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.


  • 60 Total Minimum Credits
  • Course credits: 12-36 credits 
    • course credits start from the first semester you register in your program
    • graduate credits consist of 5xxx and 8xxx level classes
    • course credits can include 4xxx level credits subject to the 4xxx credit rule 
      • a maximum of nine 4xxx level course credits may be used to satisfy degree requirements
      • partial credits from a course are not accepted
  • Thesis credits: 24 credits 
    • Thesis credits can only be taken after passing the preliminary oral exam
    • Pre-thesis credits can be swapped to thesis credits in the fall/spring in which the preliminary oral exam was taken. The prelim oral exam has to been passed before the last day of instruction for the swap to be approved.
  • Transfer credits: up to 24 credits
    • Not required to bring in transfer credits
    • all coursework can be taken in CEGE or at the University of Minnesota 
    • if you are going to transfer coursework credits, the CEGE transfer coursework credits form must be filled out completely and turned in along with the transcript the coursework is being transferred from. The form can be found in the CEGE graduate handbook in the forms section. The two documents must be turned into the graduate program cordinator in CivE 143 or at
    • Transfer credits include: 
      • non-degree seeking credits taken from the University of Minnesota
      • courses from another institution
      • courses taken from another graduate program at the University of Minnesota (credits in common rule (8))
      • graduate level credits taken in the undergraduate program
        • graduate credits are only allowed if the student is able to provide evidence (in the form of a letter from the undergraduate advisor or university) stating that the course(s) to be transferred (1) was not necessary for the undergraduate degree and (2) the the work done was at the graduate level. 
        • if the courses were taken at the University of Minnesota, then you need to fill out the Transfer Credits from Undergraduate to Gradaute Career Form 

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.