Doctor of Engineering Program Frequently Asked Questions
Chandrasekhar Kothapalli, Doctoral Program Director
1. What is the difference between a doctor of engineering (DRE) degree and a PhD?
Practically speaking, there is no difference between a DRE and a PhD. Both degrees are the highest attainable degrees. Both include qualifying exams, candidacy exams, and dissertations. Historically speaking, the DRE has been more oriented toward application, while the PhD has been more oriented toward theory. CSU has a long tradition of application-oriented engineering education, and that is part of the reason we offer a DRE instead of a PhD. However, many of our DRE students conduct theoretical dissertation research. Other universities that offer DRE degrees include the Missouri University of Science & Technology, Old Dominion University, Texas A&M University, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University of Oklahoma, the University of California Berkeley, the University of California Davis, the University of Kansas, Columbia University, Lamar University, the University of Michigan, and Southern Methodist University. Some of these schools also offer the PhD, which has a more theoretically-oriented focus than their DRE, but others offer only the DRE as their doctoral degree.
2. Is this FAQ reliable?
Our goal is to make it as reliable as possible. However, it is not an official requirements document. The official requirements are outlined in the doctoral catalog web page. This FAQ reflects the culture, common practice, and traditions of the DRE program, filling in details that are not specified in the catalog.
3. Is the graduate catalog's description of the doctoral program final and binding?
Yes. The catalog is binding, and it is the student's responsibility to make sure that he or she satisfies the degree requirements as outlined in the catalog. If the catalog changes during your program of study, then you have the right to complete your degree under either the new requirements or the old requirements, whichever you prefer. See the "catalog rights" paragraph in the on-line catalog for details.
4. My professor told me that I do not have to satisfy the [fill in the blank] requirement to get my doctoral degree.
Professors are here to help students, but sometimes we make mistakes and give incorrect advice. Professors cannot override the requirements in the catalog.
5. Can I write a petition to request a waiver on the requirement to [fill in the blank]?
You can petition anything you want. However, in order to avoid wasting time, first discuss the petition with your advisor to see if it has a good chance of being accepted. You can download a graduate student petition form at the Graduate College web page.
6. What role will my advisor play in my studies? Can my advisor place extra requirements on me? Can he waive some of the requirements that are in the catalog?
You have to satisfy all of your advisor's requirements to graduate. If your advisor does not approve your dissertation, you will not graduate. The CSU catalog provides general requirements, and your advisor gives specific requirements, like specific research tasks, specific intermediate research reports, specific courses that you must take, and so on. Your advisor can drop you any time if he or she is not satisfied with your performance – just like you can switch advisors any time if you are not satisfied with your advisor. Your advisor cannot waive or replace any requirements in the catalog, but anything can be petitioned.
7. Why don't 4+1 credits count toward the doctoral degree?
If you were in the 4+1 program at CSU, then graduate credits that you took as an undergraduate double-counted toward your bachelor's and master's degrees, which is already an exception to the standard policy at CSU that a course can apply to only one degree. Courses that you take as an undergraduate cannot count towards a doctoral degree.
8. What if I took an undergrad course that is dual-listed with a core course for my doctoral degree specialization? Should I retake the course as a graduate course?
No. If you took the undergraduate version of the course, then you cannot count the graduate version of the course towards your doctoral degree. That course requirement will be considered fulfilled, even though you took it as an undergraduate. However, credit hours that you took as an undergraduate cannot count toward your doctoral degree credit hour requirement.
For instance, suppose that you took EEC 484 and EEC 521 as an undergraduate. EEC 484 is dual-listed with EEC 584, and both EEC 584 and EEC 521 are core requirements for the computer engineering doctoral specialization. In this case, those courses will not count toward your doctoral degree, you cannot retake them as part of your doctoral program, and you cannot take EEC 584 either, since you already took EEC 484. So instead of 12 credits of core and 12 credits of electives (24 credits total), you will need to take the one core class that you have not yet taken (EEC 581) and 20 credits of computer engineering electives (24 credits total).
9. The catalog says that I need to take a minimum of six (6) credits (2 courses) of advanced-level engineering mathematics, but some of the engineering math courses are 4 credits.
That's not a question. But I think I know what you're getting at. You want to know how you can get through the doctoral program by taking only 6 credits of advanced-level engineering math. Some departments have 3 credit hour courses, and some have 4 credit hour courses. The course and credit hour requirements are minimum requirements – it's okay to take more than the minimum. Sometimes, because of credit hour arrangements, you have to take more than the minimum.
10. What graduate math courses do doctoral students usually take? Do the math courses also count toward the "outside of engineering" course requirements?
The "advanced-level engineering mathematics" courses that are mentioned in the catalog are listed at the bottom of the Doctor of Engineering web page. The "advanced-level engineering mathematics" courses do not count as "outside of engineering" courses. The "advanced-level engineering mathematics" courses are courses that are offered by the Engineering College.
11. What is the "research communication" course that I have to take?
The "research communication" options are listed at the bottom of the Doctor of Engineering web page.
12. The doctoral catalog web page says that I can take either 600-level classes or 700-level classes. What is the difference? Which level of classes should I enroll in?
Generally, as a doctoral student, you should enroll in the 700-level version of the course. 600-level classes are master's classes, and 700-level classes are doctoral classes. For dual-listed 6xx/7xx classes, the 7xx section includes extra requirements that master's students do not have, like an extra report or presentation. The reason the catalog requires "6xx level or 7xx level" courses is because it lists requirements beyond the bachelor's degree, so both master's level and doctoral level courses can be used to satisfy doctoral degree requirements.
13. What's the deal with the qualifying examination? I passed the courses and you gave me a diploma, so doesn't that mean I'm already qualified in my field? Do students generally require a lot of preparation for the qualifying exam? How many chances do I get to pass the qualifying exam?
The purpose of the qualifying exam is to motivate you to review basic graduate level material, which could be helpful in your research; to assess your mastery of basic graduate level material; and to assess your preparation for doctoral studies. The qualifying exam material may have already been covered in previous courses, and so you may have already been tested on the material. But the qualifying exam is an additional check on your mastery of that material, and on your preparation for doctoral research.
Every student is different, but most students require a lot of study time to prepare for the qualifying exam. In general, you should allow yourself the equivalent of three months of full-time study to prepare for the exam.
You have two chances to pass the qualifying exam - see the "qualifying exam" section at the doctoral catalog web page for details.
14. What is a dissertation credit? Do they get billed like normal credits? Can I just take all 30 required credits in one semester? Do I need to scale the time that I spend working on the dissertation to the number of credits I'm taking? It sounds like dissertation credits are just filler credits to get me to commit more time and money to CSU.
Dissertation credits get billed like any other course credits. You can register for a maximum of 16 credits of xxx 895, and 16 credits of xxx 899, per semester. The 895 credits are taken before your candidacy exam (the oral defense of your dissertation proposal), and the 899 credits are taken after. You do not need to scale your time to the number of credits that you're taking, unless your advisor requires it. If you register for 10 hours and don't accomplish anything, your advisor might not give you a passing grade that semester, but that is entirely up to your advisor.
Yes, dissertation credits are an attempt by CSU to get more money - just like all the other courses that we offer. From an academic perspective, dissertation credits are an attempt to make sure that you spend an appropriate amount of time working on your dissertation research - at least 30 semester credits total, which should be at least 1350 hours of work.
15. What if I finish my dissertation but I've only taken 15 dissertation credits? The catalog requires 30 dissertation credits, so what should I do? Should I take 15 more credits and do no research? Should I pretend I'm not done and stretch my work out?
Either option would be fine, depending on your advisor's guidance. You can finish your dissertation in one day if you want - but you still need to eventually register for 30 dissertation credits. Or you could finish all 30 dissertation credits in two semesters - but you still need to eventually write and defend a dissertation. The doctoral degree requires both a dissertation AND 30 dissertation credits, and these are two separate but related requirements.
16. The graduate catalog requires a "minimum of 30" dissertation credits. Why would I take more than 30 credits?
Most students end up with more than 30 dissertation credits because their dissertation research stretches out longer than they expect, and they need to continue to enroll in dissertation credits to remain enrolled in the doctoral program. They could enroll in courses instead, but they are usually finished with their course work by that time. You need a minimum of 1 credit per semester to remain enrolled at CSU. But students with a graduate assistantship need a minimum of 8 credits per semester, except during their last semester, during which they can enroll in only 1 credit if they want.
Also, recall that the requirements at the doctoral catalog web page state that only 40 course credits are required beyond the bachelor's degree, so you could count up to 50 credits of dissertation toward the total 90-credit minimum (with advisor approval).
17. What is a dissertation proposal approval form, and what is a candidacy exam? How many chances do I get to pass the candidacy exam?
See the "Summary of DRE Procedures" at the Doctor of Engineering web page for details. The dissertation proposal approval form and candidacy exam are closely related - the dissertation proposal approval form is the paperwork, and the candidacy exam is your oral presentation of your dissertation proposal to your committee. Your committee accepts your dissertation proposal to give you some confidence that your dissertation will be accepted if you deliver on the promises in your proposal. Note that the dissertation proposal approval form must be completed, initialed by all of your committee members, and signed by the Graduate Affairs Committee (GAC) chair, before you schedule the candidacy exam.
You have two chances to pass the candidacy exam - see the "candidacy exam" section at the doctoral catalog web page for details.
18. I'm writing a journal paper about my research with my advisor. Do I still need to write and defend a dissertation?
Yes, all doctoral students need to write and defend a dissertation. A dissertation is much more substantial than a publication. A dissertation is typically over 100 pages, while a journal publication is typically more like 20 pages. Many doctoral students publish 3 or 4 journal papers from their dissertation.
19. Why is my advisor/department requiring me to publish a journal paper before I can get my doctoral degree? Doesn't my approved dissertation show that my research is good enough for a doctoral degree?
A journal submission is reviewed by experts outside of CSU, so journal publication provides an additional check beyond the dissertation committee on the quality of your research. Also, your research will not make an impact in your field of study unless other researchers know about it, and journal publication provides exposure for your research. So your advisor or department can require journal publication if they so desire.
20. Assuming full-time study, what is the estimated time of completion for a doctoral degree? Here is my plan to finish my doctoral degree two years after my master's degree:
12 credits per semester of classes for 3 semesters = 36 credits - all course work done
16 credits of dissertation for 2 summers = 32 credits - all dissertation credits done
You will probably require at least three years of full-time study to complete your doctoral degree if you already have a master's degree, or four years of full-time study if you do not yet have a master's degree. But most students take longer. I see three problems with your proposed plan.
- You want to take 12 credits per semester of classes for 3 semesters - but that assumes that you can find the courses that you and your advisor want in the exact semester that you want them. CSU's course offerings are usually not broad enough to take exactly what you want and exactly when you want it, so you have to allow for some flexibility.
- Two summers and one semester of full-time work on a dissertation is not enough for most students. You have to plan for lots of literature review just to get up to speed on your topic. You might spend weeks just studying a couple of important papers and trying to reproduce their results. You have to account for dead ends that you will encounter during your research. You have to account for many iterations with your advisor during your research, during the journal paper writing process, during the proposal writing process, and during the dissertation writing process.
- You can take 16 credits of dissertation in the summer if you want and if your advisor approves it, but are you going to pay for it yourself? You will probably not be able to get a tuition waiver for that many credits.
21. Is there any additional charge for any of the exams, dissertation proposals, presentations, etc.?
Every graduation application costs $25, and it costs $65 to submit your dissertation to ProQuest, which is a centralized repository for dissertations. Both fees are required at the time of graduation. I don't know of any other fees.
22. Is a larger stipend available to graduate assistants who are doctoral students compared to master's students? Can I still get a full tuition waiver if I take more than 8 credit hours in one semester?
There are different minimum stipends for master's vs. doctoral students - see http://www.csuohio.edu/graduate-studies/grad-college/minimum-stipend-and-tuition-levels for minimum stipends. You can get an assistantship with more than 8 credits of tuition per semester, but you'll have to convince your advisor, or whoever is paying your tuition.
23. Why is the number of questions in this FAQ prime?
Because you asked this question. If you had not asked this question, then there would have been an even number of questions.