Graduation Requirements

PhD students complete two fields of study, requiring four courses each. They are also required to take a course in comparative politics (P201), a course in IR theory (P200 or H204), and three methodology courses (P210:Research Design and Methodology, E213: Econometrics, and a third course of their choosing).

Students who have received their master’s degree at another institution must pass a total of at least twelve courses. Additional courses may be required if the student’s master’s degree was in a field other than international relations, or did not require statistics study. Nine of the twelve must be Fletcher courses, while three can be pursued through cross-registration at another institution. Those who possess a MALD generally pursue an additional four courses, for a total of twenty courses for the two degrees, unless the student develops a plan of study best achieved through additional coursework.

Additional Graduation Requirements

To graduate, students in the PhD program must:

  • Fulfill the PhD breadth requirement – at least two courses in two of the three Fletcher Divisions, and at least one course from the remaining Division. (MALD recipients have already completed the breadth requirement.)
  • Demonstrate proficiency in a second language.
  • Submit a master’s thesis for evaluation by a Fletcher faculty member. For MALD degree holders, this is the MALD thesis. For other students, this could be a master’s thesis written prior to enrollment at Fletcher.
  • Pass a written comprehensive examination in each of the student’s selected fields of study, plus a one-hour oral examination that will focus on issues raised in the written examinations, and will integrate the fields of study. The comprehensive examinations test proficiency in the literature of the field.
  • Successfully propose, research, and write a dissertation. The completed dissertation should bear evidence of independent research and should constitute a substantial contribution to the subject.
  • Pass a public oral defense of the dissertation. This defense will be given after the dissertation has been accepted by the director and readers, and will cover the specific subject and general field of the dissertation.

PhD Candidacy

PhD students whose master’s degree was earned at another institution are reviewed for PhD Candidacy after they have completed at least eight Fletcher courses, presented their master’s thesis, and completed Fletcher’s foreign language proficiency exam. To be granted PhD Candidacy, students must have Fletcher grades averaging at least 3.6. (MALD recipients are granted PhD Candidacy when they are admitted to the PhD program.)

Length of Time Required to Receive the PhD

Once they are granted PhD Candidacy, PhD students generally take an average of just over five years to complete the degree, but the exact time varies according to the scope of each candidate’s research, the amount of time devoted to PhD studies, and the time needed to write the dissertation.

Dr. Michele L. Malvesti

Dr. Michele L. Malvesti


A trusted advisor and thought leader on a range of national security issues, Dr. Malvesti also currently serves on the Director’s Advisory Board for the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC); the Board of Directors for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation; and the Board of Advisors for the Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance. She also is a Senior Advisor to the Financial Integrity Network, and she serves as Chairwoman of the Advisory Committee to root9B, a cyber-security services firm. Read more

Our Alumni

Charles Dallara presenting at The Fletcher School November 2012.

Charles Dallara

MA 75, PhD 86

Managing Director of the Institute of International Finance

Charles Dallara has held a number of leadership positions in the public and private sectors, including managing director at J.P. Morgan & Co., assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury for International Affairs, and United States executive director of the International Monetary Fund. He recently served as chief negotiator on behalf of the private sector institutions engaged in Greece’s sovereign-debt restructuring. Read more on his thoughts about the key to resolving Greek's debt crisis.