PhD in Systems Engineering

The Systems Engineering Division offers post-bachelor’s and post-master’s PhD degrees. Doctoral studies may be pursued in areas actively researched by division faculty.

Students admitted to the post-bachelor’s PhD program must complete the course requirements for the MS degree in Systems Engineering. They are required to take a minimum of 64 credits during their program of study. The remaining required PhD credit hours remain unstructured and can be chosen, with advisor approval, to meet an individual student’s academic and research needs.

Post-bachelor’s doctoral students will be awarded the MS degree upon completion of MS degree requirements and the PhD Prospectus Exam.

There are no structured course requirements for post-master’s PhD students, but such students are required to complete 32 credits applicable to the degree, all of which must be at the 500 level or higher. These courses can be chosen, with advisor approval, to meet an individual student’s academic and research needs.

Post-bachelor’s PhD students are required to take a minimum of 16 credits of research/dissertation coursework. Post-master’s PhD students are required to take a minimum of 8 credits of research/dissertation coursework.

In addition to credit requirements, all PhD students are required to participate in a research rotation program during their first year and must also complete a teaching requirement prior to graduation.

Doctoral students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.00 to remain in good academic standing and to graduate. All graduate courses are counted in the GPA. Only grades of B− or better fulfill PhD curricular requirements. This requirement applies to post-bachelor’s or post-master’s PhD students.

Doctoral students must satisfy a residency requirement of at least two consecutive academic-year semesters of full-time graduate study at Boston University. They must demonstrate sufficient competency in mathematics. For further information, email


Upon entry into the Systems Engineering Division, each student will be appointed an academic advisor from the SE faculty. The advisor will act as the student’s primary academic advisor until the student selects a research advisor(s).

Qualifying Examinations

Doctoral students must pass a comprehensive Qualifying Examination administered by the Division of Systems Engineering. They must pass this exam and a math requirement within the first three semesters of matriculation (those matriculating in January must pass within the first four semesters). In addition, doctoral students must present an oral defense of a research prospectus developed by the student to a prospectus committee by the student’s third year of study. The prospectus committee may also later serve as the Dissertation Committee.

Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement for the Systems Engineering degree. However, basic mastery of spoken and written English—as determined by oral presentations, written reports, and publishable manuscripts—is a requirement for the PhD.


The PhD requires original research and presentation in a form suitable for publication in an archival journal. A research advisor guides progress toward the degree. Doctoral students must defend a written dissertation before a Dissertation Committee.

Financial Aid

PhD students may obtain financial aid in the form of competitive teaching fellowships or research assistantships available from grants or contracts held by faculty members. Annual (12 month) stipends are approximately $30,000. Other traineeship funding may also be available to US citizens and permanent residents.