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Program Requirements

The doctoral program in film and digital media prepares students to be artists and scholars who can situate their work within a larger historical framework of cultural and technological change, looking at the interrelationships of various media. The program is not divided into paths or specific fields of emphasis. As well as educating students in the intellectual histories of their field and working with them to facilitate new theoretical and critical interventions, we also expose students to fundamental and advanced aspects of media technologies that will illuminate their understanding of media production and reception.

Normative Time for Completion

Normative time for completion of the program is six years. The first two years of the program are primarily devoted to coursework. Preliminary exams for the master’s degree occur in the spring of the second year. By the end of the third year, students should have formulated a dissertation topic and proposal deriving from their work in that year and should have nominated a Ph.D. qualifying examination committee and dissertation committee. Qualifying examinations for advancement to Ph.D. candidacy typically occur in the fall of the fourth year.

Selected Coursework Requirements

  • A minimum of 108 units of study in coursework at UCSC will be required for the Ph.D. degree.
  • Doctoral students will be in residence for a minimum of six quarters.
  • When in residence, students will take a minimum of 36 units  per year until advancement to candidacy.
  • Applicants who already hold an M.A. or M.F.A. degree may petition to waive up to two of six of their required elective courses.  They may also waive a maximum of 30 transfer credits total.  Such a waiver is subject to the approval of the Graduate Committee.
  • In their first year, doctoral students will be required to take the three foundational courses (200A-B-C). In addition, students will take at least 2 F+DM graduate elective courses.
  • Second year students must then take at least four F+DM graduate elective courses.
  • Third year students arrange three Directed Readings (FILM 295) to prepare for the three topic areas of their qualifying exam.
  • Students will take at least nine Film + Digital Media Graduate Courses over the degree, not including 295, 297, and 299 classes.
  • Students are expected to complete at least one year of supervised teaching as part of the degree requirements.

Foreign Language Requirement

Students must demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English. This may include a computer programming language instead of a natural language when such a language is integral to the student’s field of study.

For details about satisfying the language requirement, please see the complete and most current information in the Official UCSC General Catalog.

Advancing to Candidacy

Students will advance to candidacy once they have successfully:

  • Completed all required coursework with satisfactory grades
  • Satisfied the language requirement
  • Passed the Ph.D. qualifying exam
  • Submitted a dissertation prospectus approved by their dissertation committee
  • Participated in a dissertation colloquium
  • Organized an approved dissertation committee, through the Dissertation Committee Nomination form

Completion of the Degree

Upon successful advancement to candidacy, students must then complete the following requirements for the Ph.D.


The dissertation, or Ph.D. thesis, is to be an original contribution of high quality to the field of film and digital media studies. If a student’s thesis contains a substantial creative component, the thesis project must also include a written component of no less than 75 pages. The dissertation must be approved by a committee consisting of a minimum of three faculty members, at least two of whom must be from the film and digital media faculty. If the dissertation director does not hold a Ph.D. degree, then the majority of the remaining committee members must hold Ph.D.s. When the student has submitted the dissertation and the committee has approved it, the student is ready for the oral defense.

Oral Defense:

Once the dissertation is approved, the student will present an oral summary before their dissertation committee and invited members of the academic community. The student will then answer questions posed by the faculty.


Sample Student Program for Each Year (Years 1-4)


Year 1: Three core Film and Digital Media courses (FILM 200A, 200B, 200C); three electives, at least two of which are Film and Digital Media courses.

Year 2: Four Film and Digital Media electives; three other electives from Film and Digital Media or another department

Year 3: Three required FILM 295 Directed Reading courses to prepare for the qualifying examination, four electives from Film and Digital Media Department or another department

Year 4: Student takes Ph.D. qualifying examination, registering for FILM 299 Thesis Research. If successful, the student begins to prepare their dissertation prospectus.


For complete PhD program requirements, please see the complete and most current information at the Official UCSC General Catalog. More details about the pathway through the program are also available in the student handbook linked below.

PDF icon FDM PhD Handbook 2022-23.docx_.pdf307.72 KB