In this section

Last Revision: January 30, 2024

Degree Requirements and Progression

Doctoral programs at APUS can be divided into several phases based on coursework, residencies, and dissertation in a cohort model. The general program structure includes 8 terms of coursework, 3 residencies, and dissertation research. The cohort structure is designed to create a learning community that provides mutual support and accountability to keep you on track and promote student success. Because of this model, course progression is laid out with certain options for electives.

The following program components and milestones create a degree path for completing the doctoral degree. Note that all doctoral courses and program milestones (portfolio defense, dissertation proposal defense, dissertation defense) must be completed successfully in order to continue progressing toward the degree. You have a period of seven years from your start date to complete all program requirements, including the dissertation. 

Cohort Model

Students in a cohort will progress through the coursework together with options for three elective courses. In addition to coursework, you will complete three residences, an e-portfolio with oral defense of the portfolio, a dissertation proposal with an oral defense, and a dissertation with oral defense.

Residencies: Doctoral programs contain three residencies at crucial program points.

  1. The first residency, Doctoral Program Foundations (year 1), establishes expectations for the program, develops rapport within the cohort, and introduces you to doctoral faculty. During this residency, you learn in greater depth about program milestones, spend time with program faculty, and participate in a seminar class.
  2. The second residency (year 2) depends on the specific degree program and may include presentations at professional conferences or international experiences.
  3. The third residency (year 3) focuses on practicum and dissertation requirements. At this stage, you are preparing for your dissertation proposal and planning your research.

Coursework:  See your academic plan in your ecampus for your course progression

Following the suggested model, most doctoral coursework can be completed in 8 terms. Doctoral coursework includes several components: core coursework, major requirements, electives, professional practice, practicum, and dissertation credits. Most core coursework is interdisciplinary and focuses on fundamental skills for conducting research, such as research methods and statistics. Core coursework also includes foundational concepts for the field of study. Major coursework focuses on content knowledge in greater depth. Electives provide opportunities to specialize and explore different sub-areas to prepare for dissertation research or career advancement. Professional practice courses include topics such as developing a portfolio, research ethics, and residency preparation. The practicum course accompanies the practicum experience in which you implement an approved project that promotes your professional growth. Finally, dissertation credits include preparing the dissertation proposal and maintaining enrollment while completing the dissertation.


The practicum requirement provides you with the opportunity to propose and implement a workplace project that stretches your skillset to connect research and practice. You may choose to conduct the practicum in your current workplace if your supervisor allows, or you may make arrangements to spend time in a different sector of the workplace. The practicum project represents a new or aspirational area for you rather than an existing job duty. The project aims to apply knowledge from the doctoral program to address a workplace challenge, explore a new area of expertise, or focus on a problem of practice in the field. Practicum supervisors need to sign an agreement for the project, and the accompanying practicum course provides a venue to report on the progress and lessons learned. Projects are a collaborative agreement between the student, the Department Chair and the site supervisor.

Degree Timeline:

Year 1- residency 1, coursework

Year 2- residency 2, coursework

Year 3- residency 3, complete coursework, defend portfolio, complete practicum, defend dissertation proposal

Year 3+- complete and defend dissertation. The maximum time allowed for the doctoral degree is seven years.