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 the Canvas "History Department PhD Students" page for detailed requirements, forms, and instructions.

Program Overview

Students are expected to complete all the requirements for the PhD degree in History in a timely fashion. Students are reviewed annually for continuation in the program and are expected to make good progress at all stages of the program. All requirements for the PhD degree, including the final defense, must be completed within seven years from the date of first matriculation.

  • In the first two years of graduate study, all students, regardless of previous degree work, register for coursework.
  • Students produce a first- and second-year research paper. In certain cases, with the support of their faculty advisors, students may petition to have the second research paper requirement waived (typically, those with a relevant MA).
  • All students must demonstrate competence in foreign language through departmental examination.
  • Students are eligible to receive the MA degree upon completion of eight courses for quality grades, a high pass (or equivalent) on the foreign language exam and fulfillment of all administrative requirements. 
  • The PhD Field Examination must be taken by June 1st of the second year.
  • Presentation and defense of the dissertation proposal occurs in a public setting before the end of the third year (June 1), and approval of the dissertation committee is required to begin research and writing of the
  • Three mentored teaching experiences are arranged in consultation with faculty advisors.
  • Defense of the dissertation in the PhD Final Oral Examination.

First- and Second-year Highlights

  • Students take twelve graduate-level courses (for A or B grades): a two-quarter history research seminar, and ten other courses both in and outside of the Department. At least three of these courses are graduate colloquia, and up to three may be pass/fail reading courses for orals preparation. Current students should consult the Guidelines for details of course requirements.
  • First-year students complete a substantial research paper due at the end of Winter Quarter as part of the two-quarter History Seminar.
  • Second-year students are required to complete a research paper under the supervision of their faculty advisor during Autumn or Winter Quarter.
  • Students must high pass (P+) at least one foreign-language translation examination. Details on the timing and requirements are below. Students who have taken the TOEFL exam and whose native language is their language of research may waive the language exam.
  • Students take their oral field examinations by June 15th of their second year.
Students at a seminar
Students at a seminar

Language Requirement

The Department requires a high pass (P+) on one or more language translation examinations. Students must take an examination administered through the Department during the first quarter of residence. Students who do not high pass on the first attempt 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 to 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. See the Guidelines for more details on language examinations.

Chart of languages and corresponding requirements for the PhD Program in History

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

Oral Fields Highlights

  • The oral fields readings and examination qualify students to teach and to conduct doctoral research.
  • Examination committees are chosen by the student based on their fields of interest. The committees consists of a chair from the Department of History faculty, who serves as the student’s advisor, and two additional University of Chicago faculty, usually, but not always, from the Department. 
  • All students prepare three fields in consultation with their examination committee.
  • Field lists have a maximum of fifty books; four articles or book chapters count as one book. For the purpose of reading and the examination, all fields are considered equal.
  • The examination is oral, lasts two hours, and is graded pass or fail.
  • Orals are taken by June 1st of the second year in residence.


  • During the proposal stage, students form their dissertation committees. Committees generally have three members; a fourth is allowed in certain cases. The committee chair must be a member of the Department of History faculty. The second reader must be a member of the departmental faculty or its associate faculty. Additional committee members may be professors in the Department, in other university departments, or at another institution. Consult the Guidelines for the M.A. and Ph.D. Curricula for details on committee formation.
  • Students must hold a proposal hearing by the end (June 1) of the third year in residence.


  • All students are required to have three mentored teaching experiences.
  • Mentored teaching experiences may include the following: Teaching Assistantships, Lectureships, and Co-teaching with faculty.
  • Consult the Guidelines for the M.A. and Ph.D. Curricula for the full policy on required teaching.


Final Defense of the Dissertation

  • The final requirement of the doctoral program is an oral defense of the dissertation.
  • Defenses are held with the student's committee in attendance. The defense is always open to the department faculty. It may be open to the public. 
  • The committee grades the defense (pass with distinction, pass, or fail) and decides what type of revisions (none, minor, or significant) are needed before the students can submit the dissertation to the Dissertation Office.
  • The dissertation chair and the departmental chair give final approval for the deposit of the dissertation through the Dissertation Office after all requested revisions have been made. Deadlines for submission are available on the Department’s Canvas page.


  • The doctoral degree can be taken in any quarter. Instructions for applying to the degree are found on the student Canvas site. 
  • The University holds Convocation at the end of Spring Quarter. 

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 who work with the student should strongly support the need for a joint degree. Students from other departments should read the Joint Ph.D. Degree Guidelines (PDF). Students should apply in the late winter or early Spring Quarter so the Graduate Student Affairs Committee can review the file in its annual student review in late May or early June.

History MA Degree for PhD Students from other University of Chicago PhD Programs

In rare cases, the University allows students from another University of Chicago PhD program to receive an MA from an alternate program. Students should first consult with their home unit’s Dean of Students office. After receiving permission to pursue an alternate MA, students wishing to receive an MA from the Department of History should petition the Graduate Student Affairs Committee in Autumn Quarter. For more information contact the graduate affairs administrator.

Students with questions about doctoral program degree requirements and milestones should contact Sonja Rusnak ( History Graduate Affairs Administrator. Students may also contact Brett Baker (, Associate Dean of Students in the Social Sciences, and Amanda Young (, Director, Graduate Student Affairs in UChicagoGRAD.