Neuroscience Ph.D. Program

Program Requirements

We require 72 total hours of graduate credit for the Neuroscience Ph.D. degree, with a minimum of 24 hours of didactic (classroom) coursework and the balance of up to 48 credits of research hours.

Summary and Timeline

Graduate Credit Required Hours

Total Hours: 72
Didactic (Classroom) Hours: 24
Research Hours: 48

In most cases didactic course work will be completed during the first two years. At the end of the second year, a Ph.D. Qualifying Examination must be satisfactorily completed for the student to then be admitted into doctoral candidacy for a Ph.D. degree in neuroscience. If needed, remaining course electives may be taken following the Qualifying Examination After a student completes the qualifying process, the student's effort is largely directed towards completing her/his dissertation project.

Every student is also required to complete Teaching Apprenticeship/Assistantship in at least one course during graduate training. In addition, students are required to attend the Neuroscience Graduate Program Seminar series, Research Forum, and the Annual Neuroscience Retreat.

The average time to degree in our program is just over 5 years.

Neuroscience Ph.D. Program course diagram.

Didactic Requirements

All neuroscience graduate students are required to take a minimum of 24 hours of coursework by the time they are ready for qualifying exams in the summer and fall of their second to third years. Besides the 24 non-research credits required, students have the option to take additional electives and research hours, up to a total of 12 credits (including required courses) per semester.

Sample Schedule

  • First and Second Year
    IGP Entry
    • Bioregulation I
    • Bioregulation II
    • Fundamentals of Neuroscience I
    • Fundamentals of Neuroscience II
    • Neurosicence Discussions I
    • Neuroscience Discussions II 
    • Neuroscience Research Forum (multiple semesters)
    • Electives
    NGP Entry
    • Fundamentals of Neuroscience I
    • Fundamentals of Neuroscience II
    • Neuroscience Discussions I
    • Neuorscience Discussions II 
    • Neuroscience Research Forum (multiple semesters)
    • Electives
  • Second Year
    All Students
    • Summer: Qualifying Examination; Research Hours
  • Third Year
    All Students
    • Fall: Neuroscience Research Forum; Research Hours.
    • Spring: Neuroscience Research Forum; Research Hours
    • Summer: Research Hours
  • Fourth and Fifth Year
    All Students

    Successful completion of:

    • Teaching Apprenticeship
    • Research Forum and Neuroscience Graduate Seminars
    • Thesis Research
    • Defense of Thesis

Accumulating Credits

A total of 72 credit hours are required to graduate with the Ph.D. degree from Vanderbilt University. This includes the required minimum 24 credits from the didactic coursework in addition to any electives. The hours of coursework may be increased (but not decreased), with a corresponding reduction in research hours. All graduate students who have completed their required 72 credit hours will be required to register for NURO 399 (Ph.D. Dissertation Research) for 0 credits until they graduate.

Outcomes, Monitoring and Progress

The program has numerous milestones for assessing student progress during the course of their graduate training. Once a student has successfully passed into doctoral candidacy, primary oversight shifts on to the thesis committee, which meets at a maximum interval of every nine months in order to assess progress and provide feedback on the student's project. The Director of Graduate Studies meets personally with each post-qualifaction student once per year as well.

Over the past 10 years, the Neuroscience Ph.D. Program at Vanderbilt has had exceptional success in placing graduates in premier postdoctoral fellowships at research institutions worldwide.