Ph.D. Curriculum

For students who aspire to conduct research at an academic, industry, or government institution, the University of Minnesota's Ph.D. program in Industrial and Systems Engineering provides the advanced preparation in analytics and operations research needed to succeed. Students in the ISyE Ph.D. program complete challenging and rigorous coursework and conduct research that culminates in a Ph.D. dissertation.

Ph.D. Curriculum

The curriculum of the Ph.D. program includes both coursework and research, and emphasizes theory, methodology, and application of operations research and analytics.

The Ph.D. program enrolls students with backgrounds in applied or pure mathematics, engineering, computer science, statistics, or basic sciences. A student who already holds an MS degree may transfer some course credits in order to shorten his or her program of study, subject to the approval of the student's advisor and the ISyE Director of Graduate Studies. Exceptional students may apply directly to the Ph.D. program without earning an MS degree beforehand.

Ph.D. students are required to take four out of the five core courses listed below. Two of those four must be IE 8521—Optimization and IE 8532—Stochastic Processes and Queueing Systems. Subject to departmental approval, students may replace core courses with more advanced courses if they have already taken the equivalent of the core course elsewhere.

The dissertation research portion of the program is closely supervised by an ISyE faculty advisor of each student's choosing. Research typically focuses on analytics, operations research (optimization and stochastic processes), and/or applications of these methodologies to any of a wide range of contextual areas such as healthcare, supply chain management, transportation, revenue management and innovative marketplaces, financial engineering, and service operations.

The Ph.D. degree requires 44 course credits and 24 thesis credits.

1st Year Fall Semester 

  • IE 8521—Optimization
  • IE 8532—Stochastic Processes and Queueing Systems 
  • IE 8773—Graduate Seminar 
  • Non-IE Elective

1st Year Spring Semester 

  • IE 5551—Production Planning and Inventory Control
  • IE 5545—Decision Analysis
  • IE 8774—Graduate Seminar 
  • IE Elective (8000-level) or Non-IE Elective

2nd Year Fall Semester 

  • IE Elective (8000 level)
  • Non-IE Elective
  • Non-IE Elective

2nd Year Fall Semester 

  • IE Elective (8000 level)
  • Non-IE Elective
  • Non-IE Elective

Faculty Advisors and Program Timeline

Students typically enter the Ph.D. program without a pre-assigned advisor. During the first year of study, most Ph.D. students focus on coursework and become acquainted with ISyE faculty members and their research areas. By the end of the first year in the Ph.D. program, students should select an advisor.

Ph.D. students should complete about 26 course credits in the first year and take the qualifying exam in the fall semester of the second year. Students should also plan to complete all or almost all course credits (minimum 44, including 12 non-major) by the end of their second year. They should simultaneously work to develop a thesis proposal and take the preliminary exam (the thesis proposal) in the fall semester of their third year.

Years 3 and 4 should be devoted almost entirely to thesis research, with graduation planned sometime in the fourth or fifth year, depending on progress.

The Ph.D. program is designed and intended for full-time students.

Take Advantage of the Twin Cities

UMN-Minneapolis skyline

The Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering is located on the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities campus in the heart of Minneapolis, on the banks of the scenic Mississippi River. A new, modern light rail system connects the campus with downtown Minneapolis, downtown St. Paul, and the MSP International Airport.  With year-round outdoor activities, a metro population of over 3 million, and a diversified economy, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul offer a truly exceptional standard of living. The state of Minnesota is home to 17 Fortune 500 companies.

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Review our admission requirements and start your application today!


For more information, please contact Graduate Program Coordinator Alyssa Benson at or (612) 625-4909.