Ph.D. in Composition

Doctor of Philosophy Degree Requirements: Composition

The five-year doctoral program in Composition at Duke includes a Master of Arts degree (A.M.) en route to the Ph.D.  Admission to the Ph.D. program is not automatically granted upon the student’s completion of the requirements of the A.M. degree, but is restricted to those students who have demonstrated the ability to do substantial and original work in composition.  After passing the Qualifying Examination, the student will be notified regarding acceptance into the doctoral program. Upon successful completion of the en route A.M., a diploma can be requested.

Course Requirements

No more than four courses (12 units) of a completed Master’s degree may be accepted for transfer from another institution. 

After the first year, graduate electives can be taken outside the Department of Music as approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.  The DGS will consider the student’s academic record within the Department and his/her reasons for enrolling in extra-departmental courses.

Registration Requirements

The Graduate School requires six semesters of “full-time” registration regardless of the number of courses taken or residence.  No more than one semester may be waived for a completed Master’s degree.

Teaching Requirement

Classroom teaching is an integral part of the doctoral program.  All graduate students will be required to complete eight semesters of teaching as a Teaching Assistant or Instructor of Record.

Examinations and Dissertation

Sample Program of Study in Composition

The following represents a typical program for students entering the doctoral program in Composition, which begins with en route A.M. requirements and then proceeds to Ph.D. requirements:

Semester Typical Course of Study
Year 1, Semester 1  (12 units)
  • Music 690S-1 Composition Seminar: Selected Topics
  • Music 697, Composition
  • Two seminars in Musicology, Ethnomusicology or Theory
  • Diagnostic Examination
  • Foreign Language Examination
Year 1, Semester 2  (12 units)
  • Music 560 Tonal Analysis
  • Music 690S-1 Composition Seminar: Selected Topics
  • Music 698 Composition
  • One seminar in Musicology, Ethnomusicology, or Theory
  • Composition Portfolio submitted by the end of this semester
  • Qualifying Exam Proposal, Initial Submission
Year 2, Semester 1  (9 units)
  • Music 699 Composition
  • Two elective graduate courses in music
  • Qualifying Exam Proposal and Bibliography, Formal Submission
Year 2, Semester 2  (9 units)
  • One seminar in Musicology, Ethnomusicology, or Theory
  • One music elective (500 level or above)
  • Music 797
  • Qualifying Examination including Portfolio Submission

       (A.M. Degree)

Year 3, Semester 1  (9 units)
  • Two music electives (500 level or above)
  • Music 798
Year 3, Semester 2
  • Preliminary Examination
  • Ph.D. Composition Portfolio
  • Article of publishable quality
Following Years
  • Final Examination (dissertation defense)

       (Ph.D. Degree)