Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering

Course work requirements

A minimum of 49 credits consisting of 45 credits of course work and four credits of IE 590: Colloquium are required beyond the B.S. to complete a Ph.D. in industrial engineering, in addition to the research and dissertation work. The colloquium credits are reduced to 3 for students entering with a M.S. Note that IE 596: Individual Studies credits cannot be applied towards the course requirements. All requirements of the Graduate School, as set forth in the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin, must be satisfied. The department requirements are as follows:

  • 4 or more credits (for students with a B.S. degree) or 3 or more credits (for students with a M.S.) of IE 590: IE Colloquium; pass/fail grading, up to 2 IE 590 credits can be substituted by 2 credits of OR 590: Operations Research Colloquium
  • IE 600 - no minimum credit requirement, graded "R"
  • 45 or more credits of coursework - 36 or more IE course credits, excluding IE 596; 30 or more IE course credits at the 500 level; 9 or more non-IE course credits; and 3 or more non-IE course credits at the 500 level

Total credits: 49 or more for students with a B.S. degree

A maximum of 24 course credits out of the minimum 45 required course credits can be transferred from the student’s M.S. degree.

Students must receive prior approval from the department’s Graduate Program Coordinator before taking any non-IE 400 Level courses. Not all IE 400-level elective courses can be taken for graduate credit. Also, please note that IE 400-level required courses (required for an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering) cannot be taken for IE graduate credit.

Transferring academic credits

A maximum of 24 course credits out of the minimum required 45 course credits can be transferred from the student’s master's degree. Please note:

  • "Pass" grades cannot be transferred in general, unless the institution can substantiate that this is equivalent to at least a "B" grade.
  • Three credits from institutions with academic quarters are counted as two semester credits at Penn State.
  • The department's graduate program coordinator must approve all credit transfers. The course syllabus, copy of its catalog description, and the transcript are required to transfer the credits of that course. In some cases, additional information may be required.
  • The credits earned in any course that substantially duplicates a Penn State I E-required undergraduate course cannot be transferred.
  • The transferred academic work must be of at least "B" quality.
  • The credits must have been earned within the previous five years. The necessary forms are available with the department's Graduate Program Office. Please note that this transfer resides within the department only (that is, it is a department transfer and not a Graduate School transfer) and hence will not appear on the transcript.

Registration requirements

There are three registration requirements that a doctoral student must fulfill. Unless otherwise noted below, these requirements are applicable only to fall and spring semesters: 

  • Until a student passes the comprehensive examination, the student must register for at least 1 credit per semester until graduation, even after completing all the credit requirements. After passing the comprehensive examination and after completing all course requirements, students must register for IE 601 (on-campus) or IE 611 (off-campus) every semester, until graduation.
  • Between admission to the Ph.D. program and completion of the Ph.D., a student must spend at least two consecutive semesters (which may include the semester in which the student is admitted) as a full-time student (registering for at least 9 credits), engaged in academic work at the University Park campus. These could be a spring-fall or a fall-spring semester sequence.
  • A student must be registered for at least 1 credit in the semesters in which the student schedules the candidacy examination, comprehensive examination, or the final oral examination (including summer). Scheduling each of the comprehensive and the final oral examinations must be done at least two weeks before the date of the respective examination.

Typical Time Sequence

The time required to complete a Ph.D. varies, depending on whether the student enters with a B.S. or M.S., and many other factors. The following shows a typical sequence, including the M.S. For the purpose of illustration, it is assumed that a student has a half-time assistantship and takes 9-11 credits per semester.

  • Year 1: Begin graduate study
  • Year 2: Complete M.S. Degree Candidacy Examination and English Proficiency Examination; form Ph.D. committee by the end of the year
  • Year 3: Comprehensive Examiniation dissertation proposal
  • Year 4: Final defense completed

This time sequence should be reduced by approximately one year for students beginning the Ph.D. program with a M.S. In effect, these students start at the beginning of the second year. It is very important for these students to identify an area of interest and adviser soon after beginning the program.

Typical course work cannot be specified without making more assumptions. The most influential of these is the area of specialization of the student. The recommendations of the student’s committee also affect the courses he/she takes.

Candidacy Examination 

A doctoral student must take and pass the Ph.D. candidacy examination in order to be a Ph.D. candidate in the department. The candidacy exam is offered twice a year, in fall and spring semesters. See the specific exam formats below.

When to Schedule

Doctoral students are expected to take the candidacy exam at the earliest possible opportunity, following completion of the master's degree.

If a student enters the Ph.D. program without a master's degree, then he/she is encouraged to take the examination at the first possible opportunity following the completion of 18 graduate credits beyond the B.S.

In all cases, students are advised to take candidacy exam within four semesters of entry into the Ph.D. program. A student must be enrolled for at least one credit during the semester in which he/she takes the candidacy exam.

Those who are taking the candidacy examination in spring semester must make their intentions known to the graduate program staff assistant by the second week of November.

Those taking it in fall semester must make their intentions known by the second week of July.

Examination Formats and Focus Area Requirements

The examination format depends upon the area selected by the student. The department has identified the following four areas, for the sake of candidacy examination and research focus: 

Doctoral Committee

The doctoral committee of a student includes the student’s adviser (or co-advisers) and must consist of at least four members from the Penn State Graduate Faculty. At least one of those four members must be from outside the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. The outside member must not be a graduate faculty member of the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering even if he/she has been granted graduate faculty status within another department. The adviser or at least one co-adviser must be a member of the graduate faculty of the department. The majority of the committee members must be from the graduate faculty of the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. The chair of the committee is the student’s adviser in most cases. The committee will direct the student’s doctoral program—including the comprehensive exam, (proposal defense), and final defense—and must be formally assigned by the Graduate School. The student should see the department’s graduate program staff assistant when he/she is ready to form the committee. 

The graduate program coordinator usually advises a student until the student selects a research adviser. However, students are urged to seek advice from the faculty in their areas of interest as soon as possible so that the overall program will be based on the most knowledgeable advice, in the areas of interest to the students, over the longest period of time.

English Proficiency Examination 

Under university regulations, all doctoral students must pass the English Proficiency Examination before they are permitted to schedule their Comprehensive Examination.

Language Expectations 

The department expects that all Ph.D. students should be able to speak comprehensively in both daily academic/job-related settings, and in more formal conference settings. The expectations for comprehensible speech are:

  • accurate pronunciation with only occasional instances of non-native accent or intonation patterns, especially for engineering-specific terminology
  • appropriate grammatical constructions with only minor non-native influences
  • near native-like flow of speech with only occasional non-native pauses, stress, or intonation. For presentational settings, speaking expectations also include: strong clarity of purpose in messages; appropriate adaptation to an audience; effective organization; and effective and appropriate visual aids and delivery style.

Expectations for written material include demonstration of clear competence at both rhetorical and syntactic levels. Ph.D. students in the department are expected to be able to:

  • effectively complete a writing task
  • organize and outline written material
  • use appropriate details to support a thesis
  • be consistent in the use of language
  • demonstrate syntactic variety and appropriate word choice
  • effectively observe grammar, punctuation, and spelling conventions of English

The English Proficiency Examination consists of Presentation Skills Proficiency and Writing Skills Proficiency tests. 

Presentation Skills Proficiency Test

The candidacy examination in all the four areas in the department require students to make an oral presentation on a research topic. The students who pass this part of the candidacy examination are not required to take the Presentation Skills Proficiency Test.

Writing Skills Proficiency Test

All doctoral students must take this test in which each candidate will be asked to write an essay for evaluation. Blue books will be provided. Dictionaries will not be allowed. Students will be given two or three prompts and they will be asked to choose one of the prompts to write an essay about it in their blue books within 90 minutes. The test will be graded by personnel from the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State. The evaluation will be based on effectiveness, organization, language usage, comprehension, and observance of written English (grammar, punctuation, and spelling). Possible outcomes and remediation are:

  • Unacceptable: Student will be required to take a writing course and achieve a minimum grade of ‘B’.
  • Acceptable: No remediation is required.
  • Superior: No remediation is required.

The written part of the English Proficiency Exam is scheduled by the department each February/March. 

Comprehensive Examination

Note: It is strongly recommended that students schedule the comprehensive examination within 18 months after passing the candidacy examination.

Per university regulations, all doctoral students must pass the department candidacy examination and the English Proficiency Examination before they can schedule their comprehensive examination. The following is a brief description of the testing expectations and procedures.

  • The comprehensive examination is administered by the student’s Ph.D. committee and consists of two parts: the presentation of a dissertation proposal and an oral examination dealing with the research of the student. The student can also be tested on material drawn from the areas related to his/her research. It is urged that the comprehensive examination is taken as early as possible after passing the candidacy examination and the English Proficiency Examination.
  • The student should submit his/her dissertation proposal to the committee well in advance of the comprehensive examination. The oral examination must be formally set up with the Graduate School at least two weeks before the date of the examination. The student should work with the graduate program staff assistant in the department so that the necessary paperwork can be processed in a timely manner.
  • While presenting the dissertation proposal to the committee, the student is expected to answer questions about the merits of the proposed work, development of ideas and concepts, and the deliverables. If the proposal is rejected, the student will be required to prepare another proposal to be presented and approved by the committee.
  • In addition, the examination will consist of questions in areas pre-specified by members of the committee. The areas chosen will generally be important to the student’s research areas. The student is expected to be proficient in these areas and failure to perform up to the committee's expectations may result in recommendations for additional course work or, in cases of clearly substandard performance, failure of the examination. In the latter case, the student will be allowed one more opportunity to pass the comprehensive examination.
  • At least three members of the doctoral committee  (including the thesis adviser or chair) must be physically present at the comprehensive examination. No more than one member may participate via telephone; a second member may participate via PolyCom. These arrangements must be approved by the Graduate School at least two weeks before the scheduled date of the examination.
  • In order to schedule the comprehensive examination, a student must:
    • be registered for the semester, including summer, for at least one credit
    • have no missing or deferred grades
    • have at least a 3.0 grade point average
    • have passed the English Proficiency Examination
    • have passed the Candidacy Examination within the past eight years

Dissertation Requirements

The Ph.D. dissertation must be of sufficiently high quality and publishable in refereed journals. At least one paper based on the dissertation must be written by the student and submitted for publication, before the final defense. This may be written either by the student alone, or in conjunction with one or more members of the student’s Doctoral Committee, with the student as the lead author. 

The dissertation must be approved and signed by the student’s Ph.D. committee members and the head of the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. NOTE: A minimum of two days is required to obtain the department head’s signature.

Delivery of the final version of the dissertation to the chair of the doctoral committee should precede the Graduate School deadline by two months. A student must pass the final defense, obtain the appropriate signatures, and submit the final copy of the dissertation to the Graduate School with the completed signatory page by the specified deadline in order to graduate in a semester.

The electronic copy of the approved dissertation must be sent to the graduate program coordinator at least two weeks prior to the last day of classes in the semester in which the student intends to graduate.

If a student cannot meet the Graduate School and department deadlines, he/she can still complete the other requirements for the degree and request for a letter certifying that all other departmental requirements for the degree have been satisfied. The letter will also indicate when the degree will be awarded after all Graduate School and department requirements are completed.

Every doctoral student must submit the signed copy of his/her dissertation to the Thesis Office in a timely manner so that he/she graduates within a semester following his/her defense. The student will be terminated from the program if this requirement is not met.

Final Defense

Note: It is strongly recommended that students defend their dissertations within 24 months after passing the comprehensive examination.

The final defense of the student’s dissertation defense cannot be scheduled until his/her adviser or all co-advisers have read and approved the dissertation. The student is responsible for assuring the completion of the draft of the dissertation and for adequate consultation with members of the doctoral committee well in advance of the final defense.

The dissertation should be in its final draft—with required notes, bibliography, tables, etc.—at the time of the final defense. Both the content and style should be correct and appropriate by the time the final draft of the dissertation is submitted to the members of the committee.

There should be at least three weeks between the delivery of the final draft of the dissertation to the committee members and the final defense. All faculty within the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering will be notified of the time, date, and location of the dissertation defense once it is scheduled. This defense is also open to the public.

The student must be able to respond to questions about the work performed and is responsible for the accuracy of the research results reported in the dissertation. In addition, at least one paper based on work reported in the dissertation must be written prior to scheduling of the final defense. 

The Graduate School requires at least two weeks’ notice for scheduling the final defense.

Students should notify the graduate program staff assistant sufficiently in advance of the dissertation defense date so that the necessary paperwork can prepared in a timely manner.

At least three members of the doctoral committee (including the thesis adviser or chair) must be physically present at the defense. No more than one member may participate via telephone; a second member may participate via PolyCom. These arrangements must be approved by the Graduate School at least three weeks before the scheduled date of the defense.

In order to schedule the final defense, a student must:

  • be registered for the semester, including summer, for at least one credit
  • have no missing or deferred grades
  • have at least a 3.0 grade point average
  • have met the two-semester residency requirement
  • allow at least three months but not more than six years after passing the comprehensive examination
  • complete all requirements within eight years of being admitted as a Ph.D. candidate
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Home of the first established industrial engineering program in the world, the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (IME) at Penn State has made a name for itself in the engineering industry through its storied tradition of unparalleled excellence and innovation in research, education, and outreach.

We are Innovators. We are Makers. We are Excellence in Engineering. We are Penn State IME.

The Harold and Inge Marcus Department of
Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

310 Leonhard Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-865-7601

FAX: 814-863-4745