The program is designed to be completed in five years, with coursework in the first two to three years, followed by a dissertation (often started in the third year). Coursework includes a seminar on research methods, two survey courses that cover the period from the Renaissance to the 20th century, and several specialized research seminars or directed readings courses. Students take two exams on the survey material in the first year, present a research paper in the departmental colloquium in the second year, and complete three “fields” or concentrations in their second and third years. The dissertation project is a substantial piece of original research.

During the first year of study, students receive a general introduction to historical research and complete a yearlong survey in either the history of science or the history of medicine. In their second and third years, candidates prepare three fields of study: one in the program of the history of science, medicine, and technology; one in the history department; and a third field to be determined by the student and his or her adviser. The specific requirements are set by the faculty member directing the field, in consultation with the student. These fields entail both broad and intensive reading, and may include an examination, research paper, and/or preparation of several historiographic essays.

Candidates must also demonstrate a reading knowledge of two foreign languages before being admitted to formal candidacy for the degree.

The final requirement for the PhD degree is completion of a dissertation that is an original contribution to historical knowledge, of a standard suitable for publication. Candidates defend their dissertations at an oral examination before a committee of faculty from the program and other departments.