Ph.D. Degree Requirements


The Ph.D. is a research degree requiring completion of the Ph.D. program course requirements, satisfactory performance on the Preliminary Examination and University Qualifying Examination, and submission and defense of a doctoral dissertation.

Students in the Ph.D. program must pass the Preliminary Examination by the end of their second year of graduate study. To ensure timely progress in their research, students are strongly encouraged to identify a faculty member willing to supervise their doctoral research by the end of their first year of study.

Students should begin defining and preparing for their thesis research as soon as they have passed the Preliminary Examination. They should plan on taking the University Qualifying Examination about one year later. At the Qualifying Examination, students will give an oral presentation on research accomplishments to date and the thesis proposal to a campus-wide committee. The committee will decide if the work and proposal have adequate content and a reasonable chance for success. They may require that the student modify the proposal and may require a further review.

The final Ph.D. requirements are the submission of a dissertation and the dissertation defense.

Course Requirements
The total course requirements for the Ph.D. degree are essentially the same as the M.S. degree and consist of forty-eight units (twelve quarter courses), of which at least thirty-six units must be in graduate courses. The course requirements must be completed within two years of full-time study.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             NOTE: Students who already hold an M.S. degree in electrical engineering may satisfy course requirements (with approval of the academic advisor) by substituting specific graduate courses taken elsewhere. Normally, duplication of advanced degrees is not permitted. Therefore, students admitted for a Ph.D. with a Master’s degree will not be awarded a second Master’s degree in the same general field.                                                                                                                        
Choosing a Research Advisor

The selection of the doctoral research advisor is an integral step in your academic career. The advisor, who serves as chair of the doctoral committee, will guide you through your doctoral research to completion of the degree. You are advised to enter into the student/advisor relationship carefully and only after you have given considerable thought to your own advising needs. You must identify a faculty member willing to supervise your doctoral research by the end of your first year of study.

Several criteria may be used for the selection of an advisor. It is best if you think out your expectations of an advisor before approaching the faculty member. The faculty member's intellectual and academic interests should closely match yours. The work style and personality of the advisor also need to be compatible with yours. Students who want frequent contact with their advisor need to choose a person who is readily available. Some professors with greater status tend to have less discretionary time. The trade-off for working with them may be that you must work more on your own than preferred. Conversely, professors with greater status also have more contacts, both on and off campus and may be particularly helpful when it comes time for job placement.

When selecting an advisor, you should have several conversations with that faculty member to determine if the relationship is a good match. You also should talk to other students who have the same advisor, weighing their judgment carefully, as personality and work styles differ among students. Find out how problem-solving, time, and conflict resolution have worked out with this advisor.  To support Ph.D. students who would like to transition to a new advisor due to an unhealthy relationship with their advisor, the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering launched the Guaranteed Transitional Support program.  More information regarding this program could be found here

Doctoral Committee

A doctoral committee consists of five or more officers of instruction, no fewer than four of whom shall hold professorial titles of any rank. The committee members shall be chosen from two or more departments; at least three members from the ECE Department and at least two members that represent academic specialties different from your field and one of these two must be a tenured UCSD faculty member from another department. Selection of a committee needs to be made in close consultation with your committee chair.

Selection of members should be from faculty who have similar research interests to you, and who will understand the research and be able to make positive contributions to it. Graduate Council policy states that the graduate research advisor should guide the search for other faculty to serve on a student's doctoral committee. In many instances, however, you will seek committee members on your own.

Keep in mind, as you establish your doctoral committee, only professors in Electrical & Computer Engineering can serve as the sole chair of a committee. If your chair/advisor is from an outside department, you will need to have a co-chair/co-advisor from Electrical & Computer Engineering. Affiliate and adjunct professors are not allowed to serve as the sole chair/advisor of an exam committee.

The ECE department recommends the appointment of the committee to the Dean of the Graduate Division. Once approved, you and the committee members will receive email confirmation.

Questions regarding the specific details of committee eligibility and selection should be directed to an ECE Graduate Student Affairs Advisor or to Graduate Division.

Ph.D. Time Limit Policies

Students who enter the Ph.D. program with an M.S. degree from another institution are expected to complete their Ph.D. requirements a year earlier than B.S. entrants; they must discuss their program with an academic advisor in their first quarter of residence. Specific time limits for the Ph.D. Program, assuming entry with a B.S. Degree, are as follows:

1. The Preliminary Examination must be completed by the end of the second year of full-time study (end of the fourth quarter for students who enter with an M.S. degree).

2. The University Qualifying Exam must be completed before the end of the fourth year of full-time study. NOTE: Passing the UQE by the end of your third year of study is highly recommended

3. Normative Time Limit: Students are expected to complete the requirements for the Ph.D. in six years of full-time study (five years with an M.S. degree)

4. Support Time Limit: Students may not receive financial support through the University for more than seven years of full-time study (six years with an M.S. degree).

5. Total Registered Time Limit: Students may not register as graduate students for more than eight years of full-time study (seven years with an M.S. degree).

NOTE: Half-Time Study: Time limits are extended by one quarter for every two-quarters of approved half-time status. Students on half-time status may not take more than 6 units each quarter.

Spring Evaluations

Each spring quarter, ECE Graduate Student Affairs prepares a detailed online evaluation of each doctoral student. These evaluations are designed to inform Ph.D. students of their progress and to improve communications between faculty and graduate students. Ph.D. students are expected to discuss their progress with their research advisors.

SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program

The UCSD ECE Department, in collaboration with San Diego State University, offers a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) in Engineering Science (Electrical and Computer), awarded jointly by the Regents of the University of California and the Trustees of The California State University.
Applicants to the JDP Program must have a bachelor's degree or master's degree from an accredited institution and must meet the requirements for classified graduate admission to both UCSD and SDSU. Securing an SDSU faculty advisor is required before an application may be reviewed.
Admission requirements and procedures are described in detail on the Joint Doctoral Program webpage. 
For more information, please contact:
Donovan Geiger, Joint Doctoral Program Manager
(619) 594-6079    

ECE M.S. to Ph.D. Transfer Guidelines

ECE M.S. students who are interested in transferring to the ECE Ph.D. program should read and follow the outlined Ph.D. transfer guidelines. If you have any specific questions, please contact ECE's Ph.D. Advisor