Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) Degree Programs

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) Degree Programs

Learn about how you can earn your Ph.D. in Engineering or Ph.D. in Aviation at Saint Louis University.


Please see the Academic Calendar so you can apply for graduation on time and schedule your Defense and other appointments accordingly.

Ph.D. students must maintain continuous enrollment.


  • Meet with your Advisor





  • Coursework
  • Decide research topic
  • Begin research


  • Upon passing Oral Examination, student is awarded Ph.D. Candidacy Status
  • Degree Audit


Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) programs in Engineering and Aviation

The Ph.D. program builds on the M.S. degree curriculum with additional course work focused on the research area.

  • The Ph.D. in Engineering requires a total of 60 credits of course work beyond the B.S. degree, with a minimum of 36 credit hours of coursework and a minimum of 12 credits of dissertation. Of the 60 credits, a limited number of courses may be at the 4000 level; all others must be at the 5000 or higher level. Those students who earn an M.S. degree may include a maximum of 24 M.S. degree course credits, but not the thesis or project credits in the 60 credits for the Ph.D. degree.
  • The Ph.D. in Aviation requires a total of 63 credits of course work beyond the B.S. degree, including a minimum of 12 credits of dissertation. The curriculum will include a minimum of 24 credit hours comprised of at least 12 credit hours of coursework in Research Methodology and 12 credit hours in secondary discipline (ex: psychology) intended to compliment the student’s knowledge of aviation. Those students holding an appropriate M.S. degree may include a maximum of 27 M.S. degree course credits, but not the thesis or projects credits for the Ph.D. degree.
    • NOTE: All Aviation graduate courses are only offered exclusively online.

 Areas of Concentration in Engineering

Candidacy Requirements

Ph.D. students are evaluated in three formal examinations. At the end of the first year, a Qualifying Exam will assess the background of the student. After the second year, a dissertation proposal will be the basis of a Proposal Exam, which focuses on the dissertation proposal, but also allows faculty to assess the student’s abilities in research and the student’s strengths and weaknesses. The third is a final defense of the Dissertation. Since some students will enter with research experience and with master’s degrees, the estimated timing of these three exams will be part of the initial Program of Study, and the timing may be modified with approval of the Guidance Committee and the Director of Graduate Programs.

The Qualifying Exam

Ph.D. students in engineering are required to take a Qualifying Examination, normally at the end of the first year of full-time Ph.D. study at SLU. This examination will focus on topics related to the required courses and the student’s general preparation for graduate study and research. All qualifying examinations will be conducted by the student’s Guidance Committee supplemented at the discretion of the Graduate Programs Director.

The Qualifying Exam will normally be an oral exam, but may have a written component. The intent of this exam is to determine if the student is prepared to continue doctoral studies. Qualifying examinations are arranged and administered by the home Department. The result of the exam may be a pass, no-pass, or conditional-pass. The Guidance Committee will report the results of the Qualifying Exam to the Graduate Program Director. The conditional-pass will normally require that the student correct specific weaknesses, and modify the Program of Study accordingly.

Defense and Dissertation

A Ph.D. student will ordinarily develop a dissertation proposal under the supervision of the research mentor and present at the Proposal Exam prior to the third year of studies. 

  • For aviation Ph.D. candidates, the Secondary Discipline allows for students to choose coursework from related disciplines such as psychology, education or business to build a cross-disciplinary preparation appropriate for their doctoral research and dissertation.
  • During the development of program proposals, both engineering and aviation Ph.D. candidates will have assistance from a faculty team in the selection of courses and focus for the dissertation.

The associated academic department administers the dissertation proposal exam. The results are reported to the Graduate Program Director. On successfully completing the Proposal Exam, the student becomes a Ph.D. degree candidate.

Upon completion of the final thesis document, a final public defense is held. Following the open forum seminar-style presentation, the student will continue the defense in a private session with the Guidance Committee.

Normally Ph.D. degree students will publish with their Faculty Mentors during the Dissertation research. Although not a rigid requirement, Ph.D. degree candidates are expected to submit a minimum of one manuscript for journal publication prior to completing the degree. 

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