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Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice and Criminology

The Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice and Criminology is available on the Pullman campus. A student aspiring to earn a Ph.D. degree should expect to spend three to four years, depending on the individual, in study and research beyond the M.A. degree, of which at least two years must be enrolled at Washington State University, and at least two consecutive semesters must be spent in residence as a graduate student in criminal justice. This degree program is designed for the student entering the graduate program with a M.A. and/or M.S. degree. Students currently enrolled in the M.A. program at WSU must inquire with the Graduate Director and Coordinator for directions on how to apply.


72 credits total – 39 graded credits (credits earned for your M.A. count towards this total; if you enter our program with an M.A. from another university, some of your credits may transfer), and 33 dissertation research credits.


In addition to the course requirements, each student in the Ph.D. program is required to have formal teaching and/or research experience in an institution of higher learning before receiving the Ph.D. degree. Serving as a teaching assistant in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology satisfies this teaching requirement. Collecting original data also fulfills this requirement.

Preliminary Examination

  • Component 1: Reading and Question List Development
    Students will produce a personalized reading list which will be comprised of significant literature in the students defined area of specialization. In addition, students will submit a proposed list of five question focused on the substantive area of their specialization, and five questions focused on the methodological/statistics aspect of the area of specialization.
  • Component 2: Take-Home Paper Submission
    Students will write a take-home paper over the period of 57 hours over a three day period. The paper will answer two synthesis questions developed by the students committee, one substantive in nature and the other methodological/statistics in nature.
  • Component 3: Oral Defense
    Students must orally defend their take-home paper before their doctoral committee.

Dissertation Prospectus (Preliminary) Examination

The Ph.D. aspirant becomes eligible to attempt preliminary (i.e. prospectus)  examinations after completion of qualifying exams and is in the process of completing the final courses included in his or her Ph.D. program. Only after a student has successfully passed “prelims” does he or she become formally a “candidate for the Ph.D.” (or ABD, “All But Dissertation”). The next requirement for the Ph.D. candidate is preparation, under the guidance of a dissertation committee, of a dissertation presenting the results of a thorough and systematic investigation of a significant problem in one of the specialty areas in criminal justice and criminology the candidate wished to research.

Thesis/Dissertation Final Examination Defense 

After the prospectus is successfully defended, students need to review and summarize the relevant literature’s, prepare the necessary and agreed methodological tools, collect the information which will be used to answer the dissertation question and write up the first draft of chapters. Upon completion of the dissertation and final defense, a final copy of the dissertation (and related required forms) must be submitted in digital format to the Graduate School within 5 working days for final acceptance.

Graduate Director
Dr. Dale Willits

Graduate Program Coordinator
Danielle M. Makin