If a competitive Ph.D. Candidate who is ABD (All but dissertation) wants to apply to tenure-track positions despite still working on their thesis; how many months do universities usually leave for those candidates to defend and graduate after the start of the tenure-track position?

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    My old institution in Switzerland once hired an (outstanding) assistant professor months before they had actually defended their PhD. HR was thoroughly displeased since there was no employment category that even remotely fit, but the department head pushed and prevailed. Many things are possible if sufficiently important players in the department want to make them happen, but that doesn't mean that they are easy or likely to happen.
    – xLeitix
    Apr 6, 2023 at 13:49

1 Answer 1


More generally, not just for tenure-track positions, jobs that require a PhD typically require you do have a PhD before starting work. That doesn't mean they won't go through the hiring process beforehand, but they're going to expect that before you start your job you can say you have the degree.

Some exceptions may be granted for administrative processing; for example, if you are able to complete your defense and all degree requirements but your institution only grants degrees at the end of semesters, you may find someone that will consider you as having effectively graduated.

"All But Dissertation", though, also means you are "Anything But a Doctor". Someone ABD has not earned their degree yet. The successful completion of a thesis defense is a pretty integral part of the PhD process, I wouldn't expect anyone to take it so lightly as assuming it's a mere formality. Additionally, taking a job in the meantime seems like it would increase the risk that the thesis and defense are never finished. The time starting out as a tenure-track faculty member is an especially stressful time, with many responsibilities that do not include finishing and defending a thesis.

Like most things, though, it's ultimately up to any individual institution unless there are specific laws that bind them.

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    @WolfgangBangerth I've typically seen ABD used when someone has completed all their non-dissertation tasks: any required courses or preliminary examinations, and any other degree requirements. That is, it would not typically indicate someone has already defended, though it could. In any event, the point I wanted to emphasize is that "ABD" means someone hasn't finished their degree.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 5, 2023 at 22:42
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    In my experience, also, in the U.S., in math, "ABD" does not include the defense... Apr 5, 2023 at 23:02
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    I have only heard of ABD as standing for "all but dissertation" and this is the meaning of this abbreviation in the question. Apr 6, 2023 at 1:03
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    @TerryLoring Sorry, maybe this is what Wolfgang meant, too, I was just making a joke with the abbreviation. I know what it's meant to stand for, but it also tends to be overused by some people to exaggerate accomplishments, when it really just means that the absolutely most important part of your degree isn't done yet.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 6, 2023 at 1:16
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    @Bryan Krause I got your point, finally. You are correct that ABD is a often used to exaggerate . Apr 6, 2023 at 4:31

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