Department of Atmospheric Sciences | University of Illinois
Atmospheric Sciences | Academics

Ph.D. Eligibility Requirements

Graduate students at the University of Illinois are admitted either as a M.S. student or a Ph.D. student.

If you are admitted to the M.S. program and wish to continue into the Ph.D. program after completion of the M.S. degree, you have four options:

  1. You can choose to take the qualifying exam in May following your first year of coursework.  There are good reasons to take the qualifying exam after the first year: normally all of the needed course material would have been taken and it will still be fresh in your head at that time, and the timing of the qualifying exam does not overlap with finishing up your M.S. thesis. If you pass, you will be eligible to enter the Ph.D. program subject to the approval of the Department Head, your Ph.D. faculty advisor, and the M.S. evaluation committee.  You do not have to reapply for admission into the Ph.D. program upon completion of your M.S. degree.
  2. You can choose to take the qualifying exam in May following your second year of studies. If you make this choice, be aware that the timing of the qualifying exam often coincides with finishing up your M.S. thesis. If you pass, you will be eligible to enter the Ph.D. program subject to the approval of the Department Head, your Ph.D. faculty advisor, and the M.S. evaluation committee. You do not have to reapply for admission into the Ph.D. program upon completion of your M.S. degree.
  3. You can choose not to take the qualifying exam during your M.S. program. If you choose not to take the qualifying exam during M.S. program, you may still be eligible to enter the Ph.D. program subject to the approval of the Department Head, your Ph.D. faculty advisor, and the M.S. evaluation committee. You do not have to reapply for admission into the Ph.D. program upon completion of your M.S. degree. If you are admitted to the Ph.D. program, you must take the qualifying exam in May during your first year in the Ph.D. program.
  4. You can choose to complete your M.S. degree, leave the university, and at a later time apply to the Ph.D. program through the same procedures you used to apply for admittance to the M.S. program. If you take this route, you will either be admitted in August and January. In either case, you must take the qualifying exam the first time it is offered (in May).

If you choose option (1) and you do not pass the qualifying exam on your first attempt, you have the choice to retake the exam the next time it is offered (normally the following May) or to proceed via option (3). If you choose the latter, the exam that you will take under option (3) will count as your second attempt. If you choose options (2), (3) or (4) and you do not pass the qualifying exam on your first attempt, you must retake the exam the next time it is offered (normally the following May).

Failure to retake exam according to the respective rules above will automatically count as a failure on the exam. If you fail your second attempt, you will not be permitted to pursue a Ph.D. at the Department of Atmospheric Sciences.

The faculty strongly recommends that you take the qualifying exam early in your M.S. program or as soon as you have come to the decision that you wish to continue in the Ph.D. program. Pass or fail, your options for the Ph.D. at the University of Illinois will be clearer to you sufficiently early in your education so that you can make wise future career decisions.

The M.S. Evaluation Committee

The M.S. evaluation committee, selected by the student, is comprised of your advisor and two other willing Graduate Faculty members* in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois.  The deposited thesis and University of Illinois course transcripts must be provided to all evaluation committee members.  The committee will evaluate course performance and the quality of your thesis, and the committee will notify the Department Head of their vote on recommending the candidate for the Ph.D. program within fourteen days of receiving your thesis.  A majority of committee members must vote to recommend a candidate proceed into the Ph.D. program.

If you are admitted directly to the Ph.D. program:

  1. You must take the qualifying exam in May following your first year of coursework.  For example, those students entering in Spring, Summer, or Fall 2012 would take the exam in May 2013.  If you do not pass your first attempt, you must retake the exam at the end of your second year of coursework. Failure to take the exam at either of these scheduled attempts count as a failure on the exam. If you pass either attempt, you will eligible to continue in the Ph.D. program.  If you fail a second time, you will be dismissed from the Ph.D. program in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences. You still have the option of obtaining an M.S. degree if you do not already hold one in atmospheric sciences and you complete the requirements for the M.S. degree.
*Graduate faculty membership may be found at http://www.grad.illinois.edu/grad_faculty/index.cfm