The Ph.D. program in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in Structural Engineering is highly flexible to accommodate a wide range of student educational objectives and research interests. Overall, the Ph.D. program demands very high standards of scholarship from students. Students are expected to develop both great depth and breadth in their knowledge and to conduct research that is a significant and original contribution at the frontiers of knowledge. The program is intended to prepare students for careers in teaching and research in academia or careers in research and advanced engineering applications in industry.

In addition to the guidelines and requirements described below, Ph.D. students in Structural Engineering must also follow all rules and requirements of the Graduate School and the Civil Engineering Ph.D. program.

The Ph.D. degree in Structural Engineering requires the completion of significant coursework beyond the M.S., conducting independent research leading to the preparation of a dissertation, and completion of major examinations and other milestones, as described below.

The Ph.D. degree in Structural Engineering requires the completion of significant coursework beyond the M.S., conducting independent research leading to the preparation of a dissertation, and completion of major examinations and other milestones, as described below.


There is no specific minimum number of courses required for the Ph.D. degree. Nonetheless, Ph.D. students are expected to take a significant number of courses to develop breadth and depth in their knowledge and to prepare them to conduct independent research. Courses should be selected by the student in consultation with their Research Supervisor and their Dissertation Committee. As a guideline, Ph.D. students in Structural Engineering typically take 7 to 10 courses beyond the M.S.


The Doctor of Philosophy is a research degree, and conducting high quality original research represents the most fundamental requirement of the degree. Research for the Ph.D. is expected to be significant in scope and to be an original contribution at the frontiers of knowledge in the field. Further, while research is conducted under the guidance of the Research Supervisor and the Dissertation Committee, Ph.D. students are expected to work independently in the conduct of their research.

To develop a suitable topic and scope for their research, Ph.D. students are encouraged to discuss their ideas and interests with the faculty in Structural Engineering. Ph.D. students are also encouraged to identify a faculty member to serve as their Research Supervisor and to identify a topic for their Ph.D. research as early as possible.

While the student will work closely with their Research Supervisor, the student will also form a Dissertation Committee to help guide and review the research. The Dissertation Committee normally consists of a minimum of four faculty members, with at least one member outside of the Civil Engineering Graduate Studies Committee.

Research for the Ph.D. culminates in the preparation of a Dissertation. The Dissertation must be approved by the Dissertation Committee.

Milestones Toward The Ph.D. Degree

This section outlines major steps and milestones towards achievement of the Ph.D. degree.

Research Supervisor

Ph.D. students are required to identify a Research Supervisor within one-year of enrolling in the program.

Qualifying Exam

A committee of Structural Engineering faculty will examine a student’s preparation to qualify for Ph.D. Candidacy. The committee will broadly consider a variety of criteria in the examination process. The criteria used will be selected by the committee based on a student’s background and research interests. Examples of criteria that may be considered by the committee include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The student has substantial prior research, teaching, and/or practical experience.
  • The student has passed a qualifying exam in structural engineering at a peer university.
  • The student has maintained a minimum of 3.5 GPA at the University of Texas for at least one semester while taking graduate classes in structural engineering as a full-time student.
  • The student has passed a written and/or oral exam administered by the committee.
  • The student has other qualifications that are deemed by the Structural Engineering faculty to demonstrate adequate preparation to pursue the Ph.D. degree.

Demonstration of English Proficiency

Before a student can apply for Ph.D. Candidacy, they must satisfy the Civil Engineering PhD program’s English proficiency requirements for Ph.D. students. This generally requires achieving a minimum score of 4.0 on the GRE Analytical Writing Exam or by passing an approved technical writing course. Students should consult with the CAEE Graduate Coordinator for the specific requirements.

Admission to Ph.D. Candidacy

After passing the Qualifying Exam and after satisfying English proficiency requirements, Ph.D. students should apply to the Graduate School for admission to Ph.D. Candidacy. The application for admission to Ph.D. Candidacy is made on-line at the Graduate School website. Specific requirements of the application for admission to Ph.D. Candidacy are available from the Graduate School and also from the CAEE Graduate Coordinator. In general, however, the application includes a list of members of the Dissertation Committee, a preliminary title of the Dissertation, and a brief description of the proposed dissertation research.

Comprehensive Exam

The Comprehensive Exam, also known as the Mastery of the Major Exam, must be taken and passed by all Ph.D. students in Structural Engineering. The Comprehensive Exam is administered by the Dissertation Committee, and is normally taken after the student has completed a majority of their coursework and has started on their dissertation research. Students should discuss the appropriate timing of the Comprehensive Exam with their Research Supervisor.

The content and format of the Comprehensive Exam is at the discretion of the Dissertation Committee. In general, however, the Comprehensive Exam includes a presentation by the student on the proposed dissertation topic, including the proposed research objectives, scope and methods. To determine if the student passes the exam, the Dissertation Committee must assess if the proposed research is suitable for a Ph.D. dissertation and whether the student is adequately prepared to undertake the research. The Dissertation Committee may suggest or require changes to the research plan and may suggest or require the student to take additional coursework.

Defense of Dissertation (Final Oral Examination)

The Defense of Dissertation is the final exam for the Ph.D. degree. In this exam, the student presents the results of their dissertation research to the Dissertation Committee. At least four weeks prior to the exam, the student must deliver a final draft of their dissertation, reviewed for technical and grammatical correctness by the Research Supervisor, to members of the Dissertation Committee. The student must also submit a written request to hold the Final Oral Examination to the Graduate School at least two weeks before the examination. Note that the Dissertation Committee may request changes to the dissertation as a result of the exam. Consequently, students are encouraged to schedule the exam well ahead of the dissertation filing deadline for the desired semester of graduation