Graduate Program Requirements

The full requirements and recommendations for the Graduate Program in History are available in the Guidelines to the M.A. and Ph.D. Curricula.

Current Students and advisors should refer to the Guidelines and History Department Graduate Student  page on Chalk for detailed requirements, forms, and instructions.

First-year Highlights

  • Students take 8 graduate level courses (for A or B grades) and a foreign language reading examination (for a high pass). The graduate courses include a two-quarter History seminar, Historiography, and courses in the History Department and outside the History Department. Consult the Guidelines for the requirement details.

Language Requirement

The Department requires a high pass (P+) on one or more written language examinations. Students must take a language examination administered through the History Department during the first quarter of residence.  Students who do not receive a high pass the first time should devote special attention to improving their skill, and are required to repeat the exam at least annually until a high pass is achieved.  It is mandatory that students receive a high pass in at least one language examination before the beginning of the second academic year.  In fields where more than one language is required, the additional requirement(s) must be satisfied before the proposal hearing.

Field Languages Required
African At least one European and one African language to be determined in consultation with the advisor.
Ancient* French and German (one high pass, one pass); Greek and Latin (by departmental certification or with a grade of pass on the University examinations)
British French, German, or Latin
Byzantine* French and German (one high pass, one pass); Latin and Byzantine Greek by departmental certification
Caribbean and Atlantic World Dutch, French, Portuguese, or Spanish
Early Modern Europe A high pass in the primary language of research; a pass in one other modern European language
East Asia High pass in primary language of research: Chinese, Japanese, or Korean
Europe A grade of high pass in the primary modern European language of research; a grade of pass in one other approved language; normally, the second language will be in a different language group from the first, except as needed for research reasons
History of Science French or German (high pass in one), but it is assumed students know both
International At least one foreign language determined by sub-area of interest
Latin America Spanish and Portuguese (one high pass, one pass)
Recommended that most students take “Portuguese for Spanish Speakers” course to build their competence in Portuguese.
Medieval Europe 1. Latin (high pass)
2. French or German (pass)
3. One other approved language appropriate to the student’s research (pass)
Middle East/Islam^* One of the following: Modern Arabic, French, German, Hebrew, Persian, Russian, Turkish, or Ottoman Turkish
Modern Jewish Hebrew and one other relevant research langugage (one high pass, one pass)
Russia^* Russian or any relevant language. For a Ph.D. in Russian history, however, knowledge of Russian is mandatory
South Asia^* One of the following: Bengali, French, German, Hindi, Persian, Sanskrit, Tamil, or Urdu
United States

Any foreign language

*For fields with extensive language training, students may petition for a one-year postponement of the foreign language examination.

^In these fields, if the language requirement is met with French or German, it is assumed that the student will also acquire knowledge of area language(s) sufficient for research purposes.

Second-Year Highlights

  • Students take 7 graduate level courses (for A or B grades), unless they waived course requirements based on previous M.A.-level degree work.
  • Two of the seven courses are a second seminar; the other five courses should be a mixture of courses within History or in other departments which will help prepare the student for his/her fields examination. These courses may include individualized reading courses with the field examiners when taken for letter grades.

Oral Fields Highlights

  • All students take three fields. The examination is an oral examination that is two hours in length with an exam grade of pass or fail. Examination committees consist of three University of Chicago faculty, usually, but not always, from the History Department.
  • Unlike many graduate programs which have set field lists, at Chicago students compose their three oral fields in close consultation with the faculty member they designate to chair their committees. This recognizes that each field of concentration (East Asian, U. S., European, Latin American History, etc.) has distinct criteria for determining what reading is fundamental for qualifying students to teach and to conduct research at the doctoral level.
  •  The Graduate Student Affairs Committee considers composing one’s own lists an important part of conceptualizing fields, so while they encourage students to look at other lists for guidance and suggestions, students are advised to avoid adopting some model list in its entirety. On a voluntary basis, students can deposit their fields for reference for later students. These are available on the internal graduate student website.
  • For students taking all second-year courses, orals must be taken by October 20th of their third year.


  • The proposal committee may consist of professors in History, other University departments, or another institution. Consult the official Guidelines for the M.A. and Ph.D. Curricula for details on committee formation.
  • Students must hold a hearing of their dissertation proposal by June of their third year.


  • Following the proposal hearing,  the research project is approved (no grade is given) and the student is advanced to candidacy for the doctoral degree by the Dean of Students in the Division, informally known as being ABD (“all but degree”). This status opens the doors to many predoctoral research and writing grants, from both the University and major philanthropic organizations. The basis for receiving these grants will often be the proposal itself.
  • If the student's dissertation will involve interviews or extensive contacts with living individuals, the student will need to have his/her research project approved by the Institutional Review Board.
  • The student and his/her dissertation director are responsible for assuring that the dissertation follows an acceptable academic style – be it The Chicago Manual of Style, Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, or the accepted style in the field, a general rule of thumb is pick a style early and use it consistently.
  • The University of Chicago's Dissertation Office provides a number of resources on formatting and copyright issues as well as embargo policies.
  • The American Historical Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct includes useful sections on conducting interviews, documenting sources, and scholarship, as well as other matters important to the professional historian.

Final Defense

  • The doctoral degree can be taken in any quarter. By the Friday of the first week of term, the student completes the application on my.uchicago. The key to deciding which term to take the degree is that the student must hold a defense hearing sufficiently in advance of the Department's deadline for receiving the final version of the dissertation (the Monday of the seventh week of term in autumn, winter, and spring - and the Monday of the sixth week of term in summer). Students may defend the dissertation in one term and take the degree in the next.
  • Before scheduling the hearing, the student distributes the completed dissertation to all members of his/her committee. With the committee approval the student then schedules a hearing date and time with all the members of the committee. Instructions for scheduling the defense can be found on the student chalk site.
  • When scheduling, the student provides the Department with a 5-10 page abstract of the dissertation, which is deposited in the student record.
  • A hearing usually takes one and one-half hours and grade of pass or pass with distinction is awarded. As an outcome of the conversation with the committee, the student may be asked to refine his/her conclusions or to revise certain sections of the dissertation. The committee need not reconvene to review the revisions, which are reviewed and approved by the dissertation chair alone.
  • After the dissertation is in its final version, the student uploads it on to the submission website (see Dissertation Office website for further instruction and formatting requirements) by David Goodwine's submission deadline (again, Monday of the seventh week of the autumn, winter, and spring quarters, and Monday of sixth week in the summer quarter).
  • After the Dissertation Office receives the Department's final approval, they will review the dissertation for formatting requirements.
  • The Dissertation Office will contact the student after their review with any additional requirements. When the final changes have been completed, the student's dissertation is deposited and the student is eligible for graduation.
  • Graduation is required within two quarters of the dissertation defense for students with minor revisions to the dissertation and three quarters for major revisions.

Joint Degree

Joint Degrees are rare, but students may apply for a joint degree on an ad hoc basis. The application process begins with the student's Dean of Students office. The faculty members with whom the student works should strongly support the student's need for a joint degree. Requirements students from outside departments must meet to earn a joint degree in History can be downloaded here.