College of EngineeringDepartment of Civil and Environmental EngineeringAcademicsGraduateDegreesDoctoral degree

Doctoral degree

The Ph.D. is conferred in recognition of mastery of a specific field of knowledge and a contribution to that engineering discipline through the doctoral dissertation. The degree is a research degree, requiring not only the completion of certain technical requirements but also proof of the candidate's ability to work independently within an engineering research environment.


  • A total minimum of 60 credit hours relevant to the area of study is required for the PhD degree.
    • A minimum of 30 semester hours of graded (A, B, etc.) advisor-approved graduate coursework beyond the B.S. at 6000 level or above.
    • An additional 30 semester hours of course work, which may include 6000 level courses, CIVL 7990 (research and thesis), and CIVL 8990 (research and dissertation).
    • A minimum of 10 hours of CIVL 8990 (research and dissertation).
    • A maximum of four hours of CIVL 7990 (research and thesis) may be counted.
  • Up to eight semester hours of coursework beyond the master's level may be taken through the Graduate Outreach Program.
  • Each student should work closely with the major professor and use the worksheet (from the Graduate School) as needed to plan for courses taken at AU, transfer courses, exceptions, requirements, and graduation date prior to submitting the Committee Selection Form.
  • A plan of study is no longer required by the Graduate School since January 1, 2020. Before scheduling the General Oral Exam (qualifying exam), the student needs to complete and submit the Committee, Transfers, Exceptions and Candidacy (CTEC) Form, which identifies the student, committee chair (major professor), at least three committee members, and possible transfer courses or exceptions.
  • Two consecutive semesters of study in residence.
  • A written and oral general doctoral examination is required prior to becoming a candidate for the degree.
  • Submit the dissertation proposal for approval by the advisory committee when you schedule the general examination.
  • Completion and defense of a dissertation.
  • No language requirement.
  • Should submit a graduation check request to the Graduate School prior to the semester of expected graduation.

Additional Information

1. From the Graduate School (AU Bulletin) - Doctoral Degrees

2. From Samuel Ginn College of Engineering

3. Doctoral students: Doctoral Studies Checklist from the Graduate School

4. The primary purpose of the general examination (often called "preliminary examination," or "qualifying exam," or "proposal defense") is to assess the student’s understanding of the broad body of knowledge in a field of study. The examination also affords the advisory committee an opportunity to review the student’s proposed research and understanding of research methods and literature in the chosen field. If the general examination reveals deficiencies in any of these areas, the advisory committee may recommend remedial work, re-examination, or discontinuation of doctoral study (information from the Graduate School).

The general examination includes a written qualifying exam (each advisory committee member gives a separate written exam to the student) and an oral qualifying exam (after passing the written exam). The PhD research proposal defense can be combined with the oral qualifying exam or conducted separately. The PhD student should submit a written PhD research proposal to the advisory committee before the proposal defense meeting.

5. The student's advisory committee should consist of at least four members of the graduate faculty. Additional voting members may be appointed to the committee (including no more than one non-Auburn University faculty member, who must hold a terminal degree in the field). A majority of the Auburn University affiliated committee members, including the major professor, must be members of the graduate faculty at level 2. The major professor must also be a graduate faculty member in the department/program granting the degree (Information from the Graduate School).

6.  The total number of credit hours that may be transferred from another accredited institution towards a doctoral degree varies by program but must be less than 50 percent of the credit hours listed on the plan of study. Such transfer credit (1) must fall within the time limits of the degree, (2) must be B or better grade, and (3) must be approved by the advisory committee and the dean of the Graduate School. 

7. All doctoral students must complete a minimum of 10 hours of 8990. Enrollment in 8990 may take place at any time the student and the advisory committee deems appropriate. During any one semester, the number of hours of 8990 in which the student enrolls should reflect the amount of instructional time being spent on the dissertation and the degree to which university resources are being utilized. Students may enroll, during any one semester, for as few as one hour or as many as 16 hours of 8990. Dissertation students submitting their dissertation, awaiting committee review and approval, or taking their final examination must register for 8990 Research and Dissertation in the semester(s) when these steps in the process take place. The requisite 10 hours of 8990 should be included in the plan of study. No grade is assigned.