Engineering Ph.D.

Program overview

The doctorate program in engineering prepares the next generation of engineering leaders to tackle some of the most daunting and complex problems facing our society.

The program's goal is to produce engineering graduates who are subject matter experts in a knowledge domain within an engineering discipline and who can compete successfully with those who have earned discipline-specific doctorates in engineering. Instead of restricting graduates to individual engineering fields (e.g., chemical, computer, electrical, industrial, mechanical, etc.) the program provides students with the flexibility to become subject matter experts and engineering innovators in an open-architecture environment, fostering intellectual growth along both interdisciplinary pathways and within the bounds of conventional engineering disciplines. With this approach, the program develops world-class researchers who can capitalize on the most promising discoveries and innovations, regardless of their origin within the engineering field, to develop interdisciplinary solutions for real-world challenges.

The Ph.D. in engineering requires each student to address fundamental technical problems of national and global importance for the 21st Century. Four key industries–healthcare, communications, energy, and transportation–are addressed specifically. These industries impact every individual on the planet and are the focus areas doctoral candidates and faculty will contribute to through study and research.


The curriculum for the doctorate in engineering provides disciplinary and interdisciplinary courses, research mentorship, and engineering focus area seminars. Students are expected to have a disciplinary-rooted technical strength to conduct and complete independent, original, and novel collaborative interdisciplinary research contributing to one of the four industrial and/or societal focus areas. The program is comprised of 66 credit hours: 30 course credits, 6 engineering focus area credits, and 30 research credits.

Core courses

Students will complete the following core courses: Interdisciplinary Research Methods, Engineering Analytics Foundation, and Engineering Analytics Elective.

Discipline foundation courses

Foundation courses build depth within a disciplinary field of engineering, such as mechanical engineering, electrical and microelectronics engineering, computer engineering, industrial and systems engineering, chemical engineering, or biomedical engineering.

Industry focus area courses

Beginning with the course Translating Discovery into Practice, this rigorous set of four engineering courses provides students with comprehensive coverage of engineering challenges and solution approaches in the four key industry areas associated with the program: health care, energy, communications, and transportation. Students choose a focus area and complete the corresponding set of courses. Students can also take additional courses from their selected industry as electives.

Focus area electives

Students complete at least three focus area electives. These courses, selected from courses within current RIT degree programs and associated with the focus area of study chosen by the student, provide specialized knowledge and skill-sets relevant to the student’s dissertation research.

Comprehensive exam

Students complete a comprehensive exam at the end of their first year of study. The exam evaluates the student’s aptitude, potential, and competency in conducting Ph.D. level research.

Dissertation proposal

Students must present a dissertation proposal to their dissertation committee no sooner than six months after the comprehensive exam and at least six months prior to the candidacy exam. The proposal provides the opportunity for the student to elaborate on their research plans and to obtain feedback on the direction and approach to their research from his/her dissertation committee.

Candidacy exam

The candidacy exam provides comprehensive feedback to the student regarding their dissertation research progress and expected outcomes prior to defense of their full dissertation.

Dissertation presentation and defense

Each doctoral candidate will prepare an original, technically sound, and well-written dissertation. They will present and defend their dissertation and its accompanying research to their dissertation committee.

Admission requirements

To be considered for admission to the Ph.D. program in engineering, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Hold a baccalaureate degree in an engineering discipline from an accredited university,
  • Submit a resume highlighting educational background and experiences,
  • Submit a Statement of Purpose for Research,
  • Submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE),
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) for all previously completed undergraduate and graduate coursework,
  • Have a GPA of 3.0 or higher (or a minimum GPA of 3.0 in foundation coursework),
  • Submit at least two letters of academic and/or professional recommendation. Referees should send recommendation letters by email to or via postal service directly to Graduate Enrollment Services.
  • Participate in an on-campus or teleconference interview (when applicable), and
  • Complete a graduate application.
  • For international applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language. Minimum scores of 587 (paper-based) or 94 (Internet-based) are required. International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores will be accepted in place of the TOEFL exam. Minimum scores will vary; however, the absolute minimum score required for unconditional acceptance is 6.5.

Additional information


All students in the program must spend at least three years as a resident full-time student before completing the degree.

Program taught in:
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)

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