At my school for a PhD I am required to complete a minimum of 72 credit hours of study(around 4 years of study). Of this ~42 are to be course work and ~30 is to be dissertation.

So I know what a dissertation is but not in the context of "30 dissertation hours." For students and professors what has been your experience and what is actually done each semester while you are taking the dissertation hours. Do you go to class or is it a one on one basis with a selected professor or maybe just your adviser. Is there no class/group time, and I just do research into the area I have proposed for my dissertation?

Will be asking my adviser and graduate school dean about this but was also interested in the dynamic that other schools have in this area.

  • 1
    72 hours in what time period? 72 hours every week seems excessive (even though it wouldn't be unusual for some weeks of a PhD). But 72 hours in any commonly used time period greater than a week seems too little. Puzzling!
    – Tara B
    Sep 25, 2014 at 16:40
  • 5
    I think he means 72 course hours, where a typical semester-long course at a US university is rated at 3 hours. A full load for a typical graduate student would be 9 to 12 course hours per semester.
    – Bill Barth
    Sep 25, 2014 at 16:46
  • 5
    As @BillBarth said, "official" dissertation hours are just filler. It might be misleading to think of them as a representation of how much work you should be doing.
    – vector07
    Sep 25, 2014 at 17:10

2 Answers 2


In my PhD program, I was required to register for various research and dissertation related courses to fill the required 9 credit hours to be a full-time student. Those course ranged from 3 to 5 credit hours depending on what I needed. Those courses never met, and I did not receive a letter grade for them. They seemed to have two purposes: 1. existing to fill my schedule after my actual coursework was done (so that I was listed as being enrolled as a full-time student and so that they had something to charge me for), and 2. giving my advisor credit with the department for supervising a research or dissertation student. The mostly seem to be a bureaucratic slight of hand.

Edited to add: I was also paid 20 hours per week to work as a Graduate Research Assistant, but I basically worked about 40-50 hours per week on going to class (until I was done with my required hours) and working on my research. Towards the end, when I was writing my dissertation, it was more. The hours I was officially paid and the credit hours I took, never really aligned with much, except that a 3-credit hour actual course (like "Functional Analysis") met for 3 hours every week.


If you take 9 credit hours of course work per semester, then you will need 5 semesters for the course work only.

But from the first semester, try to choose a topic for you dissertation and then find the professor (doing research on that topic) and ask him to be your advisor. Then along with the course work, spend some time to get literature and requirements about your topic. But you must keep in touch with the topic and the advisor.

By the time you finish your course work, you may have enough data and know how to carry on full time research. 30 is just a number which has nothing to do with how many hours you really work. What you really need to do is to have results acceptable by your advisor, one or two publications and a good presentation.

  • Most unis that I have looked at or been to require you to have an adviser selected and willing to take you before they will admit you.
    – NDEthos
    Mar 17, 2022 at 3:13
  • @NDEthos Initially, find out or ask someone about a professor who is working in the field of your interest. Choose him as your advisor. In many schools, you can request the chairman of the department to change your advisor later on.
    – imtaar
    Mar 17, 2022 at 7:31

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .