Graduate Catalog
Policies, Procedures, Academic Programs
Graduate School Policies
Residency Requirements for Doctoral Degrees
Doctoral Degrees

Virginia Tech offers four doctoral degrees: the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), the Doctor of Education (EdD), the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and the Doctor of Medicine (MD).  The PhD and EdD degrees are offered through the Graduate School, the DVM is offered through the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, and the MD is offered through the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.  The PhD is a research degree that focuses on “basic research that expands the knowledge base of the field” while the EdD is focused more on “applied research related to professional practice” (Council of Graduate Schools, CGS, 2005).  The nature and purpose of the PhD is described as the following (CGS, 2005):

      “The Doctor of Philosophy program is designed to prepare a student become a scholar:  that is, to discover, integrate, and apply knowledge, as well as to communicate and disseminate it.  Such skills may lead to careers in social, governmental, educational, biomedical, business, and industrial organizations as well as in university and college teaching, research and administration.  The PhD. Program emphasizes the development of the student’s capacity to make significant original contributions to knowledge in a context of freedom of inquiry and expression.  A well-prepared doctoral student will have the ability to understand and critically evaluate the literature of the field and to apply appropriate principles and procedures to the recognition, evaluation, interpretation and understanding of issues and problems at the frontiers of knowledge.  The student also will have an appropriate awareness of and commitment to the ethical practices appropriate to the field.” (p. 1)

In accordance with the definition of doctoral degrees as involving mastery of intellectual principles, development of original scholarly contributions to the chosen field or fields, and critical evaluation of issues and problems in relevant disciplines, residency is required for all doctoral students at Virginia Tech. 

Doctoral Residency Guidelines

Residency allows students to concentrate focused time on their degree, acquire the necessary “habits, attitudes, skills, and insights” (CGS, 2005) required for contributions to scholarship, and have opportunities to work closely with other scholars including faculty and other graduate students.  These scholarly skills, attitudes, and experiences go beyond acquiring knowledge in classes and beyond experience in professional practice.

The Graduate School expects all graduate programs to encourage and provide opportunities for immersion of doctoral students in scholarship.  Residency goals can be achieved by multiple means, including but not limited to individual and group research training; providing access to resources such as libraries, research equipment, scholarly materials, and laboratories; providing networking opportunities with Virginia Tech and external scholars and graduate students; participation in scholarly seminars presented by scholars from Virginia Tech or elsewhere; assisting with developing applications for external funding of scholarly endeavors; participation at scholarly conferences; and publications or other forms of scholarly dissemination.

Residency for doctoral degree programs (PhD, EdD) can be accomplished through one of three mechanisms.

  • Two consecutive semesters of full-time enrollment:  Programs will be expected to provide opportunities during those two semesters to cultivate immersion in scholarship and achieve the goals of residency.   Students completing residency via full-time enrollment should understand residency goals and plan not only to complete required courses, but also to sustain scholarly engagement and immersion in research, scholarship and professional development.
  • Program-specific alternative residency plan:  Academic degree programs may propose alternative methods by which enrolled students will achieve residency goals to be approved by the Graduate School.  Program-specific alternatives may be proposed for doctoral degree programs offered outside Blacksburg or on the Blacksburg campus.
  • Individual alternative residency plan:  Proposals for alternative residency from individual students can be submitted for approval by the Graduate School.

Each academic degree unit should determine the mechanism through which the doctoral students can satisfy the residency requirement.  Academic units may utilize any or all of the three options as determined appropriate by the graduate program faculty.  For existing degree programs, the enrollment-based requirement will serve as the mechanism unless a specific request is made for a program-specific alternative residency plan.  For new degree programs, the mechanism for earning doctoral residency should be included in the proposal submitted for approval through the governance process.

Proposals for alternative residency plans (program-specific, individual) should include a description of how the alternative plan will help achieve the purposes and goals of doctoral residency:  Please provide strategies for each of the following goals:

Disciplinary depth and breadth

    • Access to a wide variety of classes and academic experiences in the student’s field and in related disciplines
    • Access to library, information technology, and laboratory resources
    • Quality and rigor of the program through involvement with and scrutiny by peers in other disciplines

Scholarly immersion

  • Development of the student’s capacity to make significant original contributions to knowledge in a context of freedom of inquiry and expression (e.g., individual and group research training, assisting with developing applications for external funding, participation at scholarly conferences, publications or other forms of scholarly dissemination). 
  • Ability to understand and critically evaluate the literature of the field and to apply appropriate principles and procedures to the recognition, evaluation, interpretation and understanding of issues and problems at the frontiers of knowledge.

Professional socialization

  • Substantial interaction with a large pool of faculty to obtain scholarly and disciplinary advice, perspective, and guidance
  • Interaction with fellow graduate students on professional issues
  • Provision of a broad range of professional development experiences to guard against over-specialization
  • Access to a wide spectrum of seminars, professional presentations, and contact with leaders in their own discipline as well as others

Professional practice

  • Awareness of and commitment to the ethical and regulatory principles and practices appropriate to the field.

Program-specific alternative residency proposals should clearly identify the various methods the program will utilize to promote scholarly immersion and achieve the goals of residency as discussed above.  The plan should consider the goals of residency and outline the ways these will be achieved, including specific activities and the timeframe as appropriate during which residency will be completed. Program-specific alternative residency plans should be submitted by the academic unit to the Graduate Dean for review and approval.  Proposals should be submitted at least one semester before the desired effective date for implementation. Proposals will be reviewed and feedback provided within 30 days of submission.  As needed, initial proposals can be revised for final review and approval. In addition, programs can submit revised or updated plans if elements of the degree program change.

Individual alternative residency proposals must be submitted by the student and faculty advisor/committee as appropriate to the Graduate School for review and approval. Students should begin planning with their advisors early in their degree programs.  Individual alternative residency plans must be submitted to the Graduate School as early as possible or at the latest, concurrent with submission of the Plan of Study.  Alternative residency will be approved by the Graduate Dean before approval of the Plan of Study

Recording of residency plans: All doctoral students should indicate the mechanisms by which they plan to earn residency on the Plan of Study form.  Should a change in residency plan be required, students can seek approval of such change via the Plan of Study Change form accompanied by relevant documentation.


Second Doctoral Degree

A student who is seeking a second doctoral degree, regardless of whether the first was earned at this university, must earn a minimum of 48 additional semester credits and must satisfy the residency requirements specified for the doctoral degree at Virginia Tech. No credits can be triple-counted.