Current Students


In planning their degrees, students must complete at least one course in each of the four thematic areas (below) along with additional credits to complete the minimum credits of elective coursework. 

Remember that:

  • Numerical grades must be received in at least 18 quarter credits of course work taken at the UW prior to scheduling the General Exam.
  • All elective courses must have a course designation of 400 or above.
  • Electives need to be approved by your PhD advisor or supervisory committee.
  • Registration in courses outside HCDE may be subject to space availability and other restrictions.
  • A maximum of 5 HCDE 601 (internship) credits may be applied to the degree.

PhD Concentrations

The HCDE PhD curriculum includes courses in Theory, Methods, and a third area defined by the PhD student, with guidance from the advisor, called Concentration. This document provides guidelines for students in the choosing of courses that make up their Concentration and how to document that procedure to ensure the degree requirements are met.

 What is a Concentration?

To allow for a diversity of perspectives and for customization to meet the educational needs of an interdisciplinary program, PhD students are able to choose courses amounting to 12 credits to take that make up a concentration. A concentration constitutes 12 credits of a coherent program of study that is related to the student’s core research area and is defined by the student and their advisor. Courses can be from HCDE or from outside the department.

 What is the relationship between my Concentration and the General Exam?

The general exam consists of three areas: Theory, Methods, and Concentration - what you define for your concentration will relate to the third area of your general exam. You should define the name of your Concentration at the time of preparing for your General Exam, as it will guide the generation of your reading list and the committee’s General Exam charge.

 By when do I need to declare my Concentration and complete my coursework?

Concentration classes may be taken at any point in your PhD studies. You can include classes in your Concentration that you have already taken, including transfer credits. You should have a named Concentration declared before you prepare to take your General Exam. You do not need to have completed all of the courses in your Concentration to take your General Exam, though it would be helpful, as these classes are intended to help you prepare for your General Exam. The strict requirement is that all Concentration classes must be completed before you graduate.

 How do I name and document my Concentration?

You can choose any name that seems appropropriate to you and your advisor(s). You can name it before you take any courses, you can wait until you’ve completed all the courses, or you could do it part way through. You can name your Concentration on your Course of Study form submitted with the annual review form. Your advisor(s) must sign this form, which documents their approval of the name of the Concentration. It is okay to change your Concentration name. 

 Are there any classes that cannot count toward my Concentration?

Classes that fulfill another area of the curriculum requirement (e.g., theory, methods, core classes (HCDE 541, 543, etc.)) cannot count as Concentration classes. Undergraduate classes that are below the 400 level also cannot count toward your Concentration requirement.

 Can DRGs and Independent Study credits count toward my Concentration?

Yes, but needs to be explicitly approved by advisor(s) that the content of the DRG or Independent Study is suitable for completing the Concentration requirement. Credits taken toward a student’s concentration are meant to provide a learning experience to immerse the student into the concentration. In other words, a DRG or Independent Study deeply diving into readings may count. A DRG solely focused on a research project may not fulfill the type of growth we intend with the concentration requirement.

 Can classes I’ve taken before enrolling in the PhD program (e.g., in an MS program) count toward my Concentration?

Yes, but this again needs to be approved by your advisor(s). You should have a discussion with your advisor about whether the content of the course appropriately prepares you for your General Exam.