Degree Requirements for Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering

Degree Requirements:

Maximum Length of Study

The maximum length of study is 7 years for students admitted with a B.S. degree and 6 years for students with an M.S. degree. For those students who have not completed their studies within these limits, the length of study may be extended on a yearly basis after petition by the student and approval by the student’s supervisory committee. Any extension beyond nine years must be approved by the University Graduate School.

Identification of Research Area

There are currently three main areas of research or specialization: (1) Structural and Geotechnical Engineering; (2) Environmental and Water Resources Engineering; and (3) Transportation Engineering. The student must contact the Department for a list of all faculty members, visit them, and be accepted by one professor to guide the dissertation research. If no such professor can be found, within 15 months of admission, the student will be dismissed from the Ph.D. program.

Course Requirement

The program will consist of at least 90 semester credit hours beyond the baccalaureate degree, 54 hours of which are course work and 24 hours dissertation, or at least 60 semester credit hours beyond the M.S. degree, 24 hours of which are course work and 24 hours dissertation. The remainder of the required minimum credit hours may be taken as either course work or dissertation or a combination thereof as approved by the student’s advisor. Applicants who have a Master’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering or a closely related field from an accredited institution are given a maximum of 30 transferred semester credit hours. In addition to the above requirements, the selection of courses must meet the following requirements for credits beyond the Master’s degree:

  • Minimum three credits in Mathematics or Statistics.
  • Minimum 18 core credits in the selected major area in
    Civil and Environmental Engineering.
  • Any deviation from requirements 1 and 2 above must
    be justified in writing and approved by the CCE Graduate Program Director.
  • Complete CGN 6939.

Core Courses

All Ph.D. students must satisfy the core course requirements defined for the MS degree programs. In addition, all doctoral students are required to take the Research Methods for Civil Engineers course before or during the first semester of dissertation credits. A student may take additional courses in the specialty as well as other areas as approved by the major advisor and the dissertation committee, provided all the core courses have been completed previously during the MS program or will be completed in the Ph.D. program. Students are also required to register for the 0-credit Graduate Seminar (CGN 6939) at least once and are encouraged to take it each Fall and Spring semesters.

Independent Study Course

A student may take up to a total of three credits of independent study, which will be letter graded. If a student needs a course that will not be offered during the student’s course of study, special topics courses should be set up to meet the student’s needs. There will be no limit on the number of special topics courses provided that the core course requirements are satisfied.
Supervisory Committee

The student’s supervisory committee should be appointed as soon as possible and within the 15-month period after the student has been admitted to the Ph.D. program. The committee must have a minimum of four members, at least three from the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, and at least one from outside the department. All committee members should have a Ph.D. degree. The supervisory committee should meet as early as possible to review student’s background, discuss student’s expected research areas, provide guidance on course selection, etc. At least three committee members should participate in this meeting.All committees must comply with UGS and departmental policies and procedures.

Residency Requirements

The Ph.D. student should spend at least one academic year in full residency, after successfully passing his/her Comprehensive Examination (see the following description).


A student must successfully complete the following written exam and oral defenses in partial fulfillment of requirements for the Ph.D. degree in Civil Engineering:

  • Qualifying Exam: The Qualifying Exam must be taken as soon as possible and no later than the semester the student completing the minimum course requirements.  The exam consists of 8 problems covering materials from core courses as determined by the student’s supervisory committee.  The exam will be open-book and the student will be given 8 hours to solve all 8 problems.  In the event that a student fails the exam, he or she can retake it only once in the subsequent semester.  The student is admitted into Ph.D. candidacy after completion of the qualifying exam and all coursework.
  • Proposal Defense: The proposal defense must be completed at least one year prior to the expected graduation date.  In addition to the five-page proposal (brief version) required by the University Graduate School, the student must prepare a detailed proposal that contains, at a minimum, background information, problem statement, objectives, literature review, methodology, work plan, and schedule.  The proposal must be submitted to each committee member at least two weeks prior to the defense date.  The defense will be given in the form of a graduate seminar that is open to all faculty, students, and visitors.  A student can take the proposal defense twice.
  • Dissertation Defense: A draft dissertation must be submitted to each committee member at least three weeks prior to the date of the defense.  The defense will be given in the form of a graduate seminar that is open to all faculty, students, and visitors. A student can fail this defense only once.  In addition to dissertation copies to the University Graduate School, the student must deliver one final approved bound copy to the Department Chairperson, one to the major advisor, and one to each member of the supervisory committee.Students should become familiar with the University Graduate School’s regulations and deadlines available online at