Carnegie Mellon University


Completion of the Ph.D. degree usually takes about four to six years of study (depending on if the student enters with a B.S. degree or an M.S. degree). At least one calendar year of full-time graduate study in residence is required. The total time allowed to complete the Ph.D. degree requirements is six years following the successful completion of the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination. A minimum of 144 units is required beyond the bachelor's degree, which can include units completed towards a master's degree at another institution.

To obtain a Ph.D. degree the student must demonstrate technical breadth, steady progress in research, and contribute to the body of knowledge in electrical and computer engineering and disseminate this knowledge through the oral and written form. Each of these abilities are tested using a variety of requirements, and are detailed below.

Students demonstrate breadth by taking graduate courses. All incoming Ph.D. students are required to fulfill the Ph.D. Course and Breadth Requirements. Each student may choose his or her own course and research schedule with the approval of his or her advisor.

Effective fall 2018, all incoming ECE graduate students, including Ph.D. students, will be required to complete a one-unit Introduction to Graduate Studies course (18-989) in their first semester in order to receive their degree. This course is in addition to the 144 units already required beyond the Bachelor’s degree.

Due to the multi-year length of the Ph.D. program, students are required to demonstrate their ability to make steady progress in meeting the requirements of the program. This is done through the Graduate Student Progress Review process. All students are required to submit a Graduate Progress Review Statement in both the Fall and Spring semesters. In this statement, the student describes his or her activities as a graduate student as both a researcher and as a member of the ECE community.

The ability to think, speak and write is tested in the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination.

  • Students must take this examination for the first time no later than the fifth semester after being admitted to the Ph.D. program.
  • Students must pass the exam no later than the sixth semester after being admitted to the Ph.D. program.

Concentration on research is expected after completion of the Qualifying Examination. Once a student has passed the Qualifying Exam, he or she is considered a Ph.D. candidate.

Students demonstrate their ability to disseminate knowledge through completing the Teaching Internship requirement. All Ph.D. candidates are required to complete a two-semester internship in university teaching. The Ph.D. teaching internship requirement may be completed at any time during the student's enrollment in the Ph.D. program.

Each Ph.D. candidate must prepare a thesis prospectus within four semesters (counting the summer term as a semester) following the successful completion of the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination. The prospectus presentation must occur at least one semester prior to the final defense. The prospectus is an informal description of the problem to be investigated and the expected accomplishments of the investigation. The prospectus is presented to the Prospectus Committee for its review and recommendations. This committee consists of at least four members, including the student's advisor. At least two members must be Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty, and at least one member must be from outside the department. Courtesy faculty are considered ECE faculty.

Following the completion of the proposed research, a doctoral thesis documenting the research is required. The doctoral thesis should be a report of the work done, its relation to previous work in the area, and the conclusions drawn from the results. The thesis should include a section describing how the student's research has contributed to the body of knowledge in electrical and computer engineering.

After the thesis is written, a final public oral defense is held to determine whether the thesis is acceptable. Approval of the thesis is by unanimous decision of the Thesis Committee (normally the same as the Prospectus Committee), followed by acceptance of the ECE Department Head and the Dean of the College of Engineering. The candidate is then expected to prepare the technical contributions arising from the thesis for publication.