Program Requirements

The CHD program is designed as a five- to six-year program. Advisors and students will together determine the students’ temporal trajectory. If a student needs more than six years, this is not automatically permitted but must be petitioned. An additional year in the program is dependent on the nature of the research project and training required, disciplinary norms, and student progress.

All students are expected to be in residency at the University of Chicago, except when students are doing research in field. While in residency, students are expected to attend departmental colloquia and professionalization workshops.

The program of study is organized into three broad periods:

General requirements (years 1-2)

Students admitted to the doctoral program spend their first two years in a fairly structured curriculum, meeting two general program requirements: a set of coursework requirements and the completion of an empirical research project -- the Trial Research project.

In the first year of registration, new students are required to obtain their advisor's approval of their planned schedule of courses before they may register. The advisor will indicate to the Student Affairs Secretary that a student's course plan has been approved, and the Secretary will then give the student's account permission to register for courses online.

The schedule of classes contains the official calendar of courses for the upcoming quarter. Changes in course offerings will appear there; last-minute changes will be sent to student email.

More information on courses including descriptions and evaluations can be found:

In addition to a core program of courses, students are expected to design their program of study to include other courses and seminars offered by CHD faculty as well as courses from other departments in the University.

Every student is required to take the following courses for a quality grade (B or higher):

  • Comparative Human Development Concepts: Provides an introduction to the history, theoretical bases, and concepts of the field of human development, and to the major areas of inquiry in the Department of Comparative Human Development.
  • Five breadth courses, one in each program area:
    • Comparative Behavioral Biology
    • Socialization, Learning, and Life Course Development
    • Culture, Self and Society
    • Health, Vulnerability and Wellbeing
    • Methods in Human Development Research
  • Introductory Statistics* (students who have completed an equivalent course, may select a higher level statistics course as a substitution in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies).
  • Two trial research seminars (may be taken Pass/Fail)
  • Two additional CHD courses in a chosen area of specialization

Through these courses, students will specialize within the broader areas of child development, adolescent development, adult development and aging, personality processes, psychological anthropology, cultural and mental health, cultural psychology, and biology of development. In keeping with the department's interdisciplinary nature, considerable flexibility exists between these areas.

The Trial Research Seminars will launch students into their research projects and guide them from the beginning to the completion of those projects. The Trial Research Seminar is taken in the Winter Quarter of the first year and the Autumn Quarter of the second year. Trial research papers are due by Spring Quarter of the second year.

A student who can demonstrate basic competence in the core curricular areas may petition the faculty through the Chair's office to place into an advanced course in the same area. A well- qualified student may place out of intermediate statistics by the instructor's examination. If a student can demonstrate that they are unable to take any of the designated Methods courses, they may petition through the Chair's office to have an equally relevant and rigorous course from another department count towards the requirement. Students should contact the Student Affairs Administrator for information about the petition process, which must be complete by the Tuesday prior to the start of Autumn Quarter, and Tuesday of 7th week in Autumn and Winter Quarter.

By the end of their first year, students are required to have earned five quality grades for courses taken towards fulfilling these requirements. By the end of their second, they must have ten. On average a graduate student should take at least two courses for quality grades in each quarter of their first two years. Students are expected to maintain an average of B+ or better. In addition to these required courses, students will participate in elective courses and workshops inside and outside the department, chosen in consultation with their advisors.

Dissertation proposal preparation (years 3-4)

During their third year and guided by their dissertation advisor, students complete the Third Year Work assignment – either a pair of field statements, a grant proposal, or a literature review, which provides scaffolding for a dissertation project. A student must assemble a full thesis committee by the end of the third year. Most students start their Mentored Teaching Experiences in the third year.

Sometime during the third or fourth year, but no later than the end of Winter Quarter of their 4th year, students complete their Dissertation Proposal and defend it at a hearing with their full thesis committee. Upon a successful defense, assuming all other requirements have been met, the student moves to formal candidacy.

Dissertation research and writing (years 4-6)

After approval of the proposal, the student proceeds to carry out the research and to write up the dissertation. During this process the student should work closely with the dissertation committee members, and especially with the primary dissertation supervisor who bears responsibility for guiding the process as a whole. Once the chair and other members of the committee feel the dissertation is ready, a final oral examination is scheduled. The examining committee may vote to accept the dissertation, to accept it conditionally upon recommended revisions, or not to accept it pending major revisions.

All students are expected to be in residency at the University of Chicago, except for the time period when students are doing research in field. While in residency, students are expected to participate in the life of the department by attending colloquia and professionalization workshops.

More details about the program requirements are found in the department’s annual Graduate Manual which is provided to all students upon matriculation.

Students with questions about program requirements and milestones should contact Janice Pavel ( ) CHD Student Affairs Administrator. Students may also contact Brett Baker (, Associate Dean of Students in the Social Sciences, and Amanda Young (, Director, Graduate Student Affairs in UChicagoGRAD.