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Washington State University

Ph.D. Programs

The School of the Environment strongly supports the development of highly-qualified and experienced Ph.D. students who are well prepared with the knowledge to enter a competitive work force and effectively collaborate and communicate in interdisciplinary scientific efforts.

We provide opportunities for advanced scientific inquiry with leading research scientists along with training to support diverse work requirements for pursuing careers in agencies, private industry, and academia.

Our students are financially supported through research assistantships and teaching assistantships that cover tuition, health insurance and a living stipend.

We engage doctoral students as our colleagues and actively work with them on grant proposals, scientific publications, travel to conferences, and professional networking. Our scientific research operations include access to world-class labs and facilities.

Banner image credit: Migrant Corner with view of the Kearn River Preserve. Photo courtesy of Edwin Jacobo
Method River

Ph.D. Environmental and Natural Resources Sciences >>

Glacial outflow

Ph.D. Geology >>

Contact Us

Dr. Lisa Shipley
Associate Director of Graduate Studies
(509) 335-9182

Application Requirements

WSU Graduate School requirements for admission must be met, including a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 for the most recent 60 semester hours of undergraduate academic coursework.

Specific requirements for School of the Environment Ph.D. programs include:

  • a TOEFL score of 600 (Paper-Based), 250 (Computer-Based), or 100 (Internet-Based) for students with English as a second language.
  • Completion of a Master’s degree (or equivalent)
  • Admission to the program without subject matter deficiency requires at least 10 semester credits of completed coursework in basic biological and/or physical sciences (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics, geology).
  • Students may be admitted with deficiency with the expectation that the deficiency will be met through completed coursework (for non-graduate program credit) within one year of admission.
  • Obtaining and being accepted by a School of the Environment faculty advisor prior to admission. Arrangements for a faculty advisor should be made through interaction between the student and the faculty member. The initial contact may be made either by the applicant or the faculty member.

Program Committee & Advisor

Students must identify a member of the graduate faculty in SoE who agrees to serve as their graduate advisor.  Together the advisor and student will select a committee consisting of at least three graduate faculty members.

At the doctoral level, the committee also has the responsibility for the Ph.D. preliminary examination and the qualifying examination for the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Preliminary Examination

Each student is required to pass a preliminary examination in order to become a candidate for the Ph.D. degree.

This examination will be taken after most of the required course work has been completed, as determined by the thesis committee, and upon submission of a dissertation research proposal. It will consist of written and oral parts which will focus on the student’s major area of competency, courses taken, and the subject matter of the proposed research.

Dissertation & Final Examination

The final examination will be mainly a defense of the dissertation. All students are required to present a seminar to the faculty and public on their dissertation research.

Students submit their dissertation following the Graduate School directions listed on at least 10 days prior to the proposed exam date. All dissertation submissions and signature page completions are now done 100% digitally.

After a successful final exam, the student has five working days to do the following:

  • Email the Hold Harmless form and Survey of Earned Doctorates completion certificate to
  • Upload a PDF containing the dissertation’s title page, signature pages, and abstract to myWSU. Instructions can be found on the graduate school’s forms page under “Cotton Page e-Approval Guide

Graduate students should be aware of the Departmental rules and requirements regarding distribution of dissertation drafts. Because a student only has five working days after defending their dissertation to turn in the final version to the Graduate School, substantially all changes must be addressed prior to defending their thesis in the final exam.

Consequently, your committee members need to have read your dissertation prior to scheduling a defense date. This means committee members should receive copies of your dissertation at least 14 days before scheduling the final exam, preferably a month before.

Depending on your advisor and your writing ability, you should generally allow for three to four weeks prior to this for addressing the rough draft comments.


Current Doctorate Student Degree Checklist:

Before Your First Semester Registration:

  • Meet with faculty advisor to plan course of study for first semester

During Your First Semester:

Your Second Semester:

  • Establish Your Graduate Committee
  • If you are working with animal subjects, make sure you have IACUC approval before beginning your research.
  • If you are working with human subjects, make sure you have  IRB approval before beginning your research.
  • Check with your thesis advisor if you are unsure about whether these approvals are already in place.
  • Submit your program of study to Graduate School

Your Third Semester:

  • Apply For Residency at the beginning of your third semester.
  • Plan & schedule your preliminary exam
  • Submit your preliminary exam form to your graduate student advisor by noon no later than 10 business days before you intend to take your preliminary exam.

Your Final Semester:

Within 5 Business Days Of Completing Your Final Exam:

  • Upload a PDF document of your dissertation’s title page, abstract, and signature page to myWSU using these directions.
  • Email your completed Hold Harmless & Copyright Acknowledgement Form to
  • email your Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) completion form to
  • Update your ProQuest submission with your completed and revised dissertation. This must be the final version with all revisions. This is a graduate school requirement, and until this is done they will not clear you for graduation.