The Department offers a program of advanced study and research leading to the PhD degree in Architecture. For over 35 years, the PhD Program in Architecture has been a mainstay of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s reputation as a leader in architectural research and education. The PhD Program in Architecture is a community of scholars, practitioners, activists, and educators who are committed to advancing the discipline and practice of architecture. Situated within a professional school of architecture, the program is both curiosity-driven and action-oriented. The faculty and students at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning seek to advance architectural discourse and knowledge at multiple levels of inquiry. They embrace intellectual inclusiveness and critical examinations of society, culture, ecology and technology, while pursuing questions related to architectural history, theory, and criticism, human experience, social justice, and environmental advocacy.

The PhD is a research degree that requires general proficiency in one’s field, distinctive accomplishment in a specialized area of expertise, and the conduct of significant independent research. Thus, the PhD Program is appropriate for persons who wish to pursue research from a multi-disciplinary perspective and who seek careers in research, consulting, government, and/or teaching in architecture and the design profession.

Admission Requirements 

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines vary by program, please review the application deadline chart for specific programs. Other important dates and deadlines can be found by using the One Stop calendars.


The PhD program seeks to maintain a rich and diverse mix of students and thus encourages applicants with backgrounds in architecture, allied design fields, and/or the social and behavioral sciences. Likewise, the program is open to applicants holding undergraduate as well as graduate degrees. It is most important that applicants have a strong commitment to the conduct of advanced architectural research.

As an applicant, you must meet Graduate School requirements plus these Department of Architecture requirements to be eligible for consideration for admission to the program:

  1. Undergraduate or graduate cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 (4.0 scale).
  2. Three letters of recommendation from persons in a position to assess your potential for advanced graduate research leading to a PhD.
  3. Submission of test results from the General Test portion of the Graduate Record Examination.
  4. Resume, Curriculum Vitae, or Biographical Statement (1-2 pages total including your educational background, work/research experience, publications/projects completed and any recognitions/awards received.
  5. Reasons Statement (2-3 page statement that includes your long-term goals, a summary of relevant work completed to date, your research interests, and your likely area of specialization within the doctoral program. Specifically address how your proposed program of study fits with the interests of program faculty).
  6. For international applicants whose first language is not English, a minimum TOEFL score of 100 iBT, or a score of 7.0 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam is required. Applicants with TOEFL scores from 79-99 iBT or an IELTS score of 6.5 will be considered for admission only with the stipulation that further coursework in English be taken.


A student who has received a master’s degree in Architecture or in Urban Planning from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee must formally reapply for admission to the Graduate School before continuing studies toward the PhD degree.

Credits and Courses

The Ph.D. Program requires a minimum of 54 credits beyond the baccalaureate degree. It is a research degree structured around a series of related, typically sequential (but occasionally overlapping) requirements as follows:

  1. Complete a minimum of one year of core courses in the area of concentration, and the minimum residence requirement of 27 graduate credits subsequent to attaining full doctoral status, and 54 credits beyond the baccalaureate degree.
  2. Develop a program of study.
  3. Undertake courses in the core, area of concentration, and major and minor fields of study. Course requirements vary substantially depending upon the student’s program of study, developed in consultation with, and in agreement with, the student’s major professor.
  4. Conduct an intermediate research project.
  5. Complete the doctoral preliminary examinations leading to advancement to candidacy with dissertator status.
  6. Design, conduct and defend an original dissertation that makes an original contribution to the scholarship of the field.

Depending on background preparation and amount of time spent in full-time residency, students should be able to complete the degree in approximately four to six years. Individual timetables will vary depending upon background preparation and time spent in full-time residency.

Additional Requirements

Major Professor as Advisor

Upon admission, each student is assigned a faculty advisor. During the first semester, each student is expected to meet with their faculty advisor to develop a program of study. In general, the program of study consists of the proposed major field of study within the area of concentration, minor field(s) of study, and a brief description of coursework to be completed. Each student selects Major and Minor Professors to advise and supervise coursework and independent readings in preparation for the doctoral preliminary examination and completion of minor requirements. Upon admission to candidacy, each student defines a dissertation topic and selects a Major Professor as Dissertation Chair. Selection of the area of specialization and dissertation topic and of the Major and Minor Professors and Dissertation Chair is subject to approval by the PhD Program Committee.

Foreign Language Requirement

A foreign language requirement is optional, depending upon the recommendation of the student’s Major Professor and the PhD Program Committee.


The student must meet minimum Graduate School residence requirements.

Doctoral Preliminary Examinations

The student must pass doctoral preliminary examinations (“prelims”) to qualify for formal admission to candidacy for the degree. The Graduate School requires that you pass your prelims within five years of initial enrollment in your doctoral program.

The prelims have three written components and one oral review. The three written portions include questions on:

  1. Theory.
  2. Methods.
  3. Substantive area(s) of specialization and the minor field of study.


The student is officially admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree after completing the residence requirement, core courses and intermediate research project, completing the courses in the area of specialization and minor field, and passing the doctoral preliminary examinations (and language examination, if required).


The candidate must design, conduct, and write a research dissertation which demonstrates ability to formulate a research topic and pursue independent and original research that makes a contribution to the field. Selection of the dissertation topic, Dissertation Chair, and Dissertation Committee is subject to approval of the PhD Program Committee.

Dissertation Defense

The candidate must, as the final step toward the degree, pass an oral examination in defense of the dissertation. For more information on the dissertation defense, contact the graduate advisor in the School of Architecture and Urban Planning Student Advising Office, AUP 225.


For further information about departmental policies in the PhD program, please contact the graduate advisor in the School of Architecture and Urban Planning Student Advising Office, AUP 225.

Time Limit

All degree requirements must be completed within ten years from the date of initial enrollment in the doctoral program.

For additional information on Graduate School PhD requirements, see the Doctor of Philosophy Degree Requirements.