PhD Degree Requirements

Common Course Requirements

Require Research-Course Registration

Consistent with the research emphasis in the PhD program, all PhD students are required to register for at least one credit hour of ECE 692 (Introduction to Graduate Research) or ECE 699 (PhD Thesis Research) in their first and second semesters in the PhD program.

In each subsequent semester, students must enroll in at least one credit hour of ECE 699.

Mathematics and Related-Area Course Requirements 

During a student’s Master’s and PhD programs (if entering the PhD program with an MS degree) or during the student’s direct PhD program, a student must complete a minimum of 5 graduate-level courses outside the student’s primary area.

The group of courses is to consist of either:

  • 3 math courses and 2 related-area courses
  • 2 math courses and 3 related-area courses

Approved math courses are listed in Appendix B of the PhD Handbook.

Course Requirements for PhD Students with an MS

For students who have already earned an MS, a minimum of 12 credit hours of non-thesis, graduate-level coursework (typically 4 courses) is required on the plan of study. Six credit hours (typically 2 courses) are to be ECE 60000 or higher-numbered, non-core courses. 

The courses meeting this requirement can simultaneously be used to meet the previously described mathematics and related-area course requirement.  ECE 69600 (Advanced Projects) and ECE 69700 (Directed Reading) are not to appear on the plan of study and cannot be used to fulfill this requirement.

Course and Credit-Hour Requirements for Direct PhD Students

Non-Thesis Course Requirements

For direct PhD students, the plan of study is to contain a minimum of 36 non-thesis credit hours, of which there must be at least:

  • Two ECE core courses (6 credit hours)
  • Two ECE 60000 or higher-numbered, non-core courses (6 credit hours)
  • Three additional graduate-level ECE courses (9 credit hours).

ECE 69600 (Advanced Projects) and ECE 69700 (Directed Reading) are not to appear on the plan of study and cannot be used to fulfill this requirement.

Undergraduate Credit-Hours

A maximum of 6 credit hours of two advanced-level (300- or 400-level) undergraduate courses taken in the first calendar year of a direct PhD student’s program are allowed on the plan of study.

Students must request permission to include undergraduate courses on their PhD plan of study. They are required to provide a short written academic justification for the inclusion of the undergraduate courses.

Undergraduate courses on the plan of study must be specifically approved by the student’s advisory committee and the Associate Head for Professional and Graduate Studies.

Credit for undergraduate courses may not be transferred from another institution. The Graduate School requires that the undergraduate course(s) be taken while the student is enrolled in the Graduate Program and that the student must earn a grade of “B” or better in these courses to fulfill graduation requirements.

GPA calculation: The computation of a student’s GPA will include the grades earned in these undergraduate level courses.

Summary of Course and Credit-Hour Requirements


PhD (with MS)

Direct PhD

Non-Thesis Course Requirement in PhD Program

At least 4 courses (12 hours):

  • 2 600-level ECE non-core courses
  • 2 other graduate-level courses

(These courses can simultaneously meet the math and related-area course requirement.)

At least 36 credit hours with 21 ECE non-thesis graduate-level credit hours consisting of:

  • 2 core courses
  • 2 600-level ECE non-core courses
  • 3 other graduate level courses

Required Core Courses



Required Math and Related-Area Courses

Either 3 Math and 2 related-area courses or 2 Math and 3 related-area courses.

(This requirement can be partially or totally fulfilled with coursework taken previously in the Master’s program.)

Either 3 Math and 2 related-area courses or 2 Math and 3 related-area courses.

Allowed 696/697 Credit-Hours



Allowed Undergraduate Credit-Hours


6 hours


Courses outside the primary area, including all non-ECE courses, ECE courses associated with a different ECE area, and courses dual-administered by the primary area and another ECE area may serve as related-area courses.

Other Requirements

English Requirement

All ECE graduate students must demonstrate acceptable proficiency in written English before graduating. Students will not be allowed to graduate until this requirement has been met. We strongly recommend that students fulfill the English requirement as early as possible (first semester) in their academic program. Methods that may be used to fulfill the English requirement are detailed in Appendix C of the PhD Handbook.

Graduate Seminar Requirement

All ECE graduate students must satisfactorily complete ECE Seminar, ECE 694. This course carries no credit, but a grade of satisfactory or unsatisfactory is assigned at the end of the semester.

ECE 694 should not be listed on the plan of study. Also, we strongly recommended that students take ECE 694 during their first semester.

Examination Requirement

The two major examinations that must be passed during the course of a PhD program:

  • Preliminary Examination: The purpose of the Preliminary Examination is to determine whether a student is adequately prepared to conceive and undertake a suitable research topic. The Preliminary Examination typically includes an oral presentation and a written thesis proposal.
  • Final Examination: The purpose of the Final Examination or oral defense of the dissertation is to determine if the thesis research warrants granting the PhD degree. Doctoral research must be original and merit publication in the scholarly literature.

Residency Requirement

The residency requirement for a PhD degree is 90 hours of academic credit beyond the Bachelor’s degree or 60 hours beyond the Master’s degree. Academic credit includes:

  • All course credit hours that appear on the plan of study.
  • Research (ECE 698 and ECE 699) hours with grades of “S” that appear on the Purdue transcript.

At least 51% of the total credit hours used to satisfy degree requirements must be earned in residence on the Purdue campus where the degree is to be granted. Course credits obtained via online instruction are considered to have been obtained in residence on the campus from which the course offered.