Doctoral Studies

At the University of Alberta, our doctoral programs train students to conduct critical research that will have major impacts — both today and in the future. Having a doctoral education is an invaluable asset in a knowledge-based economy. Our program graduates are in high demand across sectors ranging from academia, industry and medicine, to education and government policy-making.


As a doctoral student at the U of A, you have six years to meet program requirements. These include defining your research problem, conducting thesis research and writing and defending your thesis. 

There are also other degree requirements and responsibilities, both academic and administrative, that must be completed during your time at the university. 

Program Requirements

Some requirements are defined by the university. These include:

Other requirements are defined by your department, including coursework and comprehensive examinations.

A full list of requirements is defined in your department's section in the University Calendar as well as the graduate handbook. You have three years to meet all of your program requirements, with the exception of your thesis work which can take up to 6 years, unless you are registered in a listed exempt doctoral program.

Your Academic Journey

The Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) is here to support you during your time at the U of A. Curious about what the academic journey of a doctoral student looks like? Explore each phase below.

Laying the Foundation 


Students in thesis-based programs are admitted as full-time students. If a department wishes to admit a thesis-based student on a part-time basis, they must inform GPS at the time of admission.

If you're already admitted into the program but thinking about switching from full-time to part-time status, there are options available. See Registration status for more information.

Fees + Payments

If you started your doctoral program in Fall 2011 or later, you'll be charged an annual program fee, which varies based on many factors, including your enrollment status as either a full-time or part-time student.

Find detailed tuition and fees information »

Financial Support

If you are looking for financial support, there are many options available to you, including teaching and research assistantships, scholarships and other forms of funding. For detailed information, visit the Awards and Funding section of our website and see the Graduate Students Association (GSA) funding guide.

Thesis Supervisor + Committee

As a doctoral student, you'll have at least one thesis supervisor who must meet the university's supervisory requirements. If you weren't assigned a supervisor upon admission, please reach out to your department. 

Doctoral students also require a supervisory committee. This committee includes all of your supervisors and oversees your research progress, arranges for necessary examinations and verifies that your thesis is ready to be defended. You are required to provide the committee with an annual report.

Pursuing Your Program

Academic Standing

As a graduate student, you have to maintain good academic standing and meet satisfactory status in both course grades as well as progress in your thesis research.

Ethics + Academic Citizenship Requirement

Ethics and Academic Citizenship training is mandatory for all newly admitted U of A graduate students. Each student is expected to complete the equivalent of at least eight hours of structured academic activity to meet this requirement.

The requirement consists of two zero-credit, self-paced online courses:

  • INT D 710: Ethics and Academic Citizenship (for both master’s and doctoral students)
  • INT D 720: Advanced Ethics and Academic Citizenship (for doctoral students)

Learn more about the Ethics and Academic Citizenship Requirement »

Professional Development

The U of A, in collaboration with the Graduate Students' Association (GSA), has introduced the Professional Development (PD) Requirement, a first among Canadian universities, drawing inspiration from similar initiatives at Ivy League colleges in the United States.

The PD requirement is designed to help you discover your strengths, explore your interests, develop professional skills and build valuable networks to thrive in your career. Although it is mandatory for all incoming graduate students, some departments have professional development already incorporated into their programs. Check with your department to confirm how this requirement is fulfilled in your program.

Learn more about the Professional Development Requirement »


At the heart of every doctoral program is the thesis: a high-quality piece of work that showcases original research and analysis, meets publication standards and makes a significant contribution to the knowledge in your field.

Learn more about thesis preparation, requirements and deadlines »

Leaves of Absence or Part-Time Status

Sometimes, medical issues, parental responsibilities or other emergencies mean that you need to take time off from your studies. As a graduate student, you may apply for an approved leave of absence that keeps your program in good standing.

Application form for regular leaves of absence »
Application form for maternity and/or parental, exceptional and professional leaves »

Under certain circumstances, students who have begun their programs may request a change from full-time status to part-time status.

Application form for part-time registration status for thesis-based programs »

Program Extensions

Occasionally, you may need more than six years to complete your degree. In such cases, your department may support a program extension.

Program extension application form »

Completing the Journey


The convocation ceremony represents a crowning achievement of your commitment to research and education. For convocation steps and deadlines, see convocation information.

Letter of Completion

If you need a Letter of Completion at the end of your program, please use the Completion Letter Request Form. Please read the instructions in the form carefully before submitting.

If you have any questions, please contact Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (GPS).