Doctor of Philosophy

We are not currently accepting applications for the Ph.D. program. Please join our mailing list to receive information on future cohorts.


This doctoral program leads to award of the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in systems engineering. The doctoral programs meet on Saturdays to enable professionals who are employed full-time to pursue doctoral study and research in an intense, focused environment alongside like-minded fellow students and leading faculty.

Program Learning Objectives

The objectives of the doctor of philosophy program in systems engineering are to ensure that graduates:

  • Demonstrate, orally and in writing, mastery of broad-based knowledge in systems engineering, and of a specific area of knowledge relevant to their own research interests, including theories and methodologies, along with mastery of a research methodology.
  • Demonstrate mastery of the methods, tools, and ethics of conducting primary research, and mastery of discovering and effectively evaluating appropriate secondary research sources, to support an original idea of their own.
  • Develop and present an original study to the scholarly community that is based on research in primary sources and that makes a significant contribution to the field, and that demonstrates the ability to engage in a productive research career.

Program Format

The program consists of a minimum of 54 credit hours divided into two stages: the classroom phase and the research phase.

Classroom Phase

The first stage is a classroom experience of eight graduate-level, three-credit-hour courses. During the classroom phase, students take two classes each session, and course sessions are ten weeks long. Classes are held on Saturdays, and each class meeting is three hours long. Morning class meets from 9:00a-12:00pm (Eastern Time) and afternoon class meets from 1:00-4:00pm (Eastern Time). During the classroom phase, classes must be taken in lock-step with the cohort and cannot be taken out of sequence. Class attendance is expected. Distance learning students will login to each class meeting via the internet. Classes will also be recorded for future viewing.

Classroom courses include work in such areas as discrete systems simulation, data analysis, knowledge management, advanced systems engineering, and research methods for Ph.D. students. These courses are designed to provide students the necessary technical knowledge and research techniques to complete the dissertation successfully.

Ph.D. students must complete the classroom phase of the program with a GPA of 3.4 or higher. If a doctoral student receives a grade below B−, graduate study is terminated and further enrollment prohibited.

Research Phase

The second stage is an independent effort of at least 30 credit hours of research culminating in the dissertation defense. In this stage, the student’s progress is measured in three milestones:

  1. Successfully passing a qualifying oral exam before a faculty panel
  2. Acceptance of an original article for publication in an approved journal
  3. Successful defense of an original dissertation

See the “Milestones” section below for more information.

In the research phase the student begins specialized study and research under the supervision of a member of the faculty. Faculty research directors meet regularly with students (on-site or via distance learning) to develop and refine the dissertation. Students are expected to attend each meeting. Students usually complete the research phase in two years.

Upon successful completion of the classroom phase, students will be registered for 3 credit hours of EMSE 8999 Dissertation Research in Summer semesters and 6 credit hours in each Fall and Spring semester culminating in the dissertation defense. Extension beyond 30 credit hours of EMSE 8999 may be approved depending on the student’s satisfactory progress toward achievement of the milestones. In such a case, the student will be registered for the 3 credit hours per approved semester of extension. Candidates who make good progress may accelerate the rate of their dissertation research by registering for more than the standard credit hours per semester, and thus may finish the program early.


To progress through the EMSEOOCP Ph.D. program, students must satisfactorily complete four Milestones as requirements toward completion of the degree.

Milestone 1: To be admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree, the student must earn a grade point average of at least 3.4 and finish with no grade below B- in the eight classroom courses taken for the doctoral program.

Milestone 2: By no later than the first semester of research, Summer 2020, the candidate must attempt and pass a qualifying oral exam before a faculty panel. Candidates who fail to pass may attempt the exam again the following semester. If a candidate does not pass the qualifying exam after the second attempt, their studies will be terminated and their work will be transferred to a professional degree program.

Milestone 3: By no later than June 2021, the candidate must submit an article based on the results of the dissertation research to an approved, refereed scholarly journal. Credit must be given in the publication to the fact that the material is abstracted, summarized, or developed from a dissertation submitted to the George Washington University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. Before the candidate is permitted to defend the dissertation, this original article must be accepted for publication.

Milestone 4: The student defends the dissertation in the Final Examination before a committee of faculty members. The EMSEOOCP Office schedules the examination in consultation with Professor Sarkani and the student. The Final Examination must be taken within 2 months after the journal article is accepted for publication. When the Final Examination committee is convinced of the quality and originality of the candidate’s contribution to knowledge as well as his or her mastery of the scholarship and research techniques of the field, the committee recommends the candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Graduation and Scholarship Requirements

effective starting in spring 2019
To meet graduation requirements, Ph.D. students can have no grades below B-, and they must complete the classroom phase of the program with a GPA of 3.4 or higher. If a doctoral student receives any grade below B-, graduate study is terminated and further enrollment prohibited.


For more information about program tuition and financial aid for the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program, please click here.

For more information on applying for this program click here

Program Flyer: click here to view the current Program Flyer

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