credits may be transferred from other postsecondary accredited institutions of comparable academic quality if they are appropriate to a student's program and provided they were completed within the time limits approved for the earning of the degree desired at Michigan State University. The department or school chairperson or director and dean must grant approval. Only graduate–level courses in which at least a 3.0 (B) grade was received will be considered for transfer. Exceptions to this policy (at least a 2.0 grade) have been granted for the dual degree programs between Michigan State University and the Michigan State University College of Law.


Applied Credits to a Master's Degree

A student who is enrolled in a doctoral program and who is also enrolled in a master's degree program at Michigan State University may request the application of up to 9 credits, appropriate to both programs, from the doctoral program to the master's degree program, as well. Some colleges with programs that require more than 30 credits for the master’s degree may apply more than 9 credits toward the master’s degree but not more than 30% of the total number of credits required for the master’s degree. These credits must have been earned within the time limit for completing the master's degree program in which the student is enrolled.

See Credits in the General Information, Policies, Procedures and Regulations section of this catalog for additional information.


Work in Absentia

Candidates for the doctoral degree may, with the approval of the guidance committee, carry on some of the work in absentia. Arrangements for registration may be made by applying at the office of the dean of the appropriate college.

 


Time Limit

For the Doctor of Philosophy  and the Doctor of Musical Arts degrees, all of the comprehensive examinations must be passed within five years and all remaining requirements for the degree must be completed within eight years from the time when a student begins the first class at Michigan State University that appears on his or her doctoral program of study. Application for extensions of the eight-year period of time toward degree must be submitted by the department/school for approval by the dean of the college and the Dean of the Graduate School. Upon approval of the extension, doctoral comprehensive examinations must be passed again.

 


Dual Major Doctoral Degrees

All dual major doctoral degrees must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. A request for the dual major degree must be submitted via GradPlan within one semester following its development and within the first two years of the student’s enrollment at Michigan State University.

  1. The intent to receive the degree in two areas must be outlined in the guidance committee report.
  2. The Ph.D. Degree Plan must reflect the required standards for both departments.
  3. The integrated course work must be satisfactory to both departments.
  4. The comprehensive examination must be passed to the satisfaction of both departments.
  5. A guidance committee including members from both departments must be satisfied that the dissertation represents a contribution meeting the usual standards in both areas.
  6. There must be a single dissertation that represents an integration of the disciplinary areas.
  7. Responsible Conduct of Research requirements will be as defined and approved by the guidance committee in accordance with the University RCR requirements.


Special Programs

The following regulations pertain to (1) students who hold a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree and wish to pursue a second Ph.D. program, or who wish to pursue two Ph.D. programs simultaneously, and (2) students who hold a professional doctoral degree (e.g., M.D., D.O., D.V.M.) and wish to pursue a Ph.D. program, or who wish to pursue a professional doctoral program and another doctoral degree program simultaneously.

  1. Admission is determined by the respective college(s), department(s), or school(s), within current university guidelines.
  2. A guidance committee composed of a chairperson and at least three additional members is appointed by the unit in which the student is enrolled, and the academic program is developed in consultation with the student.
  3. The request for the academic program must be submitted via GradPlan to the Graduate School, within one month following its development by the guidance committee, for review and approval. The Ph.D. Degree Plan must be complete.
  4. The Graduate School review includes appropriateness of the guidance committee membership, the academic program, and courses or credits applied to the two programs.


Doctor of Education

For information about the Doctor of Education program, refer to the Doctor of Education statement in the College of Education section of this catalog.

 


Doctor of Musical Arts

For information about the Doctor of Musical Arts program, refer to the Doctor of Musical Arts statement in the College of Music section of this catalog.

Doctor of Nursing Practice

For information about the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, refer to the Doctor of Nursing Practice statement in the College of Nursing section of this catalog.

 


Big Ten Academic Alliance Courseshare

Graduate students at Michigan State University are eligible to participate in the CourseShare program, sponsored by the Big Ten Universities Academic Alliance.

CourseShare is a system for sharing specialized and unique courses among Big Ten universities. Courses taught using technology have been targeted for CourseShare, but face-to-face courses, particularly those taught in a non-traditional format such as summer intensive sessions or weekend seminars are also candidates.

Online and other non-traditionally delivered courses that are inter-institutionally shared will be determined and agreed upon by the deans of the participating academic departments. It is most likely that CourseShare courses will focus on sharing graduate and other very specialized courses not offered at every institution.

A graduate student from Michigan State University who enrolls in a CourseShare course will be registered on the Michigan State University campus, and fees will be collected and kept by this institution. No additional fees will be charged. Credit for work taken under this program will be accepted at this University.

A graduate student interested in this program should contact the Graduate School for instructions and formal processing.

 

Big Ten Academic Alliance Traveling Scholar Program

Doctoral students at Michigan State University are eligible to apply for admission to the “Traveling Scholar Program,” sponsored by the Big Ten Universities Academic Alliance. 

The Traveling Scholar program enables selected doctoral students to take advantage of special facilities available on the campus of one of the participating universities but not available on the home campus. Such facilities include special course offerings, research opportunities, laboratories, and library collections. Students participating in this program, known as "Traveling Scholars,'' are limited to two semesters or three quarters on another campus.
 
A Traveling Scholar from Michigan State University will be registered on the Michigan State University campus, and fees will be collected and kept by this institution. No additional fees will be charged. Credit for work taken under this program will be accepted at this University. 

A doctoral student interested in this program should contact the Graduate School for instructions and formal processing. 


 

Michigan Intercollegiate Graduate Studies Program

The Michigan Intercollegiate Graduate Studies (MIGS) Program enables graduate students of Michigan institutions offering graduate degree programs to take advantage of unique educational opportunities at other Michigan institutions offering graduate degrees.

Any graduate student in good standing in a master's, educational specialist, or doctoral degree program is eligible to participate. Students on a MIGS enrollment pay tuition and other fees at the host institution for the services rendered. All credits earned under a MIGS enrollment are accepted by a student's home institution as if offered by that institution. This type of enrollment is limited to one semester for master's or educational specialist degree students, and two semesters for doctoral degree students.

Students interested in this program should contact the Graduate School for further information and instructions or visit https://grad.msu.edu/migs