Doctor of Philosophy in Systems Engineering (Ph.D.)


Read more about this program on the institution's website

Program Description


Program Overview

Offered on GW's main campus in Washington, D.C., the Ph.D. in Systems Engineering allows rising scholars to produce original research in the systems engineering field, such as applied enterprise systems engineering and analysis; business and program development; critical infrastructure systems; risk assessment and management; and beyond.

Students can expect to work closely with a faculty advisor in their chosen research area to create a curriculum plan and guidance for the doctoral dissertation. Students will also be expected to teach introductory-level courses to undergraduates, present conference papers, and work with faculty on research grant applications.

Course work

The program is divided into two stages. The first comprises a study of related fields of learning that support the general area of research focus and culminates in the qualifying examination.

The second, composed of original research and the presentation of findings in a written dissertation, culminates in the final examination. Upon admission to the first stage of the program, the student will meet with their assigned advisor to structure their programs of study.

Programs of study will include a focus area selected from the following:

Engineering Management
  • Crisis, Emergency and Risk Management
  • Economics, Finance, and Cost Engineering
  • Engineering and Technology Management
  • Environmental and Energy Management
  • Knowledge and Information Management
Systems Engineering
  • Operations Research and Management Science
  • Systems Engineering
  • Enterprise Information Assurance

Students who already have a master’s degree must complete a minimum of 30 credit hours at the graduate level, all of which must be completed by the end of the semester in which they take their doctoral qualifying exams (DQE).

For students without master's degrees, a minimum of 54 credit hours in a formal program at the graduate level is required. In addition, all doctoral students take a minimum of 24 hours of dissertation research once they have been admitted to candidacy (post-DQE).


Program Prerequisites

The following courses or their equivalent are prerequisites for the D.Sc. program and are required in addition to the credit hours discussed above:

  • Math 31 single-variable Calculus I
  • Math 32 S single-variable Calculus II
  • APSC 3115 Engineering Analysis III

If not met at admission, these courses must be completed within the first year of study. The Doctoral Program Coordinator will evaluate doctoral students after one year of study and any student who has not completed his/her prerequisites by that time will be in violation of their admissions contract and barred from further study.

Direct Admits

Students who do not enter the program with a master's degree will be required to take the following courses:

  • EMSE 6001 The Management of Technical Organizations
  • EMSE 6410 Survey of Finance and Engineering Economics
  • EMSE 6020 Elements of Problem Solving and Decision Making for Managers
  • EMSE 6801 Systems Engineering I

Students who enter with a master's degree may also take the above courses for doctoral credit if they have not previously taken such courses, however, they are not recommended and are subject to approval by the advisor.


Core Courses

All doctoral students are required to take the following three courses:

  • EMSE 6765 Data Analysis for Engineers and Scientists (Offered in Spring and Fall)
  • EMSE 8000 Research Formulation in EMSE (Offered in the Spring)
  • EMSE 8001 Survey of Research Methods in EMSE (Offered in the Fall)

It is recommended that students select an additional advanced methods course relevant to their doctoral work.

If a doctoral student receives two grades of F or three grades below B-, graduate study is terminated and further enrollment prohibited. Courses in which the student earns grades below B- are not included in the total credit-hour requirement for the degree. Students who receive any grade below B- are required to review their programs of study with their advisors. Students must maintain a GPA of 3.5 in their program of study (all courses specified in their DegreeMap Plan).

Qualifying Examination

The Qualifying Examination is the principal means of determining whether a student will qualify as a candidate for the doctoral degree and progress to the second stage of the program. Its purpose is to ascertain that the student's background and intellectual development are adequate to support doctoral research in the central field. The DQE will be offered in January (both parts) and September (only data analysis).

Before taking the examination, students must have completed the core courses and 27 credits (nine courses) of their required coursework and have the DegreeMap finalized. Students must also submit a Doctoral Qualifying Exam Checklist to the doctoral coordinator.

The Qualifying Examination consists of two parts: a two-part written examination and a focus area exam.

Ph.D. Admissions Requirements

All applicants to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program at the School of Engineering & Applied Science must meet the admissions requirements for entry.

Applicants must provide the following materials to be considered for any graduate program at SEAS:

  1. Complete online application form
  2. Transcripts
  3. GRE exam scores (Optional for Fall 2021 intake)
    • International applicants: TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic scores
  4. Letters of Recommendation
  5. Statement of Purpose
  6. Resume/CV
  7. Application Fee
English Language Exam Requirements
  • All visa-seeking international applicants are required to submit TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic scores to SEAS to be considered for admission.
  • Please provide only your most recent test scores. Scores may not be more than two years old.
Minimum Score Requirements


  • 6.0 overall with no individual score below 5.0.
  • Applicants to the graduate programs in Engineering Management, Systems Engineering, or Data Analytics are required to have a minimum score of 7.0 with no individual score below 6.0.
  • Applicants who would like to be considered for funding opportunities must have an overall band score of 7.0 with no individual score below 6.0.


  • 80 on the Internet exam (iBT) or 550 on the paper exam
  • Applicants to the graduate programs in Engineering Management, Systems Engineering, or Data Analytics are required to have a minimum score of 100 on the Internet exam.
  • Applicants who would like to be considered for funding opportunities must have a 600 on the paper-based exam or 100 on the Internet-based exam.

PTE Academic

  • 53. Applicants who would like to be considered for funding opportunities must have a minimum score of 68.

Exceptions are granted to applicants who:

  • Hold a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from an institution in which English is the language of instruction AND the official language of the country in which the university is located.
  • Hold a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from an institution located in a country that qualifies for the English language exam exemption.

Final Examination/Doctoral Defense

Once the dissertation has been completed and accepted by the faculty advisor and research committee, students may file a Request for Final Examination Form with the Doctoral Coordinator. This form must be filed and approved by the Department Chair at least two weeks prior to the Final Examination date. Approval will be granted only when all required materials have been presented to the Doctoral Coordinator. The required materials include a completely filed Request for Final Examination Form, a copy of the journal article with reviews, resumes of outside evaluators, and electronic and written copies of the dissertation.

The Final Examination is oral and open to the public. The candidate must demonstrate mastery of the special field of study and of the materials and techniques used in the research. The committee of examiners may include qualified experts brought to the University especially to participate in the examination. The Director of Research usually serves as an advocate for the candidate. Students should consult department regulations concerning the formation of the committee. The committee will vote on the quality and originality of the candidate’s contribution to knowledge as well as his or her mastery of the scholarship and research techniques of the field. Upon a majority vote for pass, the committee recommends the candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. The vote to pass may be provisional based on committee recommendations for changes to the dissertation in terms of additional analysis, writing, or clarifications.

Last updated Dec 2020

About the School

There are plenty of good engineering schools in the U.S.; but how far can good take you when your goal is to engineer better? At the George Washington University's School of Engineering and Applied Sc ... Read More

There are plenty of good engineering schools in the U.S.; but how far can good take you when your goal is to engineer better? At the George Washington University's School of Engineering and Applied Science, students work with professors at the top of their fields and gain access to innovative resources in one of most dynamic, research-driven centers in the world. Read less