The German PhD offers close mentorship and a vibrant intellectual exchange between students and faculty. Graduate students work closely with leading scholars of modern literature, culture, philosophy and the arts from the Enlightenment to the present. PhD students are encouraged to conduct interdisciplinary research in German studies and a secondary concentration (i.e. classics, environmental science, art history, Jewish studies). To see the wide range of subjects covered in the German program, consult the research and publication profiles of the faculty and graduate students.

PhD students work and study with established scholars of German studies whose fields of expertise include aesthetics, literary criticism and theory, gender and sexuality studies, critical theory, cultural studies and contemporary art. In combination with advising in German literature and culture, students might seek advising in law, popular culture, media and other fields. Students participate in student-centered colloquia, regular speaker-events and workshops. The graduate associate chair of German welcomes email inquiries about the program. For contact information and more general information on the PhD in German studies, please visit the program's website. A timeline for the German Studies PhD can be found on our German Program webpage.


Academic Preparation

If a student has gaps in their academic preparation, the department may require them to take additional courses. 

Course Requirements

The PhD program requires 30 hours of coursework at the 5000 level or above. Students who have completed an MA degree may be able to apply up to 21 hours toward this requirement.

In addition to coursework, students must take a total of at least 30 credit hours of doctoral dissertation, with not more than 10 of these taken in any one semester and not more than 10 dissertation credit hours taken before the semester during which the comprehensive examination is passed. Students must be enrolled in a minimum of 5 dissertation hours during the semester in which they defend their dissertation (including summer session, if the defense is held over the summer).

Transfer credit from accredited institutions may be accepted by CU Boulder after approval by the graduate associate chair and the graduate school. PhD students are allowed a maximum of 21 hours of transfer credit. Thesis hours may not be transferred. All courses accepted for transfer credit must be graduate-level courses and must have a grade of B or above. Coursework completed more than five years prior to acceptance to the PhD program will be evaluated by the department with regard to current relevance and applicability to the degree requirements. Credit may not be transferred until the student has completed at least six credits of CU graduate-level coursework as a degree-seeking student on the CU Boulder campus with a 3.0 GPA. Thesis hours do not count toward the required 30 hours and cannot be used as transfer credit.

Required Courses and Credits

Required Courses6
Theory and Practice of German Studies
Applied Linguistics and Foreign Language Teaching Methodology
Two pre-20th century content courses such as:6
Foundations of Critical Theory
Seminar: The Age of Enlightenment
Seminar: Topics in the Age of Goethe
Seminar: Topics in the 19th Century
Goethe's Faust
Seminar: Open Topics in German Civilization
At least 6 credit hours in an interdisciplinary area of concentration. 16
Additional courses to meet 30-credit minimum.12
Total Credit Hours30

Secondary concentration

As a German studies PhD student, you will develop an interdisciplinary area of concentration. This secondary field will consist of at least 6 credit hours. You will design this concentration in close consultation with your faculty mentor and comprehensive examination and dissertation advisor, and with the approval of the graduate associate chair. Some examples of interdisciplinary concentrations might include (but are not limited to): critical thought, political science, philosophy, history, comparative literature, gender studies, film studies, Russian studies, Jewish studies, women’s studies, geography, environmental studies, economics, international affairs.

Language Requirement

In addition to demonstrating a high level of proficiency in German, you must demonstrate moderate proficiency in an additional foreign language. You can do this by fulfilling one of the following requirements either before or after enrolling at CU Boulder:

  • completing a fourth-semester (second-semester sophomore) college language course with a grade of "pass,"
  • completing a proficiency exam administered at CU, or
  • presenting other evidence of moderate proficiency to the graduate associate chair.

Students should consult with the graduate associate chair at the beginning of their first semester to discuss procedures. This requirement must be fulfilled before or during the semester in which the student advances to candidacy.

Comprehensive PhD Examination

The comprehensive exam tests a student's knowledge in areas of specialization appropriate for their anticipated dissertation topic. The exam takes place in the second or third year, depending on whether the student entered the program with a BA or MA and, if the latter, how many coursework credits were applied from the MA. Students take the exam in the spring semester. The exam is based on a reading list the student assembles in close consultation with the members of their committee. It consists of a take-home written exam followed by a two-hour-long oral examination that concentrates on the written exam, but may also address texts and topics on the reading list that are not covered in the written exam. The composition of the comprehensive exam committee follows the guidelines of the prospectus & dissertation committee composition below.

For more information, visit the department's Comprehensive Examination, Prospectus & Dissertation webpage.

Prospectus & Dissertation Committee

After successful completion of the comprehensive examinations, the student forms a dissertation committee and prepares a dissertation prospectus, to be followed by its defense a week later. The dissertation committee should be finalized and a dissertation prospectus submitted no later than the end of the fifth week of the semester following the successful completion of the comprehensive examination.

For more information, visit the department's Comprehensive Examination, Prospectus & Dissertation webpage.


The student formally begins to write their dissertation after successfully completing the comprehensive exam and defending the dissertation prospectus. The student should work closely with their dissertation advisor and committee members while writing the dissertation. In particular, students are advised to submit draft copies of each chapter to all members of their committee. Any subsequent changes to the student's "timeline for completion" need to be circulated to the committee for approval. A final draft must be submitted to the committee members at least three weeks before the defense.

Students are required to register continuously for a minimum of five dissertation hours in the fall and spring semesters of each year, beginning with the semester following the passing of the comprehensive exam and extending through the semester in which the student successfully defends their dissertation.

A student who fails to register continuously for dissertation credit hours after passing the comprehensive exam must retake and pass the exam, and validate any coursework more than five years old, to regain status as a student in good standing with the graduate school.

For more information, visit the department's Comprehensive Examination, Prospectus & Dissertation webpage.

Recommended Coursework


Students are strongly encouraged to complete at least one internship during their doctoral studies. Three hours of internship credit can count toward the 30 required hours of coursework for the PhD. GSLL graduate students have completed internships with businesses, nonprofit agencies and schools, and at locations including Colorado, Germany and Washington, DC. Internship offerings vary by semester. To enroll in a graduate internship, see the associate chair for graduate studies.

Graduate Exchange Opportunities

Students are recommended to spend one academic year abroad during their doctoral studies, on either a CU graduate exchange or an exchange funded by an agency such as the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) or the Fulbright Commission. For more information concerning DAAD, Fulbright and other grants, see the department's Scholarships & Awards webpage. 

In partnership with CU's Office of International Education, GSLL offers funded graduate exchanges at the University of Göttingen and the University of Regensburg. These exchanges offer matriculation at the host institution for one academic year (10 months), plus a monthly stipend for living expenses. One position is offered per year at each institution. To qualify for an exchange, the student must demonstrate fluency in German and evidence of superior academic work. 

Students interested in either program should notify the graduate associate chair by December 1 for study abroad the following academic year and formally apply by February 15.

Graduate Certificate Programs

Students are also encouraged to consider completing a graduate certificate program at CU. GSLL offers a critical theory graduate certificate. Other graduate certificates include the women and gender studies graduate certificate and the comparative ethnic studies graduate certificate.