Doctoral Program

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The doctoral program prepares students for the rigorous demands of developing and implementing effective operational and management systems, and for careers in research and development, or academia. Depending on the student's individual interest, the student is educated at the frontiers of knowledge in operations research, manufacturing systems, information systems, or engineering management. This leads to a potential for mastery in ideas related to technical management, systems design, and decision-making concepts.

Dissertation research often requires a strong background in applied mathematics, probability theory, optimization techniques, simulation, and computer programming. PhD students are typically full-time students.

View us in the Pitt Catalog: Industrial Engineering, PhD


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Course and Dissertation Credit Requirements

In addition to the basic core courses, the doctoral student will specialize in one of the department's areas of concentration and take whatever courses may be required in preparation for the PhD comprehensive examination and the student's dissertation topic. These courses are selected in conjunction with a program approved by the student's advisor and must include at least two courses in a cognate area.

According to University regulations, the PhD requires at least 72 credits beyond the bachelor's degree or 42 credits beyond the master's degree, including 18 credits for dissertation research. The department requires at least 45 credits of technical coursework beyond the bachelor's degree (i.e., not including credits for research, seminar, English/technical writing, proposal writing workshops, etc.). Course credits typically include the following at a minimum:
    • Qualifying Core Courses(IE 2082, IE 2006, IE 2007, IE 2084 (and for manufacturing students, IE 2011): 12-15 credits
    • Other Required Courses ( IE 2100, IE 2088): 6 credits
    • Additional Elective Courses (at least 6 credits of which must come from offerings outside the Industrial Engineering Department): 24-33 credits
    • Dissertation Research (IE 3997 / IE 3999): at least 18 credits, of which at least are from IE 3999.

Examination Requirements

A candidate for the PhD degree is required to appear for the following examinations:

PhD Qualifying Examination 

This examination allows the department to assess the student's academic preparation and creative ability to conduct doctoral-level research. It is given once a year in late April or early May. The typical student who enrolls in Fall must take this examination after the first two terms in the program. Students who start in Spring have the option of taking the exam at the end of the term or waiting a year until the next May. In order to obtain faculty approval to appear in this examination, a student is expected to have a good academic record, an eligible departmental faculty advocate, and must show promise for doing independent research.

Currently, there are four components to the qualifying examination.

  1. The student must have an overall GPA of at least 3.67 in the courses comprising the qualifying core. 
  2. The student must select two areas from: (1) Linear Optimization, (2) Stochastic Processes, (3) Statistics & Data Analysis, and (4) Manufacturing Systems, and pass two oral examinations (typically, 45 minutes to an hour each) conducted by a committee of two to four faculty members that cover the selected areas.
  3. The student must satisfactorily participate in independent research with a faculty member (either by registering for 3 credits of research or as part of the student’s research assistantship duties). 
  4. The student must read and review one or more research papers that will be assigned by an examination committee and then defend their critique before the committee.

The entire faculty then meets and discusses each candidate’s performance along with the recommendations of the examination committees to decide on whether the student passes or not.

A student will be admitted to PhD candidacy only after he/she has passed the qualifying examination.  All doctoral candidates are expected to choose the area in which they will write their dissertations and identify an advisor who will guide the dissertation. They are expected to specialize in one of the department's areas of concentration and take whatever additional courses are required to prepare for the PhD comprehensive examination and the student's dissertation (including advanced courses that are targeted primarily at doctoral students). After sufficient progress has been made in his or her research, the student, under the guidance of the advisor is expected, to appoint a committee consisting of a minimum of four members of the graduate faculty at least two of whom should be from the Industrial Engineering department and at least one of whom should be from outside the department. This committee will then administer the following examinations to the student:

Dissertation Proposal Examination

The purpose of this examination, which is typically taken in the student's third year in the program, is to test the soundness and validity of the candidate's research topic, research plans, and methods that are described by the student in an oral presentation. A copy of the proposal document must be provided to each member of the student's examining committee at least two weeks prior to the date of the proposal exam. Passing this examination provides an affirmation by the committee that the proposed work when completed will lead to a PhD level dissertation.

Dissertation Defense Examination

After the proposed research is completed and the dissertation document is written, the student is required to present his or her work in a presentation that is open to the public and defend the dissertation before an examining committee.  A completed copy of the dissertation document must be provided to each member of the student's examining committee at least two weeks prior to the date of the defense.  It is expected that the dissertation will lead to at least two to three papers of publishable quality in respected scientific journals.

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It is the department's policy to provide graduate assistantships to as many students as possible. However, admission to the graduate program does not imply the granting of financial aid. An applicant interested in obtaining financial aid should request information directly from the department. These awards are highly competitive and are given only on the basis of merit, and typically, only to doctoral students. The terms and conditions are specified when the department makes an award for financial support. 

For full consideration, please apply early for financial support and in no case later than January 15.

Special Information for International Applicants

If you are an international applicant with an outstanding record and you wish to apply to the doctoral program, we will be happy to consider you for an assistantship. However, you must keep in mind that these awards are very few in number and highly competitive. 

It is also impossible for faculty members or administrators in the department to provide you in advance with any kind of meaningful estimate of your chances of getting an assistantship, since this depends on a number of factors including the competition, the projected availability of funds and the specific needs of the department. 

Financial support comes from the department, not individual faculty. All decisions on assistantships are made centrally by a departmental committee once all pieces of your application have been received; individual faculty members do not make assistantship offers

Barring unforeseen circumstances, students who are awarded financial support will continue to receive it as long as they maintain their level of academic excellence and make satisfactory progress towards their degree objectives.