Candidacy is the second and advanced phase of graduate study. To be eligible for candidacy, students must fulfill certain standards determined by their degree objective and their graduate program requirements. Students must also demonstrate adequate preparation to begin work on their final requirements (thesis, dissertation, comprehensive exam, capstone) and select an advanced degree committee.
Students advance to candidacy using one of the plans that have been approved for their program. Each plan includes specific requirements for committee membership and eligibility, final degree requirements, and for master's degrees, the minimum number of units required to complete the degree. Program degree requirements may include additional standards beyond the minimum required by Academic Senate. Approved candidacy plans are identified on each Program page in the 'Degrees Offered' section.
Doctoral Candidacy & Final Requirements
Most doctoral students advance to candidacy by the 10th registered quarter, but programs may set earlier time expectations in their degree requirements. Doctoral candidates in some fields are referred to as ‘ABD’ - All But Dissertation, because their remaining academic responsibility is researching and writing the dissertation. Candidacy is the transition from being a traditional student to becoming an academic researcher.
Advancing to candidacy may create more funding opportunities, such as eligibility for dissertation fellowships, and may make the student eligible for a higher academic employment pay level. For international doctoral students, advancing to candidacy initiates the nine quarter non-resident tuition (NRST) waiver. Information about NRST waivers is available in the FAQ below and the Non-Resident Supplemental Tuition Programs page.
Doctoral students are eligible to advance to candidacy when they have:
- Completed all required coursework and any other program degree requirements except the dissertation (e.g. language requirement, preliminary exam, etc.), including resolution of any incomplete grades.
- Earned a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.
- Passed the Doctoral Qualifying Examination.
- Secured dissertation committee members who will provide mentorship and evaluate the dissertation. The committee is proposed through the Candidacy Application, and reviewed for eligibility by Graduate Studies.
- Registered full-time in the current or upcoming quarter. Doctoral students may not be part-time after passing the QE (starting the quarter after the QE).
Doctoral Candidacy Plans
Each doctoral degree program votes on and is approved to offer one of the three doctoral candidacy plans (Plan A, B, or C). Students may only use the candidacy plan approved for their program. The committee configuration and final requirements prior vary by plan. Ask your Graduate Coordinator which candidacy plan is used by your program, or check your Program Page.
Plan A, B, and C regulations are located in Academic Senate DDR 520(c).
- Doctoral Candidacy Plan A
- • Requires a minimum of three reading members and two additional members designated 'Final Exam Only'.
- Programs may set higher member requirements in their degree requirements.
- 'Final Exam Only' members do not sign the dissertation title page.
• This committee will be designated as the Dissertation Committee and Final Examination Committee and the chair of this committee will be the candidate’s major professor.
• A final oral examination is required.
• Admission to the final examination may be restricted to members of the committee, members of the Academic Senate, and guests of equivalent rank at other institutions.
- Doctoral Candidacy Plan B
- • Requires a committee of a minimum of 3 members, including its chair. This committee will be designated as the Dissertation Committee and the chair of this committee will be the candidate’s major professor.
- Programs may set higher member requirements in their degree requirements.
• The Dissertation Committee shall determine whether the candidate has met the requirements for the degree. They are responsible for guiding the candidate in their research, reading, and evaluating the dissertation.
• At the discretion of the Dissertation Committee, a final oral examination may be held.
- If the Dissertation Committee decides to hold a final oral examination, it will assume the role of the Dissertation and Final Examination Committee.
• At the discretion of the graduate program, an exit seminar may be required of all candidates. Satisfaction of this requirement is verified by the chair of the Dissertation Committee.
- Doctoral Candidacy Plan C
- • Requires a minimum of 3 members, including its chair, designated as the Dissertation & Final Examination Committee.
- Programs may set higher member requirements in their degree requirements
• The Dissertation & Final Examination Committee shall determine whether the candidate has met the requirements for the degree. They are responsible for guiding the candidate in their research, reading, and evaluating the dissertation.
• A final oral examination is required.
• There is no exit seminar requirement for this plan.
All doctoral students must complete a dissertation, receive approval from the Dissertation Committee, and file the dissertation electronically with Graduate Studies. These final steps are part of the filing process every doctoral student must complete to graduate and be included on the degree list.
The Final Exam
The Final Exam regulations are available in Academic Senate DDR 520(E). Students in Plans A & C are required to take a Final Exam prior to the committee members signing approval of the dissertation. Final Exams for Plan B students are permitted but not required by policy. The student's dissertation committee may require a Final Exam in order to approve the dissertation. Students should discuss the process for scheduling and conducting the Final Exam with their Graduate Advisor and major professor. Typically, the exam is held immediately before a student plans to file their dissertation with Graduate Studies.
Following the Final Exam, the committee chair will report the results to Graduate Studies using the Final Exam Report form. If passed, the committee members sign the dissertation title page, and the student may file their dissertation and paperwork with Graduate Studies.
- Plan A - Report of Final Examination for Ph.D., Plan A (GS325)
- Plan C - Report of Final Examination for Ph.D., Plan C (GS326)
The doctoral dissertation is the culminating paper that synthesizes a student's years of learning, experience, research, and writing on a specialized topic within their field. It is the final requirement for all doctoral students and, once approved and filed, signifies completion of the degree. For almost all students, completing the dissertation will be an entirely new experience from anything they have undertaken before. As the project develops, many student's research topic and questions change (sometimes drastically).
Just as the literature and methods in each field differ, the standards and expectations for the dissertation also vary by field. The dissertation committee members have likely all published the student's field or one related, and they serve as the student's primary resources for mentorship in all stages of the dissertation process. When the dissertation has been completed and approved by the the committee, students must electronically file it with Graduate Studies. Information about the filing process is available on Filing Your Thesis or Dissertation.
Master’s Candidacy & Final Requirements
By advancing to candidacy, master's degree students officially submit their program of study to Graduate Studies, identify their faculty mentor(s), and state which master’s plan they will pursue.
Master’s students are eligible to advance to candidacy when they have:
- Passed at least half of the coursework required according to the program degree requirements. Developed a program of study including all coursework taken and remaining for the degree. These courses will be listed on the Candidacy Application, and passing/pending grades will be verified by Graduate Studies.
- Earned a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.
- The Graduate Coordinator or Graduate Advisor should advise students not to include courses on the candidacy that are not degree requirements.
- Registered full-time or part-time in the current quarter, or the upcoming quarter if advancing in summer or between quarters.
- Master’s students may be registered part-time throughout their course of study with approval from their program and OUR.
- Plan I Thesis or Plan I MFA - Secured members for the thesis or MFA committee who are willing and qualified to provide mentorship.
- Plan II - The graduate program will assist students with selecting an approved committee. Plan II committees are not reviewed for eligibility by Graduate Studies.
Master's Candidacy Plans
Each master's degree program votes on and is approved to offer one or both of the Master's Plans (I & II). Students may only use a candidacy plan approved for their program. The plans differ in number of required units, coursework level requirements, committee eligibility, and final requirement. Ask your Graduate Coordinator which candidacy plan your program uses, or check your Program Page.
Master's Plan I and II regulations are located in Academic Senate DDR 520(c). The requirements below do not include
- Master's Plan I (Thesis)
- • Plan I programs must included a minimum of 30 units, but programs may specify requirements in addition to those listed here.
- At least 12 of the 30 units must be graduate work in the major field.
• A committee of at least three members must be appointed to read and evaluate the master's thesis.
- Committee membership must be reviewed and approved by Graduate Studies - see Thesis & Dissertation Committees below.
- Each thesis must be prepared in the form prescribed by the Graduate Council, and submitted electronically to Graduate Studies.
• MFA programs use the MFA Candidacy - Plan I, and committees must be reviewed and approved by Graduate Studies, but MFA students do not submit the thesis to Graduate Studies.
- The MFA committee chair submits the MFA Report to Graduate Studies, notifying them of the results of the final requirements.
• Programs may specify requirements in addition to those listed above to be completed by their students under either plan.
- Master's Plan II (Exam/Capstone Project)
- • Plan II programs must included a minimum of 36 units, but programs may specify requirements in addition to those listed here.
• At least 18 units must be graduate courses in the major field.
- Not more than 9 units of research (299 or equivalent) may be used to satisfy the 18-unit requirement.
The final requirements may include a comprehensive exam, a project, or a capstone course.
- These are evaluated by a committee approved by the student's graduate program.
- The committee chair submits the results of the final requirement to Graduate Studies using the Master's Plan II Report.
Master's Final Requirements
- Master's Thesis
- A master's thesis is an original scholarly work, about a specific subject in the field, written under the guidance of the major professor. The thesis synthesizes the student's learning, research, and development in the graduate program. An eligible thesis committee reads and evaluates the thesis, and if approved, the student submits the thesis electronically to Graduate Studies. Information about the filing process is available on Filing Your Thesis or Dissertation.
- Master's Comprehensive Exam or Capstone Project
- After a Plan II student has advanced to candidacy, they are eligible to take the comprehensive exam or complete the capstone project. The format, content, and timing are determined by the student's graduate program, and the program is responsible for evaluating and reporting the results to Graduate Studies.
The Policy on UC Davis Master's Degree Capstone Requirement includes four standards for master's capstones:
1. Capstone projects should be synthetic, tying together two or more areas of specific content that would typically be the subject of a class or a sequence of classes
2. Capstone projects can be individual or group-based exercises. If a project is group-based, the individual student’s achievements and contributions should be assessed through robust means.
3. The report should be evaluated by at least two reviewers; and at least one of them should have no direct vested interest in the success of the student
4. To ensure the consistent quality and scope of capstone projects, there should be a single coordinator or adviser who judges the appropriateness of planned projects and their timelines, following guidelines established by the program faculty.
Thesis & Dissertation Committees
The Service on Advanced Degree Committees policy (GC1998-01) includes regulations for committee and member eligibility, but programs may establish more restrictive requirements for advanced degree committees. These are included in the program degree requirements and/or bylaws available on each Program page. Many programs have guidelines and processes for advising students on selecting committee members. Students should seek guidance from their Graduate Advisor and major professor about best practices for forming committee, and to discuss any additional program requirements.
Policy Regulations for Thesis/Dissertation Committee
Graduate Advisors, Graduate Coordinators, and Graduate Studies use the committee eligibility categories in the Service on Advanced Degree Committees policy (GC1998-01) to determine member and committee eligibility. Regulations for committee membership are included below.
- Number of Committee Members
• Each thesis or dissertation committee must include a minimum of three readers, unless the program degree requirements mandate a higher number.
- All Plan A Candidacy programs also require two final exam only members who do not sign the dissertation).
- Students may include more readers than required, but this is not recommended. Extra readers increase the logistical considerations and the number of approvals required.
Committee Chair Eligibility
• The Chair of the thesis or dissertation committee must be from categories 1, 2, 3, or 4 in the “Eligible Personnel” section.
• Most often the student’s major professor serves as the chair of the committee.
• With approval from the program and Graduate Studies, two members of the committee may serve as Co-Chairs.
Member Program Affiliation
• At least one committee member must be from the student’s major program, although programs may establish higher limits in their degree requirements.
Committee Membership Eligibility
• Any member of an advanced graduate degree committee should hold a degree at least equivalent to the degree objective of the student.
• In each committee, at least one member must be a member of the Davis Division of the Academic Senate.
• Only a total of two members from categories 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 in the “Eligible Personnel” section may be appointed to serve on a single committee.
• No more than one member in category 7 (program non-faculty affiliate) may be appointed to serve on a single committee, except with special advance approval from Graduate Studies.
Optional External Member (not employed by a UC)
• Optional external member (category 6) - no more than one member may be category 6 (external member - not employed by a UC), and they must be reviewed and approved by the Graduate Studies Associate Dean for Students.
- If you propose an external member, you must include a signed External Member Request, and the member’s CV (document not web-based) with your Candidacy Application.
- If the external member was approved to serve on the student’s Doctoral QE committee, the student must submit a new External Member Request for the member to serve on the dissertation committee.
- External committee members may only serve on one committee (or two for a student’s QE/Dissertation committees) across all graduate academic programs.
- All proposed external members are reviewed by the Graduate Studies Associate Dean for Students, and require additional time for review.
Changes to the Thesis or Dissertation Committee
If at any point after advancing to candidacy, a doctoral or master’s Plan I/MFA student would like to change the membership of their thesis or dissertation committee, the student must submit a Reconstitution of Committee Membership Request. The changed committee must follow the same regulations for committee membership (including allowing no more than one external member), and the full committee must be re-evaluated and approved by Graduate Studies.
Students should be advised to submit a Reconstitution Request as soon as possible when adjusting committee membership. When a student files to graduate, the committee included on their candidacy is compared to the committee included on the thesis or dissertation title page. If these differ, the student must submit a Reconstitution Request, but approval is not guaranteed. Graduation could be delayed if either an individual member or the committee as a whole is ineligible.
Submitting the Candidacy Application
- Candidacy eligible students complete the Candidacy Application appropriate for their degree objective and candidacy plan, and request signatures from their Graduate Advisor, Graduate Coordinator, and Committee Chair (except master’s Plan II).
- Doctoral students should ask their Graduate Coordinator or check ‘Degrees Offered’ on their Program page to determine if the program uses Candidacy Plan A, B, or C. Students will work with their major professor and Graduate Advisor to propose an eligible committee. Doctoral students do not include a program of study with the candidacy. The Graduate Advisor and Graduate Coordinator are responsible for verifying the student has completed the coursework and program requirements.
- Master’s Plan I (Thesis) and MFA students should ask their Graduate Coordinator for assistance listing their required program of study. Plan I students must complete at least 30 units, but each program may require more. The student's Graduate Advisor and major professor should advise them on thesis committee selection.
- Master’s Plan II (Exam/Project/Capstone) students should ask their Graduate Coordinator for assistance listing their required program of study. Plan II students must complete at least 36 units, but each program may require more. Plan II committees are not reviewed by Graduate Studies, and aren’t included on the Candidacy Application.
- The student pays the candidacy fee and forwards the candidacy and receipt to their Graduate Coordinator for submission to Graduate Studies
- If proposing an external committee member, the External Member Request and member’s CV must be submitted to Graduate Studies with the Candidacy.
- Graduate Studies Senior Academic Advisors (SAA’s) review the candidacy and verify eligibility of the student, committee, and/or program of study. SAA’s will notify the student, the Coordinator, and the Committee Chair when approved.
- External Member Requests are reviewed by the Associate Dean for Students and require additional review time.
In addition to the Candidacy Application, students must pay a candidacy fee ($90 for doctoral students or $55 for master’s students). Students completing both a master’s and doctoral programs must complete separate forms and pay separate fees for each candidacy.
Candidacy Fees support professional development programming available to master’s and doctoral students through the GradPathways Institute for Professional Development.
Candidacy Application FAQ's
- When should I submit the Candidacy Application
Doctoral students should submit the Candidacy Application to their Graduate Coordinator after passing the Qualifying Exam, and before their next registered quarter. International doctoral students see NRST question below for waiver information.
Master’s students should submit the Candidacy Application to their Graduate Coordinator after completing approximately half of their required coursework - usually after the second quarter for three-quarter programs, and after the third quarter for six-quarter programs.
- How do I pay the Candidacy Fee?
- Pay the Candidacy Fee Online at the GS Forms Store:
• Select Doctoral Candidacy and enter your name and student ID to add the fee to your cart.Pay the Candidacy Fee In Person or by Mail
• Initiate checkout, and enter your email address, credit card info, and billing address.
• Forward the email receipt along with your candidacy form to your Graduate Coordinator.
• Obtain all signatures prior to submitting payment. The Cashier’s Office will email you the form with a receipt stamp after your payment is processed. Forward the stamped form to your Graduate Coordinator.
• In person - Bring a copy of the signed form with a check or money order to the Cashier’s Office in Dutton Hall.
• By mail - Mail a copy of the signed form with a check or money order, in the same envelope, to the Cashier’s Office.
• Checks should be made payable to ‘UC Regents’.
- When will my Non-Resident Student Tuition (NRST) Waiver be processed (International Students Only)
UC Davis offers nine quarters of NRST waiver, followed by six quarters of NRST non-competitive fellowship, for international students who have advanced to candidacy. The deadline to obtain the NRST waiver is the first day of the quarter in which the waiver will be initiated. If the candidacy is submitted after the first day of the quarter, the NRST waiver will be activated for the following quarter.
Graduate Studies SAA’s process candidacies for NRST waivers based on the day they are received from your Graduate Coordinator. If your Coordinator submits the forms by the first day of the quarter deadline, you will receive the NRST waiver for that quarter when your candidacy is approved and processed.
Do I need to submit separate Candidacy Applications if I'm completing multiple degree objectives or the same objective in different majors?
Yes, students completing multiple objectives or majors must submit a separate Candidacy Application and pay the candidacy fee for each degree sequence.
I already advanced to candidacy, but I'm switching my candidacy plan. Do I need to submit a new Candidacy Application?
Yes, students who have advanced to candidacy, but change plans (e.g. changing from the MS to the MENGR), must submit a new Candidacy Application reflecting the requirements for the new plan. Students do NOT need to pay a new candidacy fee for a plan change.
My Candidacy Application was approved, but my anticipated date of graduation has changed. Do I need to update my Candidacy?
No, you do not need to update your anticipated date of graduation with Graduate Studies. The date listed on your Candidacy Application is only an estimate. If you do expect to complete later than anticipated, be sure to communicate this with your program Graduate Advisor. They may be able to provide you with helpful resources and discuss program expectations.
Who can I ask if I have questions about my committee or Candidacy Application?
The most knowledgeable contacts for program processes, coursework and degree requirements, and committee membership are your Graduate Coordinator and Graduate Advisor. You are also welcome to contact your SAA for questions or concerns about Graduate Studies review, graduate policy, committee eligibility, student status, or NRST.