Completing Your Doctoral Degree

Steps to Completing the Degree

You must meet both the program and the Graduate School requirements for graduation. You should be aware that some programs may have more rigorous requirements than the Graduate School’s minimum requirements. You should visit your program’s website for specific requirements and contact your graduate program coordinator for further information.

Note: The Graduate School does not use honors titles (e.g., Magna Cum Laude, Dean’s List, etc.). Graduate students are not eligible to take courses designated for undergraduate honors students.

Minimum graduate degree credit requirement

51 credits (before or after dissertator status)

A student’s program may decide to accept graduate coursework completed at another institution (earned post-baccalaureate) toward fulfillment of degree credit requirements. To learn more, see Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement and Prior Coursework.

Minimum graduate residence credit requirement

32 credits (completed prior to achieving dissertator status)

The doctoral degree minimum residence credit requirement can be satisfied only with courses numbered 300 and above taken as a graduate student at UW–Madison. To learn more about this requirement, see Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement.

Minimum graduate coursework (50%) requirement

At least 50% of credits applied toward the program’s graduate degree credit requirement must be courses designed for graduate work, including but not limited to online, thesis/research, independent study, and practicum/internship credits. To learn more about this requirement, see Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement.

Breadth requirement

Breadth is a required component of doctoral training at UW–Madison. Given there are multiple paths to breadth, the Graduate School leaves the choice of whether students achieve breadth through a doctoral minor, Graduate/Professional certificate, or other means up to the student’s doctoral major program.

To learn more about meeting this requirement, see Policy on Breadth Requirement in Doctoral Training.

Grade point average (GPA) requirement

The Graduate School requires that students maintain a GPA of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) for all graduate courses (excluding research) to receive a degree (though many programs impose higher standards). All incomplete grades must be resolved before a degree is granted. To learn more, see Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirement and Probation.

Preliminary examinations assess knowledge of areas within the academic discipline. The student must obtain approval of the minor if the major program requires it and complete all the major courses.


Your program should arrange a preliminary committee and a dissertation committee with appropriate expertise to afford the breadth and depth needed in degree examinations. These committees may be composed of different members. The executive committee (or its equivalent) of a program/department is responsible for approving the composition of the preliminary exam and the dissertation committee. You should consult your advisor and your program’s student handbook for the specific function of degree committees (preliminary exam and dissertation) in your program.

To learn more about the functions and criteria of doctoral dissertation committees, see Committees. Use this online committee requirements tool to help you determine whether your proposed committee would meet the Graduate School’s minimum requirements for committee members.

Preliminary examinations

Your program determines your eligibility to take the prelim examination(s). The program must notifies the Graduate School of a student’s admission to candidacy and requests the preliminary warrant a minimum of three weeks prior to the exam date.

After passing the preliminary examination, students have 5 years to take the final examination (i.e. defend) and deposit their dissertation.  The 5 year clock starts on the first day of instruction of the term (Fall, Spring, or Summer) immediately following the completion of the preliminary examination.  Failure to complete their degree within this period may result in students having to retake the preliminary examination and be re-admitted to candidacy.

Time limit extension for dissertators impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

To offer flexibility amidst the major disruption that COVID-19 may have had on doctoral candidates’ research and scholarship progress, students who achieved dissertator status by the end of the 2020 summer term have automatically had the 5-year time limit extended by 8 months. Dissertators given this 8-month extension who need more time due to continued COVID-related disruption to their progress may request a further extension from the Graduate School. Decisions to extend the deadline beyond the additional 8 months are made on a case-by-case basis upon request of the student and their advisor. Students requesting an extension need to submit the request, along with a letter of support from their advisor, to

Doctoral Student Experience Survey (DSES)

The Doctoral Student Experience Survey (DSES) collects information at the time students make the transition to dissertator status. The survey covers career aspirations, academic experiences, and academic challenges, among other topics. Complete the Doctoral Student Experience Survey online. The Graduate School will use survey data to help identify strategies to improve student services.

After your program requests the preliminary exam warrant, you will receive an email with the link to the survey. All research doctoral students should complete the survey prior to submitting their signed preliminary examination warrant to the Graduate School.

Dissertator status

Dissertator status is a unique fee status and is effective at the start of the semester following completion of all dissertator requirements for the doctoral degree except for the dissertation. The Graduate School requires all dissertators to maintain continuous enrollment of exactly three credits (exceptions may apply during the summer). In rare circumstances where this is not possible, a degree completion fee is assessed to recognize the inevitable use of university facilities up to and including the successful defense and submission of the dissertation. To learn more, see Dissertator Status and the Degree Completion Fee.

Step 0: Pre-checks (optional)

Pre-checks are used to answer formatting questions (e.g., use of tables, graphs, and charts), embargo/delayed release questions, or questions related to the degree granting process.

To request a pre-check, you may email a PDF of your entire dissertation to degree coordinator If you would prefer to meet in person, email to arrange a time.

Step 1: Request your final warrant and defend your dissertation

Notify your graduate program coordinator to have them request your doctoral degree warrant from the Graduate School at least three weeks before the anticipated date of your final dissertation defense. You must be enrolled during the semester that you defend and deposit; if you want to defend and/or submit your dissertation to the Graduate School in the summer term, you must register for three credits of research for the eight-week summer session.  Be very aware of two deadline options for depositing your dissertation.  Depositing before the first deadline will result in the degree being awarded at the end of that term.  The second deadline, often called the “window period” deadline, provides a little extra time to deposit after a term ends.  Dissertations deposited during the window period will result in the degree being awarded at the end of the following term, but will not require enrollment in that term.  The deadlines for both are very strict and occur at midnight Central Time.  Be aware that failure to submit by the end of the “window” period at the end of each term will require enrollment in the following term in order for a degree to be awarded.

After your graduate program coordinator submits the doctoral degree warrant request, the Graduate School will review this request. The approved warrant will be available in the Grad Portal. If you pass the defense, your program will let you know how and when to collect electronic signatures on the warrant. When signing your warrant electronically, your committee members thereby approve the dissertation.  (Note: Advisors no longer have to sign the abstract separately.)

Once the final warrant has been signed, you must upload an electronic copy in the administrative documents section of the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator website.  Your graduate coordinator will also submit the warrant to the Graduate School in the Graduate Portal.

Step 2: Pay the dissertation deposit fee

Go to Grad Portal to pay the required $90 dissertation deposit fee, which covers the cost of processing the dissertation and publishing the abstract by ProQuest. The fee must be paid before submitting your dissertation electronically. The fee payment site provides an email confirmation with your fee payment receipt. Save this payment receipt as a PDF for the electronic dissertation deposit process. You also have the option to log in to the fee payment site and download a PDF of the receipt once you have paid. The receipt will be uploaded in the administrative documents section of the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator website.

Step 3: Complete the doctoral exit surveys

You must complete the following doctoral exit surveys before submitting your dissertation electronically. Each individual survey will provide a certificate of completion once you have submitted the survey. Save the individual certificates of completion as PDF documents to upload in the administrative documents section of the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator website.

  • Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED): To complete the online Survey of Earned Doctorates you will first provide basic information including your email address. You will then receive an e-mail with a unique PIN and password. Access the SED survey site using the URL, PIN, and password sent to you in this email, and complete the survey. You must advance past the certificate of completion screen in order to submit the survey.
  • Graduate School’s Doctoral Exit Survey (DES): The DES obtains information on your academic experience (e.g., program quality, support, advising) in your doctoral program and information about your postdoctoral plans. To complete the Doctoral Exit Survey online, enter your name as it appears in university records and your student ID number (10 digits). At the end of the survey, there is a survey completion screen. If you have problems accessing the survey, contact and include your name and student ID number.

Step 4: Electronic deposit of your dissertation

After you complete Steps 1 to 3, you can submit your dissertation electronically to the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator website.

ATTENTION: Your submission of the dissertation is final and you are not allowed to make changes once it has been approved by the Graduate School Degree Coordinator. Your submission is not completed until you receive the confirmation email from the Graduate School Degree Coordinator.

Submitting your dissertation electronically has four steps:

  1. Prepare for submission
  2. Submit dissertation on ProQuest/UMI ETD
  3. Submit administrative documents
  4. Complete the final submit step

Read this section for detailed instructions for each step.

Before you begin the submission steps, decide whether or not you want to delay release of your dissertation. See the Guide to Preparing your Doctoral Dissertation, below, for more information on embargo/delayed release.

Then, be sure you have the following:

  • Full text of your dissertation in PDF format. This must be one file. Fonts must be embedded. Security settings must be set to “no security.” Encrypted files cannot be processed for publishing. The maximum file size that can be uploaded is 1000 MB. The PDF file name cannot contain periods (except for the .pdf extension). Instructions for PDF conversion are available at the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator site under the “Resources and Guidelines” tab.
  • UMI abstract text. This abstract, preferably not more than 350 words, must be in English. You will be asked to copy and paste this text during the electronic submission steps.
  • Optional supplementary files. These images, data, etc. are an integral part of the dissertation, but not part of the full text.
  • Advisor’s and other committee members’ names. These usually are listed as they appear on your approved warrant.
  • Subject category. Choose one to three subject categories from the Subject Category list that best describe your dissertation subject area.
  • Receipt confirming payment of the dissertation deposit fee. After you have paid the required $90 dissertation deposit fee, you will receive an e-mail receipt confirming payment.
  • An electronic copy of the signed final warrant.

Go to the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator site and choose “Submitting Your Dissertation/Thesis.” Select University of Wisconsin-Madison from the list provided. Create an account or login using an existing account.

The ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator website will walk you through a simple process of accepting the publishing agreement and uploading the files and information about your submission. If you need to finish your submission later, you can save your information and come back to finish.

At the submission step called Dissertation/Thesis Details, you will need to enter the following important information about your dissertation. Accuracy is essential.

  • Title: Enter the full title of your dissertation, as it appears on the title page. Only some special characters can be used in this field. The title field does not accept subscript, superscript, or Greek letters; instead, you will need to spell these out. Select the year in which you completed your manuscript.
  • Degree/Department Information: Select the year in which your degree will be conferred. If you are depositing during the window period and are uncertain, contact the Graduate School. Select the degree you will receive and your program.
  • Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair: Enter your primary advisor’s name exactly as it appears on your warrant. Do not repeat your advisor in the list of committee members.
  • Committee Members: Enter your committee members’ names exactly as they appear on your warrant.
  • Description of Dissertation/Thesis: Select categories and keywords that identify your work.
  • Abstract: Enter the text of your UMI abstract exactly as it was approved by your faculty advisor, preferably no more than 350 words.

At the submission step called Administrative Documents, you will need to upload the following items:

  • Dissertation deposit confirmation receipt: Upload a PDF of the email receipt you received from the UW–Madison Graduate School fee payment website.
  • The Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) certificate of completion: Upload the survey receipt as a PDF.
  • The Graduate School’s Doctoral Exit Survey (DES) certificate of completion: Upload the survey receipt as a PDF.
  • Signed PhD warrant: Upload your final signed PhD warrant as a PDF.

At the submission step called Notes to Administrator, indicate if you plan to attend the optional Graduate School final review.

You may choose to order additional copies of your dissertation and register the copyright of your dissertation – both of these items are optional. To learn more, see Copyright Resources.

Be certain to complete the final submit step at the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator website. You MUST submit your dissertation to the ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator website by 11:59 pm CST on the degree deadline date in order to receive your degree in a given term. Keep in mind that submissions are reviewed by the Graduate School Degree Coordinator in the order they were received. After you complete the final submit step, you will receive an email confirming the submission. When you submit your dissertation, it will be reviewed by a Graduate School Degree Coordinator to ensure that you have followed all formatting requirements.

The Graduate School Degree Coordinator will approve and deliver your dissertation to ProQuest/UMI Dissertation Publishing for microfilming and binding. The UW–Madison Library will receive a bound copy and an electronic version of your dissertation shortly thereafter. You will receive an official email notification when the Graduate School has approved your dissertation for publication.

Step 4.0 Graduate School email confirmation

After you have successfully completed steps 1 – 4, please check your email at the address that you entered when you created an account on the ProQuest website. Look for a message from the ETD administrator. If formatting changes are requested, please complete them and re-upload your dissertation as soon as possible, as instructed in the email. If your dissertation has been accepted, the email will confirm this fact. Next please make sure that your instructor has or will submit a final grade, which should be S for satisfactory if you are enrolled for 990. Please be aware that no degrees are posted before the degree deadline and it may take 4-6 weeks for your degree to be posted after the degree deadline.

Commencement – December and May

If you want your name to be printed in the commencement program, you must submit an Apply to Graduate application through your MyUW Student Center. This is in addition to contacting your program to request your degree warrant from the Graduate School. You may attend the ceremony even if your name is not included in the commencement program. August does not have a commencement ceremony. If you plan to graduate in August, you may attend either the May or December ceremony by submitting the Apply to Graduate application through MyUW Student Center. Cap and gown rentals are at University Bookstore. Guests can attend without tickets.

Degree completion letter

The Registrar’s Office handles degree completion letters. If you have completed all degree requirements and deposited your thesis or dissertation and are waiting until the next degree conferral date to receive your degree, you may request and receive a letter indicating that all requirements have been completed. All grades from the semester in which you are depositing your dissertation (and all other outstanding grades) must be reported to the Graduate School before you can receive a completion letter.  Allow five business days for the processing of your degree completion letter request.


The Registrar’s Office will send your diploma to your diploma address approximately 12 to 14 weeks after degree conferral. Update your diploma address via the MyUW Student Center prior to the end of the semester in which you are graduating. Students with holds will not receive their diploma until those holds are cleared.

A student’s name will be printed on the diploma as it appears on the student’s official university record. Changes to legal personal information including names can be requested online. For a student’s name change to appear on the diploma, the change must be made before the degree deadline in the semester the student will graduate.

Students who graduated after December 2015 may also access a Certified Electronic Diploma at no cost. A Certified Electronic Diploma is an official, portable, secure PDF version of the diploma that can be shared with anyone.


The Registrar’s Office posts degrees on official transcripts approximately four to six weeks after the end of the semester. You can order your official transcripts online.

Students may also request a campus copy of transcripts of their student record from MyUW Student Center. A campus copy student record is not an official transcript but it does indicate all internal university memoranda. The Registrar’s Office also provides more details on how to request a campus copy student record.