PhD Qualifying Exam & Candidacy

Within the College of Public Health, each concentration has a specific process for the comprehensive qualifying exam. It is the student’s responsibility to discuss with his/her doctoral committee the style and format required within the student’s concentration. 


 PhD Doctoral Dissertation Flow
 PhD Qualifying Examination

For the USF policy on Qualifying Exams please refer to the USF Catalog. The Qualifying Exam Application must be submitted through Archivum.

Between years 2 and 3 students should finalize their dissertation topic and begin preparing for their qualifying exam. Students will also complete most of their coursework during this time. The commonly used formats of the qualifying exam include, but are not limited to: a) Concept Paper and Written Take-Home Format, b) Written Take-Home Open Book Format, and c) Written In-College Closed Book Format. A concentration may also require an oral examination component. 

Concept Paper – General Information

  • Certain concentrations require that students submit a concept paper prior to taking the qualifying exam. A concept paper is a short summary of the student’s research interests and proposed plans for the dissertation research. Concept paper requirements (if any) vary by concentration. Students should check with their (Co-) Major Professor(s) for more information.

Qualifying Exam – General Information

  • When the majority of the course work is completed, all PhD students are required to pass a qualifying exam to be eligible for candidacy. The qualifying exam will cover the relevant subject matter in the major and related fields. Students must be registered for a minimum of two credit hours while taking the qualifying exam.
  • The format of the qualifying exam will vary by concentration. Students should discuss their concentration’s specific requirements with their (Co-) Major Professor(s).
  • Once the student and their committee agree that the student is ready to complete the qualifying exam, the Qualifying Exam Application must be submitted through Archivum, (at least 2 weeks prior to the start of the exam). 

Regardless of the format used, once the qualifying examination is complete, the Doctoral Committee members are given at least two weeks to review the examination. Within three weeks of exam completion, the student will receive written feedback from the Doctoral Committee Chair, denoting strengths and weaknesses of the exam, and providing an evaluative assessment for each question.

 Admission to Candidacy

For the USF policy on Admission to Candidacy please refer to the USF Catalog. Once completed, the  Admission to Doctoral Candidacy Form should be submitted to for final signature and processing.

Please send feedback on the PhD Guidebook