PhD Degree

Academic Regulations

Program Standards: The purpose of the courses in the PhD program of study is to develop exceptional expertise in the major area. It should also provide the background and adjunct knowledge required to practice and/or teach this specialty at the highest professional level and to conduct significant research in this field. The PhD thesis shall make an original and significant contribution to engineering knowledge.

Thesis Requirements: Every PhD candidate must conduct original and independent research on an engineering topic. The thesis must give evidence of originality and ability in independent investigation. It must be in creditable literary form and should be published in a recognized technical journal. All theses must be submitted to the OSU Scholars Archive (see

Credit Hour Requirements: A minimum of 108 total credit hours is required. Of these, a maximum of 45 credit hours earned for a Master’s degree may be included. For students with MS degrees, a minimum of 18 course credits must be earned beyond the Master's studies. In addition, between 36 and 45 credit hours for the PhD thesis are counted toward the PhD degree.

Non-Engineers in PhD Degree Programs: Admission of non-engineering Baccalaureate degree holders or Master’s degree holders to PhD degree program in CCE is only permitted when the student has completed those engineering requirements for the BS degree that are considered prerequisite for entry into the chosen area of graduate study. These course requirements are thus not considered to be part of the 108 credit hour minimum for the PhD degree. The governing principle is that a PhD degree holder in Civil Engineering must be qualified to practice civil engineering at the highest professional level and to conduct significant research in the field of civil engineering.

CCE Graduate Seminar: All students pursuing the PhD degree are required to take the CCE Graduate Seminar (CE 507) once during the fall term in which they matriculate into our program. Subsequent offerings of the course may also be required, please check with your faculty advisor.


Selection of Major Professor: It is essential that the student work with a major professor whose research lies in the same area as that of the student. In view of this, students are given a period of time on campus before a major professor is selected. The assignment of a major professor will be by mutual agreement by the faculty member, the student, and CCE. Normally, PhD students will arrange for a major professor during the first year in residence at OSU. Both the major professor and thesis advisor (if different) must hold appointments in CCE. Declaration of the major professor will be filed in CCE office and in the Graduate School. Possible specializations are as follows:

Forming a Graduate Committee: In addition to a major professor, the student will select a PhD committee whose programs, research, and professional interests lie in the same area as those of the student. The PhD graduate committee is formed to guide the student in the conduct of their research, to review and approve the student’s program of study, and to conduct the PhD degree examinations. The assignment of the PhD graduate committee will be by mutual agreement by the major professor, the faculty members, the student, and CCE. Normally, PhD students will arrange for the members of their PhD graduate committee during the first year in residence at OSU. Declaration of the PhD graduate committee members will be filed in the CCE office and in the Graduate School.

A minimum of two members of CCE who hold graduate faculty appointments must be on the student’s PhD graduate committee. The student will meet with this committee at least three times during the course of the PhD degree program, as follows:

1. to review and approve the student’s PhD program of study,
2. for the preliminary examination, and 
3. for the final oral examination (Thesis Defense).

Best practices for Graduate Thesis Committee formation: 

  • Avoid conflict of interests: No members of graduate committees should be supervisors of another committee member (either current supervisor or a supervisor within the previous 5 years). This is intended to apply to postdoc and research associates. It is not intended to eliminate the school head from graduate committees nor former students who now hold tenure-track positions elsewhere.
  • Oversight from the area of concentration: At least two members should be tenured/tenure-track CCE faculty from or affiliated with the student’s area of concentration (view faculty by area of concentration).
  • External committee members: The external committee member should have specific expertise that is not clearly available at OSU. CCE best practice is a maximum of one committee member from outside of OSU. In order to add an external committee member you will need to contact the Graduate Program Coordinator to begin the process. A minimum of 6 weeks is required for processing.

Review and Filing of Program of Study: Students should meet with their PhD graduate committee to plan their PhD program of study (see detailed Doctoral Degree Progress Flow Chart regarding specific timelines). Students who do not file a program of study within the specified deadline specified by the Graduate School for their degree will not be allowed to register for the next term. A registration hold will also be placed on graduate students whose programs of study are not approved after initial evaluation by the Graduate School.

Graduate program of study forms can be found on the Graduate School website. This completed form must be reviewed and approved by the CCE Graduate Committee for compliance with School requirements prior to submittal to the Graduate School.

Exam Scheduling Form: You must schedule all examinations required by the Graduate School using the Exam Scheduling Form and following the prescribed timeline given by the Graduate School. You are responsible for:

  • Informing the Graduate School of the date, time, and place of each exam
  • Confirming the committee membership
  • Notifying and reminding the committee of the exam date, time, and place

In addition, a CCE PhD Degree Checklist must be completed and submitted to the CCE Graduate Coordinator along with the program of study.

Qualifying Examination: CCE requires that each student satisfactorily complete a comprehensive written examination (the Qualifying Exam). This written examination must be completed no later than one week prior to the Oral Preliminary Examination that meets the OSU Graduate School requirements. The graded Qualifying Exam will become a part of CCE's file on the student. Students who fail the Qualifying Examination twice will be terminated from graduate study in CCE and will not be given an additional examination. Some disciplines may require an additional oral component to the Qualifying Exam.

Preliminary Examination: Before being advanced to candidacy for the PhD degree, each student must also satisfactorily complete an oral examination conducted by the student's PhD graduate committee (the Oral Preliminary Exam). It is expected that the Preliminary Exam will be held within the first three years of the start of PhD studies. When the student and major professor agree that the student is ready for the oral Preliminary Examination, the student will contact the other PhD graduate committee members and schedule the oral Preliminary Examination with the Graduate School. A portion of the Preliminary Examination will include a short presentation by the student on the status and future plans for the student's PhD research. The oral Preliminary Examination is intended to cover both fundamental knowledge and the proposed thesis research. Students who fail the preliminary examination twice will be terminated from graduate study in CCE and will not be given an additional examination.

Final Oral Examination (PhD Defense): All PhD students will defend their research in a final oral examination in front of their PhD graduate committee. The PhD examination will be two hours in duration. The thesis will be presented during the first hour of the examination. The first hour of the examination will be open to the public and must be advertised at least one week prior to the examination. The second hour of the examination will be devoted to examination on research with only the student’s graduate committee members present.

Theses must be distributed to all committee members for review well in advance of the examination date (at least two weeks).

Students may be re-examined only once. Re-examinations may not be given sooner than one month after the original defense. Those who fail to pass their final defense twice will be terminated from graduate study in CCE and will not be given additional examinations.

PhD Thesis Submission: All PhD theses must be submitted to the OSU Scholars Archive (see In addition, the PhD advisor may request bound copies at their discretion.