How To Transfer Into a New Doctoral Degree

Doctoral transfer student searches for a book

Transferring degrees as an undergraduate student is fairly simple and common. However, transferring degrees as a doctoral student comes with its own set of challenges that should be considered. For one thing, graduate programs are far more specialized in distinct fields of study compared to bachelor’s degree programs. In addition, many doctoral degree programs do not accept transferred degree credits.

However, despite these challenges, these are certainly not roadblocks. If you feel it is in your best interest to transfer your degree to a new doctoral program, then the following tips may help you successfully navigate the transfer process.

Avoid “Safety” Options When Transferring Graduate School Programs

When you were an undergraduate, you likely had a few “safety schools” that you knew you could fall back on if you were not accepted into your top choices. This is not a good approach to take when transferring degrees at the graduate level. That’s because if you are already unhappy with your current PhD program, you shouldn’t have to settle for a different program that you are just as unsatisfied with.

Instead, figure out what you really want to get out of transferring graduate school programs. What dissatisfies you about your current situation? Are there systemic issues in your department that are holding you back? Do you lack a strong advocate on the faculty staff? Perhaps you are looking for better dissertation resources or opportunities to network with like-minded peers. Whatever your reasons, they are valid and you should feel confident that the graduate school you transfer to can solve these problems for you.

Figure Out How Many Doctoral Degree Credits Will Transfer

One of the key factors to consider before you transfer your doctoral degree is whether your hard-earned credits will transfer to the new program. You should not assume that your credits will transfer as many doctoral colleges simply do not accept transfer credits.

When you find a doctoral college that meets your educational needs and will accept your transfer credits, use your remaining time in your current program to focus on coursework that is required by the new doctoral degree program.

Anticipate Questions and Avoid Burning Bridges

When you inform your current PhD supervisor and other colleagues that you will be transferring graduate school programs, you will almost certainly be questioned about the reasons for the move.

No matter what the reason is for wanting to transfer to another professional doctorate program, you should always keep your explanations limited and professional. Whether you’re talking to a professor, an advisor or one of your peers, try to avoid burning bridges with your behavior or words. It’s entirely possible that the people you’re leaving behind will come back into your life at a later date and you don’t want past actions to turn into regrets.

Make the Most of Your “Lame Duck” Time

Once you have been accepted and made the decision to transfer your degree to another professional doctorate program, you might feel like a lame duck at your current program. However, you should still look for ways to get the most value out of your time left at your current school. Brush up on your research skills and make connections with other peers in your program.

As previously mentioned, you can also adjust your course load to focus on the courses that will transfer to your new doctoral degree program. You could also reduce your course load and pursue adjunct positions at a local community college. Another option is to spend more time getting your work accepted to a professional journal or conference. This would add crucial credentials to your professional resume.

GCU’s Progressive Transfer Policy for Doctoral Degrees

If you are looking to transfer your degree to a different graduate school program, consider the College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University. With our Progressive Transfer Policy, you may be eligible to transfer credits to GCU and complete your doctoral degree with us! The university offers a convenient bulk transfer process so you can transfer your eligible doctoral credits from the same type of degree (e.g., EdD, PhD, etc.) and the same type of content (e.g., Organizational Leadership, Business Administration, etc.).

At GCU, our campus and online doctoral programs follow an accelerated course of study and dissertation process. This gives PhD and professional doctorate candidates the flexibility you need to pursue your academic goals. As a campus or online doctoral learner at GCU, you will benefit from stimulating residencies, hands-on mentorship and access to our unique virtual Doctoral Community (DC) NetworkTM. To learn more, click on the Request More Information button on this page.


Approved by the Dean of College of Doctoral Studies on September 7, 2022

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.