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PhD in Systems Engineering


Program Length: 3-4 Years | Starts: Quarterly | Curriculum: #582


Program Overview

The Department of Systems Engineering offers a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Systems Engineering by distance learning. Students take graduate level courses in systems engineering (as needed to pass the oral and written qualifying examinations), advanced graduate courses in systems engineering and an application domain, and perform research that leads to a dissertation involving some aspect of systems engineering. Research topics may be selected from a broad variety of studies of the systems engineering process, applications of systems engineering to solving complex problems, systems level modeling and simulation, and systems suitability assessment. Subject to approval of the student's dissertation committee chairman, dissertation research may be conducted away from NPS at cooperating facilities. Students are expected to satisfy a one-year residency requirement. This may be met by completing periodic extended stays (nominally two weeks per quarter) at an NPS campus or embedded faculty site spread throughout the duration of the student's program. Ideally, applicants should possess an M.S. degree in Systems Engineering.

The following distance learning delivery method(s) may be used for this program:

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Program Requirements and Standard Curriculum

  • Six courses (24 quarter credits) above the Masters degree 
  • Core required courses may be waived if students have already taken a similar course at the discretion of the PhD committee and/or advisor.  The student is still responsible for the material in the waived courses during written and oral qualifier exams.
  • Required knowledge for qualifier exams but not counted toward PhD course requirement:
    • OS 3180 Probability and Statistics for Systems Engineering
    • SE 3100 Fundamentals of SE
    • SE 3302 System Suitability
    • SI 3400 Project Management
  • Required Courses are at the 4000 level and include:
    • A research methods course
    • Other 4000 level courses at the discretion of student’s advisor
    • Within the six courses taken, three of them should form a sequence for the student to obtain depth within a specialty field of interest. For example, a student could specialize in model-based systems engineering by taking: SE 4150 (system architecture), SE 4930 (model-based systems engineering), and SE 4900 (formal methods in model-based systems engineering).

Four written exams

  • SE Fundamentals
  • Applied Probability and Statistics for Systems Engineers
  • Two exams on 4000 level courses at the discretion of dissertation adviser
  • Adviser may choose to have student sit for additional exams as necessitated by the student’s research


Dissertation Research

  • A minimum of 3 dissertation research course blocks (12 quarter credits) but must stay enrolled each quarter until completion of dissertation.
  • Publishing in archival, peer-review journals is considered one of the best ways to disseminate scholarly research. Additionally, publication in recognized journals entails external validation of the quality and relevance of the research.
  • All PhD students are required to have a prepared manuscript for journal publication. The manuscript shall be available and deemed acceptable for submission to a journal prior to scheduling the dissertation defense.


Additional Expectations

  • Biennial on-campus meetings: Twice year to coincide with beginning of Fall and Summer quarters (e.g.: synched with 721 SEM-PD21 curriculum) an orientation will be held on campus and other activities for both new and continuing PhD students. The purpose is to meet face-to-face, develop a research community among PhD students, and orient new as well as continuing students.



Eligibility Requirements

The following are eligible for this program:

  • US Military Officers
  • US Government Civilians
  • International Students**

**International Students: Ensure that you read and understand the eligibility requirements and application process.

Admissions Requirements:

  • Apply online by selecting Apply Now and select distance learning, curriculum 582, PhD in Systems Engineering and follow all admissions requirements to include submission of official copies of all academic transcripts.
  • Submit the following:
    1. 2 Letters of academic recommendation (sent directly to
    2. Letter of intent
    3. Sample of technical writing
    4. GRE scores may be requested to be taken under certain circumstances to include candidate has marginal academic performance, lacks engineering or technical experience or significant gaps exist between undergraduate, graduate and proposed PhD degree
  • Submit a Participation Agreement to
  • Submit confirmation of funding to


Contact Information

For additional information specific to the program, please contact the Academic Associate.