Pitt | Swanson Engineering
Doctoral Program

Please refer to the Graduate Manual for more details.

Information for prospective applicants: http://www.pitt.edu/admissions/graduate-professional

Information for accepted applicants: http://www.pitt.edu/academics/graduate-and-professional

The doctoral program prepares the student for the rigorous demands of developing and implementing effective operational and management systems, and for careers in research and development, or academia. Depending on the student's individual interest, the student is educated at the frontiers of knowledge in operations research, manufacturing systems, information systems, or engineering management. This leads to a potential for mastery in ideas related to technical management, systems design, and decision-making concepts. Dissertation research often requires a strong background in applied mathematics, probability theory, optimization techniques, simulation, and computer programming. PhD students are typically full-time students.

Course and Dissertation Credit Requirements

In addition to the basic core courses, the doctoral student will specialize in one of the department's areas of concentration take whatever courses may be required in preparation for the PhD comprehensive examination and the student's dissertation topic. These courses are selected in conjunction with a program approved by the student's adviser and must include at least two courses in a cognate area.

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. Course credits typically include the following at a minimum:

    • IE 2000 (Required for all students who do not have an undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering): 1 credit
    • Qualifying Core Courses( IE 2082, 2072, 2006, 2007, and 2084 or 2011): 15 credits
    • Other Required Courses ( IE 2100, 2084, 2088): 6 - 9 credits
    • Additional Elective Courses (at least 6 credits of which must come from offerings outside the Industrial Engineering Department): at least 20 -24 credits
    • Dissertation Research (IE 3997 / IE 3999)- at least 18 credits

Examination Requirements

A candidate for the PhD degree is required to appear for the following examinations:

PhD Preliminary Examination 

This examination allows the department to assess the student's academic preparation and creative ability to conduct doctoral-level research. It is given once a year in late April or early May. The typical student who enrolls in Fall must take this examination after the first two terms in the program. Students who start in Spring have the option of taking the exam at the end of the term or waiting a year until the next May. In order to appear in this examination, the student must have:

  • departmental approval based on a faculty vote
  • an outstanding undergraduate record
  • a grade point average of 3.3 or better in graduate work
  • at least one faculty advocate/mentor who is willing to work with the student
  • a desire to do independent research

The examination is an oral one and encompasses the following areas: 1) Linear Optimization, 2) Probability, 3) Statistics & Data Analysis, 4) Manufacturing Systems & Basic Industrial Engineering, and 5) either Stochastic Processes or Micro & Nanomanufacturing A student will be admitted to PhD candidacy only after he/she has passed the preliminary examination. The examination allows the department to assess the student's academic preparation, breadth of knowledge, and potential to study and conduct research at the doctoral level. After passing the qualifying examination, the doctoral candidate is expected to choose the area in which he/she will write his/her dissertation and is required to identify an advisor who will guide the dissertation. The doctoral student is expected to specialize in one of the department's areas of concentration and take whatever additional courses are required to prepare for the PhD comprehensive examination and the student's dissertation (including advanced courses that are targeted primarily at doctoral students). After sufficient progress has been made in his or her research, the student, under the guidance of the advisor is expected, to appoint a committee consisting of a minimum of four members of the graduate faculty at least two of whom should be from the Industrial Engineering department and at least one of whom should be from outside the department. This committee will then administer the following three examinations to the student:

PhD Comprehensive Examination

The purpose of this examination (which is normally taken at the end of the student's second year) is to test the student's acquisition of depth and breadth in the area of specialization, and the ability to use research methods in his or her major area of interest. It is also used to identify any deficiencies in the student's background and suggest remedial work, and to test his or her ability to prepare an acceptable dissertation. For this exam the student is required to write a high quality research paper, which is reviewed by two faculty members neither of whom is the student's advisor.

Dissertation Proposal Examination

The purpose of this examination is to test the soundness and validity of the candidate's research topic, research plans, and methods that are described by the student in an oral presentation. A copy of the proposal document must be provided to each member of the student's examining committee at least two weeks prior to the date of the proposal exam. Passing this examination provides an affirmation by the committee that the proposed work when completed will lead to a PhD level dissertation.

Dissertation Defense Examination

After the proposed research is completed and the dissertation document is written, the student is required to present his or her work in a presentation that is open to the public and defend the dissertation before an examining committee.  A completed copy of the dissertation document must be provided to each member of the student's examining committee at least two weeks prior to the date of the defense.  It is expected that the dissertation will lead to at least one paper of publishable quality in a respected scientific journal.

 For more information, contact gradie@pitt.edu


It is the department's policy to provide graduate assistantships to as many students as possible. However, admission to the graduate program does not imply the granting of financial aid. An applicant interested in obtaining financial aid should request information directly from the department. These awards are highly competitive and are given only on the basis of merit, and typically, only to doctoral students. The terms and conditions are specified when the department makes an award for financial support. 

For full consideration, please apply early for financial support and in no case later than January 15.

Special Information for International Applicants

If you are an international applicant with an outstanding record and you wish to apply to the doctoral program, we will be happy to consider you for an assistantship. However, you must keep in mind that these awards are very few in number and highly competitive. 

It is also impossible for faculty members or administrators in the department to provide you in advance with any kind of meaningful estimate of your chances of getting an assistantship, since this depends on a number of factors including the competition, the projected availability of funds and the specific needs of the department. 

Financial support comes from the department, not individual faculty. All decisions on assistantships are made centrally by a departmental committee once all pieces of your application have been received. Individual faculty members DO NOT make assistantship offers; therefore, if you are an applicant to the graduate program we request that you NOT send e-mail to individual faculty members asking whether they will consider supporting you.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, students who are awarded financial support will continue to receive it as long as they maintain their level of academic excellence and make satisfactory progress towards their degree objectives.