Ph.D. Program

Program Overview

Degree Requirements

As an overview, below are the Ph.D. degree requirements. However, more information must be viewed within the Ph.D. Student Handbook.

  1. Download the Requirements Checklist.
  2. All requirements, including outside minor statistics, required course work, Professional Seminar (ProSem), and first-year project will be explained to incoming students at orientation. All incoming students beginning the program are required to attend.
  3. A first-year project is required of all doctoral students. The completed project is to be presented at the required ProSem at the end of the first calendar year or within the second year. A completed manuscript submitted for publication must serve as a project in-lieu-of thesis for those doctoral students entering the program who have not completed a master’s thesis.
  4. All requirements, including outside minor, statistics, presentation of first-year project at Professional Seminar, required course work within the department, and removal of grades of Incomplete must be completed prior to taking preliminary examinations.
  5. Students should expect to take preliminary examinations about 28 months (two calendar years plus one semester or equivalent) after beginning the doctoral work.
  6. A prospectus for the dissertation should be completed and approved by the dissertation committee of the student no later than two semesters after the semester in which the preliminary examination was taken.
  7. The dissertation can be either an original single piece of research or a collection of cumulative first-author publications that are thematically linked. The exact form is to be determined by the student’s dissertation committee and must conform to Graduate School rules.
  8. The Graduate School requires that you take your final oral examination and deposit your dissertation within five years of passing preliminary examinations.
  9. It is expected that the doctoral degree should be awarded within 3-5 years after entering the program with a master’s degree.

The Faculty of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders views the doctoral degree as a scholarly academic research degree. In addition to the general University regulations for the doctoral degree stipulated in the Graduate School catalog, the following doctoral regulations are specific to the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Within the Ph.D. Student Handbook, you will find the other critical information about this program, including:

  • Advising
  • First-Year Project
  • Required Coursework details
  • Ph.D. Minor
  • Preliminary Exam (“Prelim”)
  • Prospectus
  • Final Oral Examination of Dissertation Project
  • Appeals: Doctoral-Degree Program
  • Special Committee Doctoral Programs

Admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree is obtained after successful completion of the following requirements: Master’s thesis or equivalent research project, course work within the department as specified in a plan of study, outside-the-department minor, statistics requirement, and a preliminary examination.

Applications & Admissions

The program is open to individuals who have completed an undergraduate degree and who meet the minimum admission requirements of the Graduate School and the department. Entering students who do not have undergraduate majors in communicative disorders will typically be required to take prerequisite course work, which may lengthen the time require to earn a graduate degree.

Fall Application Deadline: January 1st

All potential Ph.D. applicants must meet the Graduate School and program requirements.

You aren’t required to contact professor(s) before applying, but we believe it’s highly valuable if you have some pre-application interaction with your potential advisor(s).

The Communication Sciences and Disorders website includes a faculty directory and lab overviews. We urge applicants to examine labs and to look carefully at relevant professor research areas. We urge you to read some publications by any professor(s) whose research appears to be compatible with your grad study goals, and who, therefore, could potentially become your advisor. We highly encourage you, after examining the profiles, and before applying, to contact the professor(s) whose interests best match your own. Most professors will make themselves available to exchange emails.

Graduate School Requirements

UW-Madison Graduate School Requirements for Admission

A minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 (4.0=A); however, the students we accept into the program typically have much higher GPAs. In very rare circumstances, we will consider a student whose GPA is below 3.0, but this requires a special review. To seek a special review, you must submit a letter of appeal along with your application materials. This letter must state the reasons for the low GPA and the rationale for making an exception to the minimum GPA rule.

Program Prerequisties

An undergraduate major in Communication Sciences & Disorders is recommended, but not required, for admission to the Ph.D. program. Entering students who do not have undergraduate majors in communicative disorders will typically be required to take prerequisite course work, which may lengthen the time require to earn a graduate degree.

Letters of Recommendation

These letters should address your potential for academic success in graduate school. At least two should come from instructors who have knowledge of your academic performance. The third may come from a clinical supervisor, employer, or other individual who has knowledge of your academic potential and likelihood for success in graduate school. No more than three.

Reasons for Graduate Study

This is an opportunity for you to highlight experiences, related skills, and personal attributes which make you an exceptional candidate. 1-3 pages, single-spaced.


Include honors and awards.


Upload a copy of your unofficial transcripts. These show grades earned at every college or university you have attended, including study abroad. If admitted, the Graduate School will request official transcripts.

Supplemental Application

Complete the supplemental application found in the online application. This is where you will expressly note your focus area and faculty you are interested in working with.

Official TOEFL Scores

If your native language is not English, or your undergraduate instruction was not in English, a TOEFL score is required. Use institution code 1846. You may take the test more than once; we will consider the scores from your best testing date. Only official scores, submitted directly from ETS, from within the last five years and submitted by the application deadline will be accepted.

Application Fee

UW-Madison charges a non-refundable $75 application fee that must be paid by credit card (Master Card or Visa) or debit card. In addition to the $75 application fee, non U.S. citizens will be charged a $6.00 international document processing fee.

There are also limited application fee grants available. Check the UW-Madison Graduation Application Fee grants to see if you qualify. Please note that fee grant applications must be submitted before you application and can take two weeks to process so you should plan to submit fee grant applications by December 1st with consideration of holidays.

Notable Advice

  • Submit all materials one week prior to deadline. Late and incomplete applications will not be considered.
  • File your application early. Do not wait until you can gather all your materials. It is better to file early and send additional items as they become available.
  • Track your application status by going back into the application and reviewing the checklist. We update this page as we receive your materials, usually within two weeks of receipt.
  • For more information, review the UW-Madison Graduate School “Steps to Apply” and “Admissions FAQ”.


Each student creates an individual study plan with his or her advisor. There are no specific course requirements for Ph.D. majors. Ph.D. students must, however, take the following seminars/courses to satisfy the core requirement:

  • CS&D 900: Graduate Professional Seminar, “ProSem” (8 cr.; four semesters)
  • CS&D 900: Research Methodology, “Theory to Practice” (2-3 cr.)
  • CS&D 900: Grant Writing (2-3 cr.)
  • Teaching Methods (1 cr. or audit)

Research Areas

Our research laboratories, developed and supervised by department faculty, offer students cutting-edge training opportunities in basic, applied, and translational research topics in communication sciences and disorders. You can choose a research focus in normal and/or disordered aspects of speech, language, and hearing.

Most of our laboratories are supported by competitive grants awarded by extramural funding agencies, especially the National Institutes of Health. Labs are located across campus, including:

Learn more about our faculty-driven research.