Master’s vs. Ph.D. Programs

Formal entry into our Ph.D. program is gained by passing the Qualifier Exam (see below). The Graduate Advising Committee will assess whether individual international degrees are equivalent to our master’s degree.

Academic Advising

Before registering for classes each semester, students must discuss their academic schedules with an advisor, to help ensure that appropriate classes are taken in a timely way (as well as confirm that PH597 or AY597 is enrolled in each semester and, if relevant, ensure the appropriate research course is taken). Students must obtain an advisor’s signature on the departmental advising worksheet before registering for classes each semester. Students must also obtain an advisor’s signature on the departmental drop/add form before dropping or adding courses. These forms are available on the departmental website.

Minimum GPA

According to the Graduate Catalog, a student must maintain a cumulative average of not less that “B” (3.0 on a 4.0 scale) in the graduate courses undertaken at The University of Alabama, and at least 75% of these hours must be completed with grades of not less than “B.” Courses in which a student has made a grade of “P” or “S” are not considered in evaluations of academic standing. Students who do not meet these requirements (after having earned 12 semester hours of credit) are placed on academic warning. Warning status must be removed by raising the overall grade point average to “B” or better during the next 12 hours of graduate course work. Students may not hold an assistantship while on academic warning. Students who are conditionally admitted must maintain a “B” average during their 12 hours. (PH 597, AY 597, PH 598, and PH 698 can be taken only as pass/fail and cannot be used in computing GPA.) Failure to remove either a warning or conditional status within the prescribed time will result in the student being dropped from the graduate program.


Students are encouraged to engage in research as soon as possible and may explore short-term projects with a variety of faculty before solidifying a thesis or dissertation project. When involved in research, students are expected to enroll in one of several possible research courses, depending on their stage in the program. These research courses, along with their constraints, are as follows:

  • PH 598: Non-thesis research (before Qualifier passed) [P/F]
  • PH 590: Research Techniques (after core courses completed) [graded]
  • PH 599: Thesis research [P/F]
  • PH 698: Non-dissertation research (after Qualifier passed, before Prelim passed) [P/F]
  • PH 699: Dissertation research (after Prelim passed, must enroll continuously) [P/F]

Good Academic Standing

Graduate students are required to maintain good academic standing within the department. Students who are not in good academic standing may have their financial support reduced or withdrawn, or may be dismissed from the program. The departmental requirements for maintaining good academic standing supplement the Graduate School requirements; together, these requirements include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • All students must make satisfactory progress toward a degree, meaning that
    • M.S. and Ph.D. students must
      • maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 in all graduate work;
      • meet every semester with one’s academic advisor;
      • take a sufficient number of courses (including research courses) each semester to satisfy degree requirements in a timely way;
      • regularly attend classes and colloquia;
      • make timely progress towards completing the research component of their degrees; 4
    • Ph.D. students must additionally
      • pass the Qualifying Exam (see §III.B.1) within 2 years (+1 month) of arrival and pass at least one (as yet) un-passed section of each exam administered, starting at the beginning of the second semester
      • pass the Preliminary Exam (see §III.B.2) within four years of arrival.
    • M.S. students who wish to be considered for financial support must also pass the Qualifying Exam (see §III.B.1) within 2 years (+1 month) of arrival and pass at least one (as yet) un-passed section of each exam administered.
    • All students must perform their TA or RA duties conscientiously.
    • International students must also pass the ITAP language exam within 2 semesters of arrival.

The maintenance of good academic standing with the department also requires that graduate students conduct themselves responsibly and respectfully towards other members of our academic community. Indeed, the University has a vital interest in the character of its students, and therefore regards behavior at any location (on-campus or off-campus) as a reflection of a student’s character and fitness to be a member of the student body. Accordingly, in addition to the relevant academic thresholds, a student’s standing with the department is also contingent on compliance with the Code of Student Conduct and adherence to the Capstone Creed.