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Candidacy and Dissertation

All PhD in Public Health students are expected to demonstrate competence in their area of study via successful completion of both a candidacy examination and a dissertation.

Candidacy Exam

In June, following the second year of study, students will sit for the candidacy examination. The examinations will be administered on campus. The purpose of the candidacy exam is to assess a student’s potential to successfully undertake scholarly research at the PhD level.


After a student passes the candidacy exam, she/he must complete a dissertation proposal that outlines research ideas for their dissertation and officially form a dissertation committee. The dissertation is the culmination of the Ph.D. degree. It should demonstrate not only student mastery of the literature of the subject, but also an ability to carry out independent research that results in a genuine contribution to public health knowledge, or an original interpretation of existing knowledge in a literate and lucid fashion.


Although the time to degree for each student will vary, we expect most CGPH doctoral students will complete the degree in four or five years. Below is a sample timeline for meeting that goal. This timeline assumes that the student has completed the pre-requisite courses prior to matriculating into the doctoral program. If a student has not done so, another year of coursework would be added to this timeline.

Doctoral students in the CGPH are required to complete the degree in a maximum of 7 years. Funding is contingent on successfully meeting the above requirements.


Year One Coursework
Systematic literature review
Year Two Coursework
Candidacy Exam (Summer after year two)
Year Three Defend dissertation proposal
Year Four/Five Dissertation defense
doctoral student
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