Javascript is currently not supported, or is disabled by this browser. Please enable Javascript for full functionality.

Skip to Main Content
University of Pittsburgh    
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 12, 2024
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog

Industrial Engineering, PhD

Return to John A. Swanson School of Engineering Return to: John A. Swanson School of Engineering

This is the department’s flagship graduate program and prepares the student for the rigorous demands of a career in research and development, or academia. It requires a strong background in mathematics, probability & statistics, optimization techniques and manufacturing. The PhD student is expected to be a full-time student. Although it is possible to seek candidacy as a part-time student, the PhD candidate must spend at least one academic year on campus full time. The graduate faculty typically works closely with individual doctoral students to create a flexible program tailored to individual needs.

Entrance to the PhD Program: To be admitted to the doctoral program, students must pass the PhD qualifying examination, which is typically given once a year in late April or early May. The examination allows the department to assess students’ ability to conduct doctoral-level research by testing their academic preparation and creativity. Students are expected to take the examination in April/May of the calendar year following the one in which they entered the graduate program, although it is acceptable to take the examination earlier. The student must seek faculty approval to take this examination. For approval to take the exam, a student is expected to (i) have a very good academic record, (ii) have an eligible departmental faculty advocate, and (iii) 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.

Doctoral Course and Dissertation Credit Requirements: In addition to the basic core courses, doctoral students take additional courses that may be required in preparation for the PhD degree and the student’s dissertation topic. These courses are selected in conjunction with a program approved by the student’s advisor. 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. Currently, the department requires a minimum of 45 credits in pedagogical coursework; credits typically include the following:

  • Qualifying core (IE 2006 , IE 2007 , IE 2081 , IE 2084 , IE 2011 ): 12-15 credits
  • Other required courses (IE 2100  & IE 2088  or IE 2188 ): 6 credits
  • ​Additional course work (at least 6 credits of which must come from offerings outside the Department of Industrial Engineering): at least 24-27 credits
  • Dissertation research (IE 3997  & IE 3999 ): at least 18 credits

Additional Doctoral Requirements: All full-time students must enroll in and attend IE 3095 (Graduate Seminar)  each term they are in residence; the credits for these do not count toward the 72-credit requirement.

The comprehensive examination is taken by students typically after completing most of the course work in their concentration. The PhD comprehensive exam is combined with the dissertation proposal presentation and has a three-fold purpose: (1) to test the student’s proficiency (knowledge and skills) in his or her major area of interest; (2) to identify deficiencies in the student’s background and suggest remedial work; and (3) to test the student’s ability to prepare an acceptable dissertation in his or her area of concentration.

All doctoral students are expected to pursue research by working with individual faculty in areas that can lead to a potential doctoral dissertation. A PhD candidate must demonstrate the ability to conduct research of an original nature by completing a dissertation and preparing one or more papers of publishable quality. The dissertation topic is selected by the student in some theoretical or methodological area of interest in consultation with a faculty advisor. A faculty committee must approve the dissertation proposal before the student embarks on dissertation research. Information regarding the PhD program can be obtained by going to

Teaching Requirements for PhD Students: All PhD students should complete the following concentration in Scientific Communication, with two elements:

  1. Training program requires the completion of the following:
    1. Attendance at a minimum of one teaching workshop run by the Pitt Center for Integrating Research, Teaching and Learning (PITT-CIRTL) and approved by the department; see
    2. Attaining a score of at least four in the ELI English Comprehensibility Test for TAs
  2. Mentorship-in-practice: The goal of this requirement is to provide a mentored experience to the PhD students, regardless of their funding support, in classroom-based pedagogy.  This requires one term as a TA and one term as an independent instructor.  Satisfaction of this requirement, or any exceptions, must be approved by the graduate program director.

Return to John A. Swanson School of Engineering Return to: John A. Swanson School of Engineering

Catalog Navigation