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Our doctoral program prepares individuals for careers in academia or research and development. Depending on individual interest, the student is educated at the frontier of departmental research areas such as operations research, data science and analytics, or materials and manufacturing. Upon graduation, students are prepared to be leaders in the creation and dissemination of new knowledge.

View us in the Pitt Catalog: Industrial Engineering, PhD

Please also refer to the Graduate Manual for more details.

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Prospective Students

If you are considering a PhD degree, selecting an appropriate program is a crucial decision for you to make.   Here are some questions to consider:

  1. How well-established is the program and what are some of the academic institutions, research labs, or companies where its graduates are employed?
  2. How research-active are the department’s faculty members, and how well-known are they within the research community?
  3. Will you have diverse and in-depth learning opportunities, and will you have a variety of options to choose from for your dissertation research?
  4. What are the opportunities for professional development, e.g., attendance at national and international conferences, participation in seminars and colloquia, or avenues for professional networking?
  5. How well do you think you will be able to get to know faculty and fellow PhD students?
  6. Will you be supported financially and how does the amount of support align with the cost of living at the location of the program?
  7. What is the campus environment like and how livable is the city/town where the university is located?

Myth: Getting a PhD is unaffordable/expensive.

Truth: Nobody pays out of their pocket for a PhD in engineering!  Typically, you will be supported with a graduate assistantship that will cover all of your tuition costs and will also pay you a stipend for living expenses.

Myth: A Master's degree is required to pursue a PhD.

Truth: You can apply to a PhD program with just a bachelor's degree and in most cases you will not be at a disadvantage compared to someone who applies after completing a Master's degree.  In fact, if you are certain you want to pursue a PhD, the best time to start is right after you complete your undergraduate degree.  Of course, you could also work a few years or get a Master's and then apply if you are not completely sure.

Myth: A PhD program is grueling and robs you of a healthy work-life balance.

Truth: You will indeed have to work hard for a PhD.  But you can still have a vibrant, balanced and intellectually fulfilling life, with plenty of time to socialize with others who think like you.  In fact, many people with PhD degrees will tell you that graduate school was the best time of their life!

Myth: The only option after a PhD is an academic career.

Truth: While a PhD is indeed a requirement for an academic career, there are also high-quality research positions available at leading companies like Meta/Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.  You also have opportunities at national laboratories like Sandia, Argonne, Batelle and Pacific Northwest, to name a few.  We have PhD alumni working at several of these establishments.

Myth: You don't get paid all that much and it's not worth spending 5+ years in school when you could be out making money.

Truth: You can earn a good salary after your PhD and the earning potential lost while in grad school is minuscule compared to what your career earnings will be. 


Doctoral Program

In addition to the core courses required for the PhD qualifying examination, the doctoral student will specialize in one of the department's areas of concentration and take whatever courses may be required in preparation for research and the dissertation topic. These courses are selected in consultation with the student's advisor and his/her dissertation committee.

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.

Some course requirements might be waived for students with appropriate prior coursework (the credit requirements are not reduced, though).

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 demonstrated 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 from 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) that cover the selected areas and are conducted by a committee of two to four faculty members.
  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 his/her 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 (typically combined wth the proposal examinaton) 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 them should be from the Industrial Engineering department and at least one of them should be from outside the department.

The purpose of this examination, which is typically taken at the end of 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.

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 the student's 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.

Financial Assistance

While admission to the graduate program does not imply the granting of financial aid, it is the department's policy to provide graduate assistantships to as many PhD students as possible.  Individual faculty members do not make assistantship offers; rather, decisions on awards are made by the department chair based upon the recommendations of the graduate admissions committee. These awards are highly competitive and are given purely on the basis of merit, and typically, only to doctoral students.  Barring unforeseen circumstances, students who are awarded financial support will continue to receive it as long as they maintain the required level of academic excellence and make satisfactory progress towards their degree objectives. 

We welcome applications from international applicants with outstanding academic records.

For full consideration, please apply early for financial support, and in no case later than January 31.