What to Expect as a Graduate Student

The CUNY Graduate Center is dedicated to providing students pursuing graduate-level education with exceptional scholarship and teaching experiences. Graduate Center students are immersed in a deeply intellectual, collaborative culture. There are ample opportunities to participate in GC-wide events, and students are encouraged to take advantage of the many lectures, symposia, and events offered by their academic programs.

We want you to feel confident and informed while submitting your application to the Graduate Center. Explore information prospective doctoral and master's students should know before applying.

Doctoral Degree

Generally, the first 2–3 years of your studies will focus on coursework and, for some programs, comprehensive exams. The rest of your degree will focus on your dissertation proposal, research, and writing. This period may also include comprehensive exams. Individual timelines may vary according to your academic areas of focus, the nature of your research projects, and your course load.

Close to 90% of our Ph.D. students receive five-year funding packages. The most common fellowship, the Five Year Graduate Center Fellowship, involves teaching one class per semester in years 2, 3, and 4. Many students, however, begin teaching earlier than that in an adjunct role.

The majority of Ph.D. programs are not designed for those who will maintain a full-time job while pursuing a graduate degree. Some programs make an exception, such as our Urban Education program, which is designed knowing that many students will be full-time educators while pursuing their degrees.

Students usually consider dissertation topics as they move through the program. Once they complete their coursework, students begin working on their dissertation. You will have a dissertation adviser to help guide you as well as a few additional people on your committee to offer helpful suggestions and edits.

The Graduate Center provides students with many opportunities to gain teaching skills and experience as they progress toward their degree. This experience helps GC students stand out when applying for jobs after graduation.

Master's Degree

Most master’s programs take students 2–4 years to complete. Please note that individual timelines may vary according to your academic areas of focus, the nature of your research projects, and your course load.

Classes are offered throughout the day, Monday-Friday. Some master's programs try to plan their classes later in the day when possible. But students will most likely need to attend at least some classes during the workday in order to complete a master's degree. This is because only one class time slot, 6:30–8:30 p.m., is available entirely after business hours.

Some programs will encourage students to attend full time because they can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to schedule classes around a full-time job. If you are working full time, it will likely be difficult to attend more than two classes per semester when you account for the reading, writing, research, and other homework required.

Master’s students complete a thesis or capstone project, which can vary between programs. The timeline is program-dependent. Students typically will ask a faculty member in their research area to advise them.

Many of the classes taken by master’s students are doctoral classes, so master’s students have access to the same outstanding CUNY consortial faculty. Unlike many schools, the majority of our students are doctoral students, and the rigor of our courses reflects that. The faculty that teach master's and doctoral courses are predominantly full-time faculty members. 

Conducting research on plants

Research Opportunities

Student research at the GC is supported by the Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC) and over 30 research centers and institutes focused on areas of compelling social, civic, cultural, and scientific concern.

Centers and Institutes
Professor teaching

Teaching Opportunities

Graduate students at the GC have access to invaluable teacher training and resources through the Teaching and Learning Center.

Preparing to Teach as a Doctoral Student
Students at the GC Library

Dissertation Process

The dissertation is the final degree requirement for doctoral students. A dissertation constitutes an original contribution to the student’s field of knowledge.

GC Library's Research Guides - Dissertations