Note: For information about maintaining degree status, financial aid and expectations, health insurance, advising, course of study, and academic standing, see PhD Program Information.
While requirements differ by area of specialization, all PhD students in music need a certain number of units. Each student pursues a major field of study comprising a minimum of six to nine units. For further details, see the specifications below.
See Requirements by Specialization:
Composition and Music Technology
Music Theory and Cognition
All students are required to take three 300 to 500 level courses outside the Bienen School of Music in an approved cognate area. Students whose work touches fields such as cognitive psychology, learning sciences, performance studies, comparative literature, linguistics, cultural anthropology, African studies, acoustics, film or dance are encouraged to take enough coursework in those areas to develop meaningful intellectual connections and true depth of understanding. The purpose of this requirement is to learn to think as a scholar in another field – a fundamentally epistemological orientation that plays a central role in the future of musical scholarship and teaching.
Only courses listed in CAESAR with a career of "The Graduate School” are authorized for graduate credit, and only those courses can be used to meet the minimum coursework requirement of nine quality letter-graded, graduate level courses (i.e., ABC grading, not P/NP or S/U). Learn more about authorized courses.
At several key points in the student’s program of study, an assessment process asks students to demonstrate they are making appropriate progress. This evaluation includes:
- Annual self-assessments, and faculty feedback;
- Successful demonstration of foreign language proficiency (as required by the specialization area);
- Teaching demonstration in the form of a classroom or other professional presentation similar to the sessions the Bienen School of Music requires as part of its own faculty search procedures;
- Public lecture, paper, or presentation outside the Bienen School of Music, to be given before completion of the dissertation. (This requirement is designed to stimulate early involvement in the presentation of original research at the regional, national or international level.)
Students must complete a comprehensive examination at the conclusion of course work. The examination differs by specialization, and each program requires both a written and an oral component. A description of the intended dissemination often accompanies the examination. Successful passage of this examination advances the student to candidacy for the degree.
Admission to candidacy is reached by passing a comprehensive qualifying examination at the conclusion of coursework. The examination differs by specialization, and each program requires both a written and oral component.
Upon successful completion of the PhD qualifying exams, students submit the PhD Qualifying Exam form via TGS Forms in GSTS. The Director of Graduate Studies (or DGS designate) must approve this form before the end of a student's third year of enrollment. Following the submission of the approved qualifying exam form, students are admitted to candidacy. Students are notified via email by TGS of approval of their qualifying exam form and admission to candidacy.
Active PhD students must always be registered for study. The Graduate School maintains a series of courses under the TGS listing in CAESAR for such courses that are appropriate for students who have completed all formal course work and are working on their qualifying exams or dissertation. All such courses are for "0" credit.
TGS 500 Funded Doctoral Study is appropriate for students who have completed coursework, are continuing in their degree program (writing a thesis or dissertation and/or performing research required for the degree), and who are receiving funding. This course is also appropriate for students who are not pursuing coursework in the summer months.
TGS 512 Continuous Registration is appropriate for students who have completed coursework, are continuing in their degree program (writing a thesis or dissertation and/or performing research required for the degree), and who are not receiving funding. TGS 512 Continuous Registration is a full time registration intended for students who are continuing to work in a full-time capacity toward degree completion.
The Graduate School policy states all requirements for the doctoral degree must be met within nine years of initial registration in a doctoral program, which falls on the last day of the 36th quarter. For students on an approved leave of absence or approved parental accommodation, milestones are extended accordingly.
Students who do not meet all degree requirements within nine years are placed on probation by The Graduate School, and may petition The Graduate School for a one-time extension.
Learn more about Petitioning The Graduate School for an Extension