Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) and Portland State University (PSU) School of Public Health

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PhD Requirements

Overview of Degree Requirements

The PhD degree is the culmination of a sequential process of coursework, comprehensive examination, and the research, writing, and defense of a dissertation. The primary benchmarks of progress toward the degree are the following:

  • Completion of coursework requirements 
  • Comprehensive Examination
  • Dissertation Proposal and Defense (oral presentation and an examination)
  • Advancement to Candidacy
  • Doctoral Dissertation and Defense (oral presentation and an examination)

Coursework, Curricula, and Competencies

Coursework, competencies, and additional academic requirements are outlined in in degree-specific Program Guides (2019 and after), and PhD Student Handbooks (2018 and earlier).  Students will be held to the curricula in place for the year they matriculate (i.e., their “catalog year”).  

  • Program Guides (2019 and after)
    • PhD Community Health
  • Handbooks (2018 and earlier)

Comprehensive Exam 

The comprehensive exam is designed to test students’ mastery of the learning objectives of their doctoral program, and their ability to apply that knowledge to research in a manner that demonstrates readiness for planning their dissertation work. Students must pass the comprehensive exam before they can proceed to writing and defending their dissertation proposal and subsequently advance to doctoral candidacy.

The comprehensive exam may be taken only after completion of core coursework. Eligibility, scheduling, and specific procedures vary by program; please refer to the comprehensive exam section in each program’s guide or handbook. 

Dissertation 

The dissertation is the doctoral student’s most substantial achievement — a significant work of research built upon an immersion in the academic literature, informed theoretical reasoning, and original research and analysis, intended for an educated readership of peers. A student does not begin the formal dissertation process until they have completed all relevant coursework and examinations according to program requirements.  

The dissertation process consists of four key steps:

  1. Appointment of the Dissertation Committee.
  2. Dissertation proposal defense based upon written documentation and oral examination.
  3. Advancement to candidacy after passing the proposal defense. 
  4. Dissertation defense and oral examination.  

Dissertation procedures and requirements vary by program; please refer to the dissertation sections of each program’s guide or handbook.