“Students tend to think that once they are done with the coursework, they are pretty much done with the program. This is not the case with the doctoral education. In fact, the coursework is only a preparation (appetizer) for the dissertation research (the main dish). Once done with the [Research Design] class, typically students take their competency exam and, upon passing, the students become doctoral candidates (aka ABDs – “all but dissertation”). This is where the real challenge begins because unlike very structured coursework, the writing of the dissertation is an independent process where the researcher must be self-organized and self-driven to stay on task and to work on this long project for a long time.

How much time do you need? Well, the answer varies. From experience, we know that once you are matched with the dissertation committee, the very best case scenario is that the dissertation takes about a year – This is only possible if you 1) already know EXACTLY what you will be doing for your dissertation; 2) you are super organized and self-driven; 3) you have already done extensive reading and some writing about your topic; 3) you contribute at least 20 hours each week into working on dissertation until you finish. 

More typically, it takes students about 2 years from the passing of the comps to the finish line – Even this timeline requires you to work on your dissertation on a weekly (if not daily) basis. If you procrastinate, or take a few months off, or change your topic a few times, you will likely spend more than 2 years and you are at-risk of never finishing the program.”