PhD Graduation Requirements

In order to earn a PhD, candidates must successfully meet the following criteria within seven years:

Academic Requirements for Entering Students

  1. Complete the four PhD core courses during the first year, with at most one grade of B+ or worse.
  2. Conduct research during the first summer, and give a talk based on this research at the beginning of the third semester;
  3. Submit a research report (paper) at the end of the third semester.

All students will be reviewed by the PhD committee after each of the three steps.  A student who fails to complete step 1 (i.e., receives a grade of B+ or worse in more than one core course) may be asked to withdraw from the PhD program at the end of the first year. A student who successfully completes step 1 will typically move on to do summer research, advised by a faculty member in the department. In the rare instance the PhD committee is not satisfied with a student's performance in steps 2 and 3, he/she may be asked to withdraw from the program at the end of the second year.

English Language Requirement

Competence in written and spoken English is extremely important to be an effective researcher and is expected of each doctoral student in SEAS. Thus doctoral students with deficiencies (usually because English is not their native language) are expected to improve their English language skill. Students who completed their undergraduate degree from countries where English is not the official spoken language, are required to take an English placement exam at Columbia University.

Students who do not pass the English proficiency examinations will be required to enroll in the ALP International Teaching Fellow course offered in the fall. 

Master of Philosophy Completion

All students must file for the M.Phil. degree within a year of your intended dissertation defense. If you plan on defending in the spring or summer, you should apply for the M.Phil. by the fall semester before.

The Application for the Degree of Master of Philosophy can be found here. Student need to fill this out and bring it to the IEOR Department.

Thesis Proposal

  1. Context. The purpose of the Thesis Proposal is to cement the progress of PhD students toward the eventual Doctoral Dissertation. It additionally helps students develop writing and presentation skills.
  2. Structure. The Thesis Proposal is a compulsory step. It normally takes place during the third academic year, and no later than by the end of the seventh semester.

    A student presenting a Thesis Proposal will prepare a journal-quality document describing ongoing research and potential extensions, and will deliver a talk describing the work. A partial PhD thesis committee made up of three faculty from the IEOR Department will be convened for the purpose of reviewing this document, and the talk. This committee, under normal circumstances, will serve at the eventual Thesis Defense. The thesis proposal should describe work that has reached a perceptible level of maturity, and make a convincing case that the work will in due course lead to a dissertation. An unsatisfactory proposal will merit a review of the student's performance by the advisor and Department Chair.
  3. Timing. The committee should be convened, and the proposal scheduled, at least two months in advance. When scheduling the proposal students should contact the IEOR Department office and the faculty person in charge of PhD studies.

Dissertation Defense

When the dissertation is complete, there is a final examination by a faculty committee. Prior to application for the final examination, the dissertation must be approved by the sponsor and a faculty reader. The candidate must have complete copies of his thesis available at least four weeks before the examination date.

Dissertation Defense Timeline

3-4 Weeks Before:

  1. Set the date for your defense by emailing
  2.  Submit the Application for Dissertation Defense form to the office at 313 Mudd Building.
    You must have decided on a date for defense when you submit this form. The student is responsible for selecting the dissertation committee. The Chair needs to be a full-time faculty member of IEOR. The Sponsor must be your advisor. An "insider" reviewer is someone from the department, whereas an "outside" reviewer is anybody outside of IEOR.

If you intend on participating in graduation ceremonies, you must complete the Convocation Registration and Mailing Materials Form.


Post-Defense: The student will receive a "deposit" card that they will need to take to Low Library Room 107 *only* when their dissertation has been fully revised and completed. The student should also email regarding when they would like to schedule their congratulatory champagne toast.