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Ph.D. Programs

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is the highest academic degree awarded by the university and is conferred upon students who demonstrate outstanding original scholarship during advanced study. It signifies that the student is able to conduct independent research and has both a broad basic knowledge of all areas of the field and a comprehensive knowledge of one area.

Course Requirements

Each Ph.D. student must complete a minimum of 92 credit hours, consisting of 30 course-credit hours, 60 credit-hours of research and dissertation, and 2 course-credit-hours of Seminar. The Seminar requirement is waived for students who earn a master's degree in ECE at Virginia Tech; this requirement is fulfilled at the master's degree level. There is no foreign language requirement.


In addition to completing a dissertation and passing an oral defense of the dissertation, candidates must successfully meet two examination requirements, a Ph.D. Qualifying Examination and a Ph.D. Preliminary Examination.

Qualifying Exam

Entering Ph.D. graduate students must pass the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination by the end of his or her third academic-year semester, i.e., not counting the summer terms. We recommend students make their first attempt before the end of their second semester. This exam has oral and written components, and serves as a departmental filter to assess the student’s broad background in ECE, verbal and writing abilities, and the potential for successfully completing doctoral work.

Preliminary Exam

The Preliminary Examination is normally taken near the end of Ph.D. course work and at least 9 months before the dissertation defense. This is an oral exam, before the student’s advisory committee that determines the student’s ability to develop scholarly research. The student presents the results of his or her current research investigations along with an outline of a proposed Ph.D. dissertation. The examination committee may also ask questions on course work and related topics, including possible written, open-ended questions prior to the oral exam.

Dissertation and Defense

The ability to perform significant and independent research is the prime requisite for the Ph.D. degree. The culmination of a Ph.D. candidate’s research is the development of a dissertation, which describes in complete detail the research and results, demonstrating the student's expertise in the subject area.

The Final Oral Ph.D. exam is an oral defense of the dissertation with respect to:

  • Originality
  • The importance of the problem considered
  • The method of solution and/or analysis
  • The achievement of the research objective
  • The clarity of the presentation
  • Expertise of the student


Admission to the Ph.D. program requires a minimum 3.5/4.0 grade point average in M.S. work. See admissions.

Bradley Fellowships

Each year, ECE offers renewable Bradley Fellowships to several top applicants. Ph.D. Fellows receive tuition, plus annual cash awards of $25,000. See financial awards.

Greater Washington, D.C., metro area Ph.D.

Ph.D. programs in EE and CPE are available in the greater Washington D.C., metro area. See the greater Washington, D.C., metro area site.

Detailed information

Ph.D. requirements and procedures are posted in the ECE Graduate Student Policy Manual.