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Steps to Graduation

The endgame of any graduate program is to graduate. Each degree has its own steps; following those steps and keeping an eye on the deadlines can help you get to Graduate Hooding Ceremony on time.

The overview of the graduation program steps is:

If you are earning a graduate certificate, learn more about the steps to earning a certificate.

Prepare Your Committee

Your committee will act as mentors and evaluators, ensuring that you have successfully achieved your degree, whether it be a Master’s degree, Specialist Degree in Education, or Doctoral Degree.

Master’s/Specialist in Education

For students in these degree programs, your committee will be determined largely by your department. You are encouraged to get with your major professor to find out who is on your committee, so that you may work with them throughout the rest of the process for graduation. You will also need to know your committee members so that you can complete your admission to candidacy, the next step for students in a Master’s or Specialist in Education program.

Doctoral Degree

If you are in a doctoral program, and are ready to establish your doctoral committee, you should consult with your major professor or the Director of Graduate Studies in your department for advice on choosing your committee members. This committee will be responsible for evaluating your performance on comprehensive exams and your dissertation.

Once you have decided on your committee, fill out the appropriate Doctoral Committee Form. If you are a PhD student, use the PhD Committee Form; if you are a non-PhD doctoral student (DSW, DrPH, DNP, EdD), use the Doctoral (Non-PhD) Committee Form. Once you have completed the necessary form, have the members sign it, and submit the form to the Graduate School. Make certain that you have submitted the form by the deadline date for the term in which you expect to graduate.

If you need to change, add, or remove a committee member, later on, you may use the Revise PhD Committee Form or the Revise Doctoral (Non-PhD) Committee Form, indicating with names and signatures which members are to be removed or added.

You should next work with this committee to schedule and take your comprehensive exam. The passing of this comprehensive exam is a requirement for your admission to candidacy, the next step.

Admission to Candidacy

The Admission to Candidacy is a contract between you and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Under this contract, you and UT agree that the courses you have taken and the grades you have received have fulfilled the course requirements for your program.

This is for your protection, in the event that the course requirements change after you have been admitted to candidacy. Once you, your committee, and the Dean of the Graduate School have signed this form, any changes to course requirements that happen later will not apply to you.

For doctoral students, there are two other requirements for a successful application:

  • You must have a minimum of two consecutive terms of full-time enrollment
  • You must have passed your comprehensive examination

To apply for admission to candidacy, fill out the Admission to Candidacy form (Master’s/Specialist in Education or Doctoral), following all instructions provided with the form. Be aware of the deadlines for submitting this application, in order to graduate in the term you expect. If you do not submit your application by this deadline, you will need to wait to graduate.

If you are completing a graduate certificate concurrently with your degree, be certain to complete a Graduate Certificate Course Verification, in order to earn your certificate.

Apply for Graduation

Along with your Admission to Candidacy, you must submit your Graduation Application online at MyUTK. Be certain to know the deadline for your desired graduation term, to avoid delays in graduation.

Draft Your Thesis/Dissertation

If you are in a Specialist in Education program, you will not be drafting or defending a thesis or dissertation.

At this stage, you will be complete a draft of your thesis or dissertation. The process of writing this work will depend upon your program and your major professor. However, it would be beneficial to visit the Theses & Dissertations pages for information about conducting research for your thesis/dissertation, avoiding copyright and publication conflicts, and formatting your work for final submission.

To ensure that you protect the integrity of your work and that of others, the Graduate School provides access to iThenticate. This tool allows you to scan your work for potential conflicts early in the process.

You must submit a draft of your thesis or dissertation to TRACE by the deadline specified for your term. If you need assistance with this submission, contact the Thesis/Dissertation Consultant (

Defend Your Dissertation/Complete Your Final Exam

For Master’s and Doctoral candidates, you will defend your thesis or dissertation before your committee. In order to graduate when you expect, schedule your defense by the deadline date provided for the term you desire (for doctoral students, use the Schedule of Dissertation Defense form). For Specialist in Education candidates, you will complete your final examination for evaluation by your committee.

At your defense/final exam, there are two forms that must be present: the Report of Final Examination (Pass/Fail) form and the Thesis/Dissertation Approval form. For Master’s and Specialist in Education candidates, download and complete the Report of Final Examination (Pass/Fail) form to bring to your defense or final exam.

For doctoral candidates, once your defense is scheduled, you will need to download the Report of Final Examination/Dissertation Defense/Project/Capstone (Pass/Fail) form. You are responsible for ensuring that this form is present at your defense.

After the defense/final exam, your committee will provide the signatures on both forms, indicating that you have passed. You will be responsible for getting those original signed forms to the Graduate School by the deadline dates.

Final Details

As you near the end of the graduation process, there are items that must be submitted by the same deadline in order for you to graduate successfully during the term you expect. View all of the graduation deadlines to see which deadline applies to you.

For all candidates, you must submit the Report of Final Examination (Pass/Fail) form by the deadline.

For Master’s and Doctoral candidates, your thesis or dissertation must have been submitted to TRACE and accepted by the Thesis/Dissertation consultant by the deadline date for the term in which you expect to graduate. For the majority of cases, this process is simple and straightforward, but if your dissertation does not match the formatting requirements for UT, there may be delays. It is recommended that you submit your dissertation to TRACE for final submission at least 24-48 hours before the deadline to avoid delays in graduation. Remember that the deadline is not when the form must be submitted, but when the thesis or dissertation must be approved.

For doctoral candidates, there is one more step that must be completed by this deadline: the Survey of Earned Doctorates. The Survey of Earned Doctorates is a survey that all doctoral candidates must take before being able to graduate. To complete this survey, follow the instructions provided on the Thesis/Dissertation pages. You must email a copy of your certificate of completion by the deadline date. You’ll want to make sure you give yourself plenty of time to do this prior to that date.