The Doctor of Philosophy degree is a research-oriented degree awarded upon demonstration of scholarly competence. The degree program at UAH is offered jointly with the CEE Department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and is based on successful completion of a program of study designed by the student, his advisor, and a faculty committee. The program includes mastery of certain research skills and an independent research project, the results of which are presented in form of a dissertation.

The Ph.D. degree is granted on the basis of general scholarly proficiency, distinctive achievement in a special field, and demonstrated ability to do an independent, original investigation. These attributes are tested in the comprehensive examination and in a dissertation that must clearly and effectively present substantial results of the research. These accomplishments, rather than mere accumulation of residence and course credits, are essential considerations in awarding the doctoral degree. A Ph.D. candidate must be admitted to Graduate School before being admitted to the Ph.D. program. Admission is limited to those whose background shows distinct promise of success in the program.

Coursework and dissertation research requirement

  1. Students entering the joint Ph.D. degree program with a baccalaureate degree and without a master's degree must complete the following credit hours of coursework and research
    • Course Credit hours required in major: 27
    • Course Credit hours required in minor 1: 9
    • Course Credit hours required in minor 2: 6
    • Course Credit hours – additional
      (can be in major or minor 1 or minor 2): 6
    • Total Course Credit hours required: 48
    • Credit hours for dissertation research: 24
  2. Students entering the joint Ph.D. degree program after completing their master's degree must complete 24 hours of coursework beyond the coursework required for their master's degree. The combined coursework completed in the master's and doctoral programs of study must satisfy the credit hour requirements for the major and minor areas specified above. Twenty four hours of dissertation research must be completed in addition to the 24 hours of coursework for those who entered the program with a master's degree without a thesis. Eighteen hours of dissertation research must be completed in addition to the 24 hours of coursework for those who entered the program with a thesis.
    Clarification: The coursework requirement for a master's degree with and without a thesis is generally 24 hrs and 27 hrs ± respectively. The 24 hours of coursework required in the doctoral program is beyond these hours.
  3. A minimum of 50 percent of the required coursework must be at the graduate level (600 level or above). All coursework must be eligible for graduate credit.

Preliminary, Comprehensive and Final Exams

Preliminary Exam

A preliminary exam is held to ascertain the student's academic, technical and intellectual preparedness to pursue doctoral level work. For doctoral students with a master's degree, the preliminary exam must be administered within the first two semesters of study, and for doctoral students with a baccalaureate degree after completion of 24 hours of graduate coursework. The preliminary exam has to be administered by an ad-hoc committee comprising of the student's tentative or permanent advisor, one CEE faculty member from the resident program and one CEE faculty member from the non-resident program. Members of this ad-hoc committee need not serve on the student's Supervisory Committee.

The preliminary exam will be a written exam and the chairman of the ad-hoc committee will report the results of the exam to the PhD Program Administration Committee. The recommendation of the ad-hoc committee can be one of the following:

  • Fail - (student will be required to drop out of the doctoral degree program)
  • Fail with an option to retake the exam - (student may be given a second and last opportunity to take the exam)
  • Pass – Unconditional
  • Pass – Conditional (students must satisfy requirements/conditions stipulated by the ad-hoc committee.

Qualifying Exam

A Qualifying Exam is required of all doctoral candidates. This exam is given after (a) all course work is completed; and (b) the student's Supervisory Committee, which consists of faculty representatives from both campuses, deems the student to have adequate preparation in the major and minor fields of study. The Exam is conducted by the student's Supervisory Committee and administered on the resident campus. The Qualifying Exam may be taken only twice.

The Qualifying Exam is given in conjunction with the presentation of the dissertation proposal to the Supervisory Committee. The Exam is administered by the Supervisory committee under the auspices of the Graduate School. The examination process includes both written questions related to the coursework and an oral presentation of the proposal to the committee. The oral portion of the exam can deal with both the dissertation proposal as well as the coursework and each part must be administered separately. Since one of the purposes of the Qualifying Exam is to determine the student's research competence, the exam should be completed at least two semesters (one academic year) before the degree is awarded.

A supervisory committee is appointed for each student working toward the Ph,D., usually after satisfactory completion of a preliminary examination administered by the major department. The supervisory committee is appointed by the department chair with approval of the graduate dean as part of the Program of Study approval. The supervisory committee is composed of at least five members of the graduate faculty. The committee chair and at least half of the committee must be full time faculty from the major department/program and one committee member must be from the major department/program at UAB. Any possible conflicts of interest must be disclosed to the Department Chair before the committee is formed. In the case of conflicts, a conflict management plan should be clearly documented by the Department Chair.

Final Exam

When the dissertation has been completed, the supervisory committee will give the candidate a final oral examination. This exam will concern primarily the candidate's research work, as embodied in the dissertation, and the field in which the dissertation lies. But it may encompass the complete program for the degree. The results of the examination must be reported to the office of the graduate school at the resident campus at least six weeks before the commencement at which the degree is to be conferred.

Continuous Registration

Once a student has passed the Qualifying Exam, he or she is expected to pursue completion of the dissertation without interruption by enrolling each semester during the academic year for at least three (3) hours of dissertation research. A doctoral student must have completed a minimum of 18 hours of such work upon completion of the dissertation. The amount of dissertation research for which a student enrolls in any given semester should be commensurate with the progress a student is expected to make on the dissertation, as well as reflective of the extent to which University facilities and faculty time are invested in the proposed activities. The Ph.D. residency requirement can be met by enrolling as full-time student (9 hours) for two consecutive semesters or by enrolling for 6 hours of graduate course work or research in three of four consecutive semesters.

Courses From Non-Resident Campuses

A minimum of six semester credit hours of courses must be taken at the non-resident campus. These credits may be taken in the classroom or through any of the following distance education media: Intercampus Interactive Telecommunications System (IITS) or Online Learning (OL). Internet- based instruction for many of these courses is also expected to be available in the very near future.


A dissertation showing ability to conduct independent research and skill in organization and presentation must be prepared on a topic in the major field. It must constitute a definite contribution to knowledge. Dissertation results are expected to be submitted for refereed scholarly publication. All dissertations are expected to be accessible to the general public. The subject of the dissertation must be approved by the Supervisory Committee. The dissertation must comply with the regulations set forth in the student's resident campus dissertation preparation guide, which is available in the resident campus Graduate School office.

Admission Requirements

The admission requirements for the program are identical on both campuses. However, for efficiency purposes, only the department of the student's intended resident campus will review each applicant on an individual basis. Once admitted, students will move throughout the program on either campus in a transparent manner. Admission decisions will be made in view of multiple factors including, but not limited to: grades, grade point average, prior academic experience, references, independent and supervised research, and test scores. All admission decisions shall reflect these multifaceted criteria and no one factor is determinative. Minimal GPA and test scores do not guarantee admission since applicants are judged on their overall qualifications. Applicants for degree or non-degree admission must submit complete transcripts from all colleges and universities attended. Specific admission requirements are as follows:

All applicants must have a Graduate Record Examination combined score of 300 on the verbal and quantitative and a 3.0 on the analytical, and a grade point average of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale.

An applicant whose native language is not English will also be required to submit a TOEFL test score no less than 80 on the iBT.

Applicants with outstanding records in fields other than engineering or from a non-accredited engineering program will be considered for admission on conditional standing, and must remedy deficiencies in their preparation after the start of their academic program. They may then be granted unconditional standing in the doctoral program.

Transfer of Credit

Courses of full graduate-level credit earned in an accredited institution where a student was enrolled in the graduate school may be submitted for review for inclusion in the doctoral program. All graduate students who wish to transfer credits earned at other universities should contact the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department chair at his/her resident campus immediately upon arrival for early appropriate action. It is also the student's responsibility to assure that an official transcript of the credit concerned is received by the graduate school of the student's resident campus.

Acceptance of credit requires the approval of the student's supervisory committee and the Graduate School Dean of the student's resident campus. Credit will not be accepted for transfer from any institution at which the student failed to achieve a "B" average on all graduate work attempted. With the approval of the student's supervisory committee and the Graduate School Dean, up to one-half of the required coursework for the doctoral degree may be transferred from another institution. Doctoral students can thus transfer up to 24 hours of graduate coursework not earned at UAH.

The special circumstance of students who are currently enrolled in allied programs at each campus and who wish to transfer to the joint program will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Students should inform their respective graduate schools of their wish to transfer into the joint CEE program. Any students wishing to receive a waiver of any requirements of the program (involving courses, committee members, etc.) must petition the Ph.D. program advisory committee for the specific waiver in question. Waivers will be considered in cases where the student is sufficiently advanced in his or her program such that strict adherence to the guidelines given above would result in significant hardships to the student.