Graduate Requirements

Requirements for the Ph.D.


All students must show proficiency in either French and German, or in two languages relevant to the student’s research interests and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Students may fulfill the requirement by DGS approval of demonstrated command of a native language other than English, by graduation from an approved foreign university where teaching is conducted in a language other than English, by passing an approved language course for credit, or by passing a language test administered by the program faculty.


Students will ordinarily take twelve courses during the first two years. All students will normally take the three core “Problems” seminars: Problems in History of Science, Problems in History of Medicine, and Problems in Science Studies. In addition, students will take four graduate seminars in history of science or medicine and at least one graduate course in a field of history outside of science or medicine. The remaining courses can be taken in history of medicine or science, history, science, or any other field of demonstrated special relevance to the student’s scholarly objectives. Two of the twelve courses must be graduate research seminars in the History of Science and Medicine.

During the first two years of study, students must achieve Honors in at least two courses in the first year and Honors in at least four courses by the end of the second year, with a High Pass average overall. If a student does not meet this standard by the end of the first or second year, the relevant members of the department will consult and promptly advise the student whether the student will be allowed to register for the fall of the following academic year.

Students who enter having previously completed graduate work may obtain up to three course credits toward the completion of the total course requirement, the amount being contingent on the extent and nature of the previous work and its fit with their intended course of study at Yale.

Qualifying Examination

Prior to entering on their dissertation work, all students are expected to develop a broad general knowledge of the discipline. This knowledge will be acquired through a combination of course work, regular participation in the Program colloquia and workshops, and dedicated preparation for the qualifying oral examination. Students will normally spend the summer following their second year preparing for the oral Qualifying Examination, which will be taken in the third year, preferably during the first half of it.

The Qualifying Examination will normally consist of four fields, each of which will be examined by a separate faculty member:

• Two fields in the history of science and/or history of medicine.
• One field in an area of history outside of medicine and/or science.
• One field of special interest, the content and boundaries of which will be established in consultation with the student’s advisor.

Possibilities for the field of special interest include a second field in history outside of history of science or medicine, a field with a scientific or medical focus (such as bioethics, health policy, public health, medical anthropology, or medical sociology), or a field at the intersection of science, medicine, and other subjects (such as law, national security, religion, culture, biotechnology, gender, race, literature, the evironment, and so on).


During their first term in the Program, all students will be advised by the DGS. During the second term and thereafter, each student will be advised by a faculty member of his or her choosing. The advisor will provide guidance in selecting courses and preparing for the qualifying examination. The advisor may also offer help with the development of ideas for the dissertation, but students are free to choose someone else as the dissertation supervisor when the time comes to do so. Students are encouraged to discuss their interests and program of study with other members of the faculty.

Dissertation Prospectus

Students are encouraged to begin thinking about their dissertation topics during the second year. They are required to prepare a Dissertation Prospectus as soon as possible following the Qualifying Examination and to defend the Prospectus orally before being admitted to full candidacy for the doctoral degree. Ordinarily the prospectus defense is held in the second term of the third year, with advancement to candidacy before the start of the fourth year.

Download: Guide to the Prospectus and Prospectus Defense (PDF).


Teaching is an important part of the professional preparation of graduate students in History of Medicine and Science. Students will teach, usually in the third and fourth years of study. They may, however, teach in the second semester of the second year, deferring the completion of their required course work to the first semester of the third year. Students are also encouraged to participate in the programs to develop teaching skills offered by the Graduate School. At least two terms of teaching are required of all students; four terms are required of students on Yale-supported fellowships.

Finishing the Dissertation

In the fourth or fifth year, and preferably no later than the fall term for the fifth year, students are required to submit a chapter of the dissertation (not necessarily the first chapter) to the dissertation committee. This chapter will then be discussed with the student by members of the committee, preferably in a colloquium, to give the student additional advice and counsel on the progress of the dissertation. This conference is designed to be an extension of the conversation begun in the prospectus defense and is not intended as another defense; its aim is to give students early feedback on the research, argument, and style of the first writing accomplished on the dissertation.

Master’s Degrees

M.Phil. and M.A. en route to the Ph.D.

Master’s degrees are normally awarded to PhD students as part of their advancement to candidacy. See the Graduate School programs and policies.

Terminal M.A.

The terminal M.A. program is designed for those who plan to combine teaching or scholarship with a professional career in medicine or science. Students who enroll in the terminal M.A. program are expected to complete six courses during two terms of study and submit an acceptable master’s paper. Course work will normally include the three core “Problems” seminars and one additional graduate seminar in history of medicine or science. The remaining courses are to be chosen in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies or a faculty advisor.

The master’s paper is an article-length work of original research, usually about 30 pages (although it may be longer). Work on the paper may overlap with work performed as a requirement for other HSHM courses; that is, it may grow from a course paper written in the fall term, revised during the spring, or it may be written in conjunction with a course taken during the second term.

During the fall term the student should identify a topic for the M.A. paper and should discuss plans with a prospective paper advisor. By the end of the fall term a statement of intention (1–3 pages) must be approved by the advisor.