General Academic Requirements for Graduate Students

A description of the academic and registration requirements for graduate students is available in the Graduate Policies and Procedures Manual, Sections V and VI.  That document is available online at:

Requirements specific to the Lyles School of Civil Engineering follow:


The general requirement for admission to graduate study in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering is satisfactory completion of a four-year baccalaureate degree at a college or university of recognized standing. Because of the diversity of programs available within the School, no one kind of undergraduate preparation is stipulated. However, if deficiencies in math, physics, or specific civil engineering studies are identified by the admissions committee or advisor, they are often required to be remedied in the first one or two semesters of a student’s courses.

English Proficiency Requirements

At the time of enrollment, the records of all incoming on-campus graduate students are reviewed to determine whether or not they have met the minimum written English proficiency requirements as established by the Lyles School of Civil Engineering. The minimum requirements are as follows:

Domestic Students – A grade of “B” or better in all undergraduate composition courses. Students testing out of all undergraduate courses in composition and writing do not meet this requirement.

International Students – A minimum score of 575 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL-paper) or 22 on the Writing and Speaking Section of the internet based TOEFL (iBT).

Students, who have not met the written English proficiency requirements, must meet with their major professor at the beginning of the semester and review their writing and speaking background to determine if any course of remediation is necessary. It is the responsibility of the major professor to ensure that the student is sufficiently proficient in English to fulfill his/her obligations, and prescribe remedial actions if warranted.  Neither the remediation action nor the results need to be reported to the CE Graduate Office or to the Graduate School.

Possible options for gaining English Proficiency are:

  • Passing the Oral English Proficiency Test (OEPT) – this is required of any international student who will be employed as a teaching assistant, but can also be used to show general proficiency.
  • Enrolling in ENGL 62000 or ENGL 62100.
    • ENGL 62000 is a 5 credit hour course: Classroom Communication in ESL for Teaching Assistants. Student must be enrolled in the Graduate School and be a non-native speaker of English. Permission of department required.
    • ENGL 62100 is a 3 credit hour course: Written Communication for International Graduate Students - a course in English composition for non-native English speaking graduate students.

Graduate Student Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

Purdue's College of Engineering and the Lyles School of Civil Engineering require all engineering degree-seeking graduate students to complete training in Responsible Conduct of Research by the end of their first semester and every 5 years thereafter. This training provides important guidance to all graduate students who will benefit from a fundamental understanding of how research is conducted. Students on NSF- or NIH-funded research projects may have additional requirements or earlier deadlines and should check with their research advisor. More details and instructions can be found at:

Continuation of Studies towards the PhD Degree

Upon successful completion of the Master’s degree, a student may wish to continue towards a PhD degree within Civil Engineering at Purdue. A formal request must be filed in the Civil Engineering Graduate Programs Office 45 days before the end of the Master’s candidate semester.

Time Constraints for the PhD Program

Pursuit of a PhD results in highly individualized programs in which progress toward completion will take varying amounts of time. However, the Lyles School of Civil Engineering expects that satisfactory progress toward the degree shall result in the completion of all requirements within six calendar years from the time a student is first admitted in a PhD program.  In the event that the six years need to be exceeded, the student and their advisor should contact the CE Graduate Office to discuss plans for completion.

Additionally, no more than two semesters can pass between the semester the defense is held and the deposit semester. For example, if a defense is held in a fall semester, the deposit must be made no later than the following summer semester. If the deposit is not made by the final deposit deadline of the last semester, the student will be required to re-defend and deposit within the same semester.

Research in absentia shall not result in an increase in this recommended maximum duration, and permission for research in absentia shall be granted with this time to matriculation/completion clearly understood by the student and the advisor.

Plan of Study

The Graduate School regards the Plan of Study (POS) as an individualized curriculum designed by the advisory committee to assist a student in achieving his/her educational objectives. In order to comply with Graduate School requirements, Civil Engineering students shall compose their POS in the following manner:

  • An official transcript showing the completion of an undergraduate degree must be on file with the Purdue University Graduate School.  This typically takes place in the first semester of Graduate Study as part of the admissions process.
  • The POS should be submitted by the end of the second semester of graduate study for Master’s students and by the end of the third semester for PhD students.  Master’s students wishing to complete their degree in two semesters should plan to submit their POS by the end of their first semester.
  • Students will be asked to designate all courses as either primary or related based on their area of interest.
  • The student must take the courses on the POS for a letter grade. Courses with Pass/Fail or Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory options cannot be used on the POS.
  • The POS shall include the specific courses the student is expected to complete.
    • Minimum requirements for the specific number of course credit hours are:
      • Master’s non-thesis: 30 hours of course work
      • Master’s thesis: 21 hours of course work and at least 9 hours of CE 69800 research hours with advisor.
      • PhD: 48 hours of course work and at least 42 hours of appropriate CE 69900 research hours with advisor.
  • Research credit hours are not listed on the Plan of Study.  They are recorded on transcripts.
  • Changes in the POS are permitted. A justification for each revision must be provided when approval for a change is requested. This action may be accomplished by completing a Change to the Plan of Study through the on-line system in myPurdue.
  • The POS will generally be composed of 50000 or 60000 level courses or their equivalent from other universities.
    • In general, most Civil Engineering courses below the 50000 level are considered prerequisites for the graduate degree and should not be included on the Plan of Study unless the student is from a discipline other than Civil Engineering. Permission to use a 30000-40000 level course may be granted on a case by case basis.
    • No more than 3 hours of 30000 or 40000 level coursework will be permitted on a student's POS.
    • A 30000 or 40000 level course requires a grade of B or better to appear on a plan of study. Further, it must not have been used for a prior BS degree.

The graduate school has implemented fees for late candidate deadlines:
A $200 late fee will be charged to a student who submits their POS after the deadline in the semester they wish to be a graduation candidate.  A formal request must still be made of the graduate school to accept the POS after the deadline.  If the request is not approved, no fee will be charged.

Poor performance in a course, such as a "D" grade, is not an appropriate reason for modifying a Plan of Study. In such cases, the course must be taken over with a grade of C or better before granting of the degree. For a course on the Plan of Study in which the student receives a "D" or "F", the grade received from taking the course the second time will be counted toward the acceptable graduation index. Such courses cannot be eliminated from the student's Plan of Study. The Graduate School’s policy on satisfactory performance is reproduced below:

A graduate student is expected to maintain a graduation index representing a B average (3.0/4.0 GPA) or better on both the Plan of Study and cumulative GPA on the transcripts. Indices below this level are marked "under 3.0 GPA" on the grade reports. The student also is expected to earn S grades for research registration. Two consecutive sessions of U grades for research registration mandate that the department take formal action and inform the student, in writing, and the Graduate School with regard to discontinuation or conditions for continuation of the student's graduate study. In any event, the student's progress should be reviewed each session by the student's department. The student's progress also may be reviewed by the Graduate School. Should the student fail to perform in either coursework or research on a level acceptable to the advisory committee, the departmental graduate committee, or the dean of the Graduate School, he or she may be asked to discontinue graduate study at Purdue.

Registration Study Requirements

Master’s Degree

  • At least one-half of the total credit hours used to satisfy degree requirements, including CE 69800 Research Master’s Thesis, must be earned while registered at Purdue University.
    • Course credits obtained via televised instruction or computer course initiated at a Purdue campus shall be considered to have been obtained in residence on that campus.
    • More than 50% of the Purdue credits must be earned through the campus where the degree is conferred.
    • At least 30 total creditss are required.
  • The student must be registered for at least one credit hour in the semester prior to graduating.
    • Note that thesis option students must maintain registration for at least one credit hour of masters research in each semester until the degree is awarded.
  • During the semester of expected graduation, the student must register for an appropriate candidate course.

PhD Degree

  • At least one-third of the total credit hours used to satisfy degree requirements, including CE 69900 Research PhD Thesis, must be earned while registered for PhD study at Purdue University.
  • At least 90 total credit hours are required.
  • A Master’s degree from any accredited university may contribute up to 30 credit hours toward satisfying the 90 credit hour requirement. These courses should be approved by the student’s committee using the ‘Master’s credit transfer to PhD POS’ form.
  • Coursework from one and only one Master’s degree may be used toward the Plan of Study for a PhD.
  • An official transcript showing the completion of the master’s degree must be on file with the Purdue University Graduate School if courses are to be transferred to the PhD POS.
  • The student must be registered for at least one credit hour in the semester prior to graduating. The student must maintain registration for at least one credit hour of PhD research in each semester until the degree is awarded.
  • During the semester of expected graduation the student must register for an appropriate candidate course.

Special note on candidate registration:

  • A $200 late fee will be charged to a student who has been on the graduation candidate roster for the same degree for more than two consecutive semesters.

Transferring courses to a Purdue Graduate Plan of Study

  • The Graduate School allows up to 30 credits from one Master’s degree to be transferred to a PhD plan of study.  These can be coursework and/or research credits.
  • A student can transfer up to 12 credits of non-degree coursework to their Purdue Graduate POS.
  • A student can transfer as many credits as needed from a degree seeking program – as long as they did not receive a degree from that program.
  • Master’s students must earn at least 16 of the required 30 credits from the Purdue WL campus.
  • PhD students must earn at least 30 of the required 90 credits from the Purdue WL campus.
  • The “transfer” process happens when the student submits their POS – there is no mechanism to approve transfer courses prior to the generation of the POS.
  • All courses/research hours that are being transferred must be verifiable with transcripts and must have credit hours associated with them. An official transcript showing the completion of courses must be on file with the Purdue University Graduate School.
  • Courses not being transferred as part of a masters degree must have earned a grade of “B” or better in order to be used on a POS.

Transferring credits from an Master’s degree to a PhD Plan of Study

  1. The student meets with his/her committee and provides a copy of their master’s transcripts for review.
  2. The committee determines the courses and credits that can be applied towards the student’s PhD POS. These can include both coursework credits and research credits (maximum of 30 credits). These courses are then listed on the ‘Master’s credit transfer to PhD POS’ form.
  3. The advisor signs the form and submits it to the CE Graduate Office.
  4. The student can then move forward with generating his/her electronic plan of study.  The masters transfer courses should NOT be listed on the PhD plan of study with the PhD courses, however the student should list the approved masters transfer courses as a note in the Comments section.  Be sure to list the course number, course title, credits, and date taken. The CE Grad Office will note the overall number of masters credits being transferred in the appropriate field in the POS during the approval process and it will be approved by the committee chair.
  5. The masters transfer form will remain in the student’s file as a record of the approval of the transfer courses and associated credits.

Dual-Degree Programs

A dual-degree program is one in which an existing Purdue University master’s degree program is combined with an existing graduate degree program in another School/Program. Dual-degree programs formally approved by the participating academic units and the Graduate School may use a maximum of nine credit hours of 50000- and 60000-level coursework taken to satisfy the graduate degree on the master’s degree plan of study, however the final determination of the use dual counted credits will be made by the student’s advisory committee.

Registration of Graduate Students

Registration is the process of selecting courses, reserving space in those courses, receiving a schedule, and paying fees. A student is not officially enrolled until fees are paid.

Registration begins with a meeting between the student and the academic advisor (major professor). During this meeting, the course schedule should be discussed and the advisor should provide the PIN.  The student can then access myPurdue and register for most courses using the PIN number.  If a student encounters errors when registering, they can contact the CE Grad Office for assistance. 

Continuing graduate students are required to register during the appropriate time ticket via myPurdue for the next semester.   All students must register for the Graduate Student Orientation course (CE 69100) during their first semester.  A student must be registered during the semester an exam is held (preliminary exam, Master’s or PhD defense exam).  Students are required to register for research hours (CE 69800 or CE 69900) if they are conducting research or working on their thesis/dissertation in any capacity.  Students should register for research hours commensurate with their research and writing efforts. Registration in at least one hour of research must be maintained until the degree has been awarded (even if the minimum number of research hours has been reached).

General Credit Requirements

There are different rules governing semester credit requirements.

  • In general, a load of eight credit hours is considered full time for a graduate student for Fall, Spring. In Summer., six credits is considered full time.
  • If a student is applying for federal financial aid, registration for at least four credit hours is required during any semester.
  • Students who are funded (at least .50 FTE) must be registered for at least three credit hours.
  • Students on a visa are required to maintain eight credit hours each for Spring and Fall.  However, if they have received an assistantship, they may be considered full time, for visa purposes onlu, if registered for six credit hours during Spring or Fall.
  • Students on a visa are not required to be registered during the Summer unless they are funded with an assistantship, are graduating during the Summer or are conducting research on their thesis/dissertation.
  • Students on a visa who are eligible for exam/degree only registration in their last semester of study and are not registering for a full course load, must submit a “reduction in course load” (RCL) request to the Office for International Students and Scholars (ISS) at the time of registration.  This includes the Summer semester.
  • Non-thesis master’s students must be registered for at least one credit during their final semester in order to maintain their visa.  This means that non-thesis master’s international students cannot register as exam only and stay in the US.  They must register for 1 credit in order to stay in the US and keep their visa valid.  If they register for exam only they will need to leave the country.  They can return as a visitor to participate in graduation ceremonies.
  • Guidelines set by ISS should be considered primary for students on a visa.
  • Each situation is unique. A student should be sure to seek the advice of their advisor and/or the CE Graduate Office before registering as less than full-time.

PhD Registration Credit

A PhD student is expected to satisfy the requirement of 90 credit hours. Because a Master’s' degree can provide up to 30 hours of this requirement, the combination of courses not used to meet the Master's degree plus the hours of CE 69900 (PhD research) must be at least 60 hours. As a general practice, students should register as a full time student each semester.  Once course work is complete, students shall register for a minimum of eight credits of CE 69900 to maintain full time status. At least 30 credit hours of any combination of research and coursework must be completed by registering at the West Lafayette campus.

Research in Absentia

The policy on research in absentia is given in the Graduate Policies and Procedures Manual (August 2009), Section V, Page 6.