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Advancement to Candidacy

Information on advancement to candidacy for graduate students, including instructions and forms, are provided below. Please read each section carefully and contact the Office of Graduate Studies with any questions. 

Advancement to Candidacy

Advancement to candidacy for a doctoral student is essentially when the student has completed all requirements in the degree except for research and successful defense of the dissertation. It is sometimes colloquially called All But Dissertation (or ABD). To advance to candidacy, the doctoral student must complete certain requirements. Once the requirements are completed, the Doctoral Program Director or another university official will submit documentation of completion to the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS). Once OGS has approved these documents, the Office of University Registrar is notified to allow the doctoral student to enroll in #899 courses. Please read section 8.5 of the Graduate Academic Regulations for more information about advancement to candidacy.

Please note these are only the university requirements to advance to candidacy; schools and programs will have other requirements which must also be completed before advancing to candidacy. 

Committee Formation

The Doctoral Program Director must approve of the doctoral student’s dissertation committee, including the dissertation chair. For information about the doctoral dissertation committee, please read section 8.4 of the Graduate Academic Regulations.

The Doctoral Dissertation Committee Form must be electronically signed by the Doctoral Program Director and submitted to OGS with the other requirements to advance to candidacy. Should there be any changes to the dissertation committee, a separate, updated form should be submitted alerting OGS of these changes.

Download a PDF of the Doctoral Dissertation Committee Form

Download a PDF of the Doctoral Dissertation Change Committee/Outside Reader Form

Degree Audit

To advance to candidacy, students must have completed all the courses on their Program of Study and passed their comprehensive examination or equivalent. An academic advisor or other university official must produce a PDF of the current degree audit showing that the student has completed these tasks. This must be submitted to OGS with the other requirements to advance to candidacy.

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Certification of Completion

American University offers online Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) courses through the CITI program. This course will fulfill the requirements set in the Graduate Academic Regulations. Once registered and affiliated with American University, the courses are provided to you by the University, and you will not need to pay out of pocket for course fees. Students must save a PDF copy of the Certificate of Completion to advance to candidacy. The Certificate of Completion must be submitted to OGS with the other requirements to advance to candidacy.

Successful Dissertation Proposal Defense

Finally, to advance to candidacy, the doctoral student must have successfully defended the dissertation proposal. The Advancement to Candidacy Checklist, which lists all requirements, has a section which includes listing the date the student successfully defended the dissertation proposal. This checklist must be submitted to OGS with the other requirements to advance to candidacy.

Download a PDF of the Advancement to Candidacy Checklist

Submission to the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS)

Once all the documentation is gathered, either an Academic Advisor, a Doctoral Program Director, a school-wide Director of Graduate Education, or an Associate Dean should submit these documents to OGS.

Doctoral students should not submit these documents but may be responsible for giving them to the appropriate university official.

Please only send documents for one student per email.

All forms are emailed to candidacy@american.edu.

Outside Reader *Not needed for advancement to candidacy, but needed to defend the dissertation

While not required to advance to candidacy, a doctoral student must find an outside reader whose charge is to determine if the dissertation meets general standards in the field and not necessarily to critique the work in detail. This should be done well in advance of the dissertation defense to allow the outside reader to read the dissertation and give feedback.

The same form used to make changes to the dissertation committee can be used to submit the name of the outside reader to OGS. Please read section 8.4 of the Graduate Academic Regulations for more information about the outside reader.

Download a PDF of the Doctoral Dissertation Change Committee/Outside Reader Form