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Degree Requirements

Students working toward the Doctor of Philosophy degree develop their course of study in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Course of Study

Students require a total of 72 credit hours to graduate. Students who enter the program with a B.A. are required to take 60 credit hours in the form of formal coursework; students who enter the program with an M.A. are required to take 42 credit hours of formal coursework. Formal coursework includes regular seminars (two of which may be taken at other programs) and all required courses listed below:

  • GER 7101: Foundations I: Transition Points of Modern German Culture [3 credit hours]
  • GER 7102: Foundations II: Theories of Literary and Cultural Analysis [3 credit hours]
  • GER 7103: Foundations III: Modes of Scholarly Work and Writing [3 credit hours]
  • GER 7104: Pre-Exam Colloquium [3 credit hours]
  • SLS 6030: Foreign Language Learning and Teaching [3 credit hours]
  • GER 8101: Pre-Dissertation Colloquium [3 credit hours]

Find a full program description here.

Foreign Language Requirement

Students must display reading proficiency in at least one language other than English or German. Students are strongly encouraged to enroll in courses to pass this requirement within the first two to three years of their studies at Vanderbilt. Coursework in foreign language learning does not count toward any of the requirements for formal coursework.


The department considers graduate students’ teaching experiences to be an integral moment of their education and professional training for successful careers in the Humanities. Teaching is not simply a service to the department, or a load to be carried, but a critical part of preparing students for their professional futures, no matter whether they aspire to careers within or beyond the academy. Graduate students can typically expect to teach six semesters during their five years of guaranteed support at Vanderbilt. They will typically teach at least three different courses in the basic German language curriculum. The department will also seek to have graduate students gain teaching experience in as diverse settings as possible within and beyond the department. Some of this may take place in form of teaching intern- and apprenticeships that allow individual graduate students to observe and contribute to a select number of different upper division classes taught by faculty members in one semester.

The Preliminary Examination

The purpose of the Preliminary Examination (PE) is to evaluate a student’s general familiarity with the literary and cultural history of German-speaking countries and to assess a student’s ability to discuss key works of German literature, poetry, film, and thought. Graduate students who enter the program with a B.A. take their PE at the beginning of the fifth semester of graduate studies at Vanderbilt; successful completion of the exam will result in the awarding of an M.A. degree. Students who enter the program with an M.A. take their PE at the beginning of the third semester at Vanderbilt.

The Qualifying Examination

The purpose of the Qualifying Examination (QE) is to evaluate a student’s knowledge of the field of specialization, to assess familiarity with the published research in the field, and to determine whether the student possesses the critical and analytic skills needed for writing a dissertation. Graduate students who enter the program with a B.A. take their QE during the seventh semester of graduate studies at Vanderbilt; students who enter with an M.A. take their QE during the fifth semester at Vanderbilt. The examination process consists of several elements, all designed to interlock with each other and to prepare students effectively for the task of conceptualizing their dissertations.

ABD Colloquium & Annual Ph.D. Committee Meeting

In addition to meeting regularly with their principal dissertation advisors concerning their progress and to participating consistently in the department’s ABD Colloquium, Ph.D. candidates meet once a year in late April/early May with their entire Ph.D. Committee to review their research and writing progress, discuss possible challenges, and map out the final stages of the dissertation toward completion. 

Application for Research Funding

Students apply for research fellowships at the beginning of their fourth year (eighth semester, entering the program with a B.A) or their third year (sixth semester, entering the program with an M.A.). Application for research funding is seen as part of graduate students’ professionalization and a cornerstone of scholarly independence. 

The Dissertation Defense

The dissertation must be submitted to all members of the Ph.D. Committee at least four weeks prior to the scheduled oral defense date. Faculty and graduate students may attend the dissertation examination unless the candidate requests otherwise.

The Joint-Ph.D. Program in Comparative Media Analysis and Practice

Many of our graduate students are interested in and have decided to apply to the Joint-Ph.D. Program in Comparative Media Analysis and Practice (CMAP) as well. Once enrolled, their degree requirements may be somewhat adjusted to allow them to meet the particular expectations of receiving the joint-Ph.D. in “German Studies and Comparative Media” by the end of their graduate studies. For more on this option, please visit: .