Ph.D. with a Major in Systems Engineering

The student seeking a Ph.D. degree in the field of engineering or applied science is a member of a community of researchers and professional practitioners, both student and faculty, who are working close to the very frontier of human knowledge in their individual areas of specialization. It is a stimulating intellectual experience that involves the interplay of highly capable minds in the realm of ideas and concepts.

Study for the Ph.D. in engineering includes the demonstrated mastery of an area of scientific and engineering knowledge and the defense of an original scholarly dissertation based on independent research.

The Ph.D. SE degree aims to achieve simultaneously the following educational goals:

  1. Provide a solid foundation and depth in systems engineering theory and practice.
  2. Provide breadth across transdisciplinary engineering fields.
  3. Provide specialized contributions to the Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge through the Doctor of Philosophy dissertation.

Admissions Requirements

Applicants for the Ph.D. with a major in Systems Engineering must meet the following minimum requirements for consideration:

  1. A Master’s degree in systems engineering or a related field including aerospace engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, engineering management, environmental engineering, civil engineering, industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, mathematics, statistics, or physics from a U.S. college or university accredited by a regional accrediting association or completion of an international degree that is equivalent to a U.S. Master’s degree from a college or university of recognized standing.
  2. Excellent academic performance in all completed graduate coursework, with a GPA of at least 3.40 on a 4.00 scale.
  3. A completed application, including a statement of research intent, official transcripts for all previous undergraduate and graduate studies, and payment of application fee.
  4. Official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test results with a minimum 80th-percentile quantitative score. 
  5. A minimum of two years of college-level mathematics, including at least one year of calculus.
  6. A minimum of three years engineering experience in industry and/or government.
  7. Three letters of recommendation from individuals who can judge the applicant’s potential success as a doctoral student.
  8. Graduates from foreign countries are required to submit a notarized financial certification form. All international students whose native language is not English and who have not graduated from an American university must submit a minimum TOEFL score before being considered for admission:
  9. 550 – paper-based examination
  10. 213 – computer-based examination
  11. 59 – Internet-based examination

Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. in Systems Engineering requires successful completion of the Lyle School of Engineering’s requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy. In addition, specific credit, course, and dissertation requirements are described below.

Minimum Credit Requirements

  1. Thirty (30) term credit hours of core systems engineering courses. These hours must come from required graduate-level courses in systems, as specified below.
  2. Fifteen (15) term credit hours in an approved major that is related to a specific systems engineering focus area and consistent with anticipated doctoral research. No more than six (6) credit hours can be independent study.
  3. Nine (9) term credit hours in an approved minor supporting the chosen research area. These hours can come from graduate-level courses in EMIS or other departments. The minor requirement may also be satisfied by transfer credit subject to SMU’s Transfer of Credit Policy.
  4. Twenty-four (24) term credit hours of Dissertation. These hours must be taken in residence. The student enrolls for these hours in the course of writing the dissertation.

In addition, at least eighteen (18) term credit hours of the 54 term-credit-hour course work minimum must be at the 8000 level. There must be a minimum of 24 term credit hours of graduate course work and a minimum of 24 term credit hours of dissertation work, none of which have been nor can be applied to any other degree.

Core Courses in Systems Engineering

The ten (10) required courses are:

  1. EMIS 7301 Systems Engineering Process
  2. EMIS 7303 Integrated Risk Management
  3. EMIS 7305 Systems Reliability, Supportability and Availability Analysis
  4. EMIS 7307 Systems Integration and Test
  5. EMIS 7312 Software Systems Engineering
  6. EMIS 7315 Systems Architecture Development
  7. EMIS 7320 Systems Engineering Leadership
  8. EMIS 7370 Probability and Statistics for Scientists and Engineers
  9. EMIS 7377 Statistical Design and Analysis of Experiments
  10. EMIS 8360 Operations Research Models

Systems Engineering Focus Areas

Systems Design and Development

Leadership and Management

Logistics and Supply Systems

Systems Analysis and Optimization


The most clearly distinguishing characteristic of a program leading to the Ph.D. degree is the requirement that the candidate write a dissertation embodying the results of a significant and original investigation. The dissertation is expected to be a mature and competent piece of writing and must make a real and novel contribution to the engineering or applied science discipline. The work it reports may be basic scientific research, engineering research, or creative design. The progress of the student toward the Ph.D. degree is monitored closely by the thesis advisor and the supervisory committee, with an annual report to the department chair.

The dissertation format must follow the SMU Guidelines for Preparation of Theses and Dissertations. Each student is also expected to submit articles for publication in scholarly journals and conferences appropriate to the field of research.

Ph.D. | Systems Engineering (pdf)