Academic Year 2023–24

Degree Programs

Graduate students in the Department of Music are admitted in one of three Ph.D. programs: Composition, Ethnomusicology, or History & TheoryStudents who complete a sufficient subset of the requirements for the Ph.D., as itemized below for each degree program, are eligible to apply for the M.A. degree.

General information on requirements that span the subdisciplines is given in this opening section of the curriculum. Overviews of coursework, exams, pedagogical training, and dissertation development, as well as requirements for specific degree programs, are accessible from the tabs above.

NB: All students receive their official degrees in “Music,” not in the name of their specific subdiscipline. For example, ethnomusicology concentrators will receive a diploma—Ph.D. or M.A.—in “Music,” not “Ethnomusicology.” This both accords with Divisional policy and reflects the Music Department’s commitment to interdisciplinary inquiry across all of our subfields.

Overview of Requirements

Each of the three Ph.D. programs requires successful completion of courses, language examinations, musicianship, comprehensive examinations, pedagogical training, a dissertation, and a final examination on (“defense of”) the dissertation. In addition, the program in Composition requires approval of the Minor Field Plan, defense of the Minor Field Paper; the program in Ethnomusicology requires a Special Field Examination.

Residency Status

The University mandates that all full-time students begin their studies with four years of Scholastic Residence (SR) during which they normally complete their course work and most of their degree requirements. Following Scholastic Residence, all full-time students progress to Advanced Residence (AR), the final stage in which students complete their degree requirements. Students who have not completed their Ph.D.s after twelve years of study will no longer be allowed to register in their degree programs. Those who complete the dissertation after twelve years will nevertheless be allowed to petition the Music Department to defend and submit their dissertation. For more information, refer to Academic Policies for the University.

M.A. Degree en Route

Students may apply for an M.A. degree from the University of Chicago once they have fulfilled the necessary requirements for their area of study as specified in the sections below on each program. Students entering with an M.A. in Music from a different institution may earn a second M.A. from the University of Chicago only if they follow Track 2 as described below.

Satisfactory Progress

Students are expected to maintain Satisfactory Progress in their degree studies on a year-by-year basis. The requirements for Satisfactory Progress, per year and per degree program, are described under specific degree requirements.

By April 1 of each year, all students must complete Satisfactory Progress forms and submit them to the Director of Graduate Studies. Students must demonstrate that they have completed all requirements for the previous year and that they are on schedule to complete requirements for the current year. Students who wish to extend the time limit on any of the requirements for satisfactory progress must file a petition by April 1 stating clear reasons for the extension.

Inability to comply with Satisfactory Progress requirements may result in one of the following actions: (1) the student may be placed on probation for one year and reviewed at the end of that year; (2) the student may be asked to take a Leave of Absence until the outstanding work is satisfactorily completed; (3) the student may be given an “unsatisfactory progress” rating, with the consequence that outstanding federally supported educational loans come due immediately and the University discontinues financial aid; (4) the department may recommend that the student be withdrawn from the program.


Candidacy is attained when all requirements for the Ph.D. have been met except completion of the dissertation. Candidacy status is known informally as ABD (“all but dissertation”); students will normally achieve ABD status by the end of their third year (for ethnomusicology and history/theory) or by the end of their fourth (for composition). For more information, see the Satisfactory Progress Requirements for each degree program below.

ABD students are expected to meet with their dissertation committees at least once each academic year to discuss progress on the dissertation. Such meetings should take place before the end of March. If not all members of the committee are able to attend, the meeting should include—at minimum—the primary dissertation advisor and one secondary reader. Students can meet virtually with their committee if desired. After this meeting the advisor will submit a brief e-mail to the Chair and the Director of Graduate Studies summarizing the student’s progress and the committee’s recommendations.

At least nine months (three quarters) must elapse between admission to candidacy and defense of the dissertation.