PhD Degree Requirements

The information below is a summary of the formal degree requirements for the PhD in ECE.


Coursework Requirements

For students matriculating with a bachelor's degree, a minimum of 10 courses are required, as follows: 

  • Six graduate-level courses in ECE (500-level or higher)
  • Two approved graduate-level technical electives (500-level or higher, technical in nature, and chosen to provide a coherent program of study)
  • Two approved electives (chosen to provide a coherent program of study)

For students matriculating with a master's degree from another institution, a minimum of five (5) courses are required, as follows: 

  • Three graduate-level courses in ECE (500-level or higher)
  • One approved graduate-level technical elective (500-level or higher, technical in nature, and chosen to provide a coherent program of study)
  • One approved elective (chosen to provide a coherent program of study)

A program of study detailing the planned/completed coursework must be approved at the Qualifying Exam (bring to exam with advisor's signature) and Preliminary Exam stages of the PhD.  

Access the ECE PhD Program of Study 

Important Notes

  • Courses must be worth 3 (or more) graduate semester hours 
  • Courses must be graded (Credit/No Credit or audited courses may not count toward the program of study) 
  • ECE 899 Independent Study can be used to satisfy only the Approved Elective requirement 
  • Undergraduate Courses (numbered 499 or lower) require DGS and Graduate School permission for enrollment and may have special restrictions
  • Overall program of study must indicate adequate breadth, including some courses distinctly outside student's main curricular area 
  • Course selection must be formally approved by a student's adviser, one additional faculty member, and the DGS through the submission and approval of a Program of Study
  • Student must maintain a 3.0 GPA in order to remain in good standing and to graduate

Qualifying Examination (QE)

The purpose of the Qualifying Exam is to assess the potential to succeed in the PhD program by having students demonstrate:

  • Reading and deeply understanding three selected papers in the field
  • Understanding the strengths and shortcomings of the three papers
  • Understanding why the particular problem space defined by the three papers is important
  • Generating sound research ideas based on the strengths and shortcomings of the three papers
  • Writing and presenting information supporting the points above

Qualifying Exam Details


Supervisory Committee

The supervisory committee is formed in preparation for the preliminary examination and must consist of at least five members (including the student’s advisor), at least three of which must be graduate ECE faculty members.

In addition, as required by The Graduate School, at least one (1) member of the committee must be from either another department or a clearly separate field of study within the Duke ECE Department. Committees are proposed using the Committee Approval Form.

Note: While the Graduate School's Committee Approval Form lists a minimum of four (4) committee members, the ECE Department requires five (5) committee members.


Teaching Assistantship

All PhD students must complete two semesters of a Teaching Assistantship (TA) prior to graduation. We provide training before you enter an undergraduate classroom for the first time.

It is expected that the student will complete this requirement sometime during his/her third through the eighth semester. Teaching Assistantships will be assigned by the DGS based on the background and interests of the student and the current department needs.

Teaching Assistantships are expected to require 10 hours per week on average and may involve such activities as organizing and leading discussion sections, grading homework and quizzes, assisting in the development of course materials, supervising laboratory sessions and so forth.

TA training information »


Preliminary Examination

The preliminary examination, which must be completed by the end of academic year three, consists of (1) a written dissertation research proposal and 2) an oral presentation and defense of this proposal to an approved five-member faculty committee.

The written dissertation research proposal should consist of a 10-page (maximum) report plus appendices providing additional supporting information as well as an anticipated timeline for completion of all PhD degree requirements.

The oral presentation, approximately 45 minutes with extra time allotted for questions posed by the committee throughout and after the presentation, should reflect the contents of the report.


Final Examination

The student must follow the Graduate School’s guidelines for submitting the dissertation and scheduling the Final Examination, including submitting the departmental defense announcement to the ECE Graduate Office and uploading the dissertation at least two weeks prior to the defense.

Note: Details concerning important dates and deadlines, filing of intention to graduate, committee approval, and additional details may be found in the Graduate Bulletin.