Graduate Student Handbook: The Ph.D. Degree

The Doctor of Philosophy degree requires concentration in a particular area of electrical or computer engineering as well as demonstrated mastery over the fundamentals of electrical and computer engineering. It is awarded in recognition of demonstrated proficiency and high achievement in the student’s major field within electrical or computer engineering. A significant contribution to the knowledge in the area of electrical and computer engineering is made through successful dissertation research.

The Ph.D. degree requirements include:

  • 43 credit hours of coursework
  • Responsible Conduct of Research training
  • Passing the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam, including the Proposal Exam
  • Conducting research, writing and successfully defending a Ph.D. dissertation



The following table summarizes the coursework requirements for the Ph.D. degree in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Requirement Hours Description
Group I: ECE 6000 level classes in one or two TIAs: 9 Nine hours of classes from one or two technical interest areas (TIAs) of the student's choice. All for letter grade credit.
Group II: ECE 6000-level classes 9 Nine hours of classes, all of which must be from one or more TIAs that are outside of and not cross-listed with the TIA(s) in Group I. All for letter grade credit.
Group III: Minor in an area outside ECE 9 Nine hours of classes in a single discipline outside of ECE. All for letter grade credit.
Group IV: Electives 14 (Up to 12 M.S. thesis hours, recorded as such on an official transcript, may be used in this area.)
ECE 8022 (Professional Communications
1 Pass/fail. Permit required. Students have to pass the preliminary examination to receive a permit.
Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) requirement (PHIL 6000) 1 Pass/fail. Students entering Ph.D. program in Fall 2011 or later and M.S. students who were admitted for Fall 2011 or later and then transition to Ph.D. must take an RCR course to fulfill this requirement.
Total hours required 43  

Groups I and II – Selection of ECE 6000 Level or Higher Classes
6000-level or higher ECE courses offered by specific TIAs can be used to satisfy these requirements, including Special Topics courses.

  • Technical Interest Areas (TIAs) are groups of related courses within electrical and computer engineering and include: Bioengineering, Computer Systems & Software, VLSI Systems & Digital Design, Digital Signal Processing, Electrical Energy, Electromagnetics, Electronic Design & Applications, Microelectronics/Microsystems, Optics & Photonics, Systems & Controls, and Telecommunications. 
  • In Group II, all nine hours of coursework must be completed outside the TIA(s) of Group I. These courses must not be cross-listed with the TIA(s) chosen for Group I. Group II classes may be selected from one, two or three TIAs, provided degree requirements are met. Courses that do not belong to any TIA cannot be used to satisfy Group I or Group II requirements.
  • Pass/Fail, audit, and Special Problems courses cannot be used to satisfy Group I and Group II requirements.
  • To determine the TIA of a course, students may examine the Projected Course Schedule available on the Graduate Website.

Group III (Minor): 9 Hours outside ECE as a Minor Field of Study
A minor consists of nine credit hours of courses in a single discipline (e.g. Math, Physics, Mechanical Engineering, etc.). 4000 level or higher classes may be taken subject to the following guidelines:

  • Minors are expected to be in subject areas that enhance and relate to Ph.D. students’ research. Students may choose Math, CS, any non-ECE engineering or science discipline. Other fields would need to be approved by the ECE Graduate Committee. Minor courses in non-technical areas (for example, Management) need special approval. Classes that are part of the TI:GER program in the Scheller College of Business can be used towards the Ph.D. minor.
  • Minor courses cannot be cross-listed with ECE classes.
  • All minor courses must be taken for letter grade.
  • 6000 level minor courses are preferred, 4000 level or a combination of 4000 and 6000 level courses will be considered for approval, provided the overall degree requirements are met.
  • Math and CS are the most popular Ph.D. minors for ECE students. A list of recommended CS and undergraduate Math courses are listed on the ECE website .

  • Approval of the minor courses is secured from the ECE Graduate Affairs Office via the web-based Ph.D. coursework completion plan on the ECE website. When all the coursework is completed, Ph.D. minors are submitted by the ECE Academic Affairs Office to the Georgia Tech Graduate Studies – VPR office for approval.
  • The Ph.D. minor courses must have a minimum grade average of 3.0/4.0.


Group IV General Elective Courses

  • General electives are meant to enhance the technical background of students.  Non-technical classes should be pre-approved by the ECE Graduate Office.
  • Up to 6 credit hours of Special Problems (ECE 8901, 8902, 8903 and CS 8903) may be used as general elective courses, subject to approval by the ECE Graduate Office. Faculty supervisors must certify that the work done for these courses is not simultaneously being done for pay (as in a GRA) or for other credit (as for ECE 9000, ECE 8900, or ECE 7000). To receive approval for these courses to be counted towards the Ph.D. degree, complete the Special Problems Course Approval Form. It is expected that these courses are rigorous and the level of work is commensurate with the equivalent credit of a graduate level course.
  • Non-ECE Special Topics courses can be used for general electives.
  • Pass/fail courses cannot be used in any other Group except for Group IV General Electives. The only pass/fail hours that can be used are ECE seminars (ECE 8001, 8002, 8022 or 6792), CS/CSE seminars (CS/CSE 800x), and the RCR requirement (PHIL 6000). No more than four pass/fail hours can be used towards the Group IV General Electives.
  • Only 4000 level or higher courses can be used for degree requirements, but note that there is a total limit of 9 hours of 4000 level courses that can be used for the Ph.D. degree
  • Students are welcome and encouraged to take additional elective courses to enhance their background. These courses would be for the student’s benefit and would not count towards degree requirements.

The Professional Communications Requirement

  • All ECE Ph.D. students are required to complete ECE 8022, a one-hour professional communications seminar, in order to fulfill the Ph.D. coursework requirement.  
  • Permits are required for ECE 8022. Only students classified as “Ph.D.” and who have passed the preliminary examination will be allowed to take ECE 8022.
  • All the Ph.D. students are expected to take ECE 8022 the first fall or spring semester after they passed the Ph.D. Prelim.
  • The ECE department offers a technical writing class for international Ph.D. students who need to improve their writing skills. The Scientific Writing for International Students class is offered twice a semester during the spring and the fall terms. It is a non-credit course and cannot be found on OSCAR. The Graduate Office advertises the class every semester and participants are selected on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, please contact Dr. Daniela Staiculescu in the Graduate Office.

  • In addition to the Scientific Writing Class, students are encouraged and may be required by their research advisor or their proposal review committee to take additional communications courses offered by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL).

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Requirement
Georgia Tech requires all Ph.D. students who were admitted for Fall 2011 or later to complete an RCR requirement that consists of on-line training and in-person training. M.S. students who were admitted for Fall 2011 or later and then transition to Ph.D. students must also meet this requirement.

Additional graduate students may need to complete this requirement, depending on their source of funding.  Students may refer to the applicability criteria listed in the Georgia Tech RCR Compliance Policy to determine if their source of funding requires RCR training.

The On-line CITI Requirement: The online portion of the requirement, a CITI RCR course, must be successfully completed within 90 days of when applicable students begin the first full semester in their doctoral program. Access the CITI RCR course.

If a student goes past the 90 day time frame, a hold may be placed on course registration until the student completes the online training.

The In-Person Requirement: Students covered by this policy are required to successfully complete PHIL 6000 OR an academic program’s in-house RCR training approach. Students are strongly encouraged to complete in-person training within the first 12 months of their doctoral program. In general, applicable students will be expected to take PHIL 6000 during the first summer session after they begin their doctoral program at Georgia Tech. Additional sections will be available during the fall and spring semesters for those students who would not otherwise be enrolled during the summer session.
The following academic programs have an approved in-house RCR training approach for their doctoral students.  ECE does not have its own in-house RCR course but would accept any of the following courses approved for other schools:

  • Applied Physiology – PHIL 6710 / APPH 6710 / ECE 8813-B: Ethics of Biotechnology and Bioengineering Research

  • Biological Sciences – BIOL 8106: Tools of Science

  • Biomedical Engineering – BMED 7004: Teaching & Research Practicum I (effective Fall 2015)

  • Building Construction – BC 8100: Research Methodology

  • Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering – ChBE 6001: Introduction to Research and ChBE 6003: Chemical Process Safety (both courses are required)

  • Chemistry – CHEM 8002: Information Resources for Chemists and Biochemists

  • Civil and Environmental Engineering – CEE 8097: Introduction to Transportation Research

  • Computational Science and Engineering – CSE 6001: Introduction to the PhD

  • Computing – CS 7001: Introduction to Graduate Studies  (effective Fall 2013)

  • Earth and Atmospheric Sciences – EAS 6000: Introduction to Research and Responsible Conduct

  • Mathematics – MATH 6001:  Introduction to Graduate Math

  • Psychology – PSYC 6000: Responsible Conduct of Research

  • Public Policy – PUBP 8101 and PUBP 8102: Workshop on Public Policy Research (both courses are required)

These courses or PHIL 6000 can be counted in the Group IV General Elective category or approval may be requested to count one of these courses in the Group III Minor category. Access RCR policies and FAQs.

Ph.D. Residency Requirement

All Ph.D. students, with no exception, are required to be enrolled full time for at least two semesters while classified as Ph.D. students. The residency requirement is verified before the Ph.D. coursework is approved and certified.

Additional Restrictions and Conditions on Coursework

  • Students with prior graduate work, including an M.S. degree from another institution may have up to 30 hours of courses applied towards the ECE Ph.D. degree requirements, subject to approval.
  • No more than three senior (4000) level courses (9 semester hours) permitted to be used toward the Ph.D. coursework requirement.  4000 level classes can only be used toward the elective (Group IV) or minor (Group III) areas of the Ph.D. coursework requirements.
  • No more than a total of four pass/fail hours can be used toward the Ph.D. coursework requirement—this includes 8022 and PHIL 6000.
  • Georgia Institute of Technology requires that Ph.D. students maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0/4.0 to remain in good standing and must have at least a 3.0/4.0 to graduate.
  • The minor courses (Group III) must have a minimum grade average of 3.0/4.0.
  • All classes used to fulfill the Ph.D. coursework requirement must have grades of “C” or above.
  • Ph.D. students are required to complete a minimum of two full-time terms on campus while taking ECE9000 (Ph.D. dissertation hours).  ECE expects that most if not all of one’s Ph.D. coursework and research will be completed on campus, under the supervision of an ECE faculty member.

Filing a Coursework Plan

  • All ECE Ph.D. students are required to file a coursework plan no later than the Ph.D. proposal submission.
  • Coursework plans are filed through a secure ECE website.
  • When filing a coursework plan it is important to be sure to select the campus at which one is based.  The system is set up so that the coursework plan is not saved unless a campus is selected.
  • In addition to clicking the “Save” button when the coursework plan is completed, the “Submit” button should be clicked as well. Plans for which “Submit” has been clicked will be added to the list of those ready to be reviewed by our office.

Applying M.S. Coursework Completed at other Schools toward the Ph.D. Coursework
There is no formal transfer of credit for the Ph.D. degree, that is, classes taken elsewhere would not appear on the Georgia Tech transcript. However, M.S. coursework completed at other schools can be used toward the ECE Ph.D. coursework requirement. An approved Ph.D. coursework plan serves as an agreement between the student and ECE (on behalf of Georgia Tech) to permit the student to count courses from another school toward the Ph.D. coursework requirement.

  • When submitting the coursework plan for the Ph.D. degree, students who have completed an ECE M.S. degree will list classes completed at the M.S. school along with classes to be completed at Georgia Tech. These classes should be listed as they appear on the M.S. school's transcript, using that school's number (if any), course name, grade awarded.  
    • To request approval of these courses, students should submit a transcript and a syllabus and other descriptive materials to the ECE Graduate Office.
    • The credit hours for classes completed elsewhere should be reported in semester hours. If the M.S. classes were recorded in quarter hours, those hours are to be converted to semester hours by multiplying the number of quarter hours by 2/3, making a three quarter hour class equal to two semester hours.
  • If a thesis was completed at the M.S. school, it may be possible to apply up to 12 semester hours of thesis credit toward the 43 hour Ph.D. coursework requirement. The following items are needed in order for this option to be considered for approval:
    • English version of the M.S. thesis
    • Documentation on the official transcript of completion of the M.S. with a thesis
    • Completion of M.S. thesis research hours on the M.S. school’s transcript
  • Six hours of the previously completed coursework that was transferred toward a Georgia Tech ECE M.S. degree may be applied toward the Ph.D. coursework requirement.


Preliminary Examination

Students must pass the Preliminary Exam, which is a written exam on undergraduate material spanning all the technical interests of ECE. Students must do 8 out of 24 questions on the exam. The Ph.D. Preliminary Exam is given each fall (on the Monday of the fall semester mid-term break) and spring semester (on a Saturday approximately seven weeks into spring semester).  

  • Students intending to take the exam must register for it on the ECE website. Registration for the prelim exam is open to all ECE graduate students.  
  • ECE undergraduate students with GPAs of 3.5 or higher may also register for the exam.  
  • Students admitted with the Ph.D. classification and M.S. students intending to pursue the Ph.D. degree should take the exam at the earliest opportunity.  
  • Students who are studying for the Ph.D. Preliminary Exam are encouraged to register for ECE 7999 for up to 3 credit hours. ECE 7999 should only be taken the semester when the student is registering to take the examination. Do not register for ECE 7999 during the Summer term!
  • How many times students are allowed to take the exam:
    • Students classified as Ph.D. at the time of admission must pass the Ph.D. Preliminary Examination within their first four semesters (not counting the summer) in the program. All Ph.D. students are permitted three opportunities to take the exam while enrolled in the ECE graduate program at Georgia Tech.
    • Students admitted into the graduate program as M.S. students and wish to become Ph.D. students are allowed to take the preliminary examination while in the M.S. program.
  • Students registering for their final attempt to take the Preliminary Exam must sign a letter of agreement acknowledging that they are taking the test for the final time and that they agree to leave the program if they do not pass.
  • Students who registered for the exam and are unable to take it for reasons beyond their control (illness, family emergency, etc.), should contact the Academic Office as soon as they know that they cannot take the exam. 
  • Students who failed and wish to discuss the results of the exam should visit the Academic Office no later than 30 days after the exams have been made available for viewing.

Examination Format

  • The Preliminary Examination is administered in a double-blind fashion. The ECE Graduate Affairs Office issues the exam code numbers to students taking the exam. Each student records their code number on the materials submitted for grading; no name is recorded on the exam materials. The graders are not aware of any of the students’ codes. Students are not provided with information regarding the specific faculty members responsible for prelim exam questions.
  • A score of 65% (52 points/80) is needed in order to pass the exam.
  • As of Fall 2017, the preliminary examination will be changed as follows:

    • All students who take the preliminary exam will have to choose one of two exam options: CompE or EE. Each of the two options will consist of a core, which is a set of 4 fixed classes, and electives, which is a set of 4 classes that the student chooses to work.

    • Each student will receive a total of 24 problems and choose if they are CompE or EE option after seeing the exam. Each student will turn in 8 problems: all 4 core problems for the chosen option, plus 4 electives that they choose from the remaining pool. The choice of electives can be made from the other core (for instance, if a student chooses EE core, they can work one or more of the CompE core problems as electives).

Below is the distribution of the 24 problems. These classes will be offered each time.


  • CSS will provide one problem each from ECE 2035, ECE 2036, ECE 3020, and ECE 3056

  • VLSI will provide one problem each from ECE 2020 and ECE 3030.

  • The core for CompE will be ECE 2020, ECE 2035, ECE 2036, and ECE 3030.


  • EDA will provide one problem each from ECE 2040 and ECE 3400.
  • EMAG will provide one problem each from ECE 3025 and ECE 4350.
  • Energy will provide one problem each from ECE 3072 and ECE 3300.
  • Microsystems will provide one problem each from ECE 3040 and ECE 3450.
  • BIO will provide one problem each from ECE 4781 and ECE 4782.
  • Systems and Controls will provide one problem each from ECE 3084 and ECE 3550.
  • Optics will provide one problem each from ECE 4500 and ECE 4502.
  • Telecom will provide one problem each from ECE 3077 and ECE 3600.
  • DSP will provide one problem each from ECE 2026 and ECE 4270
  • The core for EE will be ECE  2026, ECE 2040, ECE 3040, and ECE 3084
    • A detailed list of the exam topics is listed in the ECE Preliminary Examination Study Guide which is available on the ECE website.
    • The exam is closed book, closed notes. A calculator is allowed as long as it is from the approved list that is given on the ECE website.

      The diagram below shows the distribution of the preliminary examination for the two cores.

distribution of the preliminary examination for the two cores


Advisor Selection
  • Students who are looking for advisors and/or research topics should register for ECE8999.
  • After passing the Ph.D. Preliminary Examination, a student is expected to identify a research advisor and report that advisor’s name to the ECE Office for Graduate Affairs.  
  • It may be necessary and appropriate for a student to change advisors during the process of identifying a suitable dissertation topic. Any change should be coordinated through the ECE Graduate Affairs Office.  


Dissertation Proposal

The Dissertation Proposal Exam is the second part of the ECE Comprehensive Exam (the Preliminary Exam being the first part). As such, there are strict regulations on help that students may receive from other people. The Ph.D. Proposal Committee is comprised of 3-4 faculty members: the advisor (and a co-advisor, if one exists), and two faculty members selected by the student. Additional members can be added upon request.

Purpose of the Proposal Examination

  • Allow the committee to judge the student’s ability to execute a research task and to communicate the results.
  • Evaluate the proposed topic to ensure that, if completed as posed, it constitutes an original contribution to knowledge.  
  • The second half of the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination (the first being the Preliminary Examination). Only after passing the Ph.D. Proposal a student is admitted to Ph.D. Candidacy.

Timing of the Proposal Exam

  • The student is expected to make reasonable and consistent progress toward identifying a Ph.D. dissertation topic, which typically involves performing preliminary research under the guidance of the advisor.   Once the student and advisor identify a mutually satisfactory dissertation topic, the student should plan to take the Proposal Examination.  
  • It is recommended that a student schedule the Proposal Examination within two years of passing the Preliminary Examination, and within three years of beginning the graduate program.  
  • The Proposal Exam must occur at least 6 months before the Defense Examination.  
  • Under no circumstances will the student be allowed to take the Proposal and Defense Exams during the same term.

Proposal Process

  • The format for the Proposal Examination involves a written report and an oral presentation.  
  • The written proposal is no more than 35 pages including references and appendices.
  • The proposal must contain a chapter or sub-chapter entitled “Literature Survey”, appearing anywhere in the document that the student finds appropriate. The “Literature Survey” section is a minimum of five pages and must be written by the student with no outside help.
  • The rest of the proposal document contains at minimum a concise statement of the Ph.D. dissertation topic, summary of the research completed, outline of the research to be completed and clearly summarizes the contributions of the research. The student can get help in preparing the rest of the proposal document.
  • The Ph.D. coursework plan needs to be preferably completed at the time of the Ph.D. Proposal. If the coursework has not been completed, the Academic Office needs to approve the coursework form indicating very clearly when the remaining classes will be completed.
  • The documents are submitted to the Academic Office, who is in charge of assigning the Ph.D. Proposal chair and sending the Ph.D. proposal documents to the members of the committee. The committee needs to be given at least two weeks to read the Ph.D. Proposal before scheduling the oral portion of the exam.
  • If the Ph.D. Committee is satisfied with the written report, the oral presentation is scheduled. The presentation usually lasts about 40 minutes. There is a general audience question and answer period followed by a closed door examination period with the committee.

The official detailed information about preparing and presenting the proposal is available in the Ph.D. Proposal section. If, at any time, there is uncertainty about what to do next or what is expected of the student, check with the ECE Graduate Affairs Office.  Do not rely on secondhand information!

Proposal outcomes

  • Pass: The committee may pass the student but give recommendations for the student’s research direction.  Students should generally follow this advice, in consultation with their advisors, since those committee members will also be on the Final Defense Committee.
  • Conditional Pass: If the committee has reservations about the student’s performance or the proposed material, they may vote for a conditional pass. A “Conditional Pass” is a pass but certain conditions set forth by the committee must be met. A sample of common conditions include:
    • completion of additional courses that the committee feels are important for proper preparation
    • specific steps to take to improve oral presentation skills and/or written communication skills
    • adding an addendum to the proposal
    • redoing the oral presentation (unless the arrangements for a conditional pass specifically require that the oral presentation be repeated, it generally does not need to be done again)
    • additional concerns determined by the committee may also apply and should be communicated to the student and advisor in writing.
  • Fail: The committee may also consider the student’s proposal and/or presentation to be of insufficient quality to warrant a pass or conditional pass.  If this occurs, the committee specifies to the student (advisor and ECE Graduate Affairs) why the “Fail” decision was reached and may make recommendations on what the student should do, for example, continuing the preliminary research until a better definition of a proposed topic is forthcoming.  
    • In accordance with Institute requirements, a student may only attempt the proposal exam twice.  
    • A student who fails the proposal examination on the first attempt will be expected to consult with the Associate Chair for Graduate Affairs for guidance as to how to proceed at that point.  If a student chooses to attempt the proposal exam again, then he/she would resubmit a proposal document. The committee may or may not be the same.
  • Hung Committee: If the committee is not in agreement at the time of the examination, the Graduate Affairs Associate Chair will follow up with the committee and negotiate a solution. If the agreement is not reached after mediation, the student will restart the proposal process from the very beginning. The student has two more attempts and has the option to form a new proposal committee.

After passing the proposal

  • The Ph.D. Proposal Committee members chosen by the student, including the advisor, become the Ph.D. Reading Committee Members. Only these people need to sign the “Request for Admission to Ph.D. Candidacy Form”.  
  • Because the proposal examination may occur relatively early in the process of defining the dissertation topic, it may be necessary to modify the topic as the research progresses. Any substantial modification requires approval of the reading committee and a submission of a revised “Request for Admission to Ph.D. Candidacy” form with the new dissertation title and abstract, signed by the student and advisor/co-advisor.  
  • The proposal should not be construed as a “binding contract” between the committee and the student, but as a somewhat flexible agreement that is expected to evolve as the research progresses.


Dissertation and the Final Defense
  • The primary requirement of the Ph.D. student is to do original and substantial research that is reported in the Ph.D. Dissertation and at the Final Defense. The quality of the dissertation depends upon the conscientious work of both the student and the Reading Committee. The School entrusts the standards of the School in this area to this committee.   
  • The Final Defense Committee is composed of five people including the Reading Committee members plus two extra members. All faculty members who signed the “Request for Admission to Ph.D. Candidacy Form” must be on the Final Defense Committee. The two extra members are chosen as follows:
    • One of the members has to be Academic Faculty outside the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  This person can be from another university, with the restriction that they are not within one year of having earned the Ph.D. degree. If the person is not a Georgia Tech faculty member, then that person must provide a current CV in order to be approved by the Institute Graduate Office. Outside ECE faculty who have and adjunct position in ECE are approved, but not faculty with double appointments in ECE and another department.
    • The last committee member can be ECE faculty. At minimum, he/she must hold a Ph.D. and be active in research. If the extra person is not a Georgia Tech faculty member, then a CV must be provided to the ECE Graduate Office for approval.
  • This Final Defense Committee is recommended to the Institute Office of Graduate Studies – VPR office.  The Director of Graduate Studies may modify the recommended committee if so desired.  
  • The student should submit the dissertation to the Reading Committee with sufficient time to examine, typically at least two weeks but preferably a month.  Once the Reading Committee is satisfied that the Final Defense can be held, the student must submit the Reading Committee Memo authorizing the scheduling of the Final Defense.
  • Once the Reading Committee Memo is submitted to the ECE Graduate Office, the Final Defense can be scheduled.
    • The full committee should receive a copy of the dissertation at least two weeks prior to the Final Defense date.
    • The Ph.D. Final Defense must be publicized for two weeks, and it must be open to the public. The Graduate Office must receive the Schedule Defense Memo and Reading Committee Memo at least two weeks in advance of the event. The memos can be found online in the “Dissertation and Final Defense” section.
  • The Certificate of Thesis Approval which is available through the Graduate Studies – VPR office website should be signed by the final examination committee at the dissertation defense and submitted to the Academic Office for the final signature from the School Chair/Graduate Coordinator signature.   
  • After all signatures are collected, the form is submitted to the Graduate Studies – VPR office together with the rest of the documents on the document checklist.
  • The Graduate Studies – VPR office controls the format of the thesis and other related reporting. The student must keep in touch with that office in order assure that all degree requirements are met. Guidelines for preparing and submitting the dissertation are available on the Graduate Studies – VPR office website.
  • If, at any time, there is uncertainty about what to do next or what is expected of the student, check with an advisor in the Academic Office. Do not rely on secondhand information!


Degree Completion Progress
  • A “Ph.D. student” is defined as one who has accepted an admission offer that indicated "Ph.D." rather than "M.S." degree.
  • M.S. students who wish to be reclassified as Ph.D. students should contact an Academic Advisor for additional information.
  • The Institute requires that Ph.D. students (full-time or part-time) complete all degree requirements within 7 years of passing the comprehensive examination, that is, the Ph.D. Proposal Exam in ECE.
  • Graduate students in the ECE degree programs are expected to make diligent progress toward the Ph.D. degree.  It is in the best interests of both students and faculty for all students to progress through the program expeditiously. Recommendations for reasonable progress are defined as follows:  
    • Students obtaining the M.S.E.C.E. degree on the way to a Ph.D. degree are expected to complete the Master’s degree within the first two years of graduate study.
    • Students seeking a Ph.D. degree are expected to take the ECE Preliminary Examination at each available opportunity until they pass the exam.
    • Ph.D. Students are expected to complete all required coursework, including the Professional Communications requirement and the minor, by the end of the third year in the program (if entering from a B.S. degree program) or the end of their second year in the program (if entering with an M.S.).  
    • Students are expected to identify a Ph.D. research advisor as early as possible in the program, and are urged to do so by the end of the term in which they pass the Preliminary Examination and no later than the term following the one in which they pass the Preliminary Examination.
    • Each individual student must take the initiative to connect with an advisor within technical interest area within their first year at Georgia Tech.  
    • It is recommended that all Ph.D. students take the Proposal Examination within two years of passing the Preliminary Exam, or by the end of their third year of graduate studies.  
    • It is recommended that the Proposal Examination will be successfully completed at least one year prior to the Final Defense examination, and that it must be completed at least 6 months in advance of the Defense Examination.  
  • When the ECE Graduate Office determines that a Ph.D. student has not met the milestones described above, they will be classified as “not making reasonable progress” toward the Ph.D. degree and notified of this status immediately.
    • This notification will normally occur at the beginning of spring or fall semester.  
    • By the end of that semester, the student must provide a written explanation to the ECE Graduate Office as to why they have not met the indicated milestones, and what action they intend to take to correct the situation.  
  • Exceptions may be made by the Associate Chair for Graduate Affairs after reviewing the circumstances involved as presented by the student and the research advisor.


Additional Considerations
  • During their Ph.D. program, students are permitted an unlimited number of summer terms of non-residence, during which they may be employed as interns at industrial or government employers. A student’s research advisor, however, may advise against summer leave if circumstances so dictate.  
    • Students supported as GRA are expected to coordinate internships with their advisor.
    • Only one non-summer term may be used for internships or other employment without the prior permission of the ECE Associate Chair for Graduate Affairs.

Last revised August 7, 2017