Graduation Procedures for Doctoral Students.

There are opportunities for PhD & DrPH students to graduate in August, January, & May of each year. There are a number of procedures and deadlines to be mindful of. This page provides students with an overview of these procedures. Additionally, some programs produce a guidebook that contains detailed information about graduation requirements.


All degree students are expected to register for fall and spring from the time of matriculation until graduation.  Doctoral students students who have completed their coursework will be registered by the SPH Registrar’s Office for continuing study every fall and spring semester until they graduate.  Students who complete their coursework must fill out the Doctoral Student Continuing Study form, available on the our forms page, to advance to continuing study.

Doctoral students who are non U.S. citizens or not permanent residents of the United States are advised to plan their graduation for May or January.

Should they require a summer semester to finish their dissertation or thesis, they are required to apply for Reduced Course Load with the SPH Registrar’s Office and the ISSO and register for SPH PH995 A1.

Graduation Application

Before students apply to graduate they should speak with their program director and be sure they are on track. Students may then complete the online SPH graduation application, available on the forms page.


  • November 10th (for May Award)
  • March 10th (for August Award)
  • June 10th (for January Award)

Oral Exam/Defense

If your program requires a thesis, dissertation or integrative experience paper, you must complete a success defense  in an oral presentation. Please consult with your program director and program guidebook regarding requirements.


  • November 15th (for January Award)
  • April 15th (for May Award)
  • July 15th (for August Award)

Thesis/Dissertation Submission to Mugar Memorial Library

Dissertations and theses are submitted to the Mugar Library electronically via ProQuest ETD Administrator. Review the final draft of your dissertation or thesis as early as possible with Brendan McDermott (

Your dissertation or thesis must be in PDF format with embedded fonts and no password restrictions otherwise the system will not accept the upload. The library has produced a guide and a series of videos to describe the process.


  • November 30th (for January Award)
  • April 30th (for May Award)
  • July 31st (for August Award)

Reader signatures

Readers’ Approval pages are now created and signed via DocuSign, an online platform which allows for a secure and streamlined electronic signature collection process.

Via a webform, doctoral students in SPH are given instructions to enter the names and email addresses of their readers. DocuSign will automatically email each reader with instructions and reminders on how to sign the Readers’ Approval page. Once all signatures have been collected, a pdf copy will be emailed to the student and to the SPH Registrar’s Office. 

The SPH Registrar’s Office will upload the signed approval page separately from your dissertation or thesis as an administrative document. The approval page in the uploaded dissertation or thesis should remain blank.

You can find full instructions as well as examples of the emails and portal here: SPH Dissertations eSignature Readers’ Approval Process » BU Libraries | Boston University.

Thesis/Dissertation Fee

There is a fee required to submit your thesis or dissertation to the library. This fee can be sent directly to Brendan McDermott at the Mugar Library. Please contact Brendan for details.

Embargoing your work

Upon submission, dissertations and theses are made publicly available via Open BU and ProQuest. In limited cases it may be necessary to delay publication of your work.  Reasons for an embargo include:

  • The work contains sensitive material that cannot be published safely
  • The work contains copyrighted material you do not have permission to publish
  • You plan to file a patent
  • You plan to publish with a publisher who will not consider openly available work

If you wish to place an embargo on your work you must submit a letter requesting the restriction. The letter must include:

  • the reason for the delay
  • the length requested
  • contact info
  • signatures of yourself and your advisor

An original copy of this letter should be sent to Brendan McDermott.

BU Doctoral Exit Survey

The university asks PhD candidates take a few minutes to complete a survey in an effort to improve the quality of graduate education at BU.  PhD candidates will receive an email with a link to the survey after they begin the dissertation submission process. Graduates are given the option to decline the survey (page 2), but they must take action on the survey before the dissertation submission process can be completed. Responses are anonymous as is the decision to complete or decline to complete the survey.

Upon completion of the Boston University Doctoral Exit Survey, you will be re-directed to the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates. The university asks that you take action on both the BU and the NSF surveys.

Questions about the BU Doctoral Exit Survey can be directed to the SPH Registrar’s Office.


Each year, the School of Public Health holds a commencement ceremony in May, planned by Graduate Student Life. Visit the convocation page for details.