Jul 21, 2024  
2024-2025 University Catalog 
2024-2025 University Catalog

Requirements for Doctoral Degrees

Doctoral programs at San Diego State University are offered either independently or jointly with other doctoral-granting institutions in California. In developing each joint doctoral program, there has been a consistent effort to provide students with a unique educational experience that is not duplicated on either campus alone. The university currently offers 25 independent and joint doctoral degrees (Ph.D., Ed.D., Au.D., DPT, DrPH).

The following Ph.D. and Au.D. programs are offered jointly by San Diego State University and the University of California San Diego:

Joint Ph.D. programs are offered in:

San Diego State University offers five standalone doctorates in:

Admission to Graduate Study

An applicant for admission to a doctoral program must be admitted to regular graduate standing at San Diego State University, and if a joint doctoral program (JDP) at the appropriate partner campus. Fees and regulations governing the doctoral programs are found in the SDSU Catalog and in the graduate bulletin of each of the cooperating campuses. For JDPs, formal admission to both universities with appropriate graduate standing occurs when the student is formally accepted by each of the universities. Applicants are advised to consult the appropriate program director at San Diego State University for specific details on application procedures.

Residence Requirements

After formal admission to a doctoral program, the student must spend at least one year in full-time residence on each of the two campuses. For JDP programs, the definition of residence must be in accord with the regulations of the university cooperating with SDSU. At San Diego State University, the minimum of one year of full-time residence consists of registration in and completion of at least nine semester units of graduate level courses or six semester units of research or dissertation courses each semester of the required year’s residence. In order to maintain good standing, doctoral students must be continually enrolled at SDSU each Fall/Spring semester, or have a valid Form of Study on file.  For JDP programs, partner campus enrollment requirements vary and are outlined in the respective handbooks.

Financial Support

Doctoral students are eligible to apply for financial aid through the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at San Diego State University. The College of Graduate Studies provides a variety of competitive funding and financial support. In addition, most doctoral programs offer doctoral students financial support by providing appointments as graduate assistants, instructional student assistants, research assistants, or teaching associates. Please see the Graduate Student Employment website for more information.


Doctoral students are expected to make steady progress toward completion of requirements for the degree. The time required is program specific to ensure mastery of the subject matter field and completion of a satisfactory dissertation. In doctoral programs with time limits to advancement to candidacy or the degree conferral, students must meet those time limits or a negative service indicator will be placed on their registration. Doctoral students must maintain a 3.0 or higher grade point average in all coursework attempted to remain in good academic standing. Some programs may have additional grade requirements.

Information on records, transcripts, fees, details of registration, petitions, and rules and regulations governing graduate students enrolled in a doctoral program is available throughout the Catalog and in the doctoral program handbook.

Program of Study Rules and Guidelines

Students must complete each course listed on the official program of study with a grade of C (2.0) or better. A course cannot be deleted from an official program of study after it has been completed, regardless of grade. This includes courses for which grades of “Incomplete” or Report in Progress” have been entered. Graduate students have one very limited opportunity to repeat a course that will be applied to the program of study; see University Policies for details.

Qualifying Examinations, Advancement to Candidacy, and the Dissertation

Although the procedural details of each doctoral program vary somewhat across the different programs, the general requirements are:

  1. Every candidate is required to appoint a faculty thesis committee. Thesis committees are required for the qualifying examination and dissertation stages of doctoral programs. Programs vary as to the requirements for the constitution of these committees. Please consult with the doctoral program director(s) and program handbook for guidance for a specific program. Committee membership information is submitted by the doctoral program director to SDSU’s graduate dean and, for JDPs, the cooperating institution’s graduate dean for approval. Completed committee forms must be on file no later than two weeks prior to the date scheduled for the qualifying examination or doctoral defense.
  2. For the qualifying examination, Tthe student is examined by a committee representing the faculty of SDSU, and for JDPs, the cooperating institutions for knowledge of the field of study. In many programs, this qualifying examination may consist of written and/or oral parts, though see the doctoral program handbook for details for a specific doctoral program. The examination is open to the public and should be publicly advertised in advance. The purpose of this examination is to satisfy the faculty in the program that the student is adequately prepared in the discipline to warrant continuation in the program.
  3. A student who holds classified graduate standing and who meets the scholastic, professional, and personal standards of the university may be considered for advancement to candidacy for the doctoral degree.

    Advancing to candidacy means the student has completed all coursework and any other program requirements and is ready to research and write a dissertation (this stage is sometimes referred to as “all but dissertation” or ABD). Requirements and standards for advancement vary by program. Students must consult with the program’s doctoral program director or co-directors and the doctoral program handbook for their specific requirements.

  4. After passing the qualifying examination the Advancement to Candidacy form is signed by the qualifying exam committee, doctoral program director(s), and the graduate dean(s).
  5. A dissertation on a subject is chosen by the candidate and their faculty mentor. There are written and oral components to the dissertation stage. Once completed, Approval of the written dissertation by the dissertation committee affirms that (a) the candidate has conducted an organized, independent investigation that has added significantly to the body of knowledge in the particular field and (a) the document has been written and formatted in a satisfactory manner for the respective field of study. Upon completion of the written dissertation, the candidate must pass an oral examination conducted by the dissertation committee in which the student is required to show the relationship of the dissertation to the general field in which the subject lies and to answer specific questions concerning the investigations.

    At San Diego State University, publication of an approved dissertation to make it publicly available serves as the completion of a student’s program requirements for purposes of graduation for Dr.PH, Ed.D., and Ph.D. programs. For JDP students, after meeting the requirements of the cooperating campus for filing the dissertation, doctoral students are required to submit a copy of the dissertation to Montezuma Publishing at SDSU for publication in ProQuest. Students submit their dissertation and other required documents to the College of Graduate Studies for academic record evaluation and document review. The College of Graduate Studies will communicate with Montezuma Publishing, the student, and their doctoral director when the dissertation is ready for publication. Dissertation submission deadlines vary by cooperating campus, please consult the doctoral program handbook, the doctoral director, and the partner graduate division.

    For Dr.PH and Ed.D. programs, students submit their dissertation and other required documents to the College of Graduate Studies for academic record evaluation and document review. The College of Graduate Studies will communicate with Montezuma Publishing, the student, and their doctoral director when the dissertation is ready for submission and publication. Dissertation submission and publication deadlines are available on the College of Graduate Studies website.

    Instead of a dissertation, a doctoral project is required for the Au.D. and DPT programs and electronic copies reside within the respective departments.

  6. San Diego State University also requires that students apply for graduation in the term they intend to graduate. Consult the academic calendar for the deadline date.

  7. San Diego State University requires that the student be enrolled in 899 (Dissertation or Doctoral Project) in the term in which the doctoral project is:

    (a) completed (for Au.D.* and DPT) or 
    (b) the dissertation is submitted for publication to the JDP partner campus (joint Ph.D.) or 
    (c) submitted to Montezuma Publishing (Dr.PH and Ed.D.).

    *Students in the Doctor of Audiology program, whose chair is at UCSD, enroll in doctoral project (AUD 299) at UCSD instead of 899 at SDSU.

  8. All Ed.D. and Ph.D.students are required to fill out the Survey of Earned Doctorates at the time the dissertation is submitted.

Subject (Thesis/Dissertation) Research Involving Human Subjects or Animal Subjects

University committee authorization must be obtained in advance of conducting research involving humans or animals. Failure to observe this requirement could result in the refusal of the university to accept the completed thesis/dissertation.

Research in which information is obtained about an individual through the use of a survey, interview, observation or experimentation or which involves analysis of previously collected human tissues, records, samples or other existing or secondary data is subject to review and approval of the Institutional Review Board (IRB). For students enrolled in a joint doctoral program, IRB review may be required at each campus. Students are responsible for knowing and complying with IRB review requirements at the institution(s) in which they are enrolled. For general information, application procedures, guidance on ethical practices, and submission deadlines, visit https://research.sdsu.edu/research_affairs. You may also e-mail irb@sdsu.edu or call 619-594-6622.

Students planning to conduct research that involves the use of live, vertebrate animals must be listed on a protocol approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) where the research will take place. If the research will occur under a SDSU approved protocol, the student must be listed on the responsible faculty’s animal protocol form and receive required training. Application materials used to request a review by the IACUC can be obtained at https://research.sdsu.edu/research_affairs.

Upon receipt of written authorization from the relevant committee, IRB or IACUC, students may initiate their research and register for required coursework.

Award of Degree

The degree Doctor of Philosophy in Biology, Chemistry, Clinical Psychology, Computational Science, Computational Science: Statistics, Ecology, Education, Engineering Sciences: Bioengineering, Engineering Sciences: Electrical and Computer Engineering, Engineering Sciences: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Engineering Sciences: Structural Engineering, Evolutionary Biology, Geography, Geophysics, Interdisciplinary Research on Substance Use, Language and Communicative Disorders, Mathematics and Science Education, Public Health: Epidemiology, Public Health: Global Health, Public Health: Health Behavior, or the professional doctorate in Audiology will be awarded jointly by the regents or trustees of the cooperating institution and the trustees of The California State University in the names of San Diego State University and the appropriate cooperating university campus. The degrees of Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership with concentration in PreK-12 School Leadership, Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership with concentration in Community College / Postsecondary Leadership​​, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Doctor of Public Health with a concentration in Executive Management, and Doctor of Public Health with a concentration in Global Health Management will be awarded by the trustees of The California State University. For joint doctoral programs, Students are encouraged to participate in the commencement ceremonies of both institutions providing they have completed all degree requirements, including the submission of copies of the approved dissertation by the deadlines of the respective institutions. The deadline dates of the cooperating institutions will vary. Students who intend to participate in the commencement ceremonies at San Diego State University should consult the academic calendar for the last date to submit an approved copy of the dissertation to the College of Graduate Studies.