ECE Doctoral Program

The department offers the PhD degree in either Electrical Engineering or Computer Engineering. To earn a PhD degree, the student must demonstrate the ability to independent research. The skills required for this include the ability to read, comprehend and distill published research papers, relate relevant concepts to the research area, identify problems of interest and propose effective solutions to solve those problems. The information below applies to either track. Graduate students who have entered the PhD program, who already have a Masters degree prior to entering NCSU, and who have been receiving financial aid in the form of a research assistantship may not be approved for a change from a PhD to a Masters degree. Students changing from PhD to Masters will also be limited to a total of two semesters of financial aid through a teaching assistantship.

Credit-Hour Guidelines

A typical full-time PhD Graduate Student registers for at least nine credit hours per semester. The student and his Graduate Advisor develop a Plan of Graduate Work leading to the PhD. This Plan must be submitted to the ECE Graduate Office before the end of the second semester and requires the approval of the Director of Graduate Programs. The student's Graduate Advisory Committee determines the 16 number of courses required for the PhD program according to the rules given in the ECE Graduate Handbook. It is a requirement of the university that the Plan of Work account for at least 72 credit hours past the baccalaureate degree. The basic guidelines are given below.

ECE Course Requirements for the PhD Degree

  1. All PhD students are required to complete, with a grade of B+ or better, at least one course from each of three ECE specialty areas, as defined by the table in the MS Requirements section. These courses must be taken at NC State. Courses taken during the MS at NCSU may be used to satisfy this requirement. These course should be taken prior to or concurrent with semester of the qualifying review.
  2. A minimum of 42 hours of graded coursework past the BS degree is required, or a minimum of 18 hours past the MS degree. Since the PhD degree is more advanced than the MS degree, the total PhD plan must exceed all requirements for an MS degree at NC State.
  3. A minimum of 36 hours of graded graduate-level ECE courses should be included in the total PhD career. At least 12 of these ECE course hours must be taken at NC State. Courses taken during the MS at NCSU may be used to satisfy this requirement. An MS degree in ECE from another university counts as 18 hours toward this requirement.
  4. Breadth at the PhD level is beneficial to the student and is required. All PhD students must take at least 9 hours of graded coursework outside the major track (defined as EE or CPE) - see Appendix A in the ECE Handbook. Note that a course that is listed in both tracks cannot be used as outside the major track. Courses outside the ECE Department also qualify as outside the major track. Three of these nine credit hours may be at the 400 level, if they are outside the Department and are not needed as a prerequisite for a course inside the Department. Six credit hours must be at the 500 level or above. Courses taken during the MS degree may be used to satisfy this requirement. (Courses from other universities must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.) A formal minor may be used to meet this requirement, but it is not required. The requirements of the minor, if elected, will be determined by the Committee Representative in the minor area, in conjunction with the remainder of the committee.

Credits from Outside Sources

Transfer credits or credits from extension courses are not acceptable for credit toward the PhD degree. Credits obtained in regular graduate courses through BS at NCSU may be accepted in certain circumstances to satisfy the overall credit hour requirements for the degree.

Dissertation Research

The emphasis for the PhD is on original research. Therefore, there is no limit as to the number of credit hours that can be applied toward the PhD in the form of Dissertation Research Credits.

Residence Requirements for PhD Students

Each PhD student must be registered at NCSU for graduate work, and must secure at least two residence credits through registration in continuous semesters. Online courses do not satisfy residency requirements. Residence credit is determined by the number of semester hours completed during a regular semester, according to the table below:

Residence Credits
Semester CreditsResidence Credits
9 or more1
6 to 82/3
0 to 51/3

Graduate Advisory Committee

A full-time student must establish a Graduate Advisory Committee before the completion of the second semester following admission. Students who are employed full-time, and enrolled on a part-time basis may add two semesters to the time required to form a committee. A written statement from the employer may be required. The formation of a Graduate Advisory Committee is a critical step in the progression toward completion of the degree. No progress toward a degree can be assured until after the committee has been formed. Establishment of the committee must be done formally using the form obtained from the ECE Graduate Student Portal. It is the student's responsibility to establish a Graduate Advisory Committee within the time limits specified above, and students should begin to explore faculty for membership on their committee early in their program. Students are advised that faculty serve on advisory committees at the individual faculty member's discretion. Students failing to establish a committee within the prescribed time limits may not be permitted to register for classes may be asked to withdraw from the program or may have their admission terminated.

Membership of the Graduate Advisory Committee

All required members of a student's Graduate Advisory Committee must be members of the NCSU Graduate Faculty. Others may serve only in an ex-officio capacity, and must be identified as such on the appointment form. A vita for ex-officio members must be attached to the appointment form. A student may submit a written request to change the membership of his/her Graduate Advisory Committee at any time to the Director of Graduate Programs, except that no changes to the committee may be made from the time the request for the Qualifying Review has been made until completion of the Qualifying Review. In addition, a request for a change in the Graduate Advisory Committee after the student has passed the Preliminary Oral Exam requires strong justification. All requests for change in the composition of the Graduate Advisory Committee are subject to the approval of the Committee Chair, the Director of Graduate Programs, and the Graduate School.

The Graduate Advisory Committee for a PhD student has two membership forms. A committee may consist of a Chair and at least two other members from the ECE Graduate Faculty, and a representative from outside the Department (a minor representative, if elected). Alternatively, the committee may have a chair, at least three members from the ECE Graduate Faculty, and a Graduate School representative. The Graduate School representative is appointed by the Graduate School at the time of the preliminary oral examination.

Either the Chair must be a full member of the Graduate Faculty or a full member must serve as a Co-Chair. Major representatives may be either Regular Members of the major or Associate/Inter-institutional Members. However, the number of Associated/inter-institutional Members may not exceed the number of Regular Members. A list of the EE and CPE graduate faculties is available in the Graduate Office. The Graduate School will appoint, if desired by the Committee Chair, a fifth member, the Graduate School Representative. The Graduate School Representative attends the Preliminary and Final Oral Examinations, and must sign the reports of those examinations, but does not otherwise participate in directing the student's work. As stated above, each student must have at least one representative from outside the ECE Department. If a minor is elected, a minor representative on the committee is required, and this member may satisfy the need for a representative from outside the department. Only one representative is required for a regular or interdisciplinary minor. There must be a representative from each component of a split minor.

Plan of Graduate Work

All graduate students must submit a Plan of Graduate Work to the ECE Graduate Office no later than the end of the second semester. The form for the Plan of Graduate Work may be obtained at ECE Graduate Student Portal. The Graduate School must approve the Graduate Advisory Committee at the time the Plan of Graduate Work is submitted. Forms for establishing and changing Plans of Work may be obtained from the ECE Graduate Student Portal. Students failing to establish a Plan of Graduate Work within the prescribed time limits may not be permitted to or they may have their admission terminated.

Qualifying Review

PhD students must request a Qualifying Review by his/her ECE Graduate Advisory Committee Members no later than their third semester of enrollment. The ECE Committee Members will meet and review the student's potential to succeed in the PhD program. Key factors considered include: the student's academic performance while enrolled in the PhD program, potential to perform at a high academic level throughout the remainder of his/her study, potential to conduct high-quality research, and the student's ability to communicate both verbally and in writing.

The student's Graduate Advisory Committee will decide the exact nature of the Qualifying Review, which serves the purpose of the qualifying exam given in many universities. Such exams usually test the student's general background in ECE and in-depth knowledge in his/her chosen specialty. In the ECE department at NCSU, we have determined to measure the student's breadth of knowledge by his/her performance in at least three graduate level courses that are outside the student's specialty. This is reflected in the course requirements for the degree. The qualifying review is used to determine the in-depth knowledge.

The Qualifying Review may take many forms, including a formal written exam. However, it must have both oral and written components. At the conclusion of this review, the committee will recommend, by majority vote, for or against allowing the student to continue in the PhD program. The written component should be submitted to the Graduate Office to be entered into the student's file. Students failing to obtain a majority recommendation to continue will be asked to withdraw from the program after the third semester. No student will be allowed to enroll for a fourth semester without a favorable Qualifying Review. Failure to withdraw will result in termination of admission to the program. Students in good standing who entered the PhD program without having completed a master's degree may elect to transfer to the M.S. program for a terminal M.S. degree if they have completed less than six semesters at NCSU.

Part-Time Students

Students who are employed full-time may add two semesters to the time required to complete the core course work and to receive committee approval to continue in the program. A written statement from the employer may be required.

Timing for Students Entering Without an M.S. Degree

Students who enter the program without an M.S. degree may request that the Qualifying Review be delayed to their fourth semester on recommendation of their Graduate Advisory Committee.

Preliminary Written Examination

Each PhD student is required to pass a Preliminary Written Examination conducted by the student's Graduate Advisory Committee. A copy of the written report must be provided to the Graduate Office for inclusion in the student's folder along with the committee's recommendation. The student's Graduate Advisory Committee determines the requirements for the Preliminary Written Examination and any re-examinations. In any event, at least one full semester must elapse before any re-examination is held.

Timing

The Preliminary Written Examination may not be held until the student has passed the Qualifying Review. It can be held no earlier than the end (final examination week) of the first year of graduate study and no later than one semester (four calendar months) prior to the PhD final oral examination.

Scheduling

Students should consult with their Committee Chair (after passing the Qualifying Review) regarding scheduling of the Preliminary Written Examination.

Preliminary Oral Examination

After completion of the Preliminary Written Examination, each PhD student must submit to a Preliminary Oral Examination conducted by the student's Graduate Advisory Committee, including the Graduate School Representative, if one is required. If a committee member cannot attend a scheduled preliminary oral, a substitute approved by the Graduate School prior to the examination must be used. It is the responsibility of the chair to obtain a substitute and the required permission. No examination may be held unless all committee members are present or represented by an approved substitute. Unanimous approval by the Graduate Advisory Committee is required to pass the examination. Such approval may be conditioned on satisfactory completion of additional work.

Timing

The Oral Examination may be held no earlier than the end (final exam week) of the second year of graduate study and no later than one semester (or four months) prior to the PhD final oral examination.

Scheduling

The Preliminary Oral Examination is scheduled only at the request of the student and only upon the approval of his/her Graduate Advisory Committee. A student may not submit a request to schedule an Oral Examination until the Graduate School has approved the student's Plan of Graduate Work and the student has passed the Preliminary Written Examination. The student must be in good academic standing when the request is submitted, and when the examination is held. The request must be submitted to the ECE Graduate Office as soon as possible, but at least three weeks prior to the date of the examination.

Conduct of PhD Preliminary Oral Exams

The Chair of the Graduate Advisory Committee has an obligation to maintain a scholarly atmosphere and to keep the student's best interest foremost. The student is expected to defend the methodology used and the conclusions reached in the research as reported in the dissertation. It is the Chair's option to allow visitors to ask questions of the candidate. Any Graduate Faculty in attendance must be allowed to express their opinions to the committee in the absence of the student, but the final deliberations and the vote are private to the advisory committee. A unanimous vote of approval is required for passing, although approval may be conditioned on the student's meeting additional requirements specified in writing by the committee at the time of the examination. Failure to pass terminates the student's work at this institution unless the examining committee recommends a reexamination. Only one re-examination is permitted, and at least one full semester must elapse before the re-examination can be scheduled.

Normal Practice

While it is entirely up to the Chair to conduct the exam within the requirements above, the following practice is normally used. The Advisory Committee may meet in private session for a short time immediately before the student enters to be examined, if necessary. Introductions and any special considerations may be discussed during this time. The student and visitors then enter and the student is examined with the Chair of the Advisory Committee in charge. The Chair should announce his/her decision on allowance of visitor's questions. When the examination is concluded and all questions have been asked, the Chair should ask the student and all non-graduate faculty members to leave, and invite comments from any non-committee graduate faculty who are in attendance. After noncommittee graduate faculty comments have been received, the Chair should meet with the Graduate Advisory Committee in private for final deliberations and vote. The student is then invited to return and the Chair advises the student of the Advisory Committee's decision.

As a convenience, the Chair normally has the student's entire folder from the Graduate Office so that the Advisory Committee members may review pertinent data.

Advancement to Candidacy

Although a student's university classification is 'Dr' when accepted into the program, a student is only admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree upon passing the Preliminary Oral Examination.

Final Oral Examination

Each PhD student must submit to a Final Oral Examination conducted by the student's Graduate Advisory Committee, including the Graduate School Representative, if one is required. If a committee member cannot attend a scheduled Final Oral Examination, a substitute approved by the Graduate School prior to the examination must be used. It is the responsibility of the chair to obtain a substitute and the required permission. Failure of the examination terminates the student's graduate study unless the student's Graduate Advisory Committee unanimously recommends re-examination. Only one re-examination is permitted and at least one full semester must elapse before the re-examination can be scheduled. The final examination may be held no earlier than four months after admission to candidacy. The examination must be held at least four weeks before the end of the semester or prior to the time designated by the Graduate School, if the degree is to be awarded at the end of that semester. Otherwise the degree will not be awarded until the end of the following semester.

Scheduling

The examination is scheduled only upon the request of the student and the approval of his/her Graduate Advisory Committee. The dissertation must be completed and the preliminary copies of it must be distributed to the members of the student's Graduate Advisory Committee before the request to schedule the Final Examination is submitted to the ECE Graduate Office. The request must be submitted to the ECE Graduate Office at least three weeks prior to the date of the examination. Conduct of PhD Final Oral Exams* The Chair of the Graduate Advisory Committee has an obligation to maintain a scholarly atmosphere and to keep the student's best interests foremost. The student is expected to defend the methodology used and the conclusions reached in the research as reported in the dissertation. It is the Chair's option to allow visitors to ask questions of the candidate. Any Graduate Faculty in attendance must be allowed to express their opinions to the committee in the absence of the student, but the final deliberations and the vote are private to the Advisory Committee. A unanimous vote of approval is required for passing, although approval may be conditioned on the student's meeting additional requirements specified in writing by the committee at the time of the examination. Failure to pass terminates the student's work at this institution unless the examining committee recommends a re-examination. Only one re-examination is permitted and at least one full semester must elapse before the re-examination can be scheduled.

Normal Practice

While it is entirely up to the Chair to conduct the exam within the requirements above, the following practice is normally used. The Advisory Committee meets in private session for a short time immediately before the student enters to be examined. Introductions and any special considerations may be discussed during this time. The student and visitors then enter and the student is examined with the Chair of the Advisory Committee in charge. The Chair should announce his/her decision on allowance of visitor's questions. When the examination is concluded, the Chair should ask all visitors and non-Graduate Faculty to leave, and invite comments from any non-committee Graduate Faculty who are in attendance. After non-committee Graduate Faculty comments have been received, the Chair should meet with the Advisory Committee in private for final deliberations and vote. The student is then invited to return and the Chair advises the student of the Advisory Committee's decision. As a convenience, the Chair normally has the student's entire folder from the Graduate Office so that Graduate Advisory Committee members may review pertinent data. Dissertation signature sheets are normally available for signature.

Submission of Theses and Dissertations

Upon passing the PhD Final Oral Examination, each PhD student must have the dissertation approved by each member of the student's Graduate Advisory Committee. The dissertation must be submitted to the Graduate School electronically by the deadline given in the academic calendar, and must conform to the Guide for Preparation of Theses and Dissertations.