Doctor of Philosophy programs

Two degrees offered

The Wayne State University College of Engineering offers two doctoral degrees:

  1. Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Engineering 
  2. Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical Engineering

Degree requirements and policies

A minimum of 90 graduate credits (semester) beyond the baccalaureate degree is required for the completion of the Ph.D. program.

The division of these credits will be basically as follows:

  1. At least 12 credits of coursework in the major (not including directed study or research credit).
  2. At least one minor composed of six or more credits elected within or outside the major department (no minor is required for students entering the Ph.D. Program in Fall 2012 or after).
  3. Two credits of Doctoral Seminar (ECE 9997).
  4. Thirty additional credits of coursework, pre-dissertation research and directed study.
  5. Thirty credits earned in four consecutive Candidate Status semesters after candidacy has been approved.

The total Ph.D. program must include 30 credits, excluding Candidate Status semesters, in courses open only to graduate students (i.e. 7000 level or above). At least 30 hours must be elected at Wayne State University. Only courses with grades of B- or higher can be counted toward the degree. At the discretion of the advisor, up to 30 credit hours of graduate courses may be transferred from the master’s program. A student wishing to transfer graduate credit toward a Ph.D. degree should file a Transfer of Credit form along with the doctoral Plan of Work. A minimum grade of B is necessary to transfer credits; B- credits and credits graded “P” or “S” (Pass or Satisfactory) are not transferable. Transfer credit must be appropriate to the student’s degree program and may not be used to reduce the minimum requirement of thirty credits, which must be carried at WSU.

Directed study

Twelve credits of ECE 7990 are normally allowed in the Ph.D. program. The student must have the proper forms signed before registering for directed study. Before a student can register in directed study, he/she must prepare an outline of the study and obtain the approval of the advisor and the graduate director.

Research course

Eight credits of ECE 7996 are normally allowed in the Ph.D. program. The student must have the proper form signed before registering for the course. Before a student can register in the course, he/she must prepare an outline of the study and obtain the approval of the advisor and the graduate director.

Dissertation research and direction

To register in ECE 999X courses, the student must send an email to, including his/her student number (PID) and semester of the course.

Plan of work

The Doctor of Philosophy Plan of Work approved by the advisor and the departmental graduate committee chairperson should be submitted to the Graduate School for approval before the student has completed 40 graduate credits (this includes the master’s degree work). Any subsequent changes in the Plan of Work must be approved by the advisor and submitted to the Graduate School for approval.

Course overrides

To obtain overrides for registering graduate courses that you have not taken their listed prerequisite courses, you must email the graduate director or the department chair with the course number and providing evidence that you have already taken courses similar to the prerequisite courses.

Ph.D. examinations

There are two electrical and computer engineering Ph.D. examinations.

A. The Ph.D. Preliminary Examination

The purpose of this examination is to determine whether a student is well prepared for the pursuing Ph.D. study in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Specifically, the purpose of this written preliminary examination is to determine if the student has sufficient background knowledge in basic general areas of electrical and computer engineering. The examination consists of three areas chosen from the approved list. One of the three area exams should be in the area in which the student plans to do a dissertation. A student should attempt the written preliminary examination within the first two semesters (not including the Spring/Summer semester) enrolled as a Ph.D. student. An extension may be arranged in exceptional circumstances during the first year of residence in the Ph.D. program. Each student is encouraged to consult his/her PhD advisor or the Graduate Committee Chair regarding the preliminary exam.

B. Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

All students must pass the qualifying examination before earning 64 credits toward the Ph.D. degree. As soon as possible after passing the preliminary examination, student should find a dissertation advisor, and under the advisor’s direction, choose a dissertation topic and form a dissertation committee. It is the responsibility of the student’s dissertation committee to give the Ph.D. qualifying examination. 

The Ph.D. qualifying examination consists of written and an oral part.

Written Part: The purpose of this part of the exam is to test the student’s comprehensive background in the chosen dissertation area. The student will prepare a comprehensive report consisting of background (theoretical and/or experimental), literature survey, definition of the problem, and description of the proposed research. The report must also address any other issues related to the student’s major and minor area that the dissertation committee deems appropriate. This report will be presented to the student’s dissertation committee and serve as a written part of the qualifying examination. This is meant to be writing experience as well as a technical experience. In addition to the technical content, the dissertation committee will evaluate the report for its organization, clarity, and conciseness. The department graduate committee will be notified of the outcome of the written part. If the dissertation committee does not recommend that the student proceed to the oral part, the graduate committee will require that the student redo the written part. The resubmission of the written part to the dissertation committee must be down within one semester of the first attempt.

Within the time period specified by the Graduate school following successful completion of the Written Ph.D. qualifying examination as specific above, the applicant must pass the Oral Ph.D. qualifying examination.

Oral Part: The purpose of this part of the exam is to test the student’s comprehensive background in the chosen dissertation area and to give the student the opportunity to defend the written part of the exam. The oral exam will be conducted by the dissertation committee and a graduate examiner appointed by the Graduate School. At this examination the applicant is expected to present in detail the proposed dissertation topic and to be prepared to show that all necessary preparation has been done to maximize the likelihood of successful scholarly contribution in the proposed area of research. Upon successfully passing oral examination the student will become Ph.D. Candidate by completing the Ph.D. Candidacy form and submitting to graduate school.

Information on the oral and written required examinations, as well as other requirements, are outlined on the Graduate School website

  • A minimum of 90 graduate credits (semester) beyond the baccalaureate degree is required for the completion of the Ph.D. program. Detailed requirements were discussed above.
  • Students must take the Ph.D. written preliminary exam during the first two semesters (excluding Spring/Summer session) of doctoral study. Failure to take the exam in the second semester constitutes a failed attempt. Failure to take the exam in the third semester constitutes a failed second attempt and will result in dismissal from the Ph.D. program.
  • A student must find a dissertation advisor within two semesters of passing the preliminary exam; failure to find an advisor will result in dismissal from the Ph.D. program.
  • Complete a Ph.D. Plan of Work form and present to dissertation advisor and departmental graduate officer for approval. The plan must be submitted to the Graduate School before completion of 40 graduate credits which includes the approved transfer of a maximum of thirty credits from other universities.
  • Form a doctoral dissertation committee with the membership specified in “The Graduate School Handbook for Doctoral Students and Advisors” (available on the ECE Graduate School Website)
  • Advance to the rank of Ph.D. Candidate upon completing the Ph.D. Candidacy Status form, obtaining the recommendation of the department and the approval of the Graduate School.
  • Complete the Doctoral Dissertation: Prospectus and Record of Approval form and pass the prospectus exam administered by the doctoral dissertation committee.
  • Register for Doctoral Dissertation and Direction I, II, III and IV (ECE 9991, 9992, 9993 and 9994) for a total of thirty credits.
  • Submit Final Report Dissertation and Public Lecture – Defense form to the Graduate School, present the public lecture and pass the defense.
  • Receive approval of the dissertation manuscript from the Graduate School.

Ph.D. forms
Policies and Procedures