Doctoral Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. program in Civil Engineering requires completion of at least 36 credits of graduate coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree, preliminary written and oral examinations, 24 thesis credits, and a doctoral thesis with final defense.


Students normally enter the Ph.D. program after completing the M.S. degree and are permitted to use credits from their M.S. program toward partial fulfillment of the Ph.D. course requirements. Coursework for the Graduate Degree Plan is selected in consultation with the faculty advisor, to meet the needs and interests of the student. All Graduate Degree Plans must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.


  • 12 “Core” Credits
  • 24 Thesis Credits
    “Core” and Thesis Credits =
    • Registered while a degree-seeking U of MN student in your program
    • “Core” credits start the first semester of matriculation
    • Unique to the graduate program
  • 24 Other Credits
    Other credits =
    • Taken as non-degree seeking student
    • Transferred from another institution
    • Taken in another graduate program (i.e., credits in common)
    • Graduate–level credits taken in the undergraduate program
  • 60 Total Minimum Credits

Preliminary Examinations

The preliminary written examination takes one of two forms: (1) the student solves problems in a traditional exam, or (2) the student prepares a National Science Foundation-style proposal on a given topic. The exam should be taken as soon as coursework is completed or nearly completed.

Students should consult their adviser at least one semester before they plan to take the written exam to obtain details on the date, format, and scope of the exam. Three decisions are possible regarding the exam: (1) the student has passed; (2) the student has failed and must terminate his or her studies in the department; or (3) the student has not passed but may retake the exam the next time it is offered. The exam can be taken at most twice.

The preliminary oral examination should be taken as soon as possible after successful completion of the written exam. The oral exam usually begins with a 20-30 minute presentation by the student on the proposed research. After questions on the research topic, the examination is broadened to general questions in the student’s field(s) of study.

Thesis Credits and Defense

Upon passing the preliminary oral examination, the student officially becomes a Ph.D. Candidate and is eligible to begin registering for thesis credits (CEGE 8888) the following semester. The student must complete at least 24 thesis credits to earn the Ph.D.

Students should distribute a finished, complete draft of the thesis at least one month prior to the intended defense date.

The final defense is open to the public and consists of a 45-minute presentation of the thesis research, followed by a question-and-answer period. The defense committee chair then asks the audience to leave the room, and the committee continues further questioning during a closed session. The outcome of the exam is determined by a vote of the final defense committee members.

After the defense, committee members typically suggest some thesis revisions, which must be made before the thesis is submitted to the advisor and then to the Graduate School. Students are required to submit in electronic format the final version of the thesis to the Graduate School.